Against the backdrop of climate change, nuclear power, which is generated with no CO2 emissions, is a key component in the energy mix of the future.
Low CO2 throughout the life cycle
To calculate CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour generated, scientists use life cycle analysis (LCA). This measurement method takes account of all stages in the life cycle of the energy stream in question, including raw material extraction and enrichment, fabrication, processing, transmission and distribution of electricity and lastly site construction and decommissioning.
In the case of renewable energy, CO2 emissions are mainly generated during the construction of facilities. They are estimated at 14 to 80 g CO2eq/kWh for photovoltaic solar, mainly accounted for by the panel fabrication process, and 8 to 20 g CO2eq for wind. By comparison, the result for the EDF nuclear stream is 4 g/kWh, of which three-fourths are due to the front end of the fuel cycle. In contrast, fossil energy sources emit large amounts of CO2.
The result for the EDF nuclear stream is 4 g/kWh, of which three-fourths are due to the front end of the fuel cycle. The actual generation of nuclear energy emits no CO2
In the generation phase, nuclear power emits no CO2. The plume coming out of power plants is steam. The cooling towers of a nuclear power plant are tube-shaped to create a natural flow of air that absorbs the heat contained in the water in the cooling circuits of the power generation systems. They discharge this heat to the atmosphere in the form of steam clouds (which are in no way radioactive).
A key role in the French and European energy mix
Based on LCA, nuclear is the cleanest energy in the mix, comparable to hydropower, which emits 6 grams of greenhouse gases per kilowatt-hour generated.
Nuclear generation emits nearly 150 times less greenhouse gas than coal-fired generation.
Thanks to the contribution of nuclear and hydroelectric energy, EDF supplies its customers with electricity that is 95% carbon-free. These two forms of energy combined play a key role in the French energy mix. They are helping France achieve the environmental target set by the European Union of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.
French electricity generation emits six times less greenhouse gas per capita than the European average.