Nuclear Energy

Emission caused by Nuclear Energy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nuclear Projects in India

Mains level: Carbo feasibility of Nuclear Energy

Supporters of the Nuclear Energy source say that it is a climate-friendly way to generate electricity. However, this is subjected to various considerations often not discussed.

Why focus on Nuclear Energy?

  • The main factors for its choice were reliability and security of supply.
  • The latest figures on global carbon dioxide emissions call into question the world’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

Soaring CO2 emissions

  • CO2 emissions are set to soar 4.9% in 2021, compared with the previous year, according to a study published earlier this month by the Global Carbon Project (GCP), a group of scientists that track emissions.
  • In 2020, emissions dropped 5.4% due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.
  • The energy sector continues to be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with a share of 40% — and rising.

Is nuclear power a zero-emissions energy source?

No. Nuclear energy is also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Uranium mining: Uranium extraction, transport and processing produces emissions.
  • Construction of power plants: The long and complex construction process of nuclear power plants also releases CO2, as does the demolition of decommissioned sites.
  • Nuclear waste and its transportation: This also has to be transported and stored under strict conditions — here, too, emissions must be taken into account.
  • Water consumption: Power plants depend on nearby water sources to cool their reactors, and with many rivers drying up, those sources of water are no longer guaranteed.

How much CO2 does nuclear power produce?

  • Results vary significantly, depending on whether we only consider the process of electricity generation, or take into account the entire life cycle of a nuclear power plant.
  • A report released in 2014 by the IPCC estimated a range of 3.7 to 110 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour (kWh).
  • It’s long been assumed that nuclear plants generate an average of 66 grams of CO2/kWh.

How climate-friendly is nuclear compared to other energies?

  • If the entire life cycle, nuclear energy certainly comes out ahead of fossil fuels like coal or natural gas.
  • But the picture is drastically different when compared with renewable energy.
  • Nuclear power releases 3.5 times more CO2 per kilowatt-hour than photovoltaic solar panel systems.
  • Compared with onshore wind power, that figure jumps to 13 times more CO2.
  • When up against electricity from hydropower installations, nuclear generates 29 times more carbon.

Can we rely on nuclear energy to help stop global warming?

  • Around the world, nuclear energy representatives, as well as some politicians, have called for the expansion of atomic power.
  • Other countries have also supported plans to build new nuclear plants, arguing that the energy sector will be even more damaging for the climate without it.

Feasibility of Nuclear Energy

  • High cost of construction: Due to the high costs associated with nuclear energy, it also blocks important financial resources that could instead be used to develop renewable energy.
  • Renewables are better: Those renewables would provide more energy that is both faster and cheaper than nuclear.
  • High water consumption: During the world’s increasingly hot summers, several nuclear power plants have already had to be temporarily shut down due to water scarcity.


  • Taking into account the current overall energy system, nuclear energy is by no means CO2 neutral.
  • The contribution of nuclear energy is viewed too optimistically.
  • In reality construction, times are too long and the costs too high to have a noticeable effect on climate change. It takes too long for nuclear energy to become available.


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