Burning coal without adding to global carbon dioxide levels is a major technological challenge. The greatest challenge is bringing the cost of capture and storage technology down sufficiently for 'clean coal' to compete with nuclear power.
The greenhouse effect occurs naturally, providing a habitable climate. Atmospheric concentrations of some of the gases that produce the greenhouse effect are increasing due to human activity and most of the world's climate scientists believe this causes global warming and resulting climate change.
Whereas carbon dioxide emissions associated with nuclear power generation are negligible, emissions from fossil fuel power plants are considerable – resulting in environmental and health consequences.
Germany's Energiewende (energy transition) is a national program to change to a renewable-dominated energy system and phase out nuclear power. The government has estimated that the total cost of this could reach €1 trillion.
Life-cycle analysis is useful for comparing net energy yields from different methods of electricity generation. Nuclear power shows up very well as a net provider of energy. External costs, evaluated as part of life-cycle assessment, strongly favour nuclear over coal-fired generation.
Environmental and health consequences of electricity generation are important issues, alongside the affordability of the power which is produced.
Climate change is a worldwide problem and policy responses have accordingly had an international basis, the principal focus has been on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power can have a significant role in limiting greenhouse gas emissions while enabling access to abundant electricity.
Like nuclear power, renewable energy provides electricity without giving rise to significant carbon dioxide emissions. However, utilising electricity from solar and wind in a grid requires effective back-up generating capacity due to their intermittent nature and consequent low capacity factor.
The Potential Contribution of Nuclear Power: a 1998 position paper by the Uranium Institute.
Energy resources are available to supply mankind's expanding needs without environmental detriment. Wastes remain a major concern whether they are released to the environment or not. Until about 30 years ago, energy sustainability was thought of simply in terms of availability relative to the rate of use. Today, in the context of the ethical framework of sustainable development, including particularly concerns about global warming, other aspects are also very important.
Stewardship involves the care and management of a commodity through its entire life cycle. For a mineral, this cycle encompasses exploration, mining, processing, refining, fabricating, use, recovery, recycling and disposal.
Uranium can supply energy for the world's electricity with less greenhouse effect than virtually any other energy source.