Re: “Nuclear: Carbon Free, but Not Free of Unease, “ December 23, (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/23/science/nuclear-carbon-free-but-not-free-of-unease-.html)
I agree with assessment of Sharon Squassoni, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, that nuclear power – in the US and abroad - “is going nowhere quickly.”
However, it is misleading, as the headline does - along with subsequent letter from former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg (Dec.25
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/opinion/nuclear-energy-part-of-mix.html ) and article by Matthew L. Wald “E.P.A. Wrestles With Role of Nuclear Plants in Carbon Emission Rules” (Dec. 26) present nuclear power as “carbon-free.”
Thus life-cycle analyses are essential to assess the true impact of the entire processes.
A number of such studies have examined CO2 emissions - commonly expressed as CO2 equivalents per kWh - for different methods of producing electricity. The most comprehensive model has been created by the Öko Institut, (http://www.oeko.de/en/) which advises the German environment ministry, and by Professor Jan Willem Storm Van Leeuwen and the late Professor Philip Smith and at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands.
Both studies conclude that the nuclear fuel cycle can emit relatively large amounts of CO2. The lower the uranium concentration in ore, the more CO2 generated; Using sensible assumptions, Professors Jan Willem Storm Van Leeuwen and the late Professor Philip Smith (www.stormsmith.nl/ ) determined that nuclear generation produced about a third as much CO2 per kWh as conventional mid-sized gas-fired electricity generation.