Blair nuclear announcement scuppered
London, United Kingdom — Greenpeace climbers scuppered Tony Blair's nuclear announcement by delaying the UK Prime Minister's planned pro-nuclear speech at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference.
Two Greenpeace climbers scaled the ceiling above the speaker's podium holding banners saying 'nuclear - wrong answer' and then dropping down 'radioactive' confetti, preventing Blair from speaking in the main gallery.
The speech has been widely promoted by Blair's spin doctors as being a vehicle for announcing a further energy review - and for Blair to indicate his personal support for more nuclear power stations being built across the UK.
Stephen Tindale Director of Greenpeace UK said, "Today Blair is trying to launch a new nuclear age and we are here to stop him. Nuclear power is not the answer to climate change - it's costly, dangerous and a terrorist target."
"Just three years ago Blair conducted the biggest energy review in 60 years - which concluded renewable energy and energy efficiency, not nuclear, is the way forward. Today's new review is simply a smokescreen for pushing his new-found enthusiasm for nuclear power. It's like Iraq all over again Blair makes his mind up then tries to spin his decision to the British people."
"The real solution to climate change and energy security is a mix of efficient, safe and clean energy technologies like wind, wave, and solar."
He concluded, "Nuclear power is simply a dangerous red herring in this debate. Even if the UK replaced all 23 of its operating reactors, we would only save 10 percent of our carbon emissions. In contrast the 56 billion pounds of tax-payers money being used to fund the clean up of the UK's current nuclear sites could buy and install enough wind turbines to meet 20 percent of the UK's electricity needs."
Nuclear power: wrong answer to climate change
Nuclear power has justifiably had a bad press in recent years. It's expensive to the point of being uneconomic without massive government subsidies, produces dangerous radioactive wastes, and the consequences of a serious accident or terrorist attack on a nuclear plant could be devastating.
The industry claims that nuclear reactors emit virtually no CO2 at the point of electricity generation.
Delve a little deeper though, and the logic of this pro-nuclear argument begins to unravel. While it's true that most nuclear reactors do not emit carbon (although some nuclear plants actually do release CO2 gas because it is used for cooling), they are a small part of a nuclear fuel chain which most certainly does. The preparation of uranium for the reactor involves a host of CO2 -emitting processes, including: mining and milling the ore; fuel enrichment and fuel-rod fabrication. Then there's the construction of the power station itself. At the other end there's reactor decommissioning and the treatment, storage, transport and disposal of nuclear waste. All of this involves CO2 emissions, which in some areas - such as fuel enrichment - are significant.
Once this whole life-cycle is taken into consideration, the claim that nuclear power is a 'carbon-free' alternative to current fossil-fuelled power stations doesn't stand up. That's one of the reasons that the Kyoto treaty negotiations rejected carbon credits for nuclear power plants. The most recent studies indicate that, for the richest uranium ores, CO2 emissions across the nuclear cycle are about 33 percent that of fossil-fuel plants. So far so good - but the fact is that very little uranium ore is of sufficient quality to produce such a result. Poor grades of ore have a content of less than 0.02 percent uranium-235 (this is the uranium isotope which is necessary to sustain the chain reaction in fuel in a nuclear power plant). As the high grade ores are used up, the industry will become increasingly dependent on lower grade ores - which will mean using more and more energy to 'enrich' the level of uranium-235 in the fuel to a level where it can be used in a reactor.
Uranium is not a renewable resource
Known uranium reserves will last for roughly 50 years at present consumption rates, but the 438 plants operating world-wide produce only 16 percent of global requirements. If the world's entire electricity needs were to be met by nuclear power, then reserves of high-grade uranium ore would be used up within three to four years. Some estimates predict that using the remaining poorer ores in nuclear reactors could produce more CO2 emissions than burning fossil fuels directly.
So as a serious long-term energy source, nuclear power is a non-starter. But it has powerful vested interests behind it which are sucking up funding that would be better spent on renewable solutions and energy conservation. As in the 1950s when the first generation of nuclear plants were conceived, governments seem mesmerized by the glamour of nuclear power, and blinded to its obvious drawbacks. Any attempt to position mainstream nuclear production as a solution to climate change would be a massive miscalculation, just at the time when we need to focus all our attention on the real solutions - energy conservation and renewable sources like wind, tidal and solar.