by Cameron Bernhardt
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation is one of the primary means by which humans can mitigate global climate change. Employing nuclear power generation and carbon capture and storage (C.C.S.) are two methods for decarbonizing electricity generation processes, but the merit of these technologies is often debated. While these technologies are typically effective in lowering the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, they pose other environmental and economic threats that frequently limit their popularity and use. These realities have created some uncertainty regarding the future deployment of C.C.S. and nuclear power generation. Akashi et al. (2014) use a multi-scenario analysis to investigate the feasibility of the international emissions reduction target (holding the increase in the global average temperature below 2oC) in a future without nuclear or C.C.S. technology. The authors considered four different scenarios: baseline, standard 50 percent reduction, 50 percent reduction with no C.C.S. or new nuclear power plants being built, and a variant of the third scenario but with improved material efficiency.
Their results warranted mixed conclusions regarding the importance of nuclear power generation and C.C.S. for economically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Akashi et al. found that while the emission reduction target is still technologically feasible, the costs for achieving the target increase greatly if nuclear power and C.C.S. are limited. Conversely, the results indicated that material efficiency improvement measures such as recycling could curtail the cost of significant carbon emission reductions even in the absence of nuclear power generation and C.C.S. Specifically, a trade-off was identified between reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector and reducing in the building and transportation sectors. With the future of two viable reduction methods undecided, there may be a need for “a major transformation of the electric and road infrastructure.” Regardless, it is likely that reduction costs would increase significantly due to necessary new technology investments in the building and transportation sectors.
Akashi, O., Hanaoka, T., Masui, T., Kainuma, M., 2014. Halving global GHG emissions by 2050 without depending on nuclear and CCS. Climatic Change 123, 611-622
TWEET: #Nuclear generation and #CCS help lower the costs of mitigating #climate change, but are not necessary for achieving #CopenhagenAccord #emission goals.