The Netherlands, this tiny country with endless possibilities in a liberal and tolerant environment, has a new scoop: the company "Atoomstroom.nl" (which translates as "Atomic electricity") offers its customers 100% nuclear electricity. Selling solely electricity that was produced in Western European nuclear power plants, the company claims to supply CO2-free electricity that does not need any subsidies. New customers will receive a keyring with a small nuclear waste barrel, representing the 10 grams of highly radioactive waste that is produced per year per household using nuclear electricity. Presumably the keyring does not actually contain this waste, otherwise many people would die and the company would run out of customers very quickly...
Does this supplier really think he can get away with this? Does he really believe he can get rich from this 'nuclear niche market'? Surely he should realise that, even though some potential customers believe the myth that nuclear energy is needed to prevent climate change, most people still prefer clean and safe energy sources such as wind and solar. The company is also very much aware of the fact that they in no way can guarantee the delivery of nuclear electricity. In Europe, there exists a system for green electricity certificates that guarantees that green electricity bought by customers is really produced and put on the grid. There is no such system for nuclear power. A client from Atoomstroom.nl never knows where the electricity bought is produced in reality.
Greenpeace in The Netherlands immediately announced it was launching a complaint against the company for misleading its customers. The company is lying when it claims nuclear energy is clean. Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste - a lot more than 10 grammes per year per household - but the company chooses to ignore the large amounts of intermediate and low-level wastes produced in the long nuclear cycle, from uranium mining up to final disposal of the waste. The radioactive pollution caused by the nuclear industry all along this production chain shows nuclear energy is intrinsically 'un-clean'.
Want to buy nuclear electricity because it causes no greenhouse gas emissions, as the company claims? Sorry, they tricked you again. Over the whole chain, nuclear energy produces approximately the same amount of CO2 per kWh as a modern gas power plant.
And don't be fooled by the pricing argument. The company's claim that nuclear electricity is not subsidised is, again, untrue. No nuclear power plant will be built without government support in one way or another. This can be loan guarantees, a government bearing the financial liabilities for nuclear accidents and long-term waste disposal, or even direct state support. France, a large supplier of nuclear electricity to The Netherlands, provides the ultimate example of a heavily subsidised nuclear industry. The big nuclear companies in France are state-owned. The French government has over the years allowed for large public funding in support of the industry, from financing extensive research and development programmes to covering links to the electricity grid, adapting taxes and guaranteeing low-rate loans.
No, the nuclear sales pitch of Atoomstroom.nl is nothing more than quackery claiming to heal the climate fever...
(This is a guest post by Rianne Teule, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace International)