A reasonable fatwa – Nuclear power is haraam (forbidden)

Feature story - September 13, 2007
Earlier this month a group of Islamic scholars and clerics, the Ulamas of Jepara, issued a fatwa against a proposed nuclear plant in their community. We've been supporting the thousands of locals already protesting against this plant. And yesterday, we took the protest to the energy company's own headquarters with one of our classic banner hanging actions.

Greenpeace activists scaled the PT Medco Energi Internasional headquarters, to hang a 30-meter long banner proclaiming "Medco Hands off Nuclear" in central Jakarta.

The fatwa

A fatwa is a religious ruling based on Islamic law.  Before issuing the fatwa against the nuclear plant, the group of scholars and clerics heard all sides of the argument.   They consulted scientists, energy industry experts, community leaders, environmental activists and the Quran.  

After long deliberation they issued their finding:

Nuclear power is haraam. The negative impacts far outweigh the benefits.

Nuclear power is dangerous because of its radioactivity. Nuclear power is dangerous because there is no known way to properly deal with nuclear waste.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

The nuclear plant

Indonesia is fast-tracking plans to build its first nuclear reactor in Jepara, on the island of Java, where an earthquake killed more than 2,735 people in May 2006, and where the Mount Merapi volcano is threatening to erupt.

"Nuclear energy is an inherently dangerous option for our country.  Let's not forget that Indonesia is located in the main volcanic chain of the planet, known as 'Pacific ring of fire' and at the joints of tectonic plates, which makes it vulnerable to earthquakes" said Energy campaigner Nur Hidayati of Greenpeace. "It is a moral and ethical obligation for the Indonesian government not to put the lives of millions of Indonesian citizens and future generations at risk, especially not for the short sighted interests of a handful elites."

The company behind the plan, PT Medco Energi Internasional, is asking for US$3 billion to build a 2000 MW nuclear power plant by 2016.  But both the timeline and the (already large) price tag are unrealistic.  Hardly any of the currently 435 commercial nuclear reactors in operation world-wide have been built within the planned time frames or budgets.

"Why is Medco pushing hazardous nuclear and dirty coal, which are nothing but obstacles for solutions to climate change and energy security?" said Hidayati.  "Why is Medco overlooking the abundance of proven and safe alternatives for producing electricity from renewable sources including geothermal, solar, micro-hydro, wind and biomass?"

What we're doing

We're working with locals in the area where the reactor is proposed as well as with Indonesian civil society groups, plus holding our own protests.  

Yesterday, eight activists went into the Medco building.  Two of them absailed from the roof to hang a 30-metre banner reading, "Medco, Hands Off Nuclear".  All eight were detained by building security, but later released.  

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