Friday, November 17, 2006

The truth? Nuclear is not the answer, says Gore

November 17, 2006: Nuclear power is not the fix for global warming, says former US vice-president Al Gore.

Mr Gore said nuclear power was unlikely to play a significantly bigger role in the climate change battle. "Even if you set aside the problem of long-term waste storage and the danger of operator accident and the vulnerability to terrorist attack, you still have two others that are more difficult," he said. The first problem was one of economics: "Nuclear power plants are the costliest to build and they take the longest time..."

The second issue was nuclear weapons proliferation: "For eight years when I was in the White House, every problem of weapons proliferation was connected to a reactor program," he said. Mr Gore played down the role on nuclear power in fighting climate change. "I have never been a reflexive opponent of it," he said. "But I am sceptical that it will play more than a minor role in most countries around the world because, let's face it, there are a lot of problems.

"Even if you wish away the long-term storage of the waste. You still have economics and the costs of these things are very high ... They only come in one size: extra large. It takes a long time. It costs a lot of money."

In terms of climate change, globally, deforestation accounts for 10-25% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Stopping deforestation (much of it illegal) and re-foresting key areas would result in major CO2 savings globally. Without resorting to nuclear. Nuclear power reactors take at least 10 years to build yet gas-fired plants can be built in 3 years and renewables in 1-3. Energy efficiency can be implemented as soon as an energy audit is done, with major savings.

All the key energy efficiency and renewable technologies – wind, solar, wave, tidal and appropriate biomass and hydro – have far shorter timelines for implementation than nuclear.

In a book earlier this year, Dr Helen Caldicott uncovered the facts that belie the nuclear industry propaganda: "nuclear power contributes to global warming; the true cost of nuclear power is prohibitive, with taxpayers picking up most of the tab; there's simply not enough uranium in the world to sustain nuclear power over the long term; and the potential for a catastrophic accident or a terrorist attack far outweighs any benefits."

Despite this, Prime Minister Howard has been spruiking the prospects of nuclear power plants being built in Australia.

Mr Howard takes the Uranium industry line that the world could not afford to "sacrifice rational discussion on the altar of anti-nuclear theology and political opportunism". Mr Howard urged those interested in the climate change debate to look at the report on the nuclear option from the group chaired by Ziggy Switkowski when it comes out soon.

Yet claims for the carbon-free status of nuclear power has proven to be false. John Busby reports that CO2 is released in every component of the nuclear fuel cycle except the actual fission in the reactor.

"Fossil fuels are involved in the mining, milling and enrichment of the ore, in the fuel can preparation, in the construction of the station and in its decommissioning and demolition, in the handling of the spent waste and its re-processing and in digging the hole in the rock for its deposition," he writes. "The lower the ore grade, the more energy is consumed in the fuel processing, so that the amount of the carbon dioxide released in the fuel cycle depends on the ore grade..."

Earlier this year Mr Howard said: "I think the mood has changed. I think it’s changed a lot from the early 1980s. I’ve been surprised by the number of environmentalists who have said they are prepared to look again at nuclear power as an energy source..."

However, TWS reports that only two Australian environmentalists have indicated possible support for nuclear power as a solution to global warming: Dr Tim Flannery, whose support is tentative, and Greg Bourne, CEO of WWF Australia, who has backed down from previous statements.

It seems Gia guru James Lovelock, and Patrick Moore - a co-founder of Greenpeace, and corporate PR activist - have been lone voices globally. The environment movement globally remains firmly opposed to the nuclear industry due to the unsolved problems of waste, weapons proliferation, cost and safety.

Next week an inquiry into nuclear power headed by former Telstra boss and good friend of the Prime Minister, Ziggy Switkowski, is due to deliver its findings. Alec Marr, of the Wilderness Society, said the intent of the report was to run a massive campaign for the nuclear industry.


The movement against global warming must see through the following myths about nuclear power...

The nuclear myths:

Myth 1: Nuclear power is "greenhouse free".

No, huge amounts of energy are needed to construct nuclear power plants and produce nuclear fuel, generating substantial greenhouse gases.

Myth 2: Nuclear power would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To replace fossil-fuel generated electricity with nuclear power globally would require a five-fold increase in the number of nuclear reactors, but would reduce global greenhouse emissions by only 5-10%-nowhere near the 60% reduction required to stabilise their atmospheric concentration.

Meanwhile, the extra 1760 reactors required would produce 2.6 million tonnes of highlevel nuclear waste over a 50-year lifespan.

While emissions per unit of energy from nuclear power are about one-third of those from large gas-fired electricity plants, this comparative benefit declines as higher-grade uranium ores are depleted. All higher-grade ore will be depleted in 50 years at the current rate of usage.

Myth 3: Nuclear power is safe.

An expansion of nuclear power would inevitably lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The "peaceful" nuclear power and research sectors have produced enough fissile material to build more than 110,000 nuclear weapons. Of the 60 countries that have built nuclear power or research reactors, around 25 are known to have used their "peaceful" nuclear facilities for covert weapons research and/or production.

With nuclear reactors comes the constant danger of catastrophic accidents, due to mechanical failures and human error. The 1986 Chernobyl accident caused an additional 200,000 deaths in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus between 1990-2004. Since then, industry deregulation and privatisation have allowed corporations to cut corners on safety regulations and adequate staffing, increasing the chance of accidents.

Myth 4: Nuclear waste can now be safely stored.

There is still no safe storage system for nuclear waste. Not a single repository exists for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste, which is produced at an annual rate of about 10,000 tonnes worldwide. Technologies exist to encapsulate or immobilise radionuclides, but encapsulated radioactive waste remains a public health and environmental threat that will last for millennia.

Reprocessing spent reactor fuel is polluting, and most of the uranium and plutonium arising from reprocessing is simply stockpiled with no plans for its use.

The Fremantle Anti-Nuclear Group (FANG)

Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia

The Age
Clean, green energy is possible - SA
The Australian
The Prime Minister’s recent pThe Prime Minister’s recent position on nuclear developmentosition on nuclear development in Australia - TWS
Nuclear Power is Not the Answer to Global Warming or Anything Else
John Bushby

No comments: