Greenwashing Uranium:
Nuclear energy is not green energy

UPdate Fall 2008

Uranium has two main uses: nuclear weapons, and nuclear energy. Ninety-five percent of uranium is used for these two purposes.

The recent upsurge of interest in uranium (and the rising price of uranium ore) is linked to the false claim that nuclear energy could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help solve the problem of global climate change.

Nuclear energy is not green energy.

Mining uranium for nuclear power plants actually increases carbon emissions, especially when the ore is low-grade, as it is in Nova Scotia. “Below grade 0.02% Uranium Oxide [the highest grade found in Nova Scotia] more energy is required to produce and exploit the uranium fuel than can be generated from it,” according to an independent study done for the highly-respected Oxford Research Group “Energy Security and Uranium Reserves” (July 2006),

An accurate carbon footprint of nuclear power also needs to include the construction of nuclear power plants. This is a highly energy intensive process.

Then there is the energy needed to manage waste from uranium mining and from the nuclear power plants themselves. Both of these stages of nuclear power generation generate high quantities of greenhouse gases.

The bottom line is that when we calculate the carbon costs of creating nuclear power from beginning to end, it is definitely not carbon neutral. The claim that nuclear power does not generate greenhouse gases is only true if you look only at a narrow slice of nuclear power generation, not the complete cycle which includes producing the uranium, building nuclear power plants and managing radioactive waste from both mining and power plants for thousands of years.

Adding up the fossil fused used to produce nuclear energy, it is obvious that nuclear power does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it is not an answer to the crisis of climate change.

UPdate, Fall 2008, Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia

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