Nuclear Power May Be Answer To Global Warming

NCPA Scholar Calls for Environmentalists to "Get Serious" About Energy Alternatives

DALLAS (July 27, 2006) - As former Vice President Al Gore's global warming movie nears the end of its run in theaters, a new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) suggests combating climate change requires creative thinking about the world's energy needs.  According to the report, nuclear power holds the most promise as a clean, practical alternative to fossil fuels that could help satisfy the world economy's growing demand for energy.

"If we buy the theory that human use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) is causing global warming, we must reassess how we are going to fuel economic growth in the future," said Pete Geddes, executive vice president of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) and co-author of the report.  "Nuclear power very well could be the best choice to reduce the threat arguably posed by fossil fuels."

Sustaining economic growth in developed countries and accelerating growth in the developing world means that energy demand will increase dramatically in the coming century.  The International Energy Agency projects world energy demand will grow 65 percent by 2020.  According to the report, reducing the amount of CO2 humans put into the atmosphere, while still meeting the energy demands of an expected population of more than 9 billion people by 2050, requires reconsidering nuclear power - a safe, practical alternative.

Despite opposition, nuclear power currently produces much of the electric power in developed countries.

  • Nuclear power provides about 75 percent of the electricity in France and 20 percent in the United States.
  • With 434 operating reactors worldwide, nuclear power meets the electrical needs of more than a billion people.
  • China alone is planning to build 30 nuclear reactors over the next five years.

Nuclear power has advantages over fossil fuels.  A single, quarter-ounce pellet of uranium generates as much energy as 3.5 barrels of oil, 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, or 1,780 pounds of coal, with none of the CO2 emissions.  However, conventional reactors only utilize approximately 3 percent of the energy contained in nuclear fuel.  If the United States joined France and Japan in recycling used fuel, and recycled the more than 15,000 plutonium pits removed from dismantled U.S. nuclear weapons, existing and recycled supplies would provide an almost unlimited amount of nuclear fuel.

"Nuclear power could also help reduce CO2 emissions from transportation," noted NCPA Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett, co-author of the report.  "For instance, running new light rail and subway systems on electricity generated by nuclear plants - rather than coal or gas-fired power plants - would prevent new emissions."