Posted in the Cleaner Production Journalthe research points out that although life cycle assessments (LCAs) have been carried out to assess the cumulative life cycle energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions related to electricity generated via energy nuclear, these indicators do not take into account the total resources used throughout the process.
“An LCA of resource utilization for uranium-based 1 kWh nuclear power generation was performed by analyzing TMR,” Shoki Kosai, corresponding author of the study, said in a press release. .
“We looked at both open and closed fuel cycles and three types of uranium mining methods: surface mining, underground mining and in situ leaching (ISL), apart from other variables of nuclear power generation, for an in-depth LCA.”
GHG emissions and natural resource use were then assessed for these variables.
Researchers found that the TMR coefficient (indicating extraction intensity) of enriched uranium fuel was the highest, followed by nuclear fuel, reprocessed uranium fuel, mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and finally yellow cake.
The grade of uranium ore also had a huge impact on the TMR coefficient, which meant that the TMR varied greatly between different mining methods. In situ leaching had the lowest TMR. However, the extraction method had a greater impact on resource use compared to its impact on GHG emissions.
“We found that a closed cycle that reprocesses uranium fuel uses 26% fewer resources than an open cycle that does not reuse its by-products,” said co-author Eiji Yamasue.
In addition, the scientist and his colleagues found that the use of natural resources of nuclear power generation was similar to that of renewable energy and significantly lower than that of thermal power generation.
Moreover, the global warming potential and the RMR of nuclear power generation showed very different trends. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, nuclear power generation also used fewer natural resources, making it an environmentally friendly source of electricity generation.
“Maintaining a circular economy, even for the use of resources, is important. Our findings can help policymakers formulate long-term energy policies that take into account electricity and power generation using nuclear energy,” Kosai said.