Nuclear energy? Still 'no thanks'

Monday, February 4, 2008

04.02.2008 The Copenhagen Post - Despite nuclear energy's growing popularity worldwide, Danes remain sceptical

Danish opposition to nuclear energy remains staunch even though the controversial energy source has received a renaissance in recent years.

Nuclear energy, which produces practically no carbon dioxide emissions, has been heralded as a wise choice in light of growing concerns about climate change.

The vast majority of Danes remain sceptical of nuclear energy, however, according to a Vilstrup/Politiken poll.

Only 16 percent of the 1400 respondents felt nuclear energy should power Denmark's homes and workplaces.

Security issues about nuclear energy caused the greatest amount of concern among Danes. Some 59 percent cited them as the main misgiving, while 37 percent attributed their opposition to problems disposing with nuclear waste.

Women and young people appeared to be the strongest critics, according to the poll.

Eirik Schrøder Amundsen, an environmental expert and a professor at the University of Copenhagen, considered the poll an accurate indicator of the country's attitude.

'Denmark is a little country and there would be far too many expenses involved in investing in nuclear energy,' said Amundsen. He noted that the logistics and cost of disposing of nuclear waste still presents a challenge.

The strong opposition builds on decades of Danish scepticism toward nuclear energy. During the 1980s, a grassroots movement organised under the banner 'Nuclear Energy? No thanks' campaigned to keep Denmark nuclear-free.

Various groups succeeded in pressuring parliament to ban the use of nuclear energy, even though neighbouring Sweden had two active reactors at Barsebäck just across the Øresund Sound.

Connie Hedegaard, the climate and energy minister, also interpreted the figures as a seal of approval of the country's current policy, which focuses on generating electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind power and bio-fuels.

'The figures show that there is still a large majority for what has been Denmark's main policy since 1985,' said Hedegaard. 'So instead of engaging in a new arduous battle about nuclear energy, I would prefer to work so we lead the pack with future technologies.'

Hedegaard also appears to have a unanimous parliament behind her. No parties currently advocate the development of nuclear energy sources.

Some 33 nuclear reactors are currently under construction worldwide with an additional 94 planned. In Europe, Britain has decided to expand its programme. Sweden has also increased production, even though the Barsebäck reactors have since been closed, largely as an effort to appease Danish critics.

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