BRUSSELS/LYON, Sept. 11, 2000 (M2 Communications) — Nuclear energy is part of the solution to the climate change problem, as nuclear power plants emit virtually no greenhouse or acid rain gases.

This was one of the main messages issued by the European nuclear industry at a meeting taking place this week in Lyon, France, to prepare for the crucial UN climate change talks (COP 6) in The Hague in November.

The European Atomic Forum (FORATOM), the industry’s trade association, issued a statement saying that all CO2-free sources of energy, including nuclear, will be needed in the international effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – and to meet the global demand for electricity which is set to increase dramatically in the decades to come. One third of the world’s population still has no access to electricity.

According to FORATOM, nuclear should not be excluded from the range of technology options available to all countries.

“All nations must have the right to decide for themselves whether nuclear projects should be pursued within the framework of the Kyoto mechanisms,” the forum said in a statement.

“They should not have their choices restricted by external political interference at an international level.”

Several developing countries already operate nuclear power plants, the forum said; others do not want to see nuclear excluded from the range of options available to them under the Kyoto mechanisms. They view nuclear energy as a potential contributor to their sustainable development.

CO2 emissions
The group agreed that the development of nuclear power is the only CO2-free way to expand large-scale electricity generation at minimal cost to the environment.

“It therefore makes an important contribution to sustainable development and to alleviating the problem of global warming. Nuclear power plants mean less reliance on fossil fuels and therefore a reduction in the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. In a year, this world-wide avoidance amounts to 1.8 billion tons of CO2 (800 million tons in Europe, equivalent to the emissions from 200 million cars).

However, the group said, some emissions are associated with the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to waste disposal. The plants themselves emit no CO2, but sources of CO2 emissions from other parts of the cycle are equivalent to 10-50 grams per kWh, the same as wind power.

FORATOM, based in Brussels, promotes the peaceful uses of nuclear energy by acting as the voice of the industry in EU policy debates.