Despite critics’ claims that mining and milling uranium is a hidden cost in the comparatively clean nuclear fuel cycle, extracting the radioactive material produces only a small fraction of the process’s total emissions, according to the author of a new study.
“There were some gaps in our understanding about what the actual emissions from the full nuclear fuel cycle were,” University of Saskatchewan engineering graduate student David Parker said of the idea underlying the study.
“One area with a lot of gaps that critics was pointing to was mining and milling. The thought was this gap in our understanding of greenhouse gas emissions from uranium mining and milling might be a significant contributor to total emissions.”
Parker’s paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that uranium mining contributes about one gram of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt hour to the nuclear fuel cycle.
That accounts for less than 10 per cent of the 12 grams of CO2 emissions per kilowatt hour produced by nuclear power, he said. By comparison, coal-fired power produces about 800 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour and natural gas about 500 grams.
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