Greenpeace: ASEAN's rescue package must abandon expensive nuclear nightmare

Feature story - April 10, 2009
Greenpeace activists today protested at the main gate of the ASEAN+3 Summit venue in Thailand by launching a large balloon with banners saying "Not for Nukes, $ for Renewable Energy--Climate Action Now." Greenpeace demanded that government leaders meeting at the ASEAN +3 Summit turn the current financial crisis into an opportunity for addressing runaway climate change by ensuring that the economic stimulus package being proposed for the region go into the development and deployment of clean renewable energy systems that can also create thousands of sustainable jobs in the region.

Greenpeace activists today protested at the main gate of the ASEAN+3 Summit venue in Thailand by launching a large balloon with banners saying “Not for Nukes, $ for Renewables --Climate Action Now”. Greenpeace demanded that government leaders meeting at the ASEAN +3 Summit turn the current financial crisis into an opportunity for addressing runaway climate change by ensuring that the economic stimulus package being proposed for the region go into the development and deployment of clean renewable energy systems that can also create thousands of sustainable jobs in the region.

The environmental group also warned governments not to waste money on imports of costly and dangerous nuclear reactors. The governments of Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have recently expressed intention to build nuclear power plants.  Currently, the Philippines' Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is the only existing nuclear plant in Southeast Asia. It has never been operated due to serious safety and corruption scandals but a much-criticized proposal for its commissioning is now lodged at the Philippine Congress.  In December 2008, the Philippine National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) for a study to revive the plant.  South Korea is a member of ASEAN + 3, expected to meet with ASEAN leaders at the Pattaya summit. 

"Nuclear power plants are not only dangerous and dirty, but also extremely costly. Their construction would bring large profits to rich countries at the expense of the economies in Southeast Asia, and make this region dependent on technologies, fuel and supplies from overseas.  ASEAN leaders should instead shift investments into renewable energy projects which have been proven to generate hundreds of thousands of sustainable and clean jobs that would stay in the region. These projects will also advance climate protection in a big way. Nuclear power is just a dangerous distraction, a monumental waste of resources and time that we cannot afford," said Greenpeace International nuclear energy expert Jan Beránek.

While governments meeting at the ASEAN +3 Summit will try to find ways to cushion the impacts of the global economic crisis, the nuclear ambitions of several ASEAN countries are looking like glaring strategic follies by government leaders.  The costs of new reactors worldwide have escalated to USD5 - 8 billion, three times as much the nuclear industry was promising only five years ago. Most recent French reactors under construction in Europe are already 3 billion over budget, years behind schedule and riddled with thousands of defects.

"Spending national budgets and aid money on nuclear energy does not only take away financial stimulus needed to help our people and economies. It also veers countries away from the real solutions to help address climate change. Southeast Asia faces the grim prospect of massive economic and ecological dislocation if efforts are not made in time to reverse climate ruin. Instead of subsidizing and supporting dirty energy projects and destructive industries, the economic rescue package for the region must prioritize the development of clean renewable energy systems and help our countries adapt to the already anticipated impacts of climate change. In the spirit of fairness, ASEAN must call on the industrialized world to deliver the required financial and technical assistance to assist developing countries with their climate adaptation efforts and help enable their transition to low carbon based economies. We expect our leaders to carry this demand all the way through the climate summit in Copenhagen in December," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Francis dela Cruz.

Greenpeace sees no role for nuclear power in cutting the world's greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Instead, Greenpeace is calling for an Energy Revolution based on the increasing use of renewable energy sources and better energy efficiency measures. Governments which opt for nuclear power will also find their energy independence and security limited to the very few countries and companies which can provide nuclear technology and fuel.

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