This post was inspired by a tweet by Chris Nelder of the Rocky Mountain Institute (paraphrasing) “at this point we’re not even sure if we need nuclear power”. Lets examine this comment.
This graph below was taken from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy (reviews 2015 data).
We can see that energy use steadily increases over the years and oil is the top supplier of energy.
The following shows CO2 emissions per energy sector (International Energy Agency data)
If we focus on electricity, we see it is fossil fuel dominated and oil contributes minimally to global electricity production. (International Energy Agency data)
The table below shows how much electricity some countries produced in 2014 and how many grams of CO2 were emitted into the atmosphere per unit of electricity produced.
A detailed breakdown of BP 2016 World Energy report shows on pages 130 – 132, we see of global electricity generated in 2015 1.05% – solar, 2.15% – geothermal & biomass, 3.5% – wind, 10.69% – nuclear, 16.4% – hydro and 66.2% – fossil fuels. These same pages also show which countries are the leaders in each of these electricity generation types.
As of this writing, human population is at approximately 7.4 billion and the United Nations expects it to be 9.7 billion by mid century. The graph below shows a breakdown of populations and energy use of regions of the globe.
Another factor to consider is the amount of raw materials required per unit of energy produced, the chart below is from chapter 10, page 390 of USA’s Department of Energy 2015 “Quadrennial Technology Review”
The following chart is from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in conjunction with United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that shows grams of CO2 emitted for each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced for various generation technologies.
In December 2015,the Paris Climate Conference COP21 occurred. It was decided that a target was to keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Almost all countries signed it and agreed to their own individual targets to reduce CO2 emissions by X% by Y year. It is clear that these targets are not nearly aggressive enough to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius target, and negative emissions seem necessary, as the following sites outline climateparis.org and by Kevin Anderson. Also this 12 minute video by Glen Peters of CICERO (Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo) is worth viewing.
In conclusion, referring to the information provided above, some questions that could be asked with regard to whether or not we need nuclear power are: Globally, should we be using more energy than we are today? Will we be using more energy in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years?, etc. Do we need to reduce our CO2 emissions and if so, how fast?