What Would Our Carbon Intensities Be Without Nuclear Power?
Normalizing CO2 emissions to overall energy consumption is a reasonable indicator of a country’s carbon intensity. Low values indicate a greater dependency on low- or zero-carbon resources whereas higher values indicate a greater dependency on fossil fuels. This figure is for the top 7 GDP producing countries in the world, constituting about 60% of total global GDP. The figure includes nuclear and combined solar/wind as percentages of the respective generation portfolios as well as each country’s residential price per kWhr.
Some notable points:
- The country with the lowest intensity is France, where the electricity portfolio is 76.9% nuclear (no real surprise here);
- U.S. nuclear generation is equal to Germany’s renewable generation—both about 19.5%. While Germany has quite a bit more solar/wind than the U.S. (14.1% vs. 5.4%), U.S. carbon intensity generally tracks Germany’s as well as as the UK’s, which is at about 14.2% renewables.
- The major difference between the U.S. and Germany is price, where the U.S. is at 11.9 cents/kWhr and Germany is at 38.8 cents/kWhr. In fact, for the five countries for which I could get reasonable price data, the U.S. is the lowest of all.
- While the respective intensities for each country are trending downward, Japan and India are exceptions. For Japan, the reason being that, post-Fukushima, its nuclear share decreased from 25.8% in 2010 to 0.4% in 2015. For India, it’s a deeply complex matter of establishing and developing an industrialized economy while trying to meet the energy needs for hundreds of millions living in energy poverty.
This is one more indication that if carbon and climate are the issues, then it’s reasonable to argue the benefits of nuclear power as well as the need to focus our attention on developing regions such as India. While EPA’s Clean Power Plan may give us the impression we’re contributing to the climate issue (which I contend it really doesn’t) our resources are much better invested in areas where U.S. industry and innovation can be leveraged in the development and deployment of modern power generation systems, particularly nuclear power.