Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Weinberg Next Nuclear welcomes new Patron

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 26th, 2017

Weinberg Next Nuclear, the charity promoting the next generation of nuclear energy, is delighted to announce its newest Patron – Professor Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics and Emeritus Fellow of Keble College. Professor Allison is a leading authority on medical physics, especially the effects of radiation on life. His work has attracted considerable attention around the world, especially following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011. Since then he has been to Japan several times to lecture and to visit teachers, community leaders, doctors and evacuees in the region affected by the accident.


He studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, before completing his DPhil in Particle Physics at the University of Oxford. After his doctorate, Professor Allison spent two years at the Argonne National Laboratory in the US, before returning to teach and research at Oxford. He was subsequently appointed Professor and Fellow of Keble College.

Professor Allison has published two books on the topic of radiation fear.

In Radiation and Reason (2009) he brought the scientific evidence of the effect of radiation to a wider audience. After the Fukushima accident this was translated into Japanese and Chinese. Nuclear is for Life (2015) is a broad study that contrasts the cultural rejection of nuclear energy with the evidence, at all but the highest levels, for the harmless, and even beneficial, interaction of radiation with life.

Upon his appointment, Professor Allison said:

‘’Fukushima showed that radiation is no threat to life – the need for a carbon-free economy should be satisfied by nuclear power. We need a radical change in the way we approach nuclear power, not only in regards to technology, but to the broader cultural aspects. Nothing short of a paradigm shift will be needed. Weinberg Next Nuclear can play a key role as catalyst for change’’

Stephen Tindale, Director of Weinberg Next Nuclear, said:

“Public opposition to nuclear energy on the basis of exaggerated and unscientific fear of radioactivity is a significant barrier to nuclear progress. The world needs more nuclear energy, and addressing the fear factor is a major part of nuclear advocacy. So I am delighted to welcome Wade as a Patron. Wade has immense scientific knowledge and is also extremely well versed in the need for new public communication on nuclear.”

New Report: The Case for a Clean Energy Alliance

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 23rd, 2017

23 January 2017: Clean energy sectors should set up an alliance to shape a supportive industrial strategy.

The British government is today publishing a consultative green paper on a new industrial strategy. It proposes to offer ‘Sector Deals’ to address sector-specific challenges and opportunities. These would “offer a range of support”, including supporting innovation.

The Government highlights that Britain has strengths in research and development of smart energy technologies. And one of the ten” strategic pillars” will be:

“Delivering affordable energy and clean growth. We need to keep costs down for businesses, and secure the economic benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

In response to the green paper, the Alvin Weinberg Foundation think tank has published a report on The Case for a Clean Energy Alliance. The report argues that:


“An Alliance would bring together like-minded organisations – those concerned with energy security, fuel poverty, economic competitiveness, environment, air quality and climate change – to work towards a common goal of decarbonisation. The renewables, CCS and nuclear sectors do already work together on specific issues, through their trade associations. An Alliance would add value by taking a strategic approach, to complement, not duplicate, the tactical co-operation that takes place between sectors already. The Alliance should not be an alternative public voice for clean energy, but rather unite existing voices.”

“The energy industry needs to offer strategic advice to governments on how best to facilitate clean energy. Some competition between sectors is inevitable: public money is limited. Nevertheless, there are significant questions on which competition is neither necessary nor helpful.”[i]

The criteria for judging what is low-carbon should include the full life-cycle of the technology, including land use change. Full members should be trade associations: companies and civil society organisations could become associate members.

Stephen Tindale, Weinberg director, said:

“An active industrial strategy offers a great opportunity for clean energy. To take advantage, different clean energy sectors should work together more strategically. With all the energy challenges of today, now is not the time for sectoral technology tribalism: it is the time for a Clean Energy Alliance.”

Contact: Stephen Tindale

07941 433780

[i] Strategic questions that an Alliance could address include:

  • Should low-carbon energy technologies continue to receive public financial support into the 2020s?
  • If so, how should such support be delivered – through guaranteed tariffs or through grants?
  • Should public money to support clean energy be raised through taxation or through energy bills?
  • How can the operation of the Levy Control Framework be improved in order to increase investor confidence?
  • Is the Contract-for-Difference approach efficient and fair: should it be reformed or would the resulting regulatory instability undermine any potential benefits?”

Nuclear power on schedule in the United Arab Emirates

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 10th, 2017

Whilst many European reactors are hampered with delays, construction of four new units in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is on or even ahead of schedule. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced that the Barakah Nuclear Energy plant is now 75% complete and still scheduled to finish in 2020.

The first of four APR – 1400 PWR units is expected to start operation this year, with the others coming online each consecutive year afterwards until the entire plant is generating in 2020. Unit 3 recently passed the milestone of having its reactor containment linear dome installed and Unit 4 is ahead of schedule with the concrete for the containment building now being poured. The plant is being built by a South Korean-led consortium with close consultation from the International Atomic Energy Agency and huge public support.

Surveys conducted by ENEC show that public support has increased with the construction of the plant. In December 2012, 82% of people surveyed were in favour of nuclear energy compared to 66% in 2011. An even greater figure of 89% of those surveyed supported a plant being built in the UAE, up from 67% in 2011, before construction started. The 2012 survey also found that awareness of nuclear energy had increased with a total of 89% believing that peaceful nuclear energy is “extremely important,” “very important,” or “important” for the UAE.

The power plant, which began construction in 2012, will provide when completed up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity demand (5600MWe) and in doing so, save up to 12 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. 

Nuclear progress to start the year

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on January 4th, 2017

As 2017 begins, financial pressures on companies such as Toshiba are casting doubt on some nuclear plans in the UK and USA, but elsewhere there have been significant and positive developments.

In Pakistan, on the 28th of December, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated unit 3 of the Chasma nuclear plant. After 5 years of construction, the Chinese CNP-300 pressurised water reactor went critical in October and was quickly connected to the grid. Pakistan now has three nuclear reactors and is planning on opening a fourth CNP-300 unit this year. The prime minister has said the country is committed to achieving 8800MW of nuclear power capacity by 2030.

South Africa plans to build plants with a capacity of 9,600MW and on the 20th of December the country’s energy company Eskom put the plan into motion. As part of the tender for the new plants they released a request for information about “experience related to recent nuclear project capacities and costs, proposed financing solutions and localisation opportunities”. The tender process will progress throughout 2017 with the aim of having the first new reactor connected by 2026.

Zambia also has plans to add to Africa’s nuclear capacity. On 7th December the government signed agreements with Russia’s Rosatom to build the countries first nuclear power plants. Zambia aims to have a nuclear plant built within 15 years, to provide at least 2GW of electricity as well as have uses for cancer treatment and irradiation of food.

Increasing numbers of countries are recognising the benefits of nuclear power. Whilst there are challenges involved, and ongoing delays to progress in some areas, 2017 should see more reactors come online, more plans finalised and more money invested in research. Too much development is still overly focused on old technology. If these emerging nuclear supporters want the best from the technology, they should pursue advanced nuclear.

IEA chief says we can’t be picky about energy technology

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on October 27th, 2016

The Executive director of the International Energy Association, Fatih Birol, has spoken out on the need for a diverse solution to the decarbonisation challenge, including nuclear. With the climate and energy crises worsening, the solutions are growing more urgent. At the annual Singapore International Energy Week, Birol argued;

“we don’t have the luxury to pick just one technology”

At an event dominated by renewables, he championed the importance of also pursuing energy efficiency and nuclear power, saying:

“for me, the number one is improving energy efficiency. All countries have different resources, but they can all take action on energy efficiency. And in some countries nuclear power, which can generate without creating emission problems, will be part of the solution”.

The future of nuclear was questioned at the event, with public opinion cited as an issue that could prevent progress. However as Birol continued, 2015 had been a kind of “golden year” for nuclear with 10 new reactors, the highest number in almost three decades. Weinberg has reported that progress in China and India as well as new initiatives for nuclear in Canada, the US and the UK is keeping the industry moving. It is vital that new technologies continue to be pursued. As Birol said,

“we have to accelerate innovation because the current technologies will not be enough.”

A diverse, holistic and innovative approach to energy and decarbonisation, based on an “all of the above” strategy, is very much needed. This will need to include renewables, but as Birol said, efficiency and nuclear too, as well as other technologies like carbon capture and storage and interconnection. It is through diversity that we are most likely to achieve energy security and climate protection.

Hinkley Point to go ahead

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on September 15th, 2016

The controversial Hinkley point C in Somerset has finally been given the go-ahead by the government. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said,[1]

“the Government has decided to proceed with the first new nuclear power station for a generation. However, ministers will impose a new legal framework for future foreign investment in Britain’s critical infrastructure, which will include nuclear energy and apply after Hinkley.”

The decision in July by Prime Minister Teresa May to stall and review the £18 billion project, planned to produce 7% of UK electricity, shocked the industry. The ensuing debate was weighty and is unlikely to subside as the “white elephant” project goes through its expected 10-year construction.

The questions and concerns over the project are wide ranging. The strike price is high, and many are worried about being committed to expensive energy for many years, whilst other options get increasingly cheaper. There are also concerns over the foreign investment, particularly that of the Chinese. New Nuclear Watch Europe dismissed this security issue in their recent guest blog for Weinberg Next Nuclear.[2] The government’s “new legal framework” supposedly addresses some of the financial and security concerns though the opposition has called it “window dressing”.[3] Perhaps the main concern is the technology. The European Pressurised Reactor, planned for Hinkley, has encountered extensive problems where it has been built in France and Finland and to a lesser extent in China. It has not yet been delivered on time or on budget anywhere.

In response to the news, Weinberg Next Nuclear’s director Stephen Tindale said,

“The EPR is not the most promising reactor design – very complex and so very expensive. But now that the Government has decided to go with the EDF proposal, I hope Hinkley Point C is built as quickly as possible, without major problems and without going significantly over budget. And Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy Greg Clark can now turn his attention to other nuclear projects: those at Wylfa and Moorside, the Small Modular Reactor competition and some advanced nuclear reactors to use spent fuel and plutonium as fuel.” 

Weinberg Next Nuclear previously reported and wrote to Greg Clarke, that there are more promising nuclear technology options than Hinkley. However we also strongly believe that new nuclear is necessary to mitigate the energy and climate crises. As such, we now hope Hinkley’s progress goes as smoothly as possible to provide much needed low carbon electricity, whilst advanced nuclear options continue to be pursued to ensure the UK has a bright nuclear future.





Theresa May has nothing to fear from foreign investment in nuclear. Here’s why…

New Nuclear Watch Europe (NNWE) was established under my chairmanship at the end of 2014. Its purpose is the promotion of new nuclear capacity across Europe and further afield.

As such, although an industry funded body, NNWE is not a trade body but more a campaigning organisation. Our philosophy and core principles are described in more detail on our website:

Our starting point is that tackling the challenge of climate change requires almost total decarbonisation of the electricity industry by the middle of this century. That goal can only be achieved with a substantial contribution from the nuclear industry. Nuclear power is therefore an important element in the energy mix in many countries.

However, in addition to being a reliable, low carbon and very safe source of electricity, nuclear must also show governments, taxpayers and consumers that it offers good value for money. This is necessary because of current unusually low gas prices and falling costs in renewable technologies such as solar and wind power.

In Britain, controversy has surrounded the high strike price which the Government has agreed for Hinkley Point C (HPC). What appeared a reasonable deal during negotiations four years ago, when the cost of alternative sources of electricity was much higher, looks less competitive now.

In addition, EDF’s continuing technical problems with the EPR have created doubts about when, or even whether, HPC will actually come on stream. Against this background, NNWE has argued strongly for consideration to be given to alternative cheaper nuclear technologies.

However, any fresh setback at HPC will be seized on by opponents of nuclear as evidence of the industry’s inability to deliver new capacity. We have therefore supported the project, even though the value of the baseload power it can provide will be less if further technical delays occur. We have suggested that a reduction in the price should be sought if HPC is not in production by 2025.

Nuclear will certainly have been high on the agenda for the bilateral meeting between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Theresa May last weekend in the margins of the G20 summit in the lovely old eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Various explanations of the last minute intervention by the Prime Minister to review the HPC agreement have been advanced in the last few weeks. One of the most common – though least rational – advanced by some people who ought to know better is that foreign ownership of a nuclear power station exposes British consumers to the risk of blackouts.

There are two serious flaws in this theory. The first is the inability of its proponents to explain the circumstances in which it would be in the interests of China, or any other foreign owner, to shut down a nuclear plant on whose construction they had just spent billions.

Nuclear power is more capital intensive than almost any other form of energy. All of the huge investment required has to be made upfront during the construction period. This means that almost a decade passes before any return at all is earned on these massive capital outlays, and a second decade will go by before the project produces a net surplus.

A malignly motivated plant shutdown would therefore be financially catastrophic for any foreign investor. Equally important in this case, it would destroy any possibility of future Chinese investment in infrastructure assets in western countries, effectively closing the door on profitable opportunities in many of the world’s most attractive markets.

Furthermore, no commercial objection could be raised to including in the contract a provision that if the generation of electricity from a nuclear plant is halted by the owners for political rather than operational reasons, the reactor could be taken over by the British government without compensation being paid.

The second flaw in the theory is the ineffectiveness of action to stop electricity production. Although the loss of as much as seven percent of the nation’s supply would be uncomfortable and strain capacity for a while, it would not paralyse the economy as effectively as interference in some other foreign controlled infrastructure would.

For a start, other generators would increase their output. Additionally, by the late 2020s, the earliest possible completion date for Bradwell, the nuclear plant which China hopes to control, the capacity of interconnectors to import electricity from continental Europe will be much greater. National Grid could also ensure that the burden of any shortages was shared by consumers nationwide.

Contrast this with the devastation which would result from a closure of, for example, UK Power Networks. This company delivers electricity to the premises of millions of users in southeast England including the whole of London.

Few people have heard of this crucial infrastructure company. It rarely receives attention from the popular media because it does not send bills directly to domestic consumers. Its ownership by a company based in Hong Kong has been accepted for years, without a murmur of protest from the people now clamouring to block Chinese investment in Hinkley.

Yet at the flick of a switch UKPN could impose a total blackout on London. This would inflict far more devastating consequences than the loss of a single nuclear plant could ever achieve. The economic damage alone would be incalculable and there wouldn’t even be a minority British shareholder to protest.

This is not intended to raise any alarms. In my view it is inconceivable that UKPN would ever act in such a harmful and irrational way because it has much more to lose than to gain. But the same arguments apply to other foreign investors too.

So when the Prime Minister discusses these issues with her counterparts, let her concentrate on real concerns such as cyber security, completion date guarantees and proportions of localised supply chain work. These are legitimate subjects for negotiation. Fanciful notions of malign plant shutdowns are not.

The importance of settling the Hinkley question swiftly goes much wider than nuclear, wider even than the whole energy sector. Until the present uncertainty is resolved, every infrastructure investment in Britain is affected because all investors hate uncertainty.

The inevitable consequence is that prospective investors will seek higher returns from any investment they make in Britain. The cost of those higher returns will fall entirely on British consumers.

For that reason, let’s hope that the Prime Minister enjoys a cup of China’s finest tea beside the scenic West Lake with her host President, and returns home determined to get the best deal for the British people. One way to do that is to maintain, on this issue at least, her predecessor’s welcome for responsible foreign investment into Britain and its energy industry.

Tim Yeo was Conservative MP for South Suffolk from 1983 to 2015. He now chairs New Nuclear Watch Europe and the University of Sheffield Industrial Advisory Board for the Energy 2050 initiative. As an MP he served as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (2002-03, Chair of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee (2005-2010) and Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee from 2010-2015.

Guest blogs represent the views of the author(s), and not necessarily the views of Weinberg Next Nuclear.

New Nuclear Watch Europe (NNWE) | @newnuclearwatch |

Being pro-nuclear does not undermine climate and energy goals

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on August 26th, 2016

By Stephen Tindale and Suzanna Hinson

“EU member states with pro-nuclear policies risk undermining Europe’s 2020 Strategy on climate and energy goals, an academic study has found.”

Maxine Perella: “Pro-nuclear EU countries ‘slower to tackle GHGs or boost renewables’ – study.” ENDS Europe, 24 August 2016

The study referred to is “Nuclear energy and path dependence in Europe’s ‘Energy union’: coherence or continued divergence?” by Andrew Lawrence, Benjamin Sovacool and Andrew Stirling, from the University of Sussex and the Vienna School of International Relations.[1]

The authors consider data from all European countries. They divide them into three main categories: always anti-nuclear (13 countries); now anti-nuclear (7); pro-nuclear (8). The headline conclusions are that:

– The always-anti countries have reduced their emissions by an average of 6% since 2005, and had increased renewable energy sources to 26%.

– The now-anti countries reduced emissions on average by 11% while expanding renewables to 19%.

– In pro-nuclear countries, greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2005 by an average of 3%, and only 16% of energy is from renewables.

– On the basis of these figures, the authors conclude:”[The] intensities of national commitment to nuclear power tend to be inversely related to degrees of success in achieving EU climate policy goals.”

The study was published in the journal Climate Policy, so will have been peer reviewed. It deserves to be taken seriously – and has already been widely discussed. However, the authors’ conclusions are, in our view, based on two significant mistakes:

– The categories of pro- and anti-nuclear are too broad and do not compare like with like;

– Reduction of greenhouse gases and promotion of renewable energy are presented together as a single objective. They are not.

The authors group countries together into always anti-nuclear, now anti-nuclear and pro-nuclear. To be in the ‘now anti-‘ category, a country’s government must have a policy to decommission existing nuclear power stations and not allow replacements. Germany clearly belongs in this category. Does Sweden, which the authors also place there? In 1980 Swedes voted in a referendum to phase out nuclear power, though no timetable was set. Since then Swedish policy on nuclear has been, to use the diplomatic word used by the World Nuclear Association, “ambivalent”.[2] In 2010, at the behest of a centre-right government, the Swedish parliament lifted the ban on new nuclear construction. In 2014 the Green Party entered a centre-left coalition, so new nuclear was off the political agenda for a while. But on 10 June this year (so shortly after the publication of the Climate Policy article) the government lifted its moratorium on nuclear new build, and also reduced the tax on nuclear. Sweden is not, therefore, an anti-nuclear country.

The countries which the authors do place in their pro-nuclear category are Finland, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the UK: countries with very different economic and political circumstances. We do not believe that it makes analytical sense to compare western European countries – established democracies with strong economies – with ex-communist central and eastern European ones. And the existing energy mix is also a determining factor in a country’s attitude to climate action. The reason the Polish government opposes strong greenhouse gas reduction targets is not because it wants to build a nuclear power station; it is because Polish society and economy are currently so dependent on coal.

If one narrows the category to western European countries, how do pro-and anti-nuclear countries compare? In terms of greenhouse gas reductions since 2005, the figures given in the Climate Policy article are:

Country Authors’ category Greenhouse gas reduction since 2005
Denmark Always anti -20%
Ireland Always anti -20%
Austria Always anti -16%
Finland Pro -16%
Netherlands Now anti -16%
Belgium Now anti -15%
France Pro -14%
Germany Now anti -14%
UK Pro -14%
Italy Always anti -13%
Spain Now anti -10%
Sweden Now anti -10%


Denmark and Ireland, the countries that have reduced emissions most since 2005, have always been anti-nuclear. But two examples do not constitute a proven link. Beyond these two, the figures do not establish correlation, let alone causation. In joint second on -16% are one country from each of the three categories. Anti-nuclear Germany and pro-nuclear Britain and France have each reduced emissions by 14% since 2005.

Performance on renewable energy

The authors then consider how well countries are performing on renewable energy. They mention the drawbacks of some renewable energy technologies, including large hydro and bioenergy, but nevertheless present single figures, covering all renewables, for each country. Bioenergy and nuclear can be used anywhere, but other renewables, especially hydro, are geographically dependent.

The figures for western European countries are given below. Again, there is no correlation between attitude to nuclear and performance on renewables.

Country Category Percentage of energy from renewables (2013)
Sweden Now anti (according to authors) 52%
Finland Pro 37%
Austria Always anti 33%
Denmark Always anti 27%
France Pro 14%
Germany Now anti 12.5%
UK Pro 5%
Netherlands Now anti 4.5%


Sweden get about 40% of its electricity from hydro; Finland 18%. Finland got 16% of electricity from bioenergy in 2013, Sweden 6%. Both countries also use bioenergy extensively for heating.[3] They have strong criteria for minimising the biodiversity impact of biomass, but not for assessing the carbon footprint. EU rules on the carbon footprint of bioenergy apply only to biofuels, not to biomass. Bioenergy is necessary, particularly for heating and for transport. But not all bioenergy expansion is desirable. Being renewable is not the same as being good for the climate. Similarly, large-scale hydro, has some severe consequences to habitats, erosion and hydrology meaning though it is good for the climate, it is not necessarily good for the environment.

Are renewables better than nuclear?

Does it matter whether greenhouse gas reductions are achieved through expansion of renewables, or through other measures? It does not matter to the global climate. In our view, the scale of the climate crisis is such that we need rapidly to move beyond arguments about which low-carbon technology to support and accepted that all are required. (Our next report will be on this issue.) But the way in which emissions are reduced appears to matter to the Climate Policy authors. Professor Andy Stirling, said about his report: “By suppressing better ways to meet climate goals, evidence suggests entrenched commitments to nuclear power may actually be counterproductive.”[4]

Academics should always define their terms. So we have a question for Professor Sterling: better in what sense?






What does the US election mean for American Nuclear?

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on April 1st, 2016

If, for a change, we ignore the worryingly popular climate deniers on the Republican side of the debate, we can see there is a schism developing on the Democratic side about how best to clean up US energy. Although both Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton are agreed on tackling climate change, they disagree on whether nuclear power should be part of the solution.

Sanders has long been against nuclear power, associating it with nuclear weapons and citing issues with the current reactors such as waste, cost and proliferation. His policy is to stop relicensing existing nuclear power plants, and move the staff to new renewable ventures. His total clean development plan aims for a cut in emissions of 40%, greater than that promised by Clinton. But it would also involve an early and rapid shrinkage of the US nuclear sector, currently 19% of electricity supply, at a time when electricity demand would be drastically growing to replace fossil fuels in other energy sectors.

This approach has however faced criticism with many claiming it is neither politically nor practically possible. Phasing out fossil fuels, which supply 67% of US electricity demand, would be very difficult to achieve whilst simultaneously phasing out nuclear. As Steve Clemmer, director of energy research for the Union of Concerned Scientists, has said “we don’t think anything should be off the table, including building new nuclear plants because decarbonizing the energy sector by 2050 is going to be a huge challenge”. The climate consequences of such a nuclear phase out is thought to be an increase in US carbon emissions of 2 billion tonnes.

In contrast, Hilary Clinton has also faced criticism from environmentalists over her defense of nuclear power as a low-carbon technology. Although she has been agnostic about nuclear in the past, in a recent press statement she stated “proposals to end natural gas production or rapidly shut down our nation’s nuclear power fleet put ideology ahead of science and would make it harder and more costly to build a clean energy future”. In addition, though Sanders has not mentioned advanced nuclear in his blanket ban of new build reactors, Clinton has said on her campaign fact sheets that she favours “advanced nuclear,” which requires “expand[ing] successful innovation initiatives and cut[ing] those that fail to deliver results.”

The incoming president will have big shoes to fill. Obama has prioritised climate change more than any other president in history, and has initiated many clean energy and environment policies, including the recent Gateway for Advanced Nuclear Innovation (GAIN). Though there is much reason for concern from the Republican camp, it is positive that both the Democratic front-runners are committed to climate change mitigation, though Weinberg Next Nuclear will always recommend achieving this mitigation with an “all of the above” approach that includes advanced, clean safe and sustainable nuclear power.

Greenpeace’s opposition to nuclear is helping fossil fuels

Posted by Suzanna Hinson on March 21st, 2016

On the anniversary of the devastating Japanese tsunami that resulted in the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, Greenpeace launched a campaign and film aimed at preventing any future for nuclear power both in Japan and globally.

Greenpeace was founded to oppose nuclear weapons testing, so it is understandable that they remain against nuclear to this day. However their blanket comparison of nuclear weapons and nuclear power is unfair, many of the facts they state about Fukushima are misleading, and their opposition to nuclear power is inadvertently encouraging the prolonged use of fossil fuels and the terrible climate consequences they cause. It is time they joined the tide of realistic environmentalists and stopped their campaign against nuclear.

Nuclear is low-carbon, and provides more of the world’s clean energy than all renewables put together[1] according to the IEA. It is also the safest energy source when comparing deaths per kilowatt year as the bar graph from David MacKay’s “Sustainability without the hot air” shows (click on image to enlarge).

greenpeace 1

Greenpeace neglects to mention these points. Instead, they focus on the disruption that Fukushima caused. Calling the accident a disaster is controversial. The preceding tsunami was certainly disastrous, a horrific natural event which caused immeasurable suffering. The nuclear accident however, caused no deaths and there is no evidence of increased cancer raters according the World Health Organization. As Greenpeace’s own (and as such not unbiased) research shows, there is radiation at the site. But it must be remembered that radiation is natural, and people are exposed to it every day; a cat scan, x-ray, trans-Atlantic flight or holiday to parts of Brazil, Cornwall or Scotland all involve exposure to radiation and, in many cases, a greater dose than those recorded at Fukushima.

In fact much research, including a new paper by the Oxford Journal of Public Health has argued that there was no need to evacuate the Fukushima site due to public health radiation reasons, instead arguing it was only done for “public order” but in doing so caused unnecessary stress. It is also unfair to assign these emotive negatives of energy production to just nuclear. Fukushima caused the potentially unnecessary relocation of 140 000 people. The Three Gorges, renewable hydro damn in neighbouring China caused the relocation of approximately 1.3 million people, as well as hundreds of deaths in construction and many more in upstream floods and landslides; a far more disastrous impact than Fukushima.

These drawbacks of renewable power are understated by Greenpeace. But there is a greater problem with their opposition to nuclear: it is encouraging the use of fossil fuels. Japan closed all of its reactors following Fukushima. To compensate, they massively increased investment in renewables but these technologies alone were only able to make a tiny impact on filling the gap in the energy mix: the rest came from fossil fuels. As the pie charts below show (source IEA), the closure of nuclear meant an increase in dirty fossil fuel production by a huge amount and an equally huge reduction in Japan’s clean energy generation. In time, no doubt, Japan will be able to increase its renewable share, but there will remain no other sustainable alternatives to heating and industry energy needs. Therefore the gap left by nuclear in the foreseeable future can only be filled with fossil fuels. Without suggesting a feasible alternative, it is surprising – if not shocking – that Greenpeace continue to allow their blanket opposition of nuclear to inadvertently advocate a fossil fuel future.


Greenpeace 2

Though Greenpeace may not have taken into account the issues of replacing nuclear, the Japanese people are starting to suffer the consequences and change their opinions accordingly. The huge growth in imports of fossil fuels forced rapid and significant increases in energy costs as well as emissions. This cost was passed on to the consumers and people began to question the sense in leaving so many clean power plants idle. The Greenpeace video interviewed the previous, anti-nuclear prime minister. They neglect to mention that he was democratically voted out of government; instead the people of Japan voted in a coalition of pro-nuclear parties. In fact, in the July 2013 election the pro-nuclear LDP party won a seat in every constituency with a nuclear power plant and the anti-nuclear party won only 59 (out of 242) seats. Although opinion is understandably split, it seems Japan is on balance happy to embrace the benefits of re-starting its reactors, and Greenpeace are fighting against this tide of positive opinion.

Greenpeace’s video concludes with emotive interviews, one of which is a long statement against nuclear weapons. It is an unfair and poor comparison to link nuclear power with nuclear weapons in this way as they are completely different and an acceptance of nuclear power does not stop one being opposed to nuclear weapons. In fact, the main way of destroying nuclear weapons is by reacting the material in nuclear power stations. So nuclear power is in fact the key mechanism to achieve disarmament.

Greenpeace’s action on highlighting the urgency of climate change and encouraging renewables is valuable. But Greenpeace must reconsider their action on nuclear power. Nuclear is a clean, sustainable and safe energy source, especially with the new post-Fukushima technology now on offer. It is also the only current feasible and sustainable way of providing the energy needed for heating and industry that accounts for over half of global energy demand. A growing group of environmentalists are now coming out publically in support of nuclear, arguing that it is vitally needed to combat the greater evil of climate change. Before Fukushima, Japan had plans to provide an impressive 50% of its energy from low carbon (nuclear) sources by 2030. By the mid century, the climate crises will be rapidly worsening and the world will need to drastically decarbonize. Japan’s clean energy ambition, exploiting an “all of the above” strategy, should therefore be encouraged, not opposed.

[1] Excluding biomass and waste.

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