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i02

Economic vs physical perspective

A fundamental issue in the discussion on nuclear energy is the scope of the arguments. Does one take the entire nuclear process chain into account, or only one partial process of it, usually the nuclear power plant itself? Does one use economic arguments, or physical arguments, or does one mix up economic and physical arguments without explicitely defining his scope? Which timescale has one in mind, when discussing nuclear energy? A few years until the next elections, a few decades according to an authoritative scenario of the nuclear industry, or the whole cradle-to-grave periods of the involved nuclear power stations, which are relevant for the whole society?

Time horizon

The nuclear process chain encompass a substantial number of partial processes, which are run by different companies at widely dispersed places (may be on different continents) and often at different points in time. The time lag between processes directly related to one particular nuclear power station may vary from a few years to more than a century. Economic calculations are done per company, and consequently per partial process of the nuclear chain, and have a short time horizon, usually no more than a couple of years. This way of thinking does not result in a reliable overview of the whole chain.

Global issues

Climate control by mitigation of CO2 emissions and energy security are global issues, for that reason the complete chain of industrial activities needed to make nuclear energy available should be taken into account, over the full cradle-to-grave period [more i12].

Physical energy analysis

Answers to question regarding CO2 emissions, energy security and safety of nuclear power can only be found by means of a complete life-cycle assessment (LCA) and a physical energy analyis of the complete nuclear process chain [more i12]. Energy is a conserved quantity, energy units do not depend on place and time, nor on politics, nor on economic concepts. Essential is that all energy flows involved in nuclear power are analysed and accounted for in the material and energy balance.

System boundaries

Arguments based on the free-market paradigm are not well-suited to assess the environmental and societal implications of nuclear power in a global perspective with a long time horizon. Only a method based on unambiguously defined quantities which do not depend on place, time and cultural factors is appropiate.

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