Will Nuclear Power be a zero carbon option for data centers?

Associated Press has an article that went out this morning appealing to environmentalist to embrace nuclear power.  Here is the ABC version.

Experts Say Nuclear Power Needed to Slow Warming



Some of the world's top climate scientists say wind and solar energy won't be enough to head off extreme global warming, and they're asking environmentalists to support the development of safer nuclear power as one way to cut fossil fuel pollution.

The Full letter from the scientist is here.

Kerry Emanuel originally shared:
To those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power: 

As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems. We appreciate your organization’s concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change. 

We call on your organization to support the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as a practical means of addressing the climate change problem. Global demand for energy is growing rapidly and must continue to grow to provide the needs of developing economies. At the same time, the need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions is becoming ever clearer. We can only increase energy supply while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions if new power plants turn away from using the atmosphere as a waste dump. 

Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires. While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power

The four scientist may think their strategy of appealing to the environmentalist will be reasonable and logical.  The problem is most environmental groups survive based on donations, grants, and the efforts of their volunteers.  These people are its users and they predominantly believe nuclear power is evil.

What will be the defining moment is what countries follow the advice of the scientist and are more successfully able to lower its carbon footprint.

Below are a few of the countries with nuclear power.  The most notable anti nuclear is Japan and Germany.

France is pro nuclear with 75% nuclear power.

Nuclear Power in France

(Updated September 2013)

  • France derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy. This is due to a long-standing policy based on energy security.
  • France is the world's largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of generation, and gains over EUR 3 billion per year from this.
  • France has been very active in developing nuclear technology. Reactors and fuel products and services are a major export.
  • It is building its first Generation III reactor.
  • About 17% of France's electricity is from recycled nuclear fuel.

France Nuclear Power Map

Germany is anti nuclear and pro coal with renewables

Nuclear Power in Germany

(updated October 2013)

  • Germany until March 2011 obtained one quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy, using 17 reactors. The figure is now about 18%.
  • A coalition government formed after the 1998 federal elections had the phasing out of nuclear energy as a feature of its policy. With a new government in 2009, the phase-out was cancelled, but then reintroduced in 2011, with eight reactors shut down immediately.
  • The cost of replacing nuclear power with renewables is estimated by the government to amount to some EUR 1000 billion.
  • Public opinion in Germany remains ambivalent and at present does not support building new nuclear plants.
  • More than half of Germany’s electricity was generated from coal in the first half of 2013, compared with 43% in 2010.
  • Germany has some of the lowest wholesale electricity prices in Europe and some of the highest retail prices, due to its energy policies.

Russia and China are pro nuclear. 

Australia has 31% of the world’s uranium, but no nuclear plants.  The majority of power comes from coal.

UK is adding more nuclear and imports Nuclear power from France through a DC power connection.

In the late 1990s, nuclear power plants contributed around 25% of total annual electricity generation in the UK, but this has gradually declined as old plants have been shut down and ageing-related problems affect plant availability.

In 2012, 363 billion kWh (TWh) of electricity was produced in UK. This comprised 70 TWh (19%) nuclear, 100 TWh (27.5%) from gas, 144 TWh (40%) from coal, 19.4 TWh from wind, 8 TWh hydro and 17 TWh from biofuels and wastes. Coal’s share of generation is at its highest level since 1996, with gas’s share at its lowest since 1996.

Net electricity imports from France – mostly nuclear – in 2012 were 12 billion kWh. There is a high-voltage DC connection with France with 2000 MW capacity, and a 1400 MWe link over 700 km with Norway is planned. Per capita UK electricity consumption was 5070 kWh in 2011.

The USA is 30% of the world’s nuclear power generation.

Nuclear Power in the USA

(Updated 30 October 2013)

  • The USA is the world's largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity.
  • The country's 104 nuclear reactors produced 821 billion kWh in 2011, over 19% of total electrical output. There are now 100 units operable and three under construction.
  • Following a 30-year period in which few new reactors were built, it is expected that 4-6 new units may come on line by 2020, the first of those resulting from 16 licence applications made since mid-2007 to build 24 new nuclear reactors.
  • However, lower gas prices since 2009 have put the economic viability of some of these projects in doubt.
  • Government policy changes since the late 1990s have helped pave the way for significant growth in nuclear capacity. Government and industry are working closely on expedited approval for construction and new plant designs.

And Japan which is living with the backlash of Fukushima.

Nuclear Power in Japan

(Updated 28 October 2013)

  • Japan needs to import about 84% of its energy requirements.
  • Its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in mid-1966, and nuclear energy has been a national strategic priority since 1973. This came under review following the 2011 Fukushima accident.
  • The country's 50 main reactors have provided some 30% of the country's electricity and this was expected to increase to at least 40% by 2017. The prospect now is for about half of this.
  • Japan has a full fuel cycle set-up, including enrichment and reprocessing of used fuel for recycle.
  • The process of regulatory clearance for restarting 50 reactors is slow and will take some years.

Despite being the only country to have suffered the devastating effects of nuclear weapons in wartime, with over 100,000 deaths, Japan embraced the peaceful use of nuclear technology to provide a substantial portion of its electricity. However, following the tsunami which killed 19,000 people and which triggered the Fukushima nuclear accident (which killed no-one), public sentiment shifted markedly so that there were wide public protests calling for nuclear power to be abandoned. The balance between this populist sentiment and the continuation of reliable and affordable electricity supplies is being worked out politically.