A study at http://www.stormsmith.nl/ calculates CO2e from all the steps, noting the variation in energy needed to extract ores, depending on the quality of the ore. It criticizes industry studies for over-optimism. Lower estimates come from Swedish and Swiss producers, but they do not itemize their estimates in any detail. Both refer substantially to ecoinvent.org, a confidential source discussed more elsewhere.
Decay. We lack estimates of the global warming from continuing radioactive decay in nuclear wastes.
Guards. None of the studies includes permanently guarding or monitoring the storage of radioactive waste. Nuclear wastes are poisons, potentially attractive to terrorists or enemy states. Terrorists have existed for thousands of years and may exist for thousands more. Accidental intrusions are also a risk when people forget where the wastes are buried.
With certain assumptions, principally major advances in physics, we estimate defense will only be needed for 1,000 years, so it does not add much CO2e, and the total will be 0.3 pounds per kilowatt hour With less trust in the advances of physics, and far longer needed for defense, total CO2e could be two to three times as much.
Effective defense of nuclear sites would require much larger forces than they have now, with resulting increases in CO2e. The Council on Foreign Relations and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) note that in the US, even nuclear power plants, let alone storage sites, do not yet protect against terrorists using more than an SUV. Protection against air attack and truck bombs has been left to the military since 1967 when the Turkey Point plant was approved within missile distance of Cuba. These researchers say reactors are very strong, but spent fuel reservoirs are not. UCS notes "private security forces are going to be the only ones in a position to defend nuclear plants at all times."
The Swiss nuclear producer, NOK, says, "The environmental impact of guards or a permanent office building is negligible." However small emissions per year for guards and monitors would become noticeable when multiplied by "the tens of thousands of years during which the waste will be hazardous" or "millions of years" of radioactivity (Yucca Mountain fact sheet from US Dept. of Energy).
Few organizations have ever lasted 2,000 years: claimants include the Catholic church, some aboriginal groups and pueblos, and governments of China, Iran and Ethiopia. None of them could have defended poisons from all enemies for all that time. Furthermore, whatever one thinks of the notable regime changes in those countries, people who trust the government in one century would often not trust it in another century.
The number of years an office and defense are needed at a nuclear waste site depend on how soon one expects an invention capable of removing the radioactivity. The physics of stopping radioactive decay or sending wastes into the sun are too advanced to plan on, but 1,000 years seems a conservative estimate.
An organization capable of maintaining maps, education about risks, and defense, requires substantial resources. It also may have to move the waste. For example there used to be proposals to store waste in polar ice caps. It is hard to predict, especially about the future, but the current idea of deep mines may not last much longer than the icecaps.
For the size and CO2e emissions of the office, we can consider a range of defense capabilities. Sweden spends $5.5 billion dollars per year on its military, Switzerland $2.5, Jordan $1.8. Jordan probably could not defend itself alone against a determined enemy. Switzerland probably could, but its budget does not have to cover the cost of keeping nearly all adult men available. Sweden's budget probably is enough to defend its nuclear sites. It defends other targets in the country too, so only a portion can be allocated to nuclear sites.
The CO2 calculator and spreadsheet allocate $1 billion per year for 1,000 years. They use the average pounds per dollar of defense spending of eight countries, which adds only 0.01 pound per kilowatt hour to nuclear emissions.
Discounting future spending can be legitimate, based on inflation and increased wealth. And current CO2e is more harmful than future CO2e, since it warms the earth longer. However it seems unwise to discount future CO2e, since CO2e emissions per person will become steadily more limited and valuable when the world population grows and other CO2e -releasing activities are invented.
Even more than wind, nuclear power has other risks, aside from CO2e, including the possibility of a new regime taking over the guards.
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