Sunday, October 09, 2005

Nuclear power PR campaign debunked

Nuclear power PR campaign debunked

Takver, Melbourne

Anti-nuclear activists have replied to advocates of nuclear power with a comprehensively damning report, “Nuclear power - no solution to climate change”. Fifty people attended the launch of the report at Northcote Town Hall on October 6, organised by Friends of the Earth.

Speakers included the report’s author, Dr Jim Green; physicist Dr Alan Roberts; and the president of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW), Dr Tilmin Ruff.

Green gave a comprehensive summary of the report and debunked the current marketing that nuclear power is a necessary method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report says that a doubling of nuclear power output by 2050 would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by just 5%, while increasing the hazards of potential nuclear accidents, terrorism, nuclear proliferation and the still unsolved problem of waste storage. The report outlines that the solutions to greenhouse gas emissions from energy production lie in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, such as in wind, bio-energy, solar and tidal power.

Green made the point that only one-third of greenhouse gas emissions come from power generation, with the majority caused by the burning of oil as petrol in automobiles.

Roberts stated up front that he can’t see the nuclear energy campaign succeeding. He outlined the background to the nuclear industry public relations campaign, which started with background briefings to the media in Britain in May 2004. The campaign has several prominent public relations firms involved, and a former British minister for energy.

The campaign has stressed that nuclear energy is needed for diversification of energy supply, and that nuclear power generation does not contribute any greenhouse gases.

Roberts said this ignored the fact that substantial greenhouse gas emissions are caused in the total nuclear cycle - mining, extraction an d transportation of uranium, building reactors, transport of waste and decommissioning nuclear reactors.

The nuclear industry does not want an open debate on nuclear power, according to Roberts. He told an anecdote of a chance meeting with a Uranium Information Bureau official several years ago, who told him: “We decided we would not engage in any debates. We found it counterproductive.”

Ruff outlined the dangers of radiation, in the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear war, and said, “this is not a solution to global warming ... it delays us getting on with real solutions.”

During discussion it was revealed that up to half the existing nuclear power reactors need decommissioning in the next 10 years. No foolproof solution has been found to the waste storage problem. Most high-level waste is currently stored on site with the nuclear reactors.

With BHP now making up 7% of the Australian stock exchange, several ethical investment schemes have been reassessing their opposition to investment in companies involved with uranium mining, a member of the audience said. The questioner suggested that most people, as members of superannuation funds, should pressure their funds not to invest in companies involved in uranium mining, or to choose ethical funds explicitly opposed to uranium mining.

The meeting was held in Northcote because the federal member for Batman, Labor’s Martin Ferguson, has been pushing very strongly for the expansion of uranium mining and export of uranium to China. Members of the audience called on Ferguson to publically debate uranium mining and nuclear power with his electors.

It was announced that Nuclear Free Australia is having an anti-nuclear tour of the city on October 11, meeting at 12.30pm at the GPO in the Bourke Street Mall.

The meeting wound up with a Friends of the Earth Anti-uranium Collective spokesperson Michaela Stubbs outlining some activities that people could do. The Anti-uranium Collective holds meetings at 312 Smith Street each Wednesday at 6.30pm.

The meeting chair, Dimity Hawkins from MAPW, described an intriguing invitation from the US Consulate to MAPW to attend a briefing on how Iran is breaching non-proliferation conditions in their nuclear program. Something to ponder about in regard to preparing public relations for a possible US attack on Iran?


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