Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
States indicated that those who are very concerned about global warm-
ing are no more likely to support nuclear power than those who are not.
Other evidence suggests that the responses in Europe would not be very
different. The MIT report concluded that more of the public needs to un-
derstand the links among global warming, fossil fuel usage and the need
for low-carbon energy sources.
The World Energy Council has said that meeting new demands for
electricity while reducing the current level of emissions will require tri-
pling the world's nuclear plant capacity by 2050.
Three Mile Island and Chernobyl occurred more than 20 years ago
and the nuclear power freeze is beginning to thaw. High priced oil and
natural gas make atomic energy appear cheap by comparison. Global-
warming concerns are pushing a new interest in nuclear power. After a
decade where no nuclear power plants came online in the United States,
31 new reactors are planned.
The DOE is predicting the need for 50% more electric power by 2030.
This new demand could be met by nuclear power instead of pollutants
spewing fossil-fuel plants. Worldwide power is anticipated to double by
2030 as more developing nations buy electrical products.
Currently, 28 reactors are under construction in China, India, Russia
and other nations. While numerous important issues endure such as the
toxic byproducts, nuclear power is in a resurgence with investor interest
rising as well.
General Electric (GE) is a major provider of boiling water reactors,
which are 81 of the world's 442 nuclear plants. GE recently agreed to pool
its nuclear business in a joint venture with Japan's Hitachi.
Nuclear generating plants have a big advantage over fossil-fuel
plants when comparing the costs of operation and upkeep. Nuclear plants
cost about $1.72 kilowatt-hour to operate according to the Nuclear Energy
Institute while that figure is $2.21 for coal plants, $7.51 for gas and $8.09
for oil. The difference is due to fuel costs, which make up 78% to 94% of
the cost for producing electricity at fossil-fuel plants but only 26% at nu-
clear plants. Although the price of uranium for nuclear plants has risen
sharply, it has much less impact on overall costs.
It is more expensive to build nuclear plants which cost $2,000 per
kilowatt-hour of output, compared with $1,500 for coal plants and $800
for gas plants, according to the International Energy Agency. It takes years
to go through the regulatory hurdles for a new nuclear plant, build it and
obtain a license to operate. Any new plants conceived today may be 10
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