Since the early seventies, the nuclear industry and the environmental movement have been arch enemies. According to the industry, nuclear power would provide abundant electrical energy, “too cheap to meter”. And according to the environmental movement, nuclear power would burden the present generation with the risk of terrible accidents and proliferation, and future generations with deadly waste.
After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, it seemed that the green movement had, in a cynical way, “won” the argument; the nuclear industry’s progress came to a halt.
|Manipulated image from klimaschuetzer.de-website of the currently shut down German nuclear power plant Brunsbüttel. German text: This climate protector is fighting 24 hours per day to meet the Kyoto targets.|
However, today, with the emergence of climate change on the political agenda, and the search for alternatives to traditional fossil fuels, an increasing number of voices are demanding more nukes for the sake of fighting climate change. This time, the green movement seems to be getting cornered.
It is interesting to note that the same green movement which was always campaigning against nuclear power worked long and hard to get climate change on the agenda. Therefore, there is a strong resentment against the green movement within the nuclear industry. But, suddenly, due to a change of fate, a topic on which the green movement is also campaigning became the selling point for nuclear power.
So today we can observe this amazing situation, where the nuclear power industry is teaming up with climate campaigners to proclaim the importance of climate change, and of course their nice radioactive solution for it. See for example the nuclear website http://www.klimaschuetzer.de (“Climate protectors”) [ref].
This is all very well, but what about the long felt resentment of many in the nuclear industry towards the green movement, and everything it stood for? For the nuclear industry, it has been a matter of counting its blessings. If they keep fighting the green movement, they would never get near to anything like a nuclear renaissance. However, if they swallow their grudge, and become best friends with climate alarmists, it might just lead them somewhere…
So this is the present state. All the large companies of the nuclear industry have their PR departments well tuned to spread the message of “protecting the planet” (Areva) or to “preserve our environment” (Westinghouse).
However, when you listen closely to the protagonists of nuclear power, you can find that many of them are still allergic to promoting an issue which actually belongs in the portfolio of their opponents. Nuclear energy has always been supported by energy intensive industries, by weapons designers and by power hungry politicians. These protagonists don’t really feel at home with the green agenda.
There is reason to believe that several of them are actually still quite climate sceptic. We all know that the current president of the United States, George Bush, is not very convinced about climate change; he single handedly tried to strangle the Kyoto Protocol. Also, the Czech president Vaclav Klaus equals environmentalism with “Soviet communism”. At the same time, Klaus explains that the Czech Republic needs nuclear energy, and Bush is quoted saying “It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again”.
Recently, FORATOM, the Forum for Nuclear energy in Europe, collected signatures amongst European Members of Parliament to support their “declaration”. Amongst the 50+ signatories are a number of climate sceptics. For example; Struan Stevenson and Roger Helmer the most outspoken climate sceptics in the European Parliament. It will probably take a while before these sceptics are persuaded to toe the line of the nuclear industry’s spin doctors as well.
So, if you happen to get in a conversation with a proponent of nuclear energy, do take the chance to ask what he (interestingly, you hardly find openly pro-nuclear women) actually thinks, off the record, about the IPCC…
See also Dutch a statement by Dutch climatesceptics, co-signed by Rob Kouffeld, of the Dutch nuclear lobby "Kernvisie".