A Nuclear Solution to Climate Change?

Thumbnail Image


2000-Science-NE.pdf (98.08 KB)
No. of downloads: 748

Publication or External Link





William C. Sailor, David Bodansky, Chaim Braun, Steve Fetter and Bob van der Zwaan, "A Nuclear Solution to Climate Change?" Science, Vol. 288 (19 May 2000), pp. 1177-1178



The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change calls for the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous changes in climate. An ambitious target would be stabilization at an equivalent doubling of the preindustrial CO2 concentration. To achieve this, fossil-fuel carbon emissions in 2050 should not exceed their current level, despite an expected doubling or tripling in world demand for energy.

Lacking a crystal ball that tells us the future, we simply select one possible scenario that achieves the emissions target. We assume that by 2050, world population and average per-capita energy consumption each rise by 50%, with annual world primary energy consumption reaching 900 EJ (exajoules, 1018 joules). A roughly equal contribution of 300 EJ each is assumed for conventional fossil fuels, for renewable and "decarbonized" fossil fuel sources, and for nuclear fission.

This is a challenging scenario, especially because restraining the increase in average per-capita energy consumption in the face of the economic aspirations of developing countries will require substantial improvements in energy efficiency.