Mining uranium produces little CO2, study reveals

 

  • 9 Sep 2016
  • The StarPhoenix
  • ALEX MACPHERSON

Mining uranium produces little CO2, study reveals

Process accounts for small fraction of emissions from nuclear power

Despite critics’ claims that mining and milling uranium is a hidden cost in the comparatively clean nuclear fuel cycle, extracting the radioactive material produces only a small fraction of the process’s total emissions, according to the author of a new study.

“There were some gaps in our understanding about what the actual emissions from the full nuclear fuel cycle were,” University of Saskatchewan engineering graduate student David Parker said of the idea underlying the study.

“One area with a lot of gaps that critics were pointing to was mining and milling. The thought was this gap in our understanding of greenhouse gas emissions from uranium mining and milling might be a significant contributor to total emissions.”

Parker’s paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that uranium mining contributes about one gram of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt hour to the nuclear fuel cycle.

That accounts for less than 10 per cent of the 12 grams of CO2 emissions per kilowatt hour produced by nuclear power, he said. By comparison, coal-fired power produces about 800 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour and natural gas about 500 grams.

While the logistical challenges of setting up mining operations at remote locations in northern Saskatchewan are significant, uranium’s high energy density more than compensates for the challenges of extraction, Parker said.

The study, funded by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation and supervised by a pair of U of S professors, was based on information from Cameco Corp. and Areva Resources Canada Inc., as well as other sources.

Parker said the data came from uranium companies because it would have been difficult to obtain otherwise.

The study was conducted independently and reviewed by other scientists, including noted nuclear skeptics, he added.

“Over time, I hope that research like what we’ve done, and what other people in the field are doing, will allow us to make more informed decisions when it comes to our energy choices.”

 

 

About prosperitysaskatchewan

Consultant on Saskatchewan's natural resources.

Posted on September 9, 2016, in economic impact, miscellaneous, uranium and nuclear. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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