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).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:
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.
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.Sounds like fun. Stop back later for more from Lisa.
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.
Technorati tags: Nuclear Energy, Environment, Energy, Politics, Technology, Economics, Electricity, Natural Gas, Oil, Uranium, United Nations, Cop-11, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gases