Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?

Broad support for nuclear energy is growing.  The once maligned energy source is finding new friends across the political and social landscape from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Bob Geldolf of the Boomtown Rats.  Conservatives Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh have been talking up nuclear energy for some time.  Now even people like liberal columnist Thomas Friedman and Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace are advocating a nuclear expansion.   All this is happening because people are becoming more educated about nuclear energy.  They are beginning to view the anti-nuclear crowd as close-minded and unable to acknowledge the differences between nuclear weapons and the peaceful, safe uses of nuclear energy. With this kind of support building, it’s time to answer an important question… Is Nuclear Energy Renewable ? It’s an important question because “renewable energy” is viewed by governments, policy makers and opinion leaders as the path to a cleaner, safer world.  In addition,  “renewable portfolio standards,” designed to reduce carbon emissions and cut fossil fuel consumption by forcing utilities to generate part of their power from renewable sources, ignore the carbon-free contribution made by nuclear energy facilities.  Permitting utilities to credit nuclear energy towards meeting renewable portfolio standards would help the nation meet greenhouse gas reduction targets more quickly and more cheaply. It’s time to examine the definition of “renewable” and determine if nuclear energy deserves to receive the RENEWABLE seal of approval. First let’s look at the definition of RENEWABLE.  The Energy Information Administration, a non-partisan section of the US Department of Energy, is tasked with providing “policy-neutral data, forecasts, and analyses to promote sound policy making, efficient markets, and public understanding regarding energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment.”  The EIA defines “renewable energy,” as “Energy sources that are naturally replenishing but flow limited.  They are virtually inexhaustible in duration but limited in the amount of energy that is available per unit of time.”  The EIA currently recognizes biomass, hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, ocean thermal, wave action and tidal action as renewable energy sources. There are three key phrases in the renewable energy definition: “naturally replenished”, “virtually inexhaustible” , and “limited in the amount of energy available per unit of time.” We’ll evaluate the attributes of nuclear energy against each of these three criteria to determine if nuclear meets this definition of renewable.   Criteria 1: Is nuclear energy naturally replenished? Nuclear energy is naturally replenished under the certain conditions.  Most people view nuclear fission as a man-made phenomena, and would be surprised to learn about the Oklo Natural Nuclear Reactor.  The Oklo reactor was a naturally occurring fission reactor that...

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