Climate activists urge Greenpeace to reconsider nuclear power

They claim to be "desperate" to include nuclear power plants in the fight against climate change.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of nuclear power plant.jpg
Representational image of nuclear power plant.


A new generation of young climate activists in Europe is urging Greenpeace to abandon its "outdated" opposition to nuclear power.

With the Dear Greenpeace campaign, activists from five EU nations are pleading with the venerable environmental group to support what they consider an essential tool in the fight against global warming.

This is according to a report by CBC Radio published on Thursday.


"We are really, really desperate to have them in the struggle against fossil fuels. And it feels like a betrayal for them to be going up against nuclear power,” Ia Aanstoot, an 18-year-old activist, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

When compared to fossil fuels, nuclear energy emits minimal greenhouse gas emissions, making it a reliable low-carbon energy source. It does, however, come with a number of important environmental and safety concerns.

The handling and disposal of radioactive waste is one of nuclear energy's biggest challenges. The spent fuel and other radioactive elements that are produced by nuclear reactors remain dangerous for thousands of years both to human beings and the planet. To avoid contaminating the environment, this waste must be properly stored in what is a very complicated process. 

Meanwhile, the extraction of uranium, which is used as fuel in nuclear reactors, involves mining and milling operations that are responsible for habitat disruption, soil and water contamination, and health risks to miners and nearby communities.

Nuclear power plants also require substantial amounts of water for cooling purposes. This means water must be collected from nearby rivers or lakes, which may disrupt aquatic ecosystems and harm marine life.

Finally, nuclear accidents, although uncommon, can have severe negative consequences. The release of radioactive materials during incidents like the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011 and the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 contaminated the surrounding environment both immediately after the events and over time.

For these reasons and more, Greenpeace and other skeptics continue to argue that nuclear energy is too risky, dirty, and expensive to be a practical way to address the climate crisis.

"We have the greatest respect for folks who are worried about the climate crisis and want to throw everything we have at the problem, but building new nuclear plants just isn't a viable solution. The top priority is to cut carbon emissions as fast and, ideally, as cheaply as possible, and nuclear fails on both scores," Ariadna Rodrigo, Greenpeace's EU sustainable finance campaigner, told CBC in an email. 

Not a necessity

She added that nuclear energy is not a necessity in today’s energy landscape. With today's storage solutions, 100 percent renewable systems are entirely feasible, and solar and wind technologies provide far cheaper and faster paths to reducing emissions than nuclear power.

M.V. Ramana, a University of British Columbia professor of disarmament, global security, and human security, told the CBC that the more nuclear plants you build, the more you increase the chances of a nuclear accident occurring.

He added that, to date, there is no viable solution to radioactive waste, which means nuclear plants are simply not clean. And there’s also the question of cost. Nuclear accidents have made the technology more expensive, whereas solar and wind prices are constantly decreasing.

"Every dollar you spend on nuclear power or building a nuclear reactor is a dollar that you're not spending on some other more feasible climate solutions," he said. 

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