Tuesday, 24 February 2009

High-profile pro-nuclear converts

From the UK; yesterday's Independent contained a report detailing a 'kind of like religious conversion' of four high profile environmentalists who now support nuclear power.

The four are:

  • Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace;
  • Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency;
  • Mark Lynas, author of the Royal Society’s science book of the year, and
  • Chris Goodall, a Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate.

Tindale ran Greenpeace from 2000-2005. “It was kind of like a religious conversion. Being anti-nuclear was an essential part of being an environmentalist for a long time but now that I’m talking to a number of environmentalists about this, it’s actually quite widespread this view that nuclear power is not ideal but it’s better than climate change,” he added.

"Renewable sources of energy, such as wind, wave and solar power, are still necessary in the fight against global warming, but achieving low-carbon electricity generation is far more difficult without nuclear power", Lord Smith said.

“The thing that initially pushed me was seeing how long and difficult the road to going to 100 per cent renewable economy would be, and realising that if we really are serious about tackling global warming it the next decade or two then we certainly need to consider a new generation of nuclear power stations.”

“In retrospect, [anti-nuclear activism] will come to be seen as an enormous mistake for which the earth’s climate is now paying the price. To give an example, the environmentalists stopped a nuclear plant in Austria from being switched on, a colossal waste of money, and instead [Austria] built two coal plants.”

In a separate report, Goodall sums it up well. "This country’s current and past emissions are far more than our share of the world population. Unless we reduce our carbon pollution urgently, we will be in breach of our moral, as well as EU and UN, obligations." He adds, "Every option is strongly opposed: the public seems to be anti-wind, anti-coal, anti-waste-to-energy, anti-tidal-barrage, anti-fuel-duty and anti-nuclear. We can’t be anti-everything, and time is running out. Large projects take many years to construct."

Finally, Goodall concludes, "Germany provides a useful cautionary tale. Despite huge subsidies for solar panels, photovoltaics have not yet replaced one per cent of fossil fuel electricity generation. Indeed, because Germany – under pressure from well-meaning environmentalists – is phasing out nuclear power, it is inexorably turning back towards dirty coal: 30 new coal plants are planned, including four burning lignite (brown coal), the dirtiest fuel of all."

Plenty of parallels with Australia in this article. Relatively high per-capita emissions, the need to increase generation infrastructure to satisfy current and future demand, and the need for civil and objective public discussion to name a few.


  1. The next time I meet someone connected with Greenpeace I will congratulate them on adopting a pro-nuclear position.

    Greenpeace's policies on nuclear have now been nuked themselves. Long may the self-destruction continue!

  2. Greenpeace itself has in fact (predictably) publically disagreed with these people.

    By the way, does anyone know of any such conversion amongst the prominent environmentalists in Australia? Are there any such people, or is the environmental movement herte more strictly ideological than elsewhere?

  3. I support (morally) the Wilderness Society in their opposition to old growth logging near where I live. I don't know why they even include an antinuclear tirade in their portfolio of conservation issues.
    Green chic perhaps. Similarly Bob Brown is on a winner with his disdain for executive payouts. Yet none of these groups has a lucid alternative to coal baseload.

  4. Here is another high profile nuclear convert - climatologist Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide. There is some great information on his blog:


  5. Let me try that link again:

    Integral Fast Reactor Nuclear Power. This is an Australian blog talking about this really interesting technology.

  6. this is great news. its good to have academics and activists becoming pro-nuclear, essentially realizing the necessity of nuclear to meet our energy needs!!