The truth about nuclear power: NGOs reveal CO2 “omissions”

Uno studio realizzato per conto di alcune associazioni francesi smentisce l’idea che le centrali nucleari non producano CO2.

“As of 2028 or 2030, we will start to install new generation nuclear reactors, Epr NM, in France. These reactors, as of 2050-2055, will replace all current nuclear power stations: we will have 30, 35, maybe 40 reactors available”. And, by doing this, it will be possible to save the environment, as more energy will be produced whilst no CO2 will be emitted. This is what Jean-Bernard Lévy, CEO of the giant EDF, has affirmed on 23 October.


Jean-Bernard Lévy presidente EDF Francia
EDF CEO, Jean-Bernard Lévy, believes that France will invest further in nuclear power over the next decades ©Mario Tama/Getty Images


These statements, alongside raising a wave of criticism in France, have triggered the interventions of numerous NGOs, from the network Sortir du nucléaire a Réseau Action Climat, to France Nature Environnement and Greenpeace. The associations have published a study realised on their behalf by the independent research centre Wise-Paris, which conclusions are definitely clear: “The nuclear industry systematically overrates the role of the atom in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions. Firstly, it wrongly states it has – more or less – zero emissions. Secondly, in its calculations it always images that nuclear reactors will be built in place of thermal power station powered by fossil fuels”.


Chernobyl, Nearly 30 Years Since Catastrophe
A sign warning on the danger of radioactivity near the nuclear power station of Chernobyl, Ukraine ©Sean Gallup/Getty Images


The report acknowledges that nuclear power (like solar and wind power) does not emit CO2 in the energy production process. However, it does it indirectly, if the entire cycle is taken into consideration. Particularly, the most hazardous emissions are caused by uranium extraction, fuel production, construction sites, as well as sites’ dismantlement. According to the study, considering all these factors, the benefits in terms of greenhouse gases significantly drop.



In particular, to date, nuclear power allows saving 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions worldwide. Such figure could seem particularly high, but it actually represents less than 4% of the total. France, where 80% of energy is derived from atoms, registered a decrease in emissions due to nuclear power of only 15%: pollution is still 4 times higher than levels compatible with environmental safeguard.


Chernobyl oggi
Two technicians working in the control room at the nuclear power plant of Chernobyl. ©Sean Gallup/Getty Images


Therefore, according to the NGOs, the advantages are less substantial than declared by nuclear giants. If countries invest in the construction of new reactors, considering the limited contribution in terms of CO2, they should take the risks of accidents, military proliferation, and all problems linked to radioactive waste accumulation. Not to talk about the (high) costs needed to build next generation nuclear reactors.


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