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Energy Balances and CO2 Implications

(March 2006)

 Life Cycle Analysis, focused on energy, is useful for comparing net energy yields
from different methods of electricity generation.
 The amount of energy inputs to the nuclear fuel cycle has implications for carbon
dioxide emissions, and in any scenario nuclear power has negligible emissions.

The economics of electricity generation are important. If the financial cost of building
and operating the plant cannot profitably be recouped by selling the electricity, it is not
economically viable. But as energy itself is sometimes seen as a more fundamental unit of
accounting than money, it is useful to know which generating systems produce the best
return on the energy invested in them. This is part of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).

In the 1970s a lot of attention was given to analysing the energy inputs to different parts
of the nuclear fuel cycle, and much of the data available today still depends on that work.
In recent years however, mining companies have been publishing their energy use as part
of broader environmental or social responsibility disclosure - part of product stewardship.
Also some utilities generating power have undertaken LCAs as part of their social
accountability. The results have, like those of the mining companies, been audited and
published.

Comments on methodology and some greater detail is in the paper on Energy Analysis of
Power Systems in this series.

As well as energy costs, there are external costs to be considered - those environmental
and health consequences of energy production which are quantifiable but do not appear in
the financial accounts. Beyond these and less readily quantifiable in the same way are the
costs involved with global warming. Here however we now have emissions trading
schemes which put a direct cost on carbon dioxide emissions, so that can be added in too.

There is an obvious linkage between energy inputs to the nuclear fuel cycle and carbon
dioxide emissions, depending on what fuels those inputs.

In the last couple of years it has been asserted that uranium will become increasingly
difficult and expensive to recover due to decreasing ore grades, and will thus require
undue amounts of energy to mine, largely negating any low-carbon advantage over fossil
fuels. This notion is based on a misunderstanding of mineral resources generally, and on
academic abstractions rather than published data.

Energy balance from LCA

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Life cycle analysis for Vattenfall's Environmental Product Declaration for its 3090 MWe
Forsmark power plant for 2002 has yielded some energy data which is up to date and
certified. It shows energy inputs over 40 years to be 1.35% of the output.

Related to this is the question of carbon dioxide emissions, which for Forsmark are 3.10
g/kWh.

More typical data is tabulated in the Energy Analysis paper referred to above. Here,
conservative assumptions have been made, but centrifuge enrichment assumed, and the
estimate of lifetime inputs is 1.7% of output.

If very low grade ore of 0.01% U is envisaged - as has been said to make mining
uneconomic - the input figure rises to 2.9% of output.

All of these suggest a very favorable energy balance, by any criteria.

Forsmark: On basis of PJ (thermal) per 1000 MWe (1 GWe) of capacity over 40 years the
input figures* are:

Mining & milling 5.5


Conversion 4.1
Enrichment 23.1
Fuel fabrication 1.2
Plant operation 1.1
Build & decommission plant 4.1
Waste management 4.3
TOTAL 43.4 PJ

* Electrical inputs in PJ have been multiplied by 3 on the assumption that they might have
come from thermal steam plant (though most were hydro). Details: Re mining: 42% of U
comes from Rossing (0.025%U), 37% from Olympic Dam (0.042%U), 21% from Navoi
(ISL).
Enrichment: 20% Eurodif (diffusion), 60% Urenco, 20% Tenex (both centrifuge) - over
90% of energy input for it is from nuclear.

The output of Forsmark is 7.47 TWh/yr per GWe. Over 40 years: 299 TWh or 3226 PJ (factor of 10.8 at 33%
thermal efficiency).

Input is thus 1.35% of output.

More typical data tabulated in the Energy Analysis paper, with conservative assumptions
and centrifuge enrichment:

Mining & milling 1.6


Conversion 9.2

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Enrichment 3.3
Fuel fabrication 5.8
Build, operate & decommission
30.7
plant
Waste management 1.5
TOTAL 52.1 PJ

With output of 7 TWh/yr this gives 280 TWh over 40 years or 3024 PJ.

Input is thus 1.72% of output.

The mining figure in this data is as published for the Ranger mine in Australia - ore in 2004 averaged
0.234% U.

Figures for Beverley ISL operation 2004-05 are 187 GJ/t U3O8 or 221 GJ/tU, slightly more than the Ranger
data, and would take the Mining & milling figure in the table above to 2.0 PJ. So no real change in the
energy input percentage.

Published figures for nuclear fuel cycle with centrifuge enrichment range 1.7 to 2.3%.

If ore of 0.01% U is envisaged - as has been said to make mining uneconomic - this would give 37 PJ total
for mining & milling in the above table for an operation like Ranger, hence total 88 PJ for the whole fuel
cycle.

So if very low grade ores (0.01% U) were envisaged, the energy inputs for mining and milling would
increase significantly, but total inputs could still only be 2.9% of outputs.

It is difficult to compare these figures with coal, since so much of the coal energy input
(beyond the fuel itself) is often in transport, which varies from very little to a lot, and
figures of 3.5% to 14.0% are published. For natural gas the figures again depend on
transport to point of use, and published figures range from 3.8% to 20%.

Another question which arises in this connection is energy payback time. If 25 PJ is taken
as the energy capital cost of setting up (Other published figures for building a 1 GWe
nuclear power plant range from 2 to 24 PJ.) (Including enrichment of the first fuel load),
then at 7 billion kWh/yr or 75 PJ/yr output the initial energy investment is repaid in 4
months at full power. Construction time for nuclear plants is 4-5 years.

Life cycle analysis: external costs and greenhouse gases

The principal concern of life cycle analysis for energy systems today is their likely
contribution to global warming. This is a major external cost, though not the only one.

The ExternE study (1995) attempted to provide an expert assessment of life cycle
external costs for Europe including greenhouse gases, other pollution and accident

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potential. The European Commission launched the project in 1991 in collaboration with
the US Dept of Energy (which subsequently dropped out), and it was the first research
project of its kind "to put plausible financial figures against damage resulting from
different forms of electricity production for the entire EU". A further report, focusing on
coal and nuclear, was released in 2001.

The external costs are defined as those actually incurred in relation to health and the
environment and quantifiable but not built into the cost of the electricity to the consumer,
and therefore which are borne by society at large. They include particularly the effects of
air pollution on human health, crop yields and buildings, as well as occupational disease
and accidents. In ExternE they exclude effects on ecosystems and the impact of global
warming, which could not adequately be quantified and evaluated economically.

The methodology measures emissions, their dispersion and ultimate impact. With nuclear
energy the low risk of accidents is factored in along with high estimates of radiological
impacts from mine tailings (since shown to be exaggerated) and carbon-14 emissions
from reprocessing (waste management and decommissioning being already within the
cost to the consumer).

The report shows that in clear cash terms nuclear energy incurs about one tenth of the
costs of coal. Also, the external costs for coal-fired power were a very high proportion
(50-70%) of the internal costs, while the external costs for nuclear energy were a very
small proportion of internal costs, even after factoring in hypothetical nuclear
catastrophes. This is because all waste costs in the nuclear fuel cycle are already
internalised, which reduces the competitiveness of nuclear power when only internal
costs are considered. The external costs of nuclear energy averages 0.4 euro cents/kWh,
much the same as hydro, coal is over 4.0 cents (4.1-7.3 cent averages in different
countries), gas ranges 1.3-2.3 cents and only wind shows up better than nuclear, at 0.1-
0.2 cents/kWh average.

The EU cost of electricity generation without these external costs averages about 4
cents/kWh. If these external costs were in fact included, the EU price of electricity from
coal would double and that from gas would increase 30%. These particular estimates are
without attempting to include possible impacts of fossil fuels on global warming. See also
ExternE web site.

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Turning to carbon dioxide, if all energy inputs are assumed to be from coal-fired plants,
at about one kilogram of carbon dioxide per kWh, it is possible to derive a greenhouse
contribution from the energy input percentage of output. However, as the Forsmark data
quoted above show, many energy inputs are not fossil fuel, giving it the very low CO 2
emission figure of 3.1 g/kWh. The 2005 Environmental Product Declaration for British
Energy's Torness 1250 MWe power station shows 5.05 g/kWh (reference year 2002).

In France, despite energy-inefficient enrichment plants which are run by nuclear power,
the greenhouse contribution from any nuclear reactor using French-enriched uranium is
similar to a reactor elsewhere using centrifuge-enriched uranium -- less than 20 g/kWh
overall.

Figures published in 2006 for Japan show 13 g/kWh, with prospects of this halving in
future.

Older figures published from Japan's Central Research Institute of the Electric Power
Industry give life cycle carbon dioxide emission figures for various generation
technologies. Vattenfall (1999) published a popular account of life cycle studies based on
the previous few years experience and its certified Environmental Product Declarations
(EPDs) for Forsmark and Ringhals nuclear power stations in Sweden, and Kivisto in
2000 reports a similar exercise for Finland. They show the following CO2 emissions:

g/kWh CO2 Japan Sweden Finland


coal 975 980 894
gas thermal 608 1170 (peak-load, reserve) --
gas combined cycle 519 450 472
solar photovoltaic 53 50 95
wind 29 5.5 14

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g/kWh CO2 Japan Sweden Finland
nuclear 22 6 10 - 26
hydro 11 3 --

The Japanese gas figures include shipping LNG from overseas, and the nuclear figure is
for boiling water reactors, with enrichment 70% in USA, 30% France & Japan, and one
third of the fuel to be MOX. The Finnish nuclear figures are for centrifuge and diffusion
enrichment respectively, the Swedish one is for 80% centrifuge.

The UK Sustainable Development Commission report in March 2006 gave a figure of 16


g/kWh for nuclear, compared with 891 g/kWh for coal and 356 g/kWh for gas.

Other published figures are consistent with the above for nuclear power, showing it to
have around 1-2% of the carbon dioxide emissions of coal-fired power. If extremely low
grade ores are envisaged, the figure would rise by a further 1% in line with the energy
inputs, making it about 3% of coal or perhaps 6% of gas - still a very substantial margin
where carbon constraints are increasingly needed.

References:
see Energy Analysis and Energy Subsidies and External Costs Papers.

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