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Report from Montreal

My colleague Lisa Stiles-Shell shot off a note to me this morning as she was getting ready to return to Washington after two weeks at COP-11, the UN Conference on Climate Change:
It’s been an exhausting but rewarding two weeks at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Montreal. NA-YGN members have been staffing exhibits and hosted a sidebar event in cooperation with the European Nuclear Society Young Generation Network (ENS YGN).

I have to admit that I don’t know much about the processes within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I’m not alone, though. Tim Hirsch of the BBC wrote an amusing article about the indecipherable bureaucracy of the UNFCCC.

What I do know is that nuclear is specifically excluded in the Kyoto Protocol as a Flexible Mechanism. That means that countries can’t take credit for carbon reductions due to nuclear as they work to meet their commitment under Kyoto. That particular issue won’t be negotiated at this conference, but in the future we hope that nuclear will be evaluated with the same set of objective criteria that is applied to other technologies. For that to happen, we must correct rampant misconceptions and that was the goal of our booth.

Because antinuclear extremist organizations have such a large presence at these conferences, we were a little concerned about our reception. But aside from our booth being in the very back corner, the atmosphere here has been mostly amicable. The vast majority of people that stop by the exhibit are willing to converse with us. The fuel pellet cards from NEI are particularly useful as a visual aid that attracts attention. People are consistently surprised by the power density of nuclear fuel. From there it is generally easy to move on to specific information about nuclear’s current contribution to carbon reduction and its possible role in the future. We have another interesting pamphlet from the IAEA showing the life-cycle carbon emitted and the waste generated per kW-hr produced for different energy technologies. This also prompts surprise in many people as they realize that no energy technology is carbon-free, that nuclear’s life-cycle carbon emissions are so low, and that the amount of toxic waste generated by solar power is comparable to that generated by nuclear.
To see the printed materials Lisa is talking about, click here (PDF), here (PDF) and here (PDF). And while I don't have a graphic of the fuel pellet card, here's the meat of the info it provides:
Compared to natural gas, a fuel also used to generate electricity, uranium is already relatively low in cost and less sensitive to fuel price increases. And a little goes a long way: one uranium fuel pellet—the size of the tip of your little finger—is the equivalent of 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal, or 149 gallons of oil.
Back to Lisa's note:
At this point, we usually reiterate that we are not against the use of any energy technology. Our position is that nuclear should be given equal treatment and countries committed to carbon reduction should be able to consider it among a range of options.

The people that made the greatest impression on me were those from developing African nations. Representatives from Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Nigeria all asked very detailed questions about nuclear power plants, how they work, and the how they are run. One gentleman asked how we could export our technology where there is no infrastructure to make sure that plants are operated safely. I told him about the IAEA and WANO and that companies and countries with well-developed nuclear programs do share their knowledge through these organizations because they realize that an accident anywhere affects every other operator.

There have been many people with a general bias against nuclear. However, I believe we made an impact with each of them willing to talk about their concerns. One woman that began with, “I’m against nuclear power,” left our booth saying, “Well, I’m less against nuclear power.” Score!

In my next installment, I’ll write about our sidebar with Dr. Patrick Moore and our encounters with antinuclear extremists.
Sounds like fun. Stop back later for more from Lisa.

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Rod Adams said…

Thank you for sharing Lisa's report. NA-YGN is doing terrific work at the COP conferences.

Her mention of the interest of African scientists reminded me of an interesting opportunity that I had almost a decade ago to talk to a group called the International Society of African Scientists (ISAS) on just that topic.

You can find the text of my speech - titled NUCLEAR POWER for REMOTE AREAS - at

Unfortunately, the web site for the ISAS indicates that the annual conferences have not continued, otherwise I would recommend that other NEI members try to visit with the group.

They are definitely in need of the technology that we can provide; there are areas in Africa where fuel trucks would burn all of the fuel that they can carry before they reach the villages that could use a small amount of electricity for lights, medical facilities or water purification.
Jaro said…
Lisa wrote : "aside from our booth being in the very back corner, the atmosphere here has been mostly amicable."

There is a very good reason why the NEI/ NA-YGN/ CNA/ CNS booth was consigned to the very back corner : The organization charged with running the COP-11/ MOP-1 event, "Equiterre", is plainly anti-nuclear.

quote from :
The United Nations Secretariat for the Conference on Climate Change has designated Equiterre as the local partner whose responsibilities include supporting Quebec, Canadian and international NGOs, as well as the Montréal 2005 organizing committee.
In order to accomplish their objectives, Equiterre will work in partnership with the NGO Secretariat, the organization responsible for providing logistical support and other direction between 3,000 and 4,000 NGO delegates taking part in Montreal 2005.
==end quote==

Équiterre is part of a local (Francophone) umbrella organisation called the "Centre québécois d’actions sur les changements climatiques" (or "Québec Center for Climate Change Action" -- see ), which comprises the following groups :

Greenpeace Québec;
ENvironnement JEUnesse;
Centre de l’environnement de Québec;
Regroupement national des conseils régionaux de l’environnement du Québec, and
Vivre en ville.

After clicking on a few page links on this web site.... on "quoi de neuf ?" on "juillet 2005" under "Archives" .....scroll down to "Nucléaire 101"

....or go directly to

One finds the short article "Nucléaire 101" (or "Nuclear 101"), which contains four hyperlinks to -- an old, totally biased, one-man antinuke outfit run by a math teacher named Gordon Edwards.
No other references are cited.
The antinuke web site is claimed to be necessary for a better understanding of nuclear issues ("Explorer le site du RSN pour en savoir davantage et mieux comprendre les enjeux du nucléaire")

Further confirmation of these organisations' ideological antinuke slant came one month prior to the UNFCCC conference. Since it affected us (CNS-Québec) directly, we decided at the time to issue the following press release :
Press release

The Canadian Nuclear Society is denied the right to participate in the climate change debate

Montréal, 29 September 2005 – The Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS) has applied to participate in the salon for Sustainable Development 2005/ Climate Change, which will take place at Montreal’s Complexe Desjardins from the 25th to 28th October of this year. It is the position of the CNS that nuclear energy can make an important contribution towards a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and wishes to inform the public on this matter.
The organizer of this salon, the Québec Center for Climate Change Action, describes itself as “an information clearing house, as well as a platform for the exchange of ideas, developments, and climate change research findings.” Moreover, the Center’s mission is
“To collect and distribute climate change information relevant to the development of concrete actions and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Québec.”
Nevertheless, the organizing committee of the salon has decided to deny the Canadian Nuclear Society the right to take part in this important public information venue.
The Canadian Nuclear Society finds that the Center fails to conduct its stated mission of public information relevant to the development of concrete actions for reducing GHG emissions, engaging instead in censorship of the nuclear industry. Nowhere in the mandate of the Québec Center for Climate Change Action does it state that it shall manufacture propaganda and decide what shall be debated and what shall not.
CNS-Quebéc member Mr. Michel Saint-Denis said that “We claim our right to speak in the climate change debate. An informed public should be left to form an opinion on its own. By dismissing a technology that doesn’t emit GHGs, the Québec Center for Climate Change Action shows its lack of seriousness in combating GHGs. Such an ideological position is indefensible when it comes to climate change.”
The Canadian Nuclear Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging education in, and knowledge about, nuclear science and technology.
- 30 -

Information :
M. Jaro Franta, P. Eng.
Canadian Nuclear Society - Québec branch
(514) 875-3444

==end quote==

On the positive side, our second booth, the one in the publicly accessible part of the UNFCCC conference, was in an excellent location, with lots of pedestrian traffic. We talked to many who decided to stop by, and gave out an enormous amount of pamphlets and booklets -- we had to re-stock our kiosk just about every day, to keep up with the demand.
As my colleague Pascal Hernu said later, "Many people from the public who did not know anything about nuclear energy were amazed by the fact a very small pellet of uranium replaced around 800 kg of coal or around 650 L of oil. Moreover, many people were also wondering why people like us from the nuclear industry usually don't do anything to inform the public at large scale. For those of us from Canada, I think this is a strong message if we want the public to be in favour of the refurbishment of the only nuclear power plant in Québec (Gentilly-2)."

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