The proponents of nuclear power often make the argument that nuclear plants are environmentally friendly because they don't emit greenhouse gas pollution. Consider for example this statement from the Web site of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a policy group that represents the nuclear power industry:
Nuclear power plants produce no controlled air pollutants, such as sulfur and particulates, or greenhouse gases.
As it turns out, that's not completely true.
Last month, PSEG's Hope Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey filed a special report with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after its auxiliary boiler failed an air emissions test. Nuclear power plants typically use such fossil-fuel-powered boilers to generate power when the reactors are shut down.
A test of the one of the plant's boilers in May revealed that its nitrous oxide or NOx emissions exceeded the permit limit for pounds per hours, according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by Facing South. NOx is among the greenhouse gas pollutants recognized as a factor contributing to global warming.
After follow-up tuning and testing, the boiler eventually met its NOx emission requirements. But to prevent such problems in the future (and to eliminate its NOx emissions entirely), the nuclear industry might want to try a little something cleaner for backup power. Wind or solar, perhaps?