Nuclear power proposed as renewable energy

Although nuclear power is considered a low carbon power generation source,[1] its legal inclusion with renewable energy power sources has been the subject of debate. Statutory and scientific definitions of renewable energies usually exclude nuclear energy. Commonly sourced definitions of renewable energy sources often omit or explicitly exclude nuclear energy sources as examples.[2][3][4][5]

Nuclear fission is not regarded as renewable by the U.S. Department of Energy.[6][7][8][9]

The American Petroleum Institute does not consider conventional nuclear fission as renewable, but states that nuclear fission in breeder reactors is considered sustainable and renewable.[10]


Attempts to define nuclear power as renewable

Conventional nuclear power uses uranium as its source of fuel. Uranium is a nonrenewable resource and when used at present rates would eventually be exhausted.

Nuclear power involving breeder reactors, which create more fissile isotopes than they consume during their operation, has a stronger case for being considered a renewable resource. Such reactors would constantly replenish the available supply of nuclear fuel by converting fertile materials, such as uranium-238 and thorium, into plutonium or uranium-233, respectively. Fertile materials are also nonrenewable, but their supply on Earth is extremely large, so the situation is similar to geothermal power. In a closed fuel cycle utilizing breeder reactors, nuclear fuel could therefore be considered renewable. Physicist Bernard Cohen claims that fast breeder reactors, fueled by uranium extracted from seawater, could supply energy at least as long as the sun's expected remaining lifespan of five billion years.[11]

Uranium dissolved in seawater could also be considered a renewable resource, because it is constantly replenished by rivers eroding the Earth's crust at a rate of 6500 tonnes per year.[11] In 1983, Bernard Cohen proposed that the uranium in the crust is effectively inexhaustible, and could therefore be considered a renewable source of energy.[11][12]

Legislation in the United States of America

Inclusion under the "renewable energy" classification as well as the low-carbon classification could render nuclear power projects eligible for development aid under more jurisdictions. Thus a key issue regarding this classification of nuclear power is inclusion in Renewable portfolio standard (RES).

A bill proposed in the South Carolina Legislature in 2007-2008 aimed to classify nuclear power as renewable energy. The bill listed as renewable energy: solar photovoltaic energy, solar thermal energy, wind power, hydroelectric, geothermal energy, tidal energy, recycling, hydrogen fuel derived from renewable resources, biomass energy, nuclear energy, and landfill gas.[13]

In 2009 the Utah state passed the bill ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVES FOR ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PROJECTS including incentives for renewable energy projects. It includes a direct reference to nuclear power: "Renewable energy" means the energy generation as defined in Subsection 10-19-102 (11) and includes generation powered by nuclear fuel. The bill passed the house with 72 yeas, 0 nays, and 3 absent, passed the senate with 24 yeas, 1 nay, and 4 absent, then received the governor's signature.[14]

In 2010 the Arizona Legislature included nuclear power in a proposed bill for electric utility renewable energy standards. The bill defined "renewable energy" as energy that is renewable and non-carbon emitting. It listed solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric, agricultural waste, landfill gas and nuclear sources.[15]

Notable people and speeches

Nuclear energy has been referred to as "renewable" by the politicians George W. Bush,[16] Charlie Crist,[17] and David Sainsbury.[18][19] Bush has said of nuclear power: "Nuclear power is safe and nuclear power is clean and nuclear power is renewable".

See also


  1. ^ "CARBON FOOTPRINT OF ELECTRICITY GENERATION". London: Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. October 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "Renewable: Definitions from". website. Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  3. ^ "Renewable energy: Definitions from". website. Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  4. ^ "Renewable resource: Definitions from". website. Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  5. ^ and Alternative Fuels Basics 101
  6. ^ "Renewable and Alternative Fuels Basics 101". Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  7. ^ "Renewable Energy Basics". National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  8. ^ Nuclear Power Is Not A "Renewable Source of Energy". Renewable Energy Access. Retrieved on 2007-12-17.
  9. ^ What is Energy?
  10. ^ American Petroleum Institute. "Key Characteristics of Nonrenewable Resources". Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  11. ^ a b c Cohen, Bernard L. (1983-01). "Breeder reactors: A renewable energy source" (PDF). American Journal of Physics 51 (1): 75–76. Bibcode 1983AmJPh..51...75C. doi:10.1119/1.13440. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  12. ^ McCarthy, John (1996-02-12). "Facts from Cohen and others". Progress and its Sustainability. Stanford. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  13. ^ South Carolina State House, 117th Session, S. 360
  14. ^ Utah House Bill 430, Session 198
  15. ^ Arizona House Bill 2701. By 2025 15% of electricity used by retail customers would have to come from the listed sources. [1]
  16. ^ "Bush: U.S. must end dependence on foreign oil". MSNBC. Associated Press. September 4, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2007-03-11. 
  17. ^ "Governor Crist Opens Florida Summit on Global Climate Change". 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  18. ^ Minister declares nuclear 'renewable' — UK Times
  19. ^ "UK To Redefine Nuclear Energy As Renewable?". WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor. 2005-11-04. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 

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