International Energy Agency calls for 200 new nukes

Feature story - November 8, 2006
In a report just published, the International Energy Agency promotes nuclear power as the solution which will save us from global warming. But who will save us from nuclear power?

Greenpeace activists paint a symbolic crack on dome at the Tihange Nuclear Plant in Belgium.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) was set up as a Western counterpart to OPEC, with the aim of "controlling and regulating the oil stocks" of its developed-country membership. The IEA's approach to energy has lacked imagination for as long as it has existed and its analysis perpetuates antiquated thinking.

"It should come as no surprise that the IEA's World Energy Outlook, prepared with the assistance of the Nuclear Energy Agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the nuclear industry would promote nuclear power," said Jim Riccio, Greenpeace nuclear policy analyst.

"Trying to solve global warming with more nuclear reactors will not address catastrophic climate change and will only further spread the knowledge and materials to make nuclear weapons. We're smart enough to address catastrophic climate change without increasing the risks of nuclear proliferation."

For the same carbon savings, nuclear power costs up to ten times as much as energy efficiency measures. It creates huge security and environmental threats that will last for tens of thousands of years. It contributes to the birth of nuclear weapons states like North Korea. It creates tantalizing targets for terrorists.

Greenpeace energy campaigner Sarah North, stated, "Nuclear sucks crucial investment from genuine solutions, like decentralised energy, renewables and energy efficiency. Global warming needs a global solution, but unless we want every dictator in the world to have access to enriched uranium, nuclear power can't be that solution."

Here's just a handful of flaws in the IEA report:

  • Nuclear power only produces electricity, and thus only marginally deals with our need for services such as hot water and central heating, and doesn't meet our energy needs for transport at all. Instead of focusing solely on electricity production, governments need to address the energy system as a whole.
  • US researchers from the respected Rocky Mountain Institute have estimated that for the same investment, energy efficiency can achieve up to ten times more carbon savings than nuclear power.
  • The IEA's nuclear plan would require more than 200 new reactors in the next 24 years. Climate scientists warn we have ten years to act.  Nuclear power plants that come on line in 2025 to 2030 will begin replacing coal and oil too late to meet the short term need for emission reductions.
  • The capital and subsidies for such an unrealistic expansion would be so huge that they would strangle investment in renewables and energy-efficiency, which the world desperately needs. Nuclear would prevent the very change the IEA is calling for.
  • The report grossly underestimates the ready potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy - which already play a larger role than the IEA projects for nuclear power in 2030.

The good news is: there's a better way than that offered by the IEA.

Contrary to the IEA plan, it is possible to cut emissions by half by 2050 and meet everyone's energy supply needs without new nuclear power or carbon capture and storage.

By maximizing energy efficiencies and renewable energies, we can supply the energy we need sustainably, safely and economically - all while averting dangerous climate change.

Simply put, nuclear power is unnecessary, it's uneconomical and it's unsafe.