- Given the acknowledged hazards of fossil fuels,it is important to compare the impacts of low-carbon alternatives.
- This report reviews published data to compare nuclear with hydro, wind, solar and biomass electricity production.
- Environmental impacts and risks to humans are compared.
- Specific impacts of wind turbines on bird populations are examined.
- Conclusions and recommendations for future energy choices are presented.
Given the widely acknowledged negative impacts of fossil fuels, both on human health and on potential climate change,it is of interest to compare the impacts of low carbon alternative energy sources such as nuclear energy,hydropower, solar, wind and biomass. In this paper, we review the literature in order to summarise the impacts ofthe different technologies in terms of their materials and energy requirements, their emissions during operation, their health effects during operation, the accident risks,and the associated waste streams. We follow up these comparisons with some more anecdotal evidence on selected impacts that are either particularly topical or are important but less commonly addressed. These include impacts of wind turbines on persons and on bird life, the underestimated problems with biomass, and concerns about biodiversity reduction. Finally we address the public attitudes towards both renewable energy technologies and to nuclear power. The conclusion is drawn that energy policies of many countries are perhaps more strongly influenced by public and political perceptions of available technologies than they are by rational assessment of the actual benefits and drawbacks. Policy recommendations follow from this conclusion.
Research Topics: Climate Change and the Environment