The nuclear industry is trying to hijack the Paris Climate Summit

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The new Breakthrough Energy Coalition, backed by billionaires such as Bill Gates and supported by the global nuclear lobby is hijacking climate talks at COP21, writes Noel Wauchope.

At the Paris Climate Summit (COP21), the global nuclear lobby is in overdrive.

The centrepiece of today's global nuclear lobbying is the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, led by Bill Gates, made public at the start of the conference.

Bill Gates announced the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, uniting the efforts of two dozen other billionaire philanthropists such as Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, to sponsor research into energy that doesn’t produce carbon.

Gates was present in Paris together with U.S. President Barack Obama   the White House is reported to be supportive of the initiative. Article after article in the U.S. and other media outline the purpose of this group, stressing renewable initiatives, or rather, "clean" energy initiatives. Nuclear power is not mentioned but is tacitly included in that weasel word, "clean". 

More about the Breakthrough Energy Coalition later. But what else is happening in Paris at COP21? 

Well, the nuclear lobby is out in force, appearing on various kinds of media and in amongst the gathering, handing out thousands of free copies of its pro-nuclear propaganda book, Climate Gamble.

From an activist in Paris, I have been told:

The pro-nukes and their public relations advisers are trying to get nuclear on the table at COP21 — nukes for the third world and upgraded security to protect the new nuke sites. NGO`s and pressure groups have been sidelined at COP21; there are some desperate capitalists around.

Lots of people getting large air time spouting the benefits of nuclear whilst detractors are sidelined. I think that there is also a disruption campaign by the security services and social media companies employed by the corporations. 

They are desperately trying to attack anyone who claims thyroid cancers from radiation, even in the face of damning evidence.

A lot of money is being spent to win their points.

Now, I must admit that I have no independent corroboration of this activist's statement. Still, I think that it is likely to be true, judging by the pro-nuclear coverage being given daily to nuclear as the way to fix climate change. 

Here are some examples from the latest media headlines:

  • 'Godfather Of Global Warming Rebukes Obama, Praises Nuclear As Earth’s Savior'The Daily Caller.
  • 'World Leaders To Debate Role Of Nuclear Power At U.N. Climate Summit',
  • 'Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change', The Guardian.
  • 'How "New Nuclear" Power Could Save The Planet If Regulators Would Let It', Forbes.
  • 'Climate change: Nuclear is part of the solution, not the problem, says EU lobby', English RFI France.
  • 'GOP, Dems come together around the glow of nuclear power', Washington Examiner.
  • 'Editorial: To ease climate change, go nuclear', Richmond Times Dispatch. 
  • 'The nuclear solution',The Nation
  • 'Nuclear energy and the future of Texas', Austin American Statesman.

There are many more articles about the Breakthrough Energy Coalition but I struggled to find any that showed any reservations about this group. 

Joe Romm, writing in Climate Progress, points out that the billions of dollars to be spent on research by this coalition would be better spent on deploying existing renewable energy technologies. 

Mark Rogowsky makes a similar point in ForbesHe questions Bill Gates 'talking up far-out technologies' including new nuclear, while solar power is already developing fast and becoming cheaper. 

Eventually, I came upon Tina Casey's article, in Clean Technica — the very first one to notice the Breakthrough Energy Coalition's focus on the nuclear industry and to question the inclusion of nuclear energy as "clean energy".

She also notes the group's co-operation with Mission Innovation, which brings tax-payer funding into the "clean" energy research programs. And Casey reminds us that Bill Gates is co-founder and chair of the innovative nuclear energy company TerraPower.

Only one university has joined the group, the University of California, which runs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — known for its nuclear energy research facilities.

Meanwhile, back in Australia, nuclear enthusiasts are on the bandwagon, too. The latest  and one of my favourites  is Gareth Evans. Evans has long been a voice for the nuclear industry, while simultaneously being Australia's voice for nuclear disarmament. He sees no connection between nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.

The Australian, ever a promoter of the nuclear industry, quotes Evans under the headline, 'Nuclear waste dump a no-brainer'. 

At the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission on 3 December 2015, Evans is quoted as being almost ecstatic at the thought of Australia importing the world's radioactive trash:

"Australia would stand very tall in the international community by repatriating waste made from exported uranium as well as storing waste for other countries. It was disconcerting that European countries had been ­spooked by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident."  

And Professor Evans used that notorious nuclear lobby argument to counter critics of nuclear power. He said:

"To me seems a triumph of emotion over reason.’’ 

All of the current hype about nuclear power as "clean" and a solution to global warming has been countered so many times. The production of toxic long lasting radioactive wastes surely means that nuclear power is not clean.

If nuclear power really were a solution to climate change, thousands of reactors would need to be up and running very fast and there just isn't time for this. When it comes to Bill Gates' favoured mini reactors, there would need to be very many thousands of them. Apart from the extremely high costs, there would be the additional costs of many thousands of guards and security systems — one for each of the reactors. And still they end up with toxic long lasting wastes. And still the nuclear fuel chain involves very considerable greenhouse gas emissions. 

Bill Gates himself may be something of a dreamer, with high aims and ideals, along with the commercial motive. His Breakthrough Energy Coalition sounds suspiciously like the Breakthrough Institute, which has a long history of advocating inaction on fossil fuel emissions, with the distracting promise of almost magical, new nuclear reactors that still exist only as blueprints. 

Read more by Noel Wauchope at and nuclear-news.netYou can follow Noel on Twitter @ChristinaMac1. 

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