Nuclear power produces less CO2 emissions over its lifecycle than any other electricity source, according to a new report by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
The commission found nuclear power has the lowest carbon footprint measured in grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), compared to any rival electricity sources – including wind, solar, gas and coal.
It also revealed nuclear has the lowest lifecycle land use, as well as the lowest lifecycle mineral and metal requirements of all the clean technologies
While nuclear and renewables are zero-carbon at generation point, every electricity source produces CO2 at various stages, including construction, operation and decommissioning.
UN gives thumbs-up to UK’s nuclear ambitions
UNECE supports the findings of a separate study into the lifecycle emissions of Britain’s newest nuclear power projects, Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C.
It found both plants were likely to have a lifecycle impact of 5.5g CO2 per kilowatt hour.
This would mean the two projects would have the lowest carbon intensity and highest clean energy output of any plant constructed in British history.
Nuclear’s sustainability makes the energy source an attractive tool for the UK as it aims achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng recently relaunched the country’s funding model for nuclear plants, leveraging tax payer money to support the construction phase.
He is hoping to encourage domestic private investors and reduce the country’s reliance on overseas funds from countries such as China to build crucial energy infrastructure.
The government has also backed Rolls-Royce’s plans for small, modular nuclear reactors with a £210m grant.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, praised the report as “detailed” and “scientific”, and argued it confirmed nuclear as a “green and sustainable technology”.
He said: “If we are serious about cutting emissions and meeting net zero targets, we must act on the science and build new nuclear alongside other low-carbon sources of energy.”