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Climate Change and Nuclear Energy

What is happening?
The Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is expected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years.[1] Small changes in the average temperature of the planet have begun to translate into dangerous shifts in climate and weather. Melting sea ice, swelling sea levels, changes in precipitation, and increasing carbon emissions are a few noticeable changes. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves.

How did we get here?
Human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases) into the atmosphere.[2] These gases act as a blanket, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing a warming effect.  They remain in the atmosphere for a few years to thousands of years, mixing and becoming roughly the same levels regardless of its original location.

Primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States include –

Nuclear Energy and Climate Change
Nuclear energy is an essential part of a clean energy strategy. Electricity generated from nuclear power plants releases no carbon dioxide, avoiding emissions of over two billion tons per year.[4] Other nuclear technologies that could be used to reduce greenhouse gases include electric and hybrid vehicles, nuclear desalination (purification) of water, and the use of hydrogen in the production of transport fuels from crude oil as tar sands are used increasingly as the oil source. Nuclear energy can also be used to make hydrogen electrolytically, contributing to the hydrogen economy.[5] In the future high-temperature reactors are likely to be used to make it.

Resources
Climate Time Machine, http://climate.nasa.gov/interactives/climate_time_machine

Personal energy meter, http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/energy/great-energy-challenge/

World Nuclear Association. “Nuclear Energy and Climate Change”. http://www.world-nuclear.org/Features/Climate-Change/Climate-Change-and-Nuclear-Energy/

 

 


[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Greenhouse Gases Overview”. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases.html

[2] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Greenhouse Gases Overview”. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases.html 

[3] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Sources of Greenhouse Emissions”. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html

[4] World Nuclear News. “Nuclear Energy and Climate Change”. http://www.world-nuclear.org/Features/Climate-Change/Climate-Change-and-Nuclear-Energy/

[5] World Nuclear Association. “Transport and the Hydrogen Economy”. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Non-Power-Nuclear-Applications/Transport/Transport-and-the-Hydrogen-Economy/#.UT1Nmle6zk0

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