Replacing nuclear power with wind in Sweden would literally double the country’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to a study published Monday by scientists from the Max Planck Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology.
The study found that replacing nuclear with wind power would make the electrical grid unreliable. Conventional natural gas and coal power plants would be needed to compensate for the unreliability, which would create more CO2 emissions. The study was published in the peer-reviewed European Physical Journal Plus.
Sweden gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric plants and nuclear reactors, so the country generates very few CO2 emissions. Sweden consumes very large amounts of electricity and energy on a per capita basis, but hydro and nuclear powers mean Swedish carbon emissions are relativity low compared to those of other countries. Sweden has nine operating nuclear power reactors, which provide about 40 percent of the country’s electricity.
Despite Sweden’s low CO2 emissions, environmentalists have been trying to force the country’s government to phase out nuclear power since the mid-1970s. The country had a national referendum in 1980 that called for nuclear energy to be phased out, but this proved extremely unfeasible. Sweden reversed the nuclear phase out in 2009 over the objections of environmentalists.
Real world experience supports the study’s conclusions, as Germany, the only major European country to transition away from nuclear power, saw its CO2 emissions sharply increase as a result.