Une étude menée par des ingénieurs d’EDF montre que la production d’électricité nucléaire en France émet extrêmement peu de CO2. © ERIC, Adobe Stock

French nuclear is less than 4 gCO2e/kWh!

Around nuclear power, the debate continues to rage. There are those who are resolutely against it. Who would like to see it disappear from our energy mix, considering that it harms the development of renewable energies. And there are those who are for it. Who consider it essential in the fight against global warming. Today, science brings a new argument… definitely for!

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Surveys and polls, there have been. With a clearly drawn majority. A majority of French people who think that in matter of global warming, nuclear power is at least as responsible as oilthe gas where the coal. L’study published by EDF engineers – and validated by independent experts – will it succeed in restoring the scientific truth? Let’s see…

As a preamble, it is perhaps worth recalling that in a nuclear plantelectricity is generated from turbines – andalternators – actuated by steam. This water vapor is generated by the heat which emerges from splitting of uranium atoms. Neither carbon nor carbon dioxide (CO2), therefore, in the whole process.

Yes, but a serious analysis cannot stop at the sole production of electricity in the nuclear power plant. It must relate to the whole of what specialists call the life cycle. To also take into account the emissions ” upstream “when’uranium is mined or enriched. Emissions related to the manufacture of nuclear plant and its operation. Finally, emissions related to the processing and storage of waste.

An analysis over the entire life cycle

It is therefore taking into account all these emission items – and following the standardized methods framed by standards ISO – that EDF engineers estimated the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production of nuclear energy in France. And the result is clear: 3.7 g of CO equivalent2 per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced (gCO2e/kWh). Understand that all greenhouse gases combined, our nuclear power plants are responsible for the emission of less than 4 g/kWh. For CO2 alone, we go down a little more, to 3.1 g/kWh.

EDF engineers provide us with all the details of these emissions. Showing that the most important position is at the stage of extraction and processing of ore with emissions then estimated at 1.3 gCO2e/kWh. A step that calls in particular for machines running on diesel. And the study also shows that with a duration operating period of our nuclear power plants, which would increase from 40 to 60 years, the balance sheet would drop further to 3.4 gCO2e/kWh.

Less than 4 gCO2e/kWh, that doesn’t seem like much. But for the uninitiated, that doesn’t mean much either. So be aware that the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe) conducted this type of study for other means of electricity production. For coal-fired power plants, it gives 1.058 gCO2e/kWh. The power plants at fuel oilthey display a little shiny 730 gCO2e/kWh. And even gas power plants go up to 418 gCO2e/kWh. This is enough to clearly demonstrate that nuclear power is completely “climate friendly”. That it absolutely does not contribute as much as oil, gas or coal to anthropogenic global warming.

But what is also interesting to note is that Ademe also gives some figures concerning the renewable energies. And we thus discover that the production wind turbine emits in France between 14.1 and 15.6 gCO2e/kWh – depending on whether you have onshore wind power or offshore wind power. For solar photovoltaic, the figure rises to 25.2 gCO2e/kWh for solar panels made in France, 32.3 gCO2e/kWh for photovoltaic panels produced in Europe and even at 43.9 gCO2e/kWh for solar panels from China – which represents the vast majority of cases today.

Something to think about…right?

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