Since nuclear energy facilities do not emit air pollutants or greenhouse gases, nuclear power is considered clean energy. The Nuclear Energy Institute estimates that the nation's 104 operating nuclear plants accounted for the avoidance of the following total emissions in 2009
- 1.99 million short tons of sulfur dioxide
- 0.56 million short tons of nitrogen oxides
- 647 million metric tons of carbon dioxide
Emissions avoided by Columbia in 2009 were approximately:
- 6,900 tons of sulfur dioxide
- 7,500 tons of nitrogen oxide
- 5,500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide
All commercial nuclear plants create radioactive byproducts; the most significant being used nuclear fuel. Every two years Columbia is powered down for refueling. Fuel assemblies that have been in the reactor for six years are removed and placed in underwater storage in the reactor building before being moved to above ground dry storage. Energy Northwest has an on-site dry storage installation, which allows for storage of used fuel in specially designed and manufactured casks.
Even after six years powering the reactors, these used fuel rods still contain more than 95 percent of their energy potential. Recycling of used nuclear fuel – common practice in foreign countries but not yet in practice in the U.S. – will dramatically reduce the need for long-term storage facilities and minimize the need for additional uranium mining.
The production cost of nuclear power is relatively inexpensive. Columbia’s cost of power averages 3.37 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Learn more about nuclear power