Nuclear Power - Unsustainable, Uneconomic, Dirty and Dangerous

Publication - 4 May, 2006
Greenpeace International Briefing for the Commission on Sustainable Development CSD-14 -- Energy for Sustainable Development

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Executive summary: The world needs safe, clean and affordable renewable energy. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) called for energy that is “reliable, affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound”. Nuclear power does not meet these criteria.The dilemma between building nuclear power or suffering the effects of climate change is a false dilemma. Nuclear energy is slow to build, dirty, dangerous and expensive. Nuclear energy, with its inflexibility, generation of waste, inherent danger and security implications, as well as its hidden costs, undermines economic development, social development and environmental protection. Investments ofhuman and economic resources are far better placed into energy efficiency and the numerous renewable technologies available to guarantee the right to safe, clean and affordable energy. In diverting resources from sustainable and renewable energy, investment in nuclear energy andassociated subsidies would erect obstacles to sustainable energy. Problems with reactor safety, radioactive waste management, the proliferation of fissile material and life cycle cost all mean that nuclear power has no place in the energy mix. Resources and efforts must instead go to the clean and renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, which have shown remarkable growth since 2000.Rather than to include nuclear power in the ‘mix’, countries need to focus on implementing the commitments made in the World Summit in September 2005 to take action to promote clean energy and energy efficiency and conservation, accelerate the development and dissemination of affordableand cleaner energy efficiency and energy conservation technologies, and promote and support greater efforts to develop renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind and geothermal. Nuclear power is a problem, not a solution, as recent analyses such as the UK’s Sustainable Development Commission (SCD) show. The SDC gave a unanimous ‘no’ to the question ‘Is nuclear the answer to tackling climate change or energy security?’ Their reasons included long-term waste, cost, inflexibility, undermining energy efficiency and international security issues, including accidents, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.Nuclear energy relies on subsidies, including underwriting for construction cost or caps on construction costs, operating performance, non-fuel operations and maintenance cost, nuclear fuel cost and decommissioning cost, liability caps and guarantees that the output will be purchased at a guaranteed price. Usually absent from consideration are decommissioning costs, the long-term costs of dealing with waste and external costs such as environmental damage, effects on human health and social costs. Nuclear power plants are particularly risky for developing countries, with exposure to cost overruns, downtime, the cost of dealing with waste and dependence on foreign technology. Nuclear power is quite simply the wrong answer, and would divert scarce resources from investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.Both the JPOI and the World Summit speak of economic development, social development and environmental protection as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars. Renewable energy is reinforcing of these themes, while nuclear energy undermines them all. Investment of human andeconomic resources would be far better placed into renewable energy and energy efficiency from all perspectives. We now have numerous renewable technologies available to guarantee the right to safe, clean and affordable energy: energy which is reliable, affordable, economically viable, sociallyacceptable and environmentally sound.

Num. pages: 19