Monday, 7 October 2019

Nuclear fails carbon challenge, as UN nuclear cheerleader holds climate jamboree in Vienna

Today a major week-long international conference, on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power, opened at the Vienna International Centre in Austria's capital city, headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN agency that promotes nuclear energy. (“IAEA opens conference on nuclear power's role in tackling climate change,” Xinhua, 7 October 2019;  http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/07/c_138453771.htm)http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/static/images/Eng_xhApp_v1.png PlayerClose

IAEA press releases proudly announced that some 550 participants representing 79 countries and 18 international organizations are taking part

"It is difficult to see how the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved without a significant increase in the use of nuclear power in the coming decades," said Cornel Feruta, Acting Director General of the (IAEA) in his  opening remarks (“Statement at the International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/statements/statement-at-the-international-conference-on-climate-change-and-the-role-of-nuclear-power)

Feruta continued, observing: “Like all technologies, nuclear power brings benefits and risks. Nuclear power has a good overall safety record However, nuclear power is not always judged purely on the basis of scientific facts.”
 
 “At present, nuclear power provides 10% of the world’s electricity. But it accounts for one-third of all low-carbon electricity generated today. That fact deserves to be better known.The world will need to harness all low-carbon sources of energy in order to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.


He then went on to prove his own assertion on facts, by presenting as fact some demonstrably inaccurate opinion, stating: Nuclear power plants produce practically no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants during their operation. Emissions over their entire life cycle are very low.”
So much for another Feruta assertion: “We help countries to make informed decisions by providing solid scientific data and analysis.”

A recent and comprehensive Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of greenhouse gas emissions from differing power generation technologies by Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, California - and director of its Atmosphere/Energy Program - have indicated that nuclear CO2 emissions are between 10 to 18 times greater than those from renewables. He is very qualified for such analysis, being also Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy, and at the Woods Institute for the Environment, where he has developed computer models to study the effects of fossil fuel and biomass burning on air pollution, weather, and climate.
Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security† Energy & Environmental Science, 1 December 2008; 
 
In a newly completed chapter by Professor Jacobson in a forthcoming energy book, Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security, in 100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything [Textbook in Preparation] https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/WWSBook/WWSBook.html) he argues cogently:
 
 “There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plants also emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh. 
 
“Overall,” he concludes, “emissions from new nuclear are 78 to178 g-CO2/kWH, not close to 0”
 
[See also, a meta-study by Dr Benjamin K Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the School of Business, Management, and Economics, part of the University of Sussex, who serves as Director of the Sussex Energy Group and Director of the Center on Innovation and Energy Demand [which involves the University of Oxford and University of Manchester]  “Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey, Energy Policy, 36, 2940-2953, 2008. https://www.nirs.org/wp-content/uploads/climate/background/sovacool_nuclear_ghg.pdf)
He concludes the following: “This article screens 103 lifecycle studies of greenhouse gas-equivalent emissions for nuclear power plants to identify a subset of the most current, original, and transparent studies.
 
It begins by briefly detailing the separate components of the nuclear fuel cycle before explaining the methodology of the survey and exploring the variance of lifecycle estimates. It calculates that while the range of emissions for nuclear energy over the lifetime of a plant, reported from qualified studies examined, is from 1.4 g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kWh (g CO2e/kWh) to 288 g CO2e/kWh, the mean value is 66 g CO2e/kWh. The article then explains some of the factors responsible for the disparity in lifecycle estimates, in particular identifying errors in both the lowest estimates (not comprehensive) and the highest estimates (failure to consider co-products). It should be noted that nuclear power is not directly emitting greenhouse gas emissions, but rather that lifecycle emissions occur through plant construction, operation, uranium mining and milling, and plant decommissioning.”]
As it happens, two weeks ago, this year’s 320-page independent  World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR2019; www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/wnisr2019-lr.pdf) was published in Budapest.
 
WNISR2019 provides a new focus chapter on the question: is nuclear useful to combat climate change?.
 
Diana √úrge-Vorsatz, Professor at the Central European University and Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III, notes in her foreword to WNISR2019 that several IPCC scenarios that reach the 1.5°C temperature target rely heavily on nuclear power, and that “these scenarios raise the question whether the nuclear industry will actually be able to deliver the magnitude of new power that is required in these scenarios in a cost-effective and timely manner.
 
The report records (with multiple primary references) that “Over the past decade, ‘levelized’ cost estimates for utility-scale solar dropped by 88%, wind by 69%, while nuclear increased by 23%.
 
It also demonstrates using up-to-date sources that “new solar plants can compete with existing coal fired plants in India, wind turbines alone generate more electricity than nuclear reactors in India and China. But new nuclear plants are also much slower to build than all other options, e.g. the nine reactors started up in 2018 took an average of 10.9 years to be completed. In other words, nuclear power is an option that is more expensive and slower to implement than alternatives and therefore is not effective in the effort to battle the climate emergency, rather it is counterproductive, as the funds are then not available for more effective options.”
 
The bottom line outcome of the analyses is that even the extended operation of existing reactors is not climate effective as operating costs exceed the costs of competing energy efficiency and new renewable energy options and therefore durably block their implementation.
 
The main author of the report, Paris-based international energy consultant, Mycle Schneider, concluded: “You can spend a dollar, a euro, a pound  or a ruble only once: the climate emergency requires that investment decisions must favor the cheapest and fastest response strategies. The nuclear power option has consistently turned out the most expensive, and the slowest.”
 
On the afternoon of 7 October, Mycle Schneider presented the key findings of the WNISR 2019 to a parallel conference on Climate Crisis - Why nuclear is not helping (https://www.global2000.at/events/conference-climate-crisis) held close to the IAEA conference in Vienna.
 Schneider spoke along with and the author of the WNISR special chapter on Nuclear Power and Climate Change,  Amory Lovins,  scientific director and founder of the Rocky Mountian Institute (RMI), who spoke via a  video conference link.
Meanwhile ministers on the European Council in Brussels – a day after the WNISR  was launched - decided not to exclude nuclear projects from a sustainable finance classification scheme, despite opposition from Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and the European Parliament. (“Council maintains nuclear as eligible for ‘green’ finance, EURACTIV.com, 25 ‎September ‎2019; www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/council-maintains-nuclear-as-eligible-for-green-finance/)
This decision came as the EU’s 28 member states adopted a joint position on the new rules to clarify what represents sustainable finance.
In May last year the Commission proposed setting up an EU classification system, or taxonomy, that will help to identify what economic activities are considered as environmentally sustainable.
EURACTIV  reported that Germany, Luxembourg and Austria were also in favour of adopting the taxonomy “as quickly as possible”. But they wanted to exclude nuclear-related projects from the outset.
“We have strong concerns that the proposed framework would leave the door open to diverting financial resources away from environmentally sustainable activities and into technologies that cannot be considered either safe or sustainable,” the countries said in a joint statement.“ Nuclear energy is nor safe and sustainable nor cost-effective,” said German State Secretary for Energy, Andreas Feicht,  during the Energy Council  meeting “So we reject the idea of EU money to extend the life of nuclear power stations”, he added.
Green MEP Sven Giegold also told EURACTIV.com that the Council’s position is a “disaster”. “It will create a mess and a lot of bad press in Germany. Nobody will want to invest in green finance”, he said, referring to the inclusion of nuclear energy.
In his view, the Council position showed the poor state of the Franco-German relationship, as both countries would have agreed on a common position in the past.
“It is the result of the escalation of the conflict of past years”, he said.
A Commission spokeswoman told EURACTIV that nuclear energy “should be evaluated on a scientific basis. In this regard, the technical expert group on sustainable finance recognised last June that nuclear energy “makes a substantial contribution to mitigation objectives but that more evidence and analysis were needed,” the spokeswoman added.
The Council’s position also said that the taxonomy should be established by the end of 2021, in order to be fully implemented by the end of 2022.
The nuclear industry press reported developments with a positive spin. NucNet said: The European Council has decided to maintain the principle of technological neutrality in its proposal on the EU sustainable finance initiative, despite calls from Austria, Germany, Greece, and Luxembourg to explicitly exclude nuclear from the classification scheme for investment in sustainable energy projects across the bloc.” (https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-12360-2019-REV-2/en/pdf)

It added that the Brussels-based nuclear industry trade association Foratom had welcomed the Council’s decision to remain technology neutral in its approach to sustainable projects and said the initiative” should not aim to exclude a particular technology without providing a valid justification.”

Foratom said that in order to identify whether an energy source is sustainable or not, it is important to evaluate each source equally on the basis of objective criteria – including CO2 emissions, air pollution, raw material consumption and land use impacts – and using a whole life-cycle approach.
 
If Foratom really wants to use those criteria to make comparisons, nuclear will certainly fail against renewables.

 
 
 
 
 
 
BACKSTORY
 
 Final Report on Climate Benchmarks and Benchmarks’ ESG Disclosures
 
OVERVIEW
1. What is the task of the TEG?
On 25 February 2019, co-legislators agreed to amend Regulation (EU) 2016/1011, introducing two types of climate benchmarks (‘EU Climate Transition’ and ‘EU Paris-aligned’ benchmarks), also requiring ESG disclosures for all benchmarks (excluding interest rate and currency benchmarks). In that context, the TEG received a mandate to suggest minimum technical requirements for the methodology of both climate benchmarks and recommendations on ESG disclosures, including associated disclosure templates.
2. What are the TEG’s main recommendations/key conclusions?
 
Key features of climate benchmarks.
Several criteria have to be met to qualify as an EU Climate Transition Benchmark (EU CTB) or an EU Paris-Aligned Benchmark (EU PAB):
 Climate benchmarks must demonstrate a significant decrease in overall GHG emissions intensity compared to their underlying investment universes or parent indices. This assessment must gradually integrate Scope 3 emissions during a four-year period for sectors where the impact on climate change is significant but located outside of direct operational boundaries (such as Oil & Gas and transport). This minimum relative decarbonization is set at 30% for EU CTBs and 50% for EU PABs.
 
 Climate benchmarks must be sufficiently exposed to sectors relevant to the fight against climate change. In other words, decarbonization cannot happen through a shift in the allocation from sectors with high potential impact on climate change and its mitigation (e.g. energy, transport, manufacturing) to sectors with inherently limited impact (e.g. health care, media). The exposure to ‘high impact sectors’ must therefore be at least the exposure of the underlying investable universe.
 
 Climate benchmarks must demonstrate their ability to reduce their own GHG emissions intensity on an annual basis. This minimum ‘self-decarbonization’ rate has been set in accordance with the global decarbonization trajectory implied by IPCC’s most ambitious scenario - 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot (see fig. 1) – to at least 7% GHG intensity reduction on average per annum.
 
 EU CTBs and EU PABs should exclude companies involved in controversial weapons (selling, manufacturing, etc.), companies having been found in violations of global norms (i.e. UN Global Compact principles, OECD Guidelines) or in controversies arising from significant harm of at least one of the 6 environmental objectives.
 
 EU PABs shall further exclude companies that:
 
o derive 1% or more of their revenues from coal exploration or processing activities,
 
 
o derive 10% or more of their revenues from oil exploration or processing activities,
o derive 50% or more of their revenues from natural gas exploration or processing activities or
o derive 50% or more of their revenues come from electricity generation with a lifecycle GHG intensity higher than 100 gCO2e/kWh.
 
 Finally, the TEG recommends the ‘green to brown share ratio’, where calculated by benchmark administrators and on a voluntary basis, to be at least equal for EU CTBs and multiplied by at least 4 for EU PABs.
 
 
 

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