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Will Friends of the Earth Drop Their Opposition to Nuclear Energy?

I got a surprise this morning as I opened my email: the news that the U.K. affiliate of Friends of the Earth (FOE), one of the world's leading environmental organizations, may drop its long-time opposition to the use of nuclear energy.

The word comes from author, journalist and climate activist Mark Lynas, who recently had a phone conversation with Mike Childs, the head of climate change with the organization. Apparently, the organization is about to do an extensive scientific review of the positions for and against nuclear energy. Here's Childs from the interview:
[S]o we’ve commissioned the Tyndall Centre in Manchester to lead the review. They’ll go through a process of pulling together the arguments for and against nuclear power, both new nuclear power stations, extending existing stations, and some of the fast breeder ideas on the table. They’ll synthesise that and do a peer-review with proponents both for and against, to see whether they’ve got those arguments properly synthesised and understood. They’ll then do some further work around that, looking at the robustness and quality of those different arguments, and come forward with recommendations.
Very, very interesting (for more thoughts on the possible change, visit Rod Adams). It's too bad that this reconsideration of policy came too late for Rev. Hugh Montefiore, an Anglican bishop who was forced to leave the FOE board in 2004 for his support for nuclear energy. Rev. Montefiore passed away just eight months later.

One point that needs to be made here: this policy review is only taking place in the U.K. As Childs himself points out in the interview, each local affiliate of FOE is allowed to chart its own policy course, which I guess has Arnie Gundersen breathing a sigh of relief -- at least for now. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Another point that Childs made during the interview: the nuclear review won't disrupt any current anti-nuclear activities so as not to prejudice the result. Hence, we'll keep seeing stuff like this for a while. Our apologies, that link actually leads to a complete refutation of the Lynas piece. Guess the answer is no.


jimwg said…
If they, unlike other green-groups, are big enough to swallow their pride and admit that in the best interest of all, then my hat's off to them. I wonder how much Big Oil/Gas is paying off Greenpeace to ease off being hassled by them by going after nukes! I hope FOE speaks to this renown Japanese novelist Oe, who's getting accolades for a six-million signature petition to stop nukes in Japan to "protect the children" and cleanliness of life over there. I wonder whether he's aware that it was a wave not nukes that hurt lots of people (I mean, com'on -- get angry about something that's ACTUALLY killed people, not what you fear it might do!) and whether he's visited any children's respiratory wards lately knowing a good percentage is from fossil fuel pollution over the ages, not to speak of the soft "grime" such plants blanket nearby cities with. Mr. Oe's either ignorant or a hypocrite.

James Greenidge
Queens NY
Anonymous said…
It is rather disingenuous to suggest the review is too late for Hugh Montefiore - his concerns triggered their own review at the time he raised them. He only resigned when that review decided the balance of the evidence was still against supporting new nuclear power stations.

The fact Friends of the Earth review the latest information regularly is much to be welcomed.
Anonymous said…
Oh no. False choice. We don't have to choose between being in the frying pan or the fire. Stringent conservation and renewables suffice and are safe! Factoring in the cost of building the nukes (including manufacturing and transporting the bldg materials) and storing their toxic waste for decades, renewables are not only safer but also more cost efficient and more energy efficient, and that's not even considering the unfathomable cost of radioactive leak clean-ups, and that the waste must be stored for centuries and, for some isotopes, millennia. How do you value the million+ lives cost
from 2 Mile Island, Chernobyl, and now Fukushima?
Anonymous said…
Million+ deaths? Really?

Chernobyl: 28 deaths of emergency responders, 15 due to developing thyroid cancer. Studies so far have shown no measureable increase in cancer in inhabitants or increased birth defects.

Three Mile Island: nobody died, nobody over exposed, no cancer related developments. zip. nada.

Fukashima: 2 deaths. Due to stuff falling on them during the earthquake. Yes, there were related deaths during evacuation, but most of those related to the infrastructure being wiped out by earthquake and typhoon.

Japan will now significantly increase fossil fuel burning for power, which has been directly related to million+ deaths over just a few years. look it up.
Richard said…
Nukes spew nearly 30% of their heat back into the environment and are probably one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

It's morally vacant to leave toxic waste for future generations to deal with, they never had a chance to negotiate.

Nukes must be wiped from the planet, before they wipe us from the planet.

Simply, you're a selfish idiot if you support nukes. Sheer and utter selfishness - and it supports the organized crime that runs world politics. Scum, the lot of them.
Joffan said…

Heat rejection from power stations is not a cause of climate change. You are wrong about this. The cause of climate change is the change in the composition of the atmosphere which requires a higher temperature to be in balance with the tremendous influx of energy from the sun. Heat rejection from nuclear electricity generation would not approach current climate change impacts even all energy (not just electricity) were generated from nuclear power today.

Future generations benefit from the construction of infrastructure and the advancement of knowledge we undertake now. We can leave that wisdom and the resources to deal with nuclear waste, and indeed the Nuclear Waste Fund collected from electricity purchase has enough accumulated wealth to cope with this issue easily.

Simply put, your comment is offensive and vacuous slogan-shouting. You would rather believe dramatic fiction than practical reality.
Anonymous said…
"Studies so far have shown no measureable increase in cancer in inhabitants or increased birth defects."

"So far" being a very important qualifier.

"The Expert Group concluded that there may be up to 4 000 additional cancer deaths among the three highest exposed groups over their lifetime (240 000 liquidators; 116 000 evacuees and the 270 000 residents of the SCZs). Since more than 120 000 people in these three groups may eventually die of cancer, the additional cancer deaths from radiation exposure correspond to 3-4% above the normal incidence of cancers from all causes.

Projections concerning cancer deaths among the five million residents of areas with radioactive caesium deposition of 37 kBq/m2 in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are much less certain because they are exposed to doses slightly above natural background radiation levels. Predictions, generally based on the LNT model, suggest that up to 5 000 additional cancer deaths may occur in this population from radiation exposure, or about 0.6% of the cancer deaths expected in this population due to other causes."

Greenpeace? No, the World Health Organization.
Brian Mays said…
Anonymous - "may be up to" is also a very important qualifier, indicating an upper bound that probably won't be reached.

You left off the final sentence from your quote, so I'll add it here for completeness: "Again, these numbers only provide an indication of the likely impact of the accident because of the important uncertainties listed above."

If you're worried about increased cancer rates in Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, efforts and resources would be better spent developing anti-smoking and anti-drinking public service advertising campaigns, rather than whining about Chernobyl.
Anonymous said…
Anyone else see it as ironic that the guy who's always saying the nuclear industry should sue its critics for slander is himself accusing Greenpeace of taking payoffs from the fossil fuel industries, with absolutely no evidence to back it up?

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