Nuclear power has been promoted as the best way to generate electricity without greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power is being put forward as a 'green' solution despite the ongoing environmental problems associated with it including:
Nuclear power greenwash claims that nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gases. However the mining and processing of uranium and the construction of the power plants generate significant greenhouse gas emissions. Currently nuclear power generates around a third of the greenhouse gases that a gas-fired power plant would generate but that would increase if nuclear power grew significantly because lower grade sources of uranium would need to be mined. This would make nuclear power roughly equivalent, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, to a combined cycle gas-fired power station.
Fast breeder reactors that avoid the need for new uranium have been beset with problems and four out of five large-scale reprocessing plants have been shut down.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) claims:
A major expansion of nuclear power in the United States is not feasible in the near term. Even under an ambitious deployment scenario, new plants could not make a substantial contribution to reducing U.S. global warming emissions for at least two decades.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has 'nearly 350 members in 19 countries' and represents the nuclear industry providing "a unified industry voice before the U.S. Congress, executive branch agencies and federal regulators, as well as international organizations and venues". According to Diane Farsetta from the Center for Media and Democracy:
As recently as 2006, NEI sponsored the House Energy and Commerce Committees softball team, took part in Congressional caucus golf outings, and funded literally hundreds of Congressional fact-finding trips to Las Vegas that included tours of Yucca Mountain.
According to the Nuclear Energy Institute: "Nuclear energy is the only electricity source that can generate electricity 24/7 reliably, efficiently and with no greenhouse-gas emissions." The NEI utilises advertising campaigns to push this message. It launched its latest in Feburary 2010, "targeted at federal and state policymakers throughout 2010" and featuring print, radio and television advertisements.
Source: 'Nuclear: Olympics Clean Air Energy', Nuclear Energy Institute Advertisement, 14 November 2008.
According to the American Unversity's Investigative Reporting Workshop:
Besides the money spent on lobbying and campaign contributions, the industry, led by the NEI [Nuclear Energy Institute], has created a network of allies who give speeches, quote one another approvingly and showcase one another on their Web sites. The effect is an echo chamber of support for nuclear power.
The NEI has formed various front groups to make the case for nuclear power. One such group is the Washington D.C.-based Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy) that calls itself "a large grassroots coalition that unites unlikely allies across the business, environmental, academic, consumer and labor community to support nuclear energy".
CASEnergy was formed in 2006 and is headed by Patrick Moore, who has made a lucrative career out of his early days with Greenpeace in the 1970s, and Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each uses their enviornmental credentials from their earlier careers to promote nuclear energy, usually without mention of their nuclear industry funding. CaseEnergy is run out of the offices of PR giant Hill and Knowlton and funded by the NEI.
CASEnergy classroom materials state:
Nuclear power plants are good for the environment—and good to the environment. Nuclear plants don’t pollute the air. They don’t produce any carbon dioxide—the major greenhouse gas—or any sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides. The small amount of waste that a nuclear plant produces is carefully contained and safely stored.
Another front group sponsored by NEI is Clean Energy America, "a group of nuclear energy experts who volunteer their time to raise awareness about the benefits of nuclear energy as a clean, reliable and affordable source of energy". Clean Energy America was formed in 2008 and sends speakers to college campuses, civic groups and meetings of various organisations.
In Britain, the nuclear industry got an enormous PR boost in 2004 when James Lovelock (pictured), famous for his Gaia Hypothesis, came out in favour of nuclear power. He got enormous media coverage as a 'green' advocate of nuclear power. However Lovelock has a history of taking dubious stands.
In 1973 Lovelock concluded that CFCs in the atmosphere posed no hazard and in 1974 he testified before a Congressional Hearing in defense of the CFC industry. He also admits to being partly responsible for the removal of hedgerows in Britain, something he later regretted.
Lovelock is patron of the front group Supporters of Nuclear Energy (SONE), which claims to be "a group of individuals of many different disciplines, interests and backgrounds". However it was founded with money from British National Fuels Limited (BNFL) and is supported by the Nuclear Industry Assocation (NIA). SONE's mailing address is at BNFL headquarters. During 2004/5 SONE held many lunches for politicians for the three major parties, journalists, business people, unionists and financiers to promote nuclear power and put pressure on the government to facilitate its expansion. According to SONE:
'About SONE', Supporters of Nuclear Energy, 2010.
SONE also campaigns against wind power and individual members wrote anti-wind letters to the editor in national newspapers without mentioning their membership of SONE.
After the 1986 Chernobyl accident nuclear power lost considerable popular support in Europe. In 2006 it only had 12 percent support amongst European citizens. However until the Fukushima accident in 2011 it was making headway as a result of efforts to promote nuclear power as the main solution to global warming, partly as a result of lobbying, and partly as a result of advertising efforts. By 2008 it had almost 45 percent support amongst EuropeansNuclear power has been particularly unpopular in Europe since the 1986 Chernobyl accident.
In 2005 a group of 27 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) signed a "Declaration on Climate Change and Nuclear Energy". The declaration was initiated by the main European lobby group for the nuclear industry, FORATOM, and stated: "we strongly believe that the increased use of nuclear energy, as the largest single contributor to the fight against climate change, is essential".
Subsequently, not only had the European Parliament reaffirmed its support of nuclear power but construction of new power plants were going ahead in many nations including France, Italy, Sweden and various Eastern European nations.