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The Electric Grid on Earth Day: Then and Now

Happy Earth Day 2014 to all of our readers. While there are a variety of events going on all around the world, we'd like visitors to NEI Nuclear Notes to focus on what the electric grid looked like back in 1970 when the late Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson celebrated the very first Earth Day. Take a moment to consider the graphic below:
It's pretty easy to see how nuclear has grown to account for almost 20% of the electricity generated in the U.S. since that first Earth Day. At the same time, it's impossible not to notice that the use of oil to generate electricity has virtually disappeared, clearly displaced by the incredible growth in the use of nuclear energy over the same period of time. Nuclear didn't do it alone, helped tremendously by the steady growth in the use of natural gas.

The combined impact of nuclear and natural gas has been a real winner for the environment, something that The Breakthrough Institute pointed out in a study it released last September. According to Breakthrough, these two energy sources prevented 54 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions since 1950. By comparison, in 2012, the entire world emitted 35 billion tons.

That's a lot of carbon and one heck of an impact. The next time anyone asks you how nuclear energy supports a healthy environment, be sure to pass those numbers along.


Victor said…
You forgot to mention the harmlessness of nuclear waste, which vanishes in mere moments without a trace.
Engineer-Poet said…
Barely 2 hours after the post, the scripted talking points begin.  I swear, the activist propaganda teams must have this blog on Google alerts.

Victor, so-called "high-level nuclear waste" is carefully sealed behind multiple barriers, and in even the worst-case accidents the hazard to the public is between minuscule and non-existent.  All you have to do to stay outside the zone of hazard is to move away at a walking pace.

95% of "spent" nuclear fuel is itself fuel for fast-spectrum reactors, and the remainder decays to less toxicity than the original ore in just 500 years.  The volume of material is so small, the world's entire production to date would fit in a single sports stadium.
Spent fuel is a valuable and renewable commodity that can create even more clean energy.

The amount of toxic waste produced by the nuclear industry per kilowatt produced is dwarfed by the amount of toxic waste produced by the solar industry.

Mitch said…
>>>> Victor said...
You forgot to mention the harmlessness of nuclear waste, which vanishes in mere moments without a trace. <<<

Gee, then I guess Victor and his green leader's are all happy as a pig that oil and gas and coal power plants always use the atmosphere for a landfill and who cares about all the millions of sickness it's caused for over a hundred years. Why to go, Einstein!
Anonymous said…
The amount of waste from nuclear and solar is NOTHING compared to the toxic waste that has, and is being spewed into the air by fossil fuels coal, oil and gas operations.
And that's just the air. The WATER is a whole other nightmare. The amount of produced water polluted with BTEX and other chemicals from oil, gas and coal is around a trillion barrels a year. And, what are the fossil fuels companies doing with it? Unfortunately it is being dumped in the environment - even in the U.S. -because there are no federal regulations about dumping BTEX contaminated produced water.

When your doctor tells you that you and/or your family have cancer, it's from produced water - NOT nuclear!
Dan Williamson said…
The FUD lurkers think they've scored a goal if they get in first. They've highjacked the NRC blog site....the moderator is for whatever reason obliged to be cordial, so it's just about useless.
Anonymous said…
I don't understand why nuclear opponents expressing their opinions in comment sections or blogs constitutes "hijacking" a discussion. Especially when nuclear advocates are urging industry, in their comments on every post on this blog, to do the exact same thing in support of nuclear power.

I know you don't agree with nuclear opponents. So why not just refute them, rather than calling for them to be censored, sued, etc.?
Mitch said…
It's supposed to be the job of the NRC moderator to call out B.S. when it's laid and not sit like a rock letting falsehoods mislead people, like the ranter there called Lily Munster who said that radiation from Indian plant is so high that airplane pilots use it for a beacon! A game show emcee wouldn't let B.S. like that by! You don't help the public by keeping silent and letting trash steer them wrong! Don't censure sure, but at least say SOMETHING to the bull!
Dan Williamson said…
"So why not just refute them..."

Because they're too idealogically blinded to know (much less acknowledge) when they've been refuted. To them, demonstrable facts are lies told by liars. It's like arguing with a billy goat. Perhaps others readers are swayed by the exchange, but I don't get anything out of it myself. I'm a nuclear engineer by education, a reactor operator and fuel handler by training, and in a past life, I spent months on end pushing several thousand kilotons of W68 warheads around the north Atlantic. So I have a fairly good idea of how this technology works and how miniscule the real hazards are.

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