Annual emissions avoided. In 2005, U.S. nuclear power plants prevented 3.32 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 1.05 million tons of nitrogen oxide, and 681.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the earth's atmosphere.
Longterm emissions avoided. Between 1995 and 2005, U.S. nuclear generation avoided the emission of 41.0 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 16.9 million tons of nitrogen oxide, and 7.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide.
Over one-third of total voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reductions. According to the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, nuclear power plants were responsible for 36 percent of the total voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions reported by U.S. companies in 2005. Nuclear plants reported avoiding 138 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalant that year. In 2004, nuclear power plants were responsible for 36 percent of total voluntary reductions, avoiding 143 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalant.
Global benefits of nuclear energy. Worldwide, 435 nuclear power plants in 30 nations produce 16 percent of the world's electricity. By replacing fossil fuels in electricity generation, nuclear plants in 2005 reduced CO2 emissions by more than 2 billion metric tons.
U.S. Acid Rain Program compliance. In the U.S. Acid Rain program, 21 states achieved a 16.4 percent increase in nuclear generation between 1990-95 that avoided 480,000 tons of sulfur dioxide 37 percent of the required emissions reduction. Under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, no credit was allocated to the nuclear plants. But, based on the average value of publicly traded sulfur dioxide credits, this contribution would have been worth about $50 million.
"Clear Skies" proposal. In 2002, the Bush Administration proposed new limitations on emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and mercury. This “Clear Skies” proposal would reduce emissions of these three pollutants by approximately 70 percent from today’s levels over the next 15 years. Compliance with the Clear Skies legislation will cost $32 billion to $37 billion through 2020, according to electric power industry estimates. Nuclear energy does not emit any of these pollutants.
U.N. Climate Change Treaty compliance. The 682 million metric tons of CO2 avoided by U.S. nuclear power production is almost equivalent to the 700 million metric tons of reductions needed to meet the goal of returning to 1990 emissions levels set forth in the United Nations Climate Change Treaty signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
Kyoto Protocol compliance. Without the emission avoidances from nuclear generation, required reductions would increase by more than 50 percent to achieve targets under the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement reached at the United Nations Convention on Global Climate Change.
Small amount of waste carefully managed. The high-level waste currently produced by all U.S. nuclear power plants as used fuel rods totals about 2,000 tons per year, compared to over 40 million tons of hazardous waste produced by the United States each year. The trillions of kilowatt hours of electricity generated from nuclear energy during the U.S. industry's 40-year existence has produced about 56,000 metric tons of radioactive material. If these used fuel rods were stacked together, they would fill a football field to a depth of only six yards. All used nuclear fuel has been managed so that no adverse impacts to human health or the environment has occurred.