Environment: Emissions Prevented
Carbon Dioxide Emissions AvoidedAccording to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Energy Information Administration report "Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases 1997" (published June 1, 1999), the single most effective emission control strategy for utilities was to increase nuclear generation.
Increased nuclear capacity and improved efficiency at nuclear power plants since 1993 represents one-third of voluntary carbon dioxide reductions from U.S. industries. In 2011, nuclear energy accounted for 63.3 percent of U.S. emission-free generation.
Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions increased from the 1990 baseline of 6,133 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to 6,576 million metric tons in 2009.
Nuclear generated electricity avoided 613 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2011 in the U.S. This is nearly as much carbon dioxide as is released from 118 million cars, which is nearly all U.S. passenger cars.
Without the emission avoidances from nuclear generation, required reductions in the U.S. would increase by more than 50 percent to achieve targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Worldwide nuclear energy avoids on average the emissions of about 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Nuclear Generation Produces No Criteria PollutantsNuclear generation avoids more than half a million tons of nitrogen oxide, which is equivalent to that released by 28 million cars, and 1.4 million tons of sulfur dioxide annually in the United States.
As part of the U.S. EPA Acid Rain Program, 21 states from 1990-1995 showed a 16.4 percent increase of nuclear generation that avoided 480,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (37 percent of the required emissions reduction).
Under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, no credit was allocated to nuclear plants. But, based on the average value of publicly traded sulfur dioxide credits, this contribution would have been worth about $50 million.