Wind turbine erected by Greenpeace activists in front of the Doel nuclear power plant to protest discrimination against renewable energy by the Belgian government.
We need an energy system that can fight climate change, based on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Nuclear power already delivers less energy globally than renewable energy, and the share will continue to decrease in the coming years.
Despite what the nuclear industry tells us, building enough nuclear power stations to make a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars, create tens of thousands of tons of lethal high-level radioactive waste, contribute to further proliferation of nuclear weapons materials, and result in a Chernobyl-scale accident once every decade. Perhaps most significantly, it will squander the resources necessary to implement meaningful climate change solutions.
We have only 10 years to act on climate change, so nuclear power cannot be the answer.
Things are moving slowly in the right direction. In November 2000 the world recognised nuclear power as a dirty, dangerous and unnecessary technology by refusing to give it greenhouse gas credits as part of the Kyoto Protocol.
Nuclear power was dealt a further blow when a UN Sustainable Development Conference refused to label nuclear a sustainable technology in April 2001.
The risks from nuclear energy are real, inherent and long-lasting.
Accidents: No reactor in the world is inherently safe. All operational reactors have inherent safety flaws that cannot be eliminated by safety upgrading. Highly radioactive spent fuel requires constant cooling. If this fails, it could lead to a catastrophic release of radioactivity. They are also highly vulnerable to deliberate acts of sabotage, including terrorist attack.
Weapons proliferation, plutonium and reprocessing: The possession of nuclear weapons by the US, Russia, France, the UK and China has encouraged the further proliferation of nuclear technology and materials. Every state that has a nuclear power capability, has the means to obtain nuclear material usable in a nuclear weapon. Basically this means that the 44 nuclear power states could become 44 nuclear weapons states.
Many nations that have active commercial nuclear power programs, began their research with two objectives - electricity generation and the option to develop nuclear weapons. Also nuclear programs based on reprocessing plutonium from spent fuel have dramatically increased the risk of proliferation as the creation of more plutonium, means more nuclear waste which in turn means more materials available for the creation of dirty bombs.
Waste and transport: From the moment uranium is mined nuclear waste on a massive scale is produced. There is no secure, risk free way to store nuclear waste. No country in the world has a solution for high-level waste that stays radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. The least damaging option at this current time is for waste to be stored above ground, in dry storage at the site of origin, but this option also presents major challenges and the threats.