Nuclear power shouldn’t be an option when we talk about power generation. It is neither carbon emission free nor would new power stations come on stream for at least ten years. It threatens the environment and people’s health. No safe solution has yet been devised to store its carcinogenic toxic radioactive waste, some of which is dangerous for thousands of years. It also leaves us vulnerable to the possibility of nuclear accidents or even terrorist attack.
A safe energy mix of renewable energy sources, cleaned up fossil fuels and energy efficiency measures – all of which are safe, effective and proven technologies – are available now. And it is not an impractical fantasy: Germany, a massively industrial power, is closing its nuclear power station and moving towards reliance on a non-nuclear mix.

Nuclear power is not the answer to climate change

  • The whole nuclear cycle from uranium mining onwards produces more greenhouse gases than most renewable energy sources with up to 50% more emissions than wind power. Doubling nuclear power in the UK would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8% because the electricity sector accounts for a quarter to a third of all carbon emissions (transport and industry account for most of the rest).
  • A new nuclear power station takes 10 years to build and longer to generate electricity. Wind farms can be up and running in less than a year.
  • The reserves of uranium ores used to generate nuclear power are going to run out. There is only 50 years worth of high uranium ores left in the world. There may be only 200 years left of all uranium ores including poor uranium ores which take more energy to mine and process and thus release more carbon emissions.

Nuclear power is dirty and dangerous

  • It produces enormous amounts of carcinogenic toxic radioactive waste, some of which is dangerous for thousands of years. No safe solution has yet been devised to store it.
  • Uranium mining is the first step in the nuclear power cycle; it has taken the lives of many miners all over the world causing environmental contamination, cancers and nuclear waste.
  • The risk of terrible nuclear accidents like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Windscale (Sellafield) will plague a new generation of power stations as it did the first.
  • Nuclear power carries with it the risk of nuclear terrorism. In this age of uncertainty dirty bombs and attacks on power stations are a terrifying threat.
  • The proliferation of nuclear weapons is inextricably linked to nuclear power by a shared need for enriched uranium, and through the generation of plutonium as a by-product of spent nuclear fuel. The two industries have been linked since the very beginning and a nuclear weapons free world requires a non-nuclear energy policy.

End the nuclear age

We need an energy system that can fight climate change, based on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Nuclear power already delivers less energy globally than renewable energy, and the share will continue to decrease in the coming years.
Despite what the nuclear industry tells us, building enough nuclear power stations to make a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars, create tens of thousands of tons of lethal high-level radioactive waste, contribute to further proliferation of nuclear weapons materials, and result in a Chernobyl-scale accident once every decade. Perhaps most significantly, it will squander the resources necessary to implement meaningful climate change solutions.

The Nuclear Age began in July 1945 when the US tested their first nuclear bomb near Alamogordo, New Mexico. A few years later, in 1953, President Eisenhower launched his “Atoms for Peace” Programme at the UN amid a wave of unbridled atomic optimism.

But as we know there is nothing “peaceful” about all things nuclear. More than half a century after Eisenhower’s speech the planet is left with the legacy of nuclear waste. This legacy is beginning to be recognized for what it truly is.
In November 2000 the world recognized nuclear power as a dirty, dangerous and unnecessary technology by refusing to give it greenhouse gas credits during the UN Climate Change talks in The Hague. Nuclear power was dealt a further blow when a UN Sustainable Development Conference refused to label nuclear a sustainable technology in April 2001.

The risks from nuclear energy are real, inherent and long-lasting.

Safety: No reactor in the world is inherently safe. All operational reactors have inherent safety flaws, which cannot be eliminated by safety upgrading. Highly radioactive spent fuel requires constant cooling. If this fails, it could lead to a catastrophic release of radioactivity. They are also highly vulnerable to deliberate acts of sabotage, including terrorist attack.

Waste: From the moment uranium is mined nuclear waste on a massive scale is produced. There is no secure, risk free way to store nuclear waste. No country in the world has a solution for high-level waste that stays radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. The least damaging option at this current time is for waste to be stored above ground, in dry storage at the site of origin, but this option also presents major challenges and the threats.

Weapons proliferation: The possession of nuclear weapons by the US, Russia, France, the UK and China has encouraged the further proliferation of nuclear technology and materials. Every state that has a nuclear power capability, has the means to obtain nuclear material usable in a nuclear weapon. Basically this means that the 44 nuclear power states could become 44 nuclear weapons states. Many nations that have active commercial nuclear power programs, began their research with two objectives – electricity generation and the option to develop nuclear weapons. Also nuclear programs based on reprocessing plutonium from spent fuel have dramatically increased the risk of proliferation as the creation of more plutonium, means more nuclear waste which in turn means more materials available for the creation of dirty bombs.

The reality of nuclear power is no different now than it was in the 20th Century – it is inherently dangerous. Time and time again the industry has demonstrated that safety and nuclear power is a contradiction in terms.

Safe reactors are a myth. An accident can occur in any nuclear reactor, causing the release of large quantities of deadly radiation into the environment. Even during normal operations radioactive materials are regularly discharged into the air and water. The policy of secrecy, which surrounded the development of the bomb, was transferred to civil nuclear power projects after World War II and lives on today.

The nuclear industry was suffering serious nuclear accidents long before the catastrophic Chernobyl accident in 1986. Twenty years later the industry is plagued with incidents, accidents and near-misses.

Aging of nuclear reactors, in particular the effect of prolonged operation on materials and large components, is endemic throughout the world’s nuclear industry. At the same time nuclear operators are continually trying to reduce costs due to both greater competition in the electricity market and the need to meet shareholder expectations.

Sources: CND UK, Greenpeace

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