The nuclear power industry’s malaise was all too evident at the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris in December. Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd noted:
“It was entirely predictable that the nuclear industry achieved precisely nothing at the recent Paris COP21 talks and in the subsequent international agreement. …
“Analysis of the submissions of the 196 governments that signed up to the Paris agreement, demonstrating their own individual schemes on how to reduce national carbon emissions, show that nearly all of them exclude nuclear power.
“The future is likely to repeat the experience of 2015 when 10 new reactors came into operation worldwide but 8 shut down. So as things stand, the industry is essentially running to stand still.”
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, only seven out of 196 countries mentioned nuclear power in their climate change mitigation plans prepared for the COP21 conference: China, India, Japan, Argentina, Turkey, Jordan and Niger.
Now it’s getting nasty
A striking feature of the debates around the COP21 conference was the vitriol directed at the anti-nuclear and environmental movements. Tim Judson from the Nuclear Information and Resource Service noted:
“The industry’s rhetoric is getting increasingly desperate and personal. The industry rolled out a new front group called ‘Nuclear for Climate’, which handed out thousands of copies of a book attacking anti-nuclear activists and blaming us for the climate crisis.
“Needless to say, their efforts to intimidate activists are backfiring. In fact, they have given us a clear sign of how close we are to winning.
“Greenpeace International’s Kumi Naidoo reminded activists in a speech in December – in which he broadened the call for divestment to include nuclear, as well as fossil fuels – of the famous adage attributed to Gandhi about the path to victory: ‘First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. And then you win.'”
Perhaps the five stages of grief are relevant as nuclear lobbyists confront the reality that the nuclear renaissance didn’t eventuate and isn’t likely to. Denial and anger are very much in evidence, along with some bargaining (‘we need all low carbon power sources’), depression and, in time, acceptance.