The anti-nuclear movement is a social movement that opposes the use of nuclear technologies. Many direct action groups, environmental groups, and professional organisations have identified themselves with the movement at the local, national, and international level. Major anti-nuclear groups include Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace,International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. The initial objective of the movement was nuclear disarmament, though the focus has shifted to include opposition to the use of nuclear power.
There have been many large anti-nuclear demonstrations and protests. A protest against nuclear power occurred in July 1977 in Bilbao, Spain, with up to 200,000 people in attendance. Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, an anti-nuclear protest was held in New York City, involving 200,000 people. In 1981, Germany’s largest anti-nuclear power demonstration took place to protest against the Brokdorf Nuclear Power Plant west of Hamburg; some 100,000 people came face to face with 10,000 police officers. The largest anti-nuclear protest was held on June 12, 1982, when one million people demonstrated in New York City against nuclear weapons. A 1983 nuclear weapons protest in West Berlin had about 600,000 participants. In May 1986, following theChernobyl disaster, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people marched in Rome to protest against the Italian nuclear program.
For many years after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster nuclear power was off the policy agenda in most countries, and the anti-nuclear power movement seemed to have won its case. Some anti-nuclear groups disbanded. In the 2000s (decade), however, following public relations activities by the nuclear industry, advances in nuclear reactor designs, and concerns about climate change, nuclear power issues came back into energy policy discussions in some countries. The2011 Japanese nuclear accidents subsequently undermined the nuclear power industry’s proposed renaissance and revived anti-nuclear passions worldwide, putting governments on the defensive.As of 2011, countries such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Norway remain opposed to nuclear power. Germany and Switzerland are phasing-out nuclear power.
Concerns about nuclear power
The public “perceives nuclear power as a very risky technology” and, around the world, nuclear energy has declined in popularity since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Anti-nuclear critics see nuclear power as a dangerous, expensive way to boil water to generate electricity. Opponents of nuclear power have raised a number of related concerns:
- Nuclear accidents: a concern that the core of a nuclear power plant could overheat and melt down, releasing radioactivity.
- Radioactive waste disposal: a concern that nuclear power results in large amounts of radioactive waste, some of which remains dangerous for very long periods.
- Nuclear proliferation: a concern that the facilities and expertise to produce nuclear power can be readily adapted to produce nuclear weapons.
- High cost: a concern that nuclear power plants are very expensive.
- Nuclear terrorism: a concern that nuclear facilities could be targeted by terrorists or criminals.
- Curtailed civil liberties: a concern that the risk of nuclear accidents, proliferation and terrorism may be used to justify restraints on citizen rights.
Of these concerns, nuclear accidents and disposal of long-lived radioactive waste have probably had the greatest public impact worldwide. Anti-nuclear campaigners point to the 2011Fukushima nuclear emergency as proof that nuclear power can never be 100% safe.
In his book Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Jim Falk explores connections between technological concerns and political concerns. Falk suggests that concerns of citizen groups or individuals who oppose nuclear power have often focused initially on the “range of physical hazards which accompany the technology”. Concern often starts with a single issue, such as radioactive waste, but over time concerns usually spread and the focus broadens. Falk suggests that with a richer and more sophisticated understanding of issues comes more concerns and eventually, almost inevitably says Falk, this leads to a “concern over the political relations of the nuclear industry”.
John Vidal has said “The point is that right across the world it is not just the nuclear technology which is so offensive to people, but the arrogance, callousness and ruthless steamrollering of any opposition that invariably accompanies nuclear projects. What the pro-nuclear folk here do not seem to understand is that the abuse of political power is as dangerous as the power source itself”.
Falk argues that if all the different concerns over the physical hazards of nuclear power were distilled into one succinct statement, it might be this: “that it is a technology whose safety people deeply distrust”. Falk says that that distrust also applies more widely, to the whole nuclear enterprise:
People must have come not only to distrust the safety of the technology but also the authority of those who have assured them so confidently that nuclear power is safe. In this sense people distrust the entire nuclear enterprise — not only its technology, but the public and private organizations, the political parties, and those often prestigious scientists who advocate and assist in the development of nuclear power.
In 2010, Baruch Fischhoff, a social science professor said that many people really do not trust the nuclear industry. He stated that “although it hasn’t done anything recently to lose the general public’s trust, it hasn’t done anything to gain people’s trust”.
M.V. Ramana says that “distrust of the social institutions that manage nuclear energy is widespread”, and a 2001 survey by the European Commission found that “only 10.1 percent of Europeans trusted the nuclear industry”. This public distrust is periodically reinforced by safety violations by nuclear companies, or through ineffectiveness or corruption on the part of nuclear regulatory authorities. Once lost, says Ramana, trust is extremely difficult to regain.
Faced with public antipathy, the nuclear industry has “tried a variety of strategies to persuade the public to accept nuclear power”, including the publication of numerous “fact sheets” that discuss issues of public concern. M.V. Ramana says that none of these strategies have been very successful.
Nuclear proponents have tried to regain public support by offering newer, safer, reactor designs. These designs include those that incorporate passive safety and Small Modular Reactors. While these reactor designs “are intended to inspire trust, they may have an unintended effect: creating distrust of older reactors that lack the touted safety features”.
Since 2000 the nuclear industry has undertaken an international media and lobbying campaign to promote nuclear power as a solution to the enhanced greenhouse effect and climate change. Nuclear power, the industry claims, emits no or negligible amounts of carbon dioxide. Anti-nuclear groups respond by saying that only reactor operation is free of carbon dioxide emissions. All other stages of the nuclear fuel chain – mining, milling, transport, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management – use fossil fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide.
In 2011, a French court fined Électricité de France (EDF) €1.5m and jailed two senior employees for spying on Greenpeace, including hacking into Greenpeace’s computer systems. Greenpeace was awarded €500,000 in damages. Although EDF claimed that a security firm had only been employed to monitor Greenpeace, the court disagreed, jailing the head and deputy head of EDF’s nuclear security operation for three years each. Two employees of the security firm, Kargus, run by a former member of France’s secret services, received sentences of three and two years respectively.
|Korea, South (ROK)||21||7||4|
|United Arab Emirates||0||0||4|