(Juny 15, 2005) The leaders of the industrialized world have again met and shunned an opportunity to take the action desperately needed to put mankind on the path to slowing down the catastrophic effects of climate change. And this at a time when the issue was said to top the agenda. Instead they appear to be laying the ground for the rehabilitation of the bankrupt and irrelevant nuclear industry.
(632.5702) WISE Amsterdam - The G8 leaders claim to have made significant inroads where the issue of poverty is concerned by relieving some of the world's poorest countries of 'debts' while simultaneously failing to take action on climate change, the impact of which is already keenly felt in many developing countries. That these ostensibly intelligent men should be unable to appreciate the link between extreme poverty and climate change seems unimaginable but appears to be the case. These eight not-so-wise men have refused to grasp the true urgency of the situation, failed to set any targets and plan to take no action - except to agree to another meeting at another plush resort. The text released from the G8 even goes as far as to name nuclear energy as a "clean energy technology".
For the past year, and especially over the last few months, we have been bombarded on an almost daily basis with spin about how nuclear energy will save us from global. We are led to believe that nuclear power does negligible harm to the environment and that our governments are reluctantly coming to the realization that new nuclear capacity will be required on a large scale globally because it is the only energy source 'big' enough to tackle the humungous challenges global posed by climate change.
The false luster of nuclear power rubbed off in the West following accidents at TMI (Harrisburg, USA) and Chernobyl. And because oil prices were low and the economics of nuclear were poor, many western governments led us to believe that they had seen the light and that we no longer needed to worry about new nuclear power plants. Some even promised to phase out nuclear power completely but now appear to be backing away from those pledges.
Thus far new nuclear has been largely restricted to Asian countries with fast developing industries and large populations demanding and consuming more energy.
American and European nuclear companies, on skid row for years, are now able to compete for new business in China, South Korea, and Taiwan etc. We are told of the amazing new super duper 'next generation' reactor designs that are "safe", although neither tried nor tested. Finland and France are bidding to become the first western countries over a decade to build new nuclear power plants and others are reviewing the option, reportedly in order to meet Kyoto commitments.
Oil prices are rocketing and governments, jittery because most of the worlds dwindling oil reserves are held in politically unstable or unfriendly countries, are looking for a way out and view the nuclear route as it. Some noted 'environmentalists' have called on the anti-nuclear community to put aside its better judgment and support new nuclear to combat climate change.
Yet in the midst of all this highly vocal support for nuclear, several reports refuting these claims have been released. According to researchers at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit organization, both industry and official data shows that small-scale cogeneration and renewable energy producers are already leading nuclear in the global power market and are growing rapidly. By the end of 2004 these 'tiny, insignificant and uncompetitive' decentralized competitors installed 12% more capacity globally than nuclear and will, by the end of 2005, have matched it in electricity output and should, by 2010, have exceeded nuclear output by 43%. Manufacturers of renewable power equipment earned ten times as much in 2004 as nuclear plants. So if cold, hard data proves that efficiency and renewable sources can produce as much energy as nuclear, are cheaper, make more money, produce no dangerous wastes and emit less CO2, which they do given that the nuclear fuel cycle is not emissions-free as the hype claims, then why is any government still advocating nuclear? That nuclear power provides countries with materials (much of the world's uranium resources are held in friendly nations like Canada and Australia) required to create nuclear weapons is probably just a lucky coincidence...
Uranium mining companies repeatedly announce new explorations, are expanding production at existing mines to take advantage of high prices and tell us that there is enough uranium unexploited to meet the demand for the thousands of new nuclear plants that would be needed to take over capacity from fossil fuels but why go to the trouble and expense, not to mention the catastrophic environmental legacy of uranium exploration?
Despite the flawed economics of the nuclear industry, the prohibitory construction costs and the lack of willing private investors, governments still insist on ploughing public funds into flogging this very dead horse. We know that nuclear has been afforded an unfair advantage for decades, that the actual costs of new build always far exceed projected costs, that the nuclear industry has never operated in a truly free market and that the true costs of decommissioning can never be known in advance but none of this seems to matter. The British think-tank, New Economics Foundation recently stated that the costs of new nuclear have been underestimated by a factor of three and that it should not be promoted as the answer to climate change but governments refuse to listen - instead preferring to trust the judgment of interested parties.
The clear lack of political will and gumption shown by the G8 leaders is appalling and leaves us wondering how many times the case must be proven before action is taken. So what if the Bush administration does not believe that climate change is actually occurring? If they still believe in the tooth fairy, should we also? If the State of California, the world's fifth largest economy, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are showing willing to act on emissions and meet Kyoto targets, why should we care what the Bush administration says?
The next meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 11) and the first meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol will be held in Montréal, Canada in November. It remains to be seen what role nuclear will play in these negotiations but we will be watching. Decades of anti-nuclear campaigning have so far failed to put an end to the nuclear pestilence so we must now redouble efforts to ensure that world leaders do not push us further down the road to nuclear destruction under the guise of 'solving global warming'. Nuclear is neither clean nor clear and we should not be tricked into believing otherwise.
References: European Commission press releases, 22 June 2005; Rocky Mountain Institute website (http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid1154.php), BBC News, 29 June 2005; Tomapaine.com, 5 July 20005 (http://www.tompaine.com/articles/20050705/bushs_nuclear_nonsense.php); Financial Times, 13 July 2005
Contact: WISE Amsterdam
6th RUSSIAN ANTI-NUCLEAR CAMP
Ecodefense (WISE Russia) invites activists from environmental and other non-governmental groups to participate in the 6th Russian Anti-nuclear Camp from August 4-11 near Ekaterinburg, Russia's third largest city.
Ekaterinburg is surrounded by several dangerous nuclear facilities: Beloyarsk nuclear plant with the country's only fast-breeder reactor, Novouralsk uranium waste re-enrichment facility and the famous "Mayak" nuclear reprocessing facility, which is less than 200 km away.
The camp's program includes seminars focusing on the import of nuclear waste to Russia, nuclear transportation, access to information on nuclear activities and training program on resistance and non-violent protests etc. A strategy session for environmental groups to develop various anti-nuclear activities is also planned and protests may be organized in cities located close to the campsite.
To participate contact organizers to register, volunteer or make a donation.
Ecodefense - phone +7(095) 7766281, (903) 2997584,
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org