Importance of Nuclear Power as a Zero-Emission Generation Technology

by Cameron Bernhardt

Although relying on nuclear as a power generation technology poses some environmental issues such as heightened demands on water for cooling uses and land for waste disposal, nuclear generation does offer several notable advantages over other generation technologies. Vine and Juliani (2014) suggest that nuclear power’s potential to produce significant amounts of electricity with nearly zero greenhouse gas emissions and to provide consistent base load power should not be overlooked. However, these advantages may not be beneficial enough to outweigh reinvigorated concerns about nuclear safety; the authors recognized that many nuclear reactors may be retired in the near future in both the U.S. and abroad. Four power companies in the U.S. alone have announced the retirement of five large reactors since late 2012, perhaps due to negative stakeholder perceptions of the risks that nuclear generation poses relative to its benefits. The authors show that nuclear power’s majority share in the U.S.’s zero-emission fuel sources will be difficult to replace should nuclear generation be phased out, especially with regard to its reliability as a base load power source. Continue reading