"We did not analyze other options for reducing carbon emissions — renewable energy sources, carbon sequestration, and increased energy efficiency — and therefore reach no conclusions about priorities among these efforts and nuclear power. In our judgment, it would be a mistake to exclude any of these four options at this time."
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For a large expansion of nuclear power to succeed, four critical problems must be overcome:
Cost. In deregulated markets, nuclear power is not now cost competitive with coal and natural gas.However, plausible reductions by industry in capital cost, operation and maintenance costs, and construction time could reduce the gap. Carbon emission credits, if enacted by government, can give nuclear power a cost advantage.
Safety. Modern reactor designs can achieve a very low risk of serious accidents, but “best practices” in construction and operation are essential.We know little about the safety of the overall fuel cycle, beyond reactor operation.
Waste. Geological disposal is technically feasible but execution is yet to be demonstrated or certain. A convincing case has not been made that the long-term waste management benefits of advanced, closed fuel cycles involving reprocessing of spent fuel are outweighed by the short-term risks and costs.
Improvement in the open, once through fuel cycle may offer waste management benefits as large as those claimed for the more expensive closed fuel cycles.
Proliferation. The current international safeguards regime is inadequate to meet the security challenges of the expanded nuclear deployment contemplated in the global growth scenario. The reprocessing system now used in Europe, Japan, and Russia that involves separation and recycling of plutonium presents unwarranted proliferation risks.
We conclude that, over at least the next 50 years, the best choice to meet these challenges is the open, once-through fuel cycle. We judge that there are adequate uranium resources available at reasonable cost to support this choice under a global growth scenario.
Public acceptance will also be critical to expansion of nuclear power. Our survey results show that the public does not yet see nuclear power as a way to address global warming, suggesting that further public education may be necessary."