Is Nuclear Power A Renewable Or A Sustainable Energy Source?
Nuclear power is presently a sustainable energy source, but could become completely renewable if the source of uranium changed from mined ore to seawater. Since U extracted is continuously replenished through geologic processes, nuclear would become as endless as solar.
But do renewable and sustainable mean the same thing in the energy world?
Not necessarily. As Professor Jason Donev from the University of Calgary puts it, “Not everything renewable is sustainable, and in turn not everything which is sustainable is necessarily renewable.”
Renewable literally means ‘to make new again’. Any resource that naturally replenishes with time, like the creation of wind or the growth of biological organisms for biomass or biofuels, is certainly renewable. Renewable energy means that the energy humans extract from nature will generally replace itself.
On the other hand, a sustainable energy source can be maintained for a definable period of time, one whose total amount will last for the period of human history that needs it, at the rate it is being used or expected to be used. It may or may not be renewed at some rate.
Human energy use is dominated by a small list of primary energy types, of which the following sources are considered to be renewable: Solar power, Wind power, Hydropower, Tidal power and Geothermal energy
Energy sources are considered non-renewable if they take a very long time to be created, like fossil fuels, or if their creation happened long ago and is not likely to happen again, like uranium.
However, we are not running out of coal, oil or natural gas anytime soon. Thanks to fracking, our oil and natural gas reserves keep growing. Just look at Donev’s data visualization to see what’s happened to the amount of economically-recoverable natural gas as a function of time. What was thought to be global gas reserves at the time went from 60,000 Mtoe in 1980 to 170,000 in 2013.