"ONE of the nice things about nuclear power is that it emits practically no (well, very, very litle) carbon dioxide (CO2)," says Berol Robinson, president of the American branch of Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy (EFN).
A small quantity of CO2 is emitted in the "fuel cycle" – the mining of uranium, refining, fuel enrichment and fabrication, transportation, decommissioning, and waste disposal. But it's only a minor percentage of that emitted by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, to obtain the same amount of energy.
CO2 is also emitted when a nuclear power plant is built as cement is made by burning a calcium-bearing mineral. "The absence of CO2 emissions from nuclear power stations is a strong reason to support nuclear power as it slows down the trend of global warming."
"There is no industry in the world in which more attention is paid to safety," Robinson adds. "The least violation of safety rules is investigated, evaluated and reported to the public but largely ignored by the media."
According to EFN founder Bruno Comby, if a nuclear reactor is well constructed and well designed, bad accidents will not happen even if it was poorly maintained. "Take Three Mile Island; mistakes were made, which lead to an accident. However, no one was hurt."
Unlike oil and gas deposits, which are likely be exhausted in the next few decades, uranium is abundant. Says Robinson: "With our present primitive nuclear technology, we use less than 1% of the energy in the uranium; the rest is now considered nuclear waste, which is stored away safely and permanently.
"In the near future we will build advanced power stations which can better use the energy locked up in uranium. Then uranium reserves will be automatically expanded 30 or 50 times, depending on the technology.
Furthermore, there's thorium, another nuclear fuel that is three or four times more abundant than uranium. It is used as a nuclear fuel in India.
Comby estimates that "1 gram of uranium produces the same energy as one tonne of oil". Besides, nuclear energy is already competitive with fossil fuel energy, Robinson says.
"The cost of nuclear fuel is only a small part of the price of a kiloWatt-hour and will remain so, while fuel is the major cost of fossil fuel energy and threatens to grow worse with the impending scarcity of gas and oil. People criticise the investment of public funds in nuclear, but fossil fuels enjoy comparable advantages."
He adds that renewable energy is not enough to power the industrial needs of modern civilisation today. If one were to reduce energy requirements via improved efficiency or other economies, growing demand will eventually overtake supply.
"Nuclear has been developed to an industrial level. It provides 20% of the electricity supply in the United States and 75% of that in France," Robinson says.