Oil and Nuclear: A Limited Connection

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The July 24 news story "Uncertainties Slow Push for Nuclear Plants" said that "nuclear energy can help reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil."

However, oil is principally used for transportation, not electricity production. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that oil-fired stations accounted for only 2.5 percent of electricity generation in the United States in 2004, and high oil prices pushed this down to 2.2 percent in the first half of 2005. This is less than 1.8 percent of U.S. oil consumption in both years.

The article also did not point out that nuclear power plants are used only for base load power, while oil plants typically are peaking plants used to cover high-demand days.

Building more nuclear plants will have little or no effect on U.S. oil consumption; however, it will serve to displace other fossil fuels in the generation portfolio, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

CHRISTOPHER HANSEN

Oxford, United Kingdom

The writer is a research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies at Oxford University.


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