Assessment of the actual sustainability of nuclear fission power

Aviel Verbruggen, Erik Laes, Sanne Lemmens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


This paper uses 19 criteria to assess whether nuclear fission power can be a part of sustainable development. This yes or no qualitative evaluation is due prior to ongoing marketability assessment and promotion of nuclear power by, for example, the IAEA, the IEA and the UK government. The criteria are classified into five groups. 'Planet' results demonstrate that the incompatibility of nuclear expansion with electricity efficiency and full renewable power deployment largely overshadows the carbon-free steam generation of nuclear fission. 'Prosperity' analyses show that including rolled-off costs and risks would raise bills to heights difficult to quantify due to doubts, long-term invisibility and irreversibility. 'Risks' may be catastrophic and are not insurable, while weaponry proliferation adds a further dimension. 'People' analyses reveal that some nuclear power is affordable for present generations when many costs remain unpaid; however, developing countries cannot afford the capital costs and technology intensity, and catastrophes wreak havoc on national economies, singling out exposed communities losing their habitats. 'Politics' assessments demonstrate that nuclear technocracy dominates the scene in many countries; the technocrats heavily influence policy-makers, the media, and celebrities speaking out in favor of nuclear. We identify the need for an independent global agency and for independent national nuclear regulatory institutions to safeguard the public interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-28
Number of pages13
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Economics of nuclear power
  • Independent nuclear agency
  • Loss of human habitats
  • Nuclear and CO emissions
  • Nuclear risk acceptance


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