Problem

Dubious energy budget of nuclear power plants

Other Names:
Questionable economic cost-benefit of nuclear electricity
Life-cycle energy deficit of nuclear power stations
Nature:
The energy required to construct a 1000-MW nuclear power station is about 100,000 gigajoules, or the equivalent of 400,000 tonnes of coal. Assuming a 35-year life and an average load factor of 62% for the nuclear power station, it will produce a total of 7 million gigajoules of electricity, or the equivalent of 26 million tonnes of coal. Hence, about 0.01 units of primary energy are required to build a nuclear power station to generate 1 unit of electricity, clearly showing an energy profit. However, this does not take into account the energy required to mine, refine, enrich and process uranium for the fuel. When this is included, it is found that about 0.26 units of primary energy are needed to produce 1 unit of electricity under current circumstances. This does not include the energy required either to treat and dispose of nuclear waste or to decommission the nuclear power station. Nor does it factor in costs attached to plant operation, possibly breakdown and accidents, and environmental and health effects which are greater than those of an energy-equivalent fossil fuel power station. When these current "unknowns" are known, it may be that the energy required to build and decommission a nuclear power station approaches, or is even greater, than the amount of energy it produces during its life.
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 15: Life on Land
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET