Nuclear renaissance meets reality at UN climate talks

Mickey Mouse power exposed

Feature story - 10 December, 2008
The nuclear industry has had fifty years of massive subsidies and state help – but has delivered only unsafe, expensive power, contamination and waste that will last for thousands of generations.

Mickey Mouse climate solutions

In Poznan, over 350 non-governmental organisations including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF told delegates at the UN climate talks that nuclear power is not a climate solution but a dangerous distraction from investment in renewable power and energy efficiency. Representing millions of members in 48 countries, the organisations have proclaimed nuclear power a "Mickey Mouse climate solution" and delivered a global call to keep it out of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Unable to pass up the chance of ever more state support and win more taxpayers' money, the nuclear industry is presenting itself as a practical solution to climate change. One of the privileges this dirty and dying industry wants now is to become eligible for support under Kyoto Treaty mechanisms. If that goes through, a country such as France could finance the construction of a reactor in a developing country by a French firm - giving money to its own companies and claiming "emission allowances" for itself so that it doesn't have to reduce its own domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposal to include nuclear power in the Kyoto Protocol CDM is currently being discussed at the UN Climate talks in Poznan These talks coincide with a run of bad news for the nuclear industry that makes its claims of clean cheap power even harder to justify. Following the news of soaring costs for the European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) in France and Finland and  in the estimated budgets for reactors planned in the US, came the news that South-Africa - till now seen as one of the most promising candidates for a so-called nuclear "renaissance" - is backing off for a while: the planned French reactors are simply too expensive.

When the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presented its pro-nuclear case in Poznan last week, we were there to confront them with reality. And the IAEA had no defence other than to say that things would get better in the future! This is something that we and our parents have been hearing for fifty years now. The IAEA needs to stop dreaming - the climate will not wait and we need to get serious about combating climate change.

In order to bring some facts to the debate, Greenpeace has prepared a briefing. Together with other NGOs, we also organised our own official "side event" in Poznan - a specialised session that exposed the facts behind the nuclear "renaissance" smokescreen: nuclear power has been in decline in recent years, with more reactors being closed than built; escalating costs combined with the recent financial crisis are having a devastating effect on the nuclear industry's reputation with financial institutions and bankers. We were delighted to see a crowd of over 100 press and country delegates getting detailed facts on the poor performance of the nuclear industry, something the nuclear industry has been trying to hide from them.

This side event alone isn't going to stop the nuclear lobby trying to sneak in by the backdoor to get its grubby hands on climate mitigation funding. But it's clear there's a very depressed mood in the nuclear industry's camp, and that negotiators and press from all over the whole world are beginning to understand that the nuclear "renaissance" hype is over.

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