Maybe it’s just journalists in The Netherlands, but the repetitive headlines on nuclear energy in the Dutch media show either an absence of memory, or a well-orchestrated, repetitive push for nuclear energy. The latter would be quite sad, in view of the media’s desire to be unbiased and factual. So let’s assume it’s an absence of memory on nuclear issues.

Yesterday headlines on the main news program:

CDA: “Nuclear energy is inevitable” (NOS-Journaal, 1 September 2008)

Within one hour, more than 150 Dutch websites had copied this so-called ‘news’. While the CDA, the Christian-Democrat party, has announced their support for nuclear energy already for several years now. What exactly is news-worthy with this?

The Christian Democrats together with the Labour Party and the much smaller Christian Union form the current Dutch government. A government that has been split about nuclear energy from the date of their marriage, resulting in a rather meaningless sentence in the government agreement:

“During the term of this government no new nuclear power plants will be built.” (Government Agreement, February 2007)

It is obvious that no new nuclear power plants will be built within the four years of this government’s term – even if a company would want to, and would be able to find investors and suppliers, and gain government support, even than it would not be feasible to start building a nuclear power plant before 2011.

Ever since this sentence was agreed upon, the government ‘partners’ have been fighting over the issue of nuclear energy. One day the Minister of Economic Affairs (from the Christian-Democrats) states we can not exclude nuclear energy from the energy discussion, the next day the Minister of Environment (from the Labour Party) says nuclear energy is not an option to fight climate change. Dutch news media obviously think this public fight between two government parties on nuclear energy is quite entertaining, explaining their repetitive coverage on the issue.

But why, why the uncritical, oblivious reaction when one of the fighting parties is once again stating its position…? There is obviously no news in the fact the Mr. Van Geel, currently Christian Democrats leader in parliament, is in favour of nuclear energy. He has disseminated this message time and time again while he was still State Secretary on Environment in the previous government. And time and time again he hits the front pages of the main news. And still journalists give him the floor, and still they do not ask him any questions about how ludicrous his position is:

 Van Geel says he is worried about climate change. If he really is, he knows that global emissions need to peak by 2015 and decline after that to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. So why does he advocate an energy option that can not deliver this? A new nuclear power plant in The Netherlands will not be operational before 2015, and will surely not contribute significantly to CO2 reduction.

 Van Geel calls nuclear energy “clean, safe, reliable and cheap”. Why doesn’t a journalist ask him about the recent radioactive leaks in France and Belgium, what is so clean and safe about that? And what about the continuously increasing costs of the construction of the Finnish new EPR reactor, and the need for loan guarantees for any US company wanting to invest in nuclear energy? A cheap energy option would certainly not need loan guarantees from a government…

 Van Geel thinks nuclear energy will help to secure the energy supply in the increasingly unstable world. He does not explain how nuclear energy actually fits in an increasingly unstable world, where the nuclear non-proliferation agreements are threatened by nuclear business deals. Will we continue to support some to develop nuclear energy states (even if they illegally possess nuclear weapons, like India), while we’d rather start a war with other states to prevent them from developing their own nuclear program?

If Dutch media would ask those questions to whoever says nuclear energy is the answer, it would immediately be clear that it’s not! And hopefully than the Dutch government would see that the only way to really go for ‘clean, safe, reliable and cheap’ is by focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

(This is a guest post by Rianne Teule, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace International)