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Climate Action 2009-2010

URENCO - fuels nuclear

URENCO - fuels nuclear power To meet the growing energy demands of the world's increasing population, the electricity supply of the future has to be safe, clean, secure and cost-effective. With carbon emissions threatening the delicate stability of our planet, the development of a sustainable mix of energy sources is perhaps the most pressing challenge facing the world today. Nuclear power provides an essential part of this mix. URENCO believes nuclear energy must be part of the solution to this complex problem and is well positioned to play a significant role in delivering that solution. With the benefit of almost 40 years of expertise and continuous improvement, URENCO is today a leading supplier in the extended global enrichment market and positioned at the heart of the global nuclear industry. Using our own centrifuge technology our focus is on providing safe, cost effective and reliable uranium enrichment services for civil power generation. Nuclear fuel, as opposed to fossil fuel, is used in comparatively low quantities. This is illustrated by the fact that the 15% global electricity supply that is produced by nuclear generation today only uses 7,000 tonnes of enriched fuel per annum. The same amount of coal is burnt in a 1,000 mega watt coal plant per day. The uranium that fuels nuclear power is found in abundance in both earth and seawater. It is a metal that occurs naturally like tin, silver or lead. Currently natural uranium is mined from Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan and southern Africa. The plentiful supply of uranium is more than sufficient to meet the current and future global demand for nuclear fuel. Uranium is made up of two isotopes: U235 and U238. It is the U235 that is used in the production of nuclear fuel. U235 makes up 0.7% of natural uranium and therefore needs to be enriched to around 4% before it can be used as a fuel in nuclear reactors. URENCO's world-leading centrifuge technology rotates uranium at high speed in an almost frictionless environment. As the centrifuge spins, the centrifugal force separates the uranium by pushing the heavier isotope, U238 closer to the outer wall. As the process continues, the gas closer to the wall becomes depleted in U235, while the gas nearer to the rotor axis conversely becomes enriched in U235. By using more enrichment, the utilisation of nuclear fuel can be enhanced. This ultimately reduces the amount of radioactive waste and, in addition, decreases the amount of natural uranium needed. URENCO currently supplies around 25% of the global enrichment market, with demand for our services continuing to increase. We believe that nuclear power is an essential element for the future energy mix, thereby meeting the need for a sustainable global energy supply. We believe that the future needs nuclear power in order to provide a reliable and secure supply of electricity without inducing climate change. Nuclear power can overcome the concerns of security of supply as oil and gas resources deplete and create a domestic source of energy, which is essential to protect against the risk of supply interruptions and the unpredictable costs of imported fuel. URENCO is committed to supporting the nuclear industry by providing a secure supply of fuel to utilities worldwide. www.urenco.com

ENERGY © K. Gregorich Hansen/IAEA Reactors under construction at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, India. The width of each rectangle in Figure 4 is the mitigation potential of that technology for the carbon cost range shown on the vertical axis. Each rectangle’s width is shown by the number directly above or below it. Thus, nuclear power (the yellow rectangles) has a mitigation potential of 0.94 GtCO 2 - eq at negative carbon costs plus another 0.94 GtCO 2 -eq for carbon costs up to $20/tCO 2 . (Negative cost options, in the IPCC report, are those options whose benefits such as reduced energy costs and reduced emissions of local and regional pollutants equal or exceed their costs to society, excluding the benefits of avoided climate change.) The total for nuclear power is 1.88 GtCO 2 -eq. The figure indicates that nuclear power has the largest mitigation potential at the lowest average cost in the energy supply sector. Hydropower offers the second cheapest mitigation potential but its size is the lowest among the five options considered here. The mitigation potential offered by wind energy is spread across three cost ranges, yet more than one third of it can be utilized at negative cost. Bioenergy also has a significant total mitigation potential but less than half of it would be available at costs below $20/tCO 2 -eq by 2030. NUCLEAR WASTE An important concern is radioactive waste, which can create hazards for humans and the environment for centuries – or millennia. Over the past two decades, major scientific and technological advances have been made towards the safe storage and final disposal of radioactive waste. Disposal in geological media is considered a safe method for sufficiently isolating radioactive waste. Geological repositories are designed to be passively safe, with long term safety ensured by multiple engineered and natural barriers. The first such repositories are scheduled to go into operation in Finland and Sweden in the early 2020s. Most countries have already internalised the external costs of radioactive waste by requiring nuclear power plant operators to pay a fee, to finance final geological disposal, for every kilowatt-hour they generate. JUDGE NUCLEAR POWER ON ITS MERITS Nuclear power has very low greenhouse gas emissions (Figure 1), and, according to the IPCC’s analysis, it has the largest mitigation potential at the lowest average cost in the energy supply sector (Figure 4). These are the merits on which nuclear power should be judged in climate change deliberations. Yet nuclear power is currently excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation. Such exclusion cannot be based on climate concerns. The underlying concerns about nuclear power are that it could be unsafe, uneconomic, or associated with weapons production. But we respectfully suggest that negotiations on climate change are not the appropriate forum to deal with any of these concerns. As regards safety, the Convention on Nuclear Safety provides an effective international mechanism for review. Regarding costs, it is investors who are best equipped to forecast what will be economically attractive now and in the future. And, as concerns proliferation, there is in place the now indefinitely extended Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the growing adherence to the Additional Protocol, which further strengthens the safeguards agreements under this Treaty. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development has concluded that although countries disagree on the role of nuclear power in sustainable development, “[t]he choice of nuclear energy rests with countries”. It is not for climate change agreements to remove that choice. The best chance for sustainable development – for meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs – lies in allowing those future generations to make their own decisions about energy supply options, and allowing these options to compete on a level playing field. Authors Dr. H-Holger Rogner received an MSc in industrial engineering and a PhD in energy economics. He joined the IAEA in 1997 as Section Head, Planning and Economic Studies Section. His work focuses on the contributions to sustainable energy development of different energy demand and supply options, and capacity building in energy-environment planning in developing countries. Ferenc L. Toth is a senior energy economist in the Planning and Economic Studies Section of the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy. His work includes energy-economy-environment interactions, energy economics and policy analysis at national to global scales, indicators and studies on strategies for sustainable energy development, and economic and policy analyses of climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation. Alan McDonald is Head of the Programme Coordination Group in the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy. The Department supports Member States in improving the performance of nuclear power plants and the nuclear fuel cycle, catalysing innovation, building energy planning capabilities around the world, managing nuclear knowledge, and advancing science and industry through improved operation of research reactors. Organisation The IAEA was created in 1957 and now has 150 Member States. Its mission is “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world”. It assists Member States in their use of nuclear technologies in medicine, power production, agriculture, environmental monitoring, and industry. It also verifies compliance by the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons with their obligations under the treaty. Enquiries H.-Holger Rogner, Section Head, Planning and Economic Studies Section, Department of Nuclear Energy, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Room A2519, P.O. Box 100, Wagramerstr. 5 A-1400 Vienna, Austria Tel: +43-1-2600-22776 | Fax: +43-1-2600-29598 Mobile: +43-699-165-22776 NUCLEAR ENERGY 143 VISIT: WWW.CLIMATEACTIONPROGRAMME.ORG