“Is Nuclear power classified as a renewable?”

| March 11, 2012

Ask the Go Green Guy



I just received the above tweet from a follower.

@Babbleaboutbks – Great question, “Is Nuclear power classified as a renewable?”

You will get a different answer depending on who you ask so I will give you my best assessment.

There are many definitions for Renewable Energy but most agree with this one from Encyclopedia Britanica: renewable energy also called alternative energy,  usable energy derived from replenishable sources such as the Sun (solar energy), wind (wind power), rivers (hydroelectric power), hot springs (geothermal energy), tides (tidal power), and biomass (biofuels).

This question has been debated for years and will continue to be debated as the nuclear industry and pro-nuclear officials from countries including France have been trying to brand the technology as renewable, on the grounds that it produces little or no greenhouse gases. So far efforts to categorize nuclear as a renewable source of power have made very little headway.

Fact: Nuclear energy is somewhat environmentally friendly in that it has no greenhouse gas emissions. The expansion of nuclear power could help with controlling global warming. However, it also produces radioactive waste, although not much waste is produced, it is very, very dangerous. It must be sealed up and buried for many thousands of years to allow the radioactivity to die away. For all that time it must be kept safe from earthquakes, flooding, terrorists and everything else

So even though Nuclear energy is even being marketed as an environmentally friendly source of renewable energy, according to the definition of renewable energy, it is not renewable. It is reliant upon a finite source of fuel that can be exhausted. The uranium (and sometimes plutonium) used in nuclear power is a natural resource in the same way that oil, coal and natural gas are.

But this statement will have some people stepping in to argue the case for nuclear energy created in a breeder reactor. In a breeder reactor, once operating, it can refine uranium, turning even natural uranium into fuel-grade uranium that can be used by other standard reactors.

Some breeder designs create plutonium as a byproduct, which can be used for either power generation or in nuclear weapons. In this very limited way, nuclear energy could be called “partly renewable,” since breeder reactors partially recycle their fuel. However, even if all nuclear power plants were breeder designs, they would still eventually run out of fuel.

I have read some articles on the use of thorium as opposed to uranium and this may be a possible alternative. Time will tell as the process is explored further. Even though thorium may be safer and there is a more abundant supply of it, it is still a natural resource that has the potential to eventually run out!

In My opinion Nuclear energy using uranium, is not worth the negatives that come with the waste and the chance of accidents like the recent Nuclear disaster in Japan.

As long as we have options like sun, wind and hydro, we need to explore and develop those options to their fullest potential.

As for the answer to your question, by definition at this time, Nuclear Energy would not be classified as a renewable energy!


I hope this answers your question.
Until next time, I’m the Go Green Guy and this is just my opinion on the matter of Nuclear Energy!


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Category: Ask the Go Green Guy, Uncategorized

About the Author (Author Profile)


Creator/Host of Go Green America TV
Jeff (Jf) Davis aka The Go Green Guy is from Maine
Moved to LA to follow his passion as an actor
these days he is still acting, lives in LA with his wife and two boys
an writes about Green Living for his website Go Green America TV
that will soon be a TV show!!

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Comments (2)

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  1. Yvonne Keen says:

    Thank you so much for your comprehensive reply. The reason I asked it is because my daughter came home from school recently (she is 9 years old) saying that her teacher had said that nuclear power was a renewable source of energy. I think for this age group the teaching is on oversimplfied lines and so it was a classroom discussion which categorised different types of energy sources into renewable and non-renewable. However, the more I thought about it the more I felt uncomfortable with the proposition that nuclear power had been categorised as a renewable form. I will now be able to discuss it further with my daughter with a little more authority on the matter. Thank you again.

  2. It is my pleasure, good luck with your debate!