Title: Thermodynamic limitations to nuclear energy deployment as a greenhouse gas mitigation technology


Author: Joshua M. Pearce


Address: Clarion University of Pennsylvania, 106 Peirce Science Center, Clarion, PA 16214–1232, USA


Journal: Int. J. of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology, 2008 Vol.2, No.1, pp.113 - 130


Abstract: To both replace fossil-fuel-energy use and meet the future energy demands, nuclear energy production would have to increase by 10.5% per year from 2010 to 2050. This large growth rate creates a cannibalistic effect, where nuclear energy must be used to supply the energy for future nuclear power plants. This study showed that the limit of ore grade to offset greenhouse gas emissions is significantly higher than the purely thermodynamic limit set by energy payback times found in the literature. In addition, any use of nuclear energy directly contributes heat to the Earth, which the Earth must radiate into space by raising its temperature to maintain thermodynamic equilibrium. This is a relatively small effect, but as energy consumption grows it must be considered for a world powered by nuclear energy. The results of this study demand modesty in claims of 'emission-free nuclear energy' as a panacea for global climate destabilisation.


Keywords: climate change; energy; greenhouse gas emissions; life-cycle analysis; LCA; nuclear energy; nuclear power; thermodynamics; emissions mitigation.


DOI: 10.1504/IJNGEE.2008.017358




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