The United Nations' COP22 climate conference finished in Marrakech, Morocco last week and there were quite alarming signs with a strong push by the Russian delegation and others to promote nuclear power.
The Russians were quiet at the Moroccan negotiations until Thursday, November 17. Then two events happened on same day. First, the deputy director of Rosatom, Kirill Komarov, and the head of the World Nuclear Association, Agneta Rising, held a joint press conference where they talked mostly about the Russian nuclear experience.1 They claimed that nuclear power is already saving the climate and has "postponed climate catastrophe for two years". Rising was nearly screaming into the microphone, calling on all world governments to immediately follow Russia and develop nuclear power right now. They promoted the World Nuclear Association's goal of tripling global nuclear power capacity such that it generates 25% of electricity by 2050.2
The press conference was organized in a truly Russian way ‒ very short, three questions allowed and it looked like the three people allowed to ask a question were brought there by Rosatom itself. Then, unexpectedly, UN police showed up and escorted Komarov to the exit. I don't think I've ever seen UN police at a press conference at a UN climate conference before.
Later on November 17, Russia organized a national side-event at COP22 which was formally about Russian strategy for low-carbon development and included Rosatom, an aluminum industry representative and a nanotechnology agency, as well as governmental officials. A lot of funny things were said, but Rosatom was the main player. Rosatom's video showed lots of people hugging each other, smiling and laughing in various countries of the world, as well as a nuclear ice-breaker and a sign: "Rosatom. Energy and More".
Rosatom's Komarov was again peddling falsehoods at the side-event, including things like Russia having achieved a closed nuclear fuel cycle (not true, spent fuel is mostly in storage with no chance for reprocessing), Russia is building over 70 reactors worldwide right now (not true, about 10% of that figure actually) and lots of other stuff. Any country in the world can order Russian reactors, he said (though few can afford to pay for them and Russia can't afford to build them). A few questions were allowed. A lot of people wanted to ask something from Rosatom but were ignored by the chairman who wanted to close down the side-event as soon as possible. In the end he just said we cannot continue because we have food and drinks waiting for us outside. The event was in Russian and the translation was quite poor.
After all this, we (five Russians were at COP22 this time, with some Ukrainians supporting us) went to mobilize the environmental community, in particular the Climate Action Network (CAN). As a result, Russia was given CAN's "Fossil of the Day" anti-award on November 17, specifically for promoting nuclear. The award citation read: "The third Fossil of the Day award goes to Russia for promoting nuclear power as a feasible solution to climate change. We all know that this outdated and risky technology is too slow and expensive to contribute to climate efforts ‒ and if deployed it will steal away resources needed to develop renewables. Not to mention the fact that nuclear is not even a zero-emissions technology ‒ it produces massive amounts of greenhouse gases during the uranium enrichment. Then, of course, there is the question of safety. The Russian government really need to take a look at the long-term, widespread consequences of the Fukushima and Chernobyl, for a start."3
The following day, Russia was given "Collosal Fossil" for being the worst offender throughout the COP22 conference and for its poor energy and climate policies. The award citation read: "This year's Colossal Fossil Award goes to Russia for peddling nonsense and generally being a massive drag on ambition. Throughout the UN climate change negotiations in Marrakech, Russia has blindly lobbied for nuclear power deployment, continued to abstain from ratifying the Paris Agreement, and said that they do not see phasing out fossil fuels as an element of their plan to reduce dangerous emissions."4
COP22 may be the beginning of a serious attempt to promote nuclear by Russia jointly with the World Nuclear Association and maybe others. They probably want to recruit new customers among developing countries, even if they don't succeed in securing UN climate funds to subsidize those projects. We have to mobilize for the next COP and other UN climate meetings to put pressure on the Russian delegation.
Industry front groups were noisy at the COP21 conference in Paris last December5, and some of them were at Marrakech. 'Nuclear for Climate' was one of the front groups promoting nuclear power at both COP21 and COP22.6 'Nuclear for Climate' calls itself a "grassroots organization" but it is no such thing; it is a front group for more than 140 nuclear societies around the world.
1. World Nuclear News, 18 Nov 2016, 'Nuclear vital to challenge of climate change', www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE-Nuclear-vital-to-challenge-of-climate-chan...
2. 4 May 2016, 'Uranium on the rocks; nuclear power PR blunders', Nuclear Monitor #823, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/823/uranium-rocks-nuclear-powe...
5. 17 Dec 2015, 'COP that: nuclear lobbyists on the offensive', Nuclear Monitor #816, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/816/nuclear-monitor-816-17-dec...