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Jewish Energy Guide – Nuclear: Carbon-Free but Radioactive

By Benjamin Kahane

Nuclear energy isn’t quite a fossil fuel, since unlike coal, natural gas and petroleum, nuclear is not powered by fuel that developed over millennia from pressurized dead organisms — but nuclear isn’t renewable, either, since it uses a finite non-renewable fuel source. Nuclear power also presents many environmental problems, such as how to handle its radioactive waste product, and, in extreme circumstances, is disastrous, such as in Chernobyl, Ukraine, and recently in Japan.

Nuclear power is sometimes confused as a sustainable or renewable power. It is not, simply because there is a finite amount of uranium and plutonium on Earth. Nuclear power does not create any greenhouse gasses or expel any other environmentally harmful gasses into the atmosphere. However, fossil fuels are used in the mining for uranium, the uranium enrichment process, transportation of the nuclear fuel, and of course the erection of the power plant. It is difficult to quantify the fossil fuels burnt for nuclear power, but so much power can be extracted from the fission process that the power generated dwarfs the amount of harmful gasses emitted into the atmosphere compared to a coal or natural gas plant.


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Benjamin Kahane is a utility scale project engineer at SunEdison, where he designs photovoltaic solar energy systems. He has provided engineering support for the development of more than 100 megawatts of ground-mounted photovoltaic projects across North America. Kahane previously worked as a project engineer developing photovoltaic installations at Conergy. He earned his master’s degree in sustainable energy engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.

The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL’s Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology’s Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The Guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.

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