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Development Of A Method To Fully Assess The Environmental Costs Of Electrical Energy Generation By Nuclear Power Plants

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Nuclear Power and the Environment

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.410.1 - 7.410.13



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Paper Authors

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Robert Simpson

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David Hintenlang

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James Tulenko

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Development of a Method to Fully Assess the Environmental Costs of Electrical Energy by Nuclear Power Plants


A major problem affecting the assessment of the environmental and social costs of energy in addition to the monetary cost is a lack of standardization of assessment techniques which makes comparisons difficult or invalid. The University of Florida has adopted the EMERGY analysis process developed by Howard T. Odum1,2,3 to perform a self-consistent study of energy production to assess the full range of environmental, social and economic costs. The EMERGY analysis makes the ordering of energy values and the assignment of energy units (emjoules) to environmental and economic costs possible. The need for such a study arises from Federal directives for utilities to more fully assess the environmental and social costs of electricity production. The University of Florida has completed an implementable EMERGY analysis of a nuclear power plant that meets the spirit of the Federal directive. The development of the EMERGY analysis can serve as an example for utilities to follow in the future in their assessment of environmental and social costs. The reported study analyzes the integrated economic, energy, and environmental costs involved in the construction, maintainance, operation, and decommissioning of a steam nuclear power electric generating facility. Data were collected or calculated on the energy, economic, and environmental costs (emergy inputs) associated with the construction, operation, and decommissioning of a 1000 MW e nuclear power plant. These total energy cost data were analyzed and compared to the electrical output of the same size plant utilizing different fuel sources. The study shows that relatively low amounts of energy, economic, and environmental costs (in emergy units) are required to produce a given amount of electricity from the nuclear power plant compared to other electricity production options. The energy analysis employed in this study was an EMERGY analysis. The EMERGY concept is an accounting system or language that allows comparisons to be made between different energy systems or subsystems. An EMERGY analysis accounts for environmental and economic effects as well as direct energy and material use in a defined system. Each material, monetary quantity, or energy source is assigned an emergy value (in emjoules or sej's) based on how much solar energy it took to create it.

The EMERGY inputs into the system under study are summed and divided into the energy output. The result is a ratio (EMERGY yield ratio), which indicates the efficiency and environmental impact within the system. This study yielded a ratio of 8.45 for a 1000 MWe nuclear power plant. Previous studies showed a ratio of 2.5 for coal, 0.48 for solar and 0.25 for wind


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Simpson, R., & Hintenlang, D., & Tulenko, J. (2002, June), Development Of A Method To Fully Assess The Environmental Costs Of Electrical Energy Generation By Nuclear Power Plants Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10256

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