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Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

As everybody is gearing up towards the COP 15 December meeting in Denmark, it is important to make one lesson clear. Keep nuclear out of any post-Kyoto climate agreement! Sign the petition, join the actions in Copenhagen and/or take action at home. Nuclear power is an obstacle to carbon mitigation and contradicts sustainable development.

The nuclear industry is using the issue of climate change and energy supply as a vehicle to win political and financial support for its dirty and dying sector. Even a massive, four-fold expansion of nuclear power by 2050 would provide only marginal reductions (4%) in greenhouse gas emissions, when we need global emissions to peak at 2015 and 50 - 80% cuts by 2050. Nuclear energy’s ‘contribution’ to fighting climate change would come too late (long after 2020), with huge costs (US$ 10 trillion, 7.5 trillion Euro) and would create a myriad of other serious hazards related to accidents, waste and proliferation. These large costs and negative impacts make nuclear energy an obstacle to the necessary development of effective, clean and affordable energy sources – both in developing and industrialized countries.

Activities related to nuclear power must not be allowed to become eligible for any post-Kyoto Protocol mechanisms in order to avoid:

  • Undermining climate protection by wasting time and taking resources away from more effective and clean solutions;
  • Dumping this expensive and unsafe technology on developing countries who would be landed with the associated economic and environmental impacts (accumulation of massive financial debts, increased dependency on foreign fuel and technologies, increased risk from reactor accidents and contamination);
  • Decreasing global security as volumes of nuclear waste with no safe methods of disposal increase massively and both nuclear materials and technologies are spread.

Marginal contribution
Expensive and dangerous nuclear power would provide only a marginal contribution to carbon mitigation. The OECD International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Energy Technology Perspectives 2008 Blue Map scenario assesses what energy mix could achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emission by 2050. The agency assumes a four-fold increase of nuclear power generation, from today’s 2,600 TWh/year to 9,900 TWh/year in 2050. But this would only reduce CO2 emissions from the energy sector by 6% (around 4 % of overall greenhouse gases).

Even getting to this 6% would require unprecedented rates of growth, sustained over four decades. The nuclear industry would have to build an average of 32 large (1,000 MW) nuclear reactors every year from now until 2050. Compare this with the last decade’s average where the nuclear industry added 3000 MW of new capacity a year. In the 1980’s, the decade of the industry’s fastest growth, it built an average of 17,000 MW a year – still only half the rate needed to realize the IEA’s Blue Map scenario. But the IEA believes we can build 32,000 MW capacity every year from now to 2050.

Then there’s the cost. Moody’s [1] last year estimated the investment cost for new reactors at USD 7,500 USD/kW. Assuming this, the required 1,400 large new reactors would cost around USD 10,500 billion (10 trillion) – and this is only the upfront investment.

Expensive, dirty and hazardous nuclear power stands in the way of clean and sustainable solutions. It could take US$10 trillion or more to build enough reactors to produce 9,900 TWh of “nuclear electricity” as projected under the IEA 2008 “Blue Map” scenario. Building enough wind farms to produce the same amount of electricity, for example, would cost US$ 6 trillion at current prices. And, these costs would decrease over time.

Wind power has no associated fuel costs and does not require expensive dismantling of its power plant at the end of its life and long term disposal of radioactive waste as is required in the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant. Other calculations show that, compared to nuclear, wind power at today’s costs replaces twice as much carbon per invested dollar and energy efficiency measures three to six times more. [2]

Even the IEA’s 2008 Blue Map scenario itself shows that, while massive nuclear expansion reduces carbon emissions from the energy sector by 6%, the potential of renewable energy sources is around four times greater, and the potential of energy efficiency six times greater.

What you can do:

One action n December in Copenhagen is already known; on Monday, December 14, we will hand over the collected signatures to the negotiators in Copenhagen.

[1] New Nuclear Generating Capacity - Potential Credit Implications for U.S. Investor Owned Utilities, Moody’s Corporate Finance, May 2008
[2] Amory Lovins, The Nuclear Illusion, May 2008.

Source and contact: WISE Amsterdam

“Nuclear energy is not the panacea for tackling global warming. Even if you set aside the problem of long-term waste storage and the danger of operator accident and the vulnerability to terrorist attack, you still have two others that are more difficult. The first problem is one of economics….. The second is nuclear weapons proliferation. For eight years when I was in the White House, every problem of weapons proliferation was connected to a reactor program.”

– Al Gore, Former Vice President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 2007