Nuclear energy is clean energy. When measured against other forms of electric generation, nuclear power’s effect on the environment is smaller in several ways.
Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear power does not emit any gases or particles that contribute to smog and acid rain. This makes nuclear power an excellent choice for provinces and countries that want clean air, as Ontario did when it moved away from coal.
Fighting climate change
Nuclear electricity generation does not emit any greenhouse gases, just like renewables energy sources, such as hydro, wind and solar power. Adding nuclear power to the energy mix is a practical way of protecting the environment and combatting climate change.
However, that figure does not include the full life cycle operation of each form of power generation. When mining, construction, transportation and disposal are considered, nuclear power still ranks with renewables, with lifetime carbon emissions of about 20 grams per kilowatt hour.
Fossil fuels have considerably larger emissions. To generate the same amount of electricity as nuclear does, when the full life cycle is taken into account, natural gas emits 29 times as much carbon, while oil emits 52 times as much and coal emits 62 times as much.
Low land use
Every form of electricity generation takes up land, but some use more than others. It would take an area the size of Nova Scotia to hold all the mining operations and nuclear power plants needed to supply the entire world’s electricity demand. For the same amount of energy, an area the size of Alberta would have to be covered with solar panels or an area the size of Quebec with wind farms. The footprint of hydroelectric power, which requires flooding of large areas around dams, would be much larger than for nuclear power.