7 MYTH: “Nuclear is not really true 9 “green” energy and not sustainable” MYTH: “Uranium mining causes severe environmental effects” o The environmental effects of uranium mining are the same as other metal mining and less harmful as compared to fossil fuel extraction. o Uranium mining projects must have environmental approvals prior to commencing, and must comply with all environmental, safety and occupational health conditions applicable. o Nuclear power plants release the lowest quantity of CO2-emissions as compared to other energy sources, i.e. even less than hydroelectric. o Used fuel is not waste; 95% of the usable energy remains. This energy can be recovered. o International Uranium has a very low level of radioactivity as compared to granite. Virtually, all the radioactive material from the associated minerals in the ore processed ends up in the tailings. Tailings are managed and controlled by placing them in engineered dams or underground. o o Uranium mining and mill sites rehabilitated at the end of the project. must be MYTH: “Nuclear power plants are not 8 economical nor reliable compared to other energy sources” o o Although the upfront capital cost for nuclear power plants is higher than others forms of power generation, the reliability and low operating cost (fuel, maintenance, etc) make nuclear plants competitive. Coal and gas power plant operating costs are sensitive to the future price of the fuel. The most expensive nuclear plant will be the first one. As lessons learned are applied and risk funds reduced, the capital cost drops by more than 40 % in subsequent plant constructions. and regional organisations develop standards, guidelines and recommendations under a framework of cooperation to assist countries in establishing and maintaining national standards for the nuclear and waste management. Amongst others, these standards aim to ensure the protection of the environment and the public, both now and into the future. World Nuclear University SUMMER INSTITUTE 2009 OXFORD, England Prepared by Forum Issues Group #10 Alexey Lokhov (France) (Canada) Anke Kuehn (Germany) Ortega Diaz (Chile) Benjamin Solich (USA) Erin Robertson Fernando J’Tia Taylor DID YO U KNOW? Dispelling the Myths Regarding Nuclear Energy 1 MYTH: “Nuclear waste disposal strategy is left for future generations to deal with” MYTH: “Occurrence of major 3 accident at nuclear power plants (e.g. MYTH: “Fuel from a nuclear reactor 5 can be used to make a bomb” core meltdown and explosion)” o o o Deep geological repositories are a long-term solution for radioactive nuclear energy production waste. Waste is isolated within a multi barrier system in geological formations hundreds of meters below the ground. The repositories are designed to provide a longterm storage, no future maintenance and negligible doses to the public (dose rate to the public is 10 times less than the regulatory limit). o o The quality of plutonium from nuclear power plants is insufficient for military applications because of its isotopic compositions. The fuel used in today's nuclear power plants is proliferation-resistant. o No accidents that were explosive in nature have occurred at a nuclear power plant since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Also, there have been no reactor core meltdown accidents since Three Mile Island in 1979. The use of a deep geological storage facility for long-term storage of nuclear waste products is being successfully pursued by Finland and Sweden. MYTH: “Risk of radiation accidents 2 during transportation” Making a nuclear bomb is an engineering challenge. Everything has to be perfectly tuned for a nuclear bomb to explode (e.g. nature of the fuel, fission process). Nuclear power plants are explicitly designed NOT to be a bomb. Although Chernobyl experienced an explosive thermal energy release, it did not experience a nuclear explosion. The weapon-grade uranium is excluded from being used in nuclear power plants. Very limited quantities are used in research facilities under strict control. MYTH: “Nuclear power plants 4 contaminate the environment (ground o Nuclear materials from the fuel reprocessing and recycling plants are unsuitable for military use. MYTH: “Nuclear power plants are 6 susceptible to terrorist attacks” water / air) and local communities” o It is estimated that 20 million packages of radioactive material are shipped worldwide every year. Of this, 5 % is fuel cycle related and 95 % is medicine, agriculture, research or industry related. The transport of radioactive material represents 1 % of dangerous goods shipped worldwide. o Packages used for the transport of the highest activity materials, such as high level waste, spent nuclear fuel, and some types of intermediate level waste, have to be able to survive rigorous tests that are representative of the conditions that could be experienced in severe transport accidents. To date, no radioactive accidents have occurred during transportation. o o Background radiation is constantly present in the environment and is emitted from a variety of natural and artificial sources (food, water, cosmic rays, radon). Less than 3 % of background radiation comes from other manmade sources, of which emissions from nuclear power plants is one source. o Analyses show that coal-fired plants release more radioactivity than a nuclear power plant. For example, studies have shown that the typical amount of radioactivity released from a coal-fired plant over the course of 1 year is 155 times more than the total release from the Three Mile Island accident. Modern nuclear power plants are designed to resist terrorist attacks and unsafe behaviour of the personnel. The greatest consequence of such activities would be a reactor shutdown. o Similar to most chemical plants, nuclear fuel cycle facilities have several layers of physical protection, including anti-aircraft defence. o Force-on-force exercises are regularly performed to test the security systems of nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities.