Are nukes carbon-free? Nope. Enriching uranium takes electricity. (Warning: This post contains Rand Paul-levels of reliance on Wikipedia, but with proper footnoting)

You ever have one of those days where everywhere you looked were things that needed more looking into?

In the course of researching a post on uranium mining, I ran across this on Wikipedia, in an article on uranium enrichment company USEC:

Before its downsizing and final cessation of uranium enrichment on May 31, 2013, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant consumed about 3,000 megawatts of electricity at peak operation. Power for the Paducah gaseous diffusion plant came from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). In 2012 the majority of the TVA grid was generated by coal fired plants, with three nuclear power plants counting for about 30 percent of TVA’s energy.[8]

8. “Nuclear Energy”. TVA. [November 2012]. Retrieved 22 September 2013.

I looked at the TVA page referenced, and it appears to be an accurate representation of the percentage of power produced by TVA via coal and nuclear.

Enrichment is just one example of carbon emissions in the production of nuclear power. To argue that carbon emissions from mining, transportation and enrichment shouldn’t count toward nuclear’s carbon footprint is as disingenuous as it would be for McDonald’s to say that no eggs were broken in the preparation of your breakfast. Just because the yellow goo arrives at the store in a five-gallon jug doesn’t change the fact that eggs were broken somewhere.


About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a call center. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
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