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MOVING TO A LOW-CARBON FUTURE: PERSPECTIVES ON NUCLEAR AND ALTERNATIVE POWER SOURCES

Morgan, M Granger*

doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000282108.31580.87
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This paper summarizes key findings from climate science to make the case that the United States (and ultimately the world) will need to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the energy system over the next few decades. While transportation energy is an important consideration, the focus of this paper is on electric power. Today, the United States generates just over half of its electric power from coal. The average size-weighted age of the fleet of U.S. coal plants is 35 y, and many will have to be replaced in the next few years. If that capacity were to be replaced with new conventional coal plants, it would commit the nation (and the world) to many more decades of high carbon-dioxide emissions, or it would make the cost of meeting a future carbon-dioxide emission constraint much higher than it needs to be. A range of low- and no-carbon energy technologies offers great potential to create a portfolio of options that can dramatically reduce emissions. A few of the advantages and disadvantages of these technologies are discussed. Policy and regulatory advances that will be needed to move the energy system to a low-carbon future are identified.

* Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

For correspondence contact the author at the above address, or email at gm5d@andrew.cmu.edu.

(Manuscript accepted 19 July 2007)

©2007Health Physics Society