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20 Comments

  1. For me it takes a big man to admit he’s in error and walk the less harmful rational path that’s a win for the environment and people — which is supposed to be his end game, right? It’s all about the goal, not the means, true greens!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  2. Nine countries currently have nuclear weapons. Two; Israel and North Korea, have never had a civilian power reactor. USA, UK, The Soviet Union and France developed weapons before any power reactors came online. To my knowledge, only China, India and Pakistan developed nuclear weapons before electricity generation. So out of the 30-odd countries that have power reactors, only 10% had weapons before hand.

    I’m not sure anyone is able to claim that nuclear power leads to weapons proliferation when in 90% of cases nuclear power does NOT lead to proliferation.

    One of the first articles I read about nuclear power had the quote: “The quickest way to get bombs is to make bombs, not to build power plants.”

  3. If I recall correctly, there was systemic racism in lunch counters, mass transit, and public education. I believe the solution was to confront the racism not oppose the continued existence of those institutions.

    As for the connection to nuclear weapons, the secrecy surrounding the details of weapon designs, including materials that can be used to make them, means many opponents to nuclear power won’t ever trust statements from proponents about proliferation risks.

  4. Rod, I don’t know your policy on republishing comments from other blogs but from the DeCarbonize site that you commented on, a commentator named “Irregular commentator” posted the following.

    [Kudos for Jim Green for apologizing about the whopper he laid in his paper. It is hard to admit mistakes like this.]

    Here is the posting/listing of countries with nuclear programs and no WMD program (those with WMD are so noted).

    On the Civilian Nuclear Power = WMD theory lets look at the countries that have Nuclear WMD programs and the countries that have operating civilian plants and research reactors (denoted by *).

    Algeria* – No Nuclear weapons
    Argentina* – No Nuclear weapons
    Armenia – No Nuclear weapons
    Australia* – No Nuclear weapons
    Bangladesh* – No Nuclear weapons
    Belgium – No Nuclear weapons
    Brazil* – No Nuclear weapons
    Bulgaria* – No Nuclear weapons
    Canada* – No Nuclear weapons
    Chile* – No Nuclear weapons
    China* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
    Colombia* – No Nuclear weapons
    Cuba* – No Nuclear weapons (withdrew USSR aresnal in 1960s)
    Czech Republic – No Nuclear weapons
    Denmark* – No Nuclear weapons
    Egypt* – No Nuclear weapons
    Finland* – No Nuclear weapons
    France* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
    Germany* – No Nuclear weapons
    Greece* – No Nuclear weapons
    Hungary* – No Nuclear weapons
    India* – Nuclear weapon state NOT under NPT (in reply to China’s arsenal in the early 1970s)
    Indonesia* – No Nuclear weapons
    Iran* – Concerns of Nuclear weapon construction (no tests detected)
    Israel* – Nuclear weapon state (unconfirmed, but assumed)
    Italy* – No Nuclear weapons
    Jamaica* – No Nuclear weapons
    Japan* – No Nuclear weapons
    Kazakhstan* – No Nuclear weapons (surrendered a significant USSR arsenal in 1990s)
    Libya* – No Nuclear weapons (was caught by INTERPOL and IAEA trying to establish weaponry)
    Lithuania – No Nuclear weapons
    Malaysia* – No Nuclear weapons
    Mexico* – No Nuclear weapons
    Morocco* – No Nuclear weapons
    Netherlands* – No Nuclear weapons (although apparently hosts US AGM-86s, not confirmed)
    North Korea* – Nuclear weapon state NOT under NPT
    Norway* – No Nuclear weapons
    Pakistan* – Nuclear weapon state NOT under NPT (in reply to India’s arsenal, and help of AQ Kahn)
    Peru* – No Nuclear weapons
    Philippines – No Nuclear weapons
    Poland* – No Nuclear weapons
    Portugal* – No Nuclear weapons
    Romania* – No Nuclear weapons
    Russia* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
    Serbia* – No Nuclear weapons
    Slovakia – No Nuclear weapons
    Slovenia* – No Nuclear weapons
    South Africa* – FORMER Nuclear weapon state (dismantled in 1990s)
    South Korea* – No Nuclear weapons (although been cautioned by IAEA)
    Spain* – No Nuclear weapons
    Sweden* – No Nuclear weapons
    Switzerland* – No Nuclear weapons
    Syria* – No Nuclear weapons (Israel strike neutralised clandestine reactor in 2007)
    Taiwan* – No Nuclear weapons
    Thailand* – No Nuclear weapons
    Turkey* – No Nuclear weapons (did host US missiles at one point in 1960s)
    Ukraine* – No Nuclear weapons (handed back USSR missiles in 1990s)
    United Kingdom* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
    USA* – Nuclear weapon state under NPT
    Uruguay* – No nuclear weapons
    Uzbekistan* – No nuclear weapons
    Vietnam* – No Nuclear weapons

    There we have it 62 nations with civilian Nuclear programs, 5 recognised Nuclear weapon states under NPT, 4 outside of NPT, and 3 who handed over or dismantled arsenals.

    The question is, why haven’t the other 81% (n 50) pursued a Nuclear weapon program?
    You did note in your PhD thesis Jim that research reactors can be used to make bombs and are a proliferation risk, so why haven’t the other 48 out of 58 who have research reactors actively pursued (not mooted) a nuclear weapons program?

    I’d take it that those numbers highlight that the risk is low due to the existing 5 nuclear weapon states, alliances with the P5, threat of force if a clandestine program is exposed, regional geopolitics, and a regional proliferation risk if one decides to go nuclear. There are some states in there with reactors that are in hot geopolitical zones but have not built weapons. Why is that?

    1. This comment looks familiar. Thank you for the hat-tip.

      I’ve got a table in the works that not only looks at what parts of the Nuclear industry that country has but also the non-proliferation treaties, agreements, and safeguards they are signatories to as well. This will give a better picture of the proliferation risk (dual use tech) and proliferation resistance (safeguards, treaties etc.).

      To say North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel (maybe Iran) highlight that proliferation is a fait accompli to civilian Nuclear industry ignores the fact that the large majority haven’t proliferated. The question we have to ask is, why has it been so proliferation adverse?

  5. Thank you David for the list of nations that already have nuclear power programs.
    If we promote nuclear power use in only these countries that already have the capability to pursue nuclear weapons then I do not see how this would increase weapons proliferation. The countries listed account for over 85% of the CO2 emissions in the world. Reducing the emissions of these countries seems like a good start.

  6. When I see those claims of racism coming from Mr. Green, I can’t help but see it as essentially an instance of Godwin’s Law (albeit w/ no specific mention of nazis) with Mr. Green automatically conceding defeat.

    Sorry, Jim Green, but what you have thought about nuclear power for so many years is actually mostly wrong.

    1. I nominate Riddle’s Corollary to Godwin’s Law:

      “As an online discussion opposing nuclear energy grows more tiresome, the probability of a comparison involving racism approaches 1.”

  7. Excellent post Rod. It would be tremendous if Dr. Green would become a born-again pro-nuke. While long-term pro-nukes like yourself have done a lot for nuclear power understanding and acceptance, born-again pro-nukes are especially effective at getting people to rethink long-held anti-nuke beliefs.

    I think you did a very good job at extending a hand to Dr. Green, rather than do what I might have done in your place: crush his fault-ridden anti-nuclear advocacy in the dust with maniacal glee, which may be enjoyable for a short while, but which is of course largely pointless and probably counterproductive to the cause of improving nuclear energy acceptance with the aim of increasing the availability of clean, affordable energy for all.

  8. Fossil fuels also have repeatedly demonstrated connections to weapons of mass destruction.

    All conventional weaponry – bombs, missiles, even bullets – are powered by fossil fuel and fossil fuel derived chemicals. Such weapons have killed orders of magnitudes more people historically than nuclear weapons.

    Since wind and solar need lots of natural gas to back them up, and natural gas *IS* used to make weapons, there clearly is a major weapons of mass destuction risk from wind and solar power.

    Or does the killing of millions by bombs and bullets not count as mass destruction? WWI, WWII, Iraq, was this not mass destruction? Many more people were killed by fossil fuel powered weapons in WWII than by nuclear weapons.

    While we’re at it, we can also ban toy factories, as they can demonstrably be converted to AK47 manufacturing facilities. No more toys for you, kids!

    1. Windmills are obviously first cousins to other rotating mechanical devices such as propellers. Any idea how many people have been killed by fossil-fueled bombs dropped by by propeller-powered aircraft?

    2. Here in the Netherlands, a windturbine salesman giving us a presentation claimed that the large modern windturbines ‘do not kill more birds than smaller turbines’. I asked him: why should we sacrifice birds by building windturbines? He laughed and pretended I was joking.

    3. The Colt M-16, Vietnam era, was indeed made in large part from a toy company.

      1. The company that designed the weapon, however, came largely out of the aircraft industry.

        Colt merely licensed the design.

  9. I had standing personal and professional ties to local institutional environmentalists. When I decided I needed to at least consider nuclear energy, it took me a couple of years, from about 2004 to 2006 to re-think the issue and study my way through my (factually unsupported, but nonetheless strongly-held) objections.

    I had the benefit of substantial independence, i.e., of not being, in that time frame, directly employed, or in a leadership position in any environmental institution. This took me out of the continuous, self-reinforcing, anti-nuclear echo chamber, and meant that I did not professionally or personally NEED to maintain the same opinion.

    I think it requires extra courage to switch one’s position if one is in a position like Jim Green. It is harder to do so, both socially and professionally, when anti-nuclear activism is part of your defined professional role, and you are closely surrounded by the anti-nuclear echo chamber.

    Institutional environmental leaders do not have much independence. Being anti-nuclear is part of their job description. Their daily and weekly experience has them wrapped up in social relationships that are intertwined with a surrounding anti-nuclear echo-chamber. A different position is well-nigh inconceivable. It should be no surprise, then, that virtually all environmental institutions remain virulently opposed to nuclear energy.

    Change on this issue among environmental institutions is going to have to be forced in from the outside, by people like the film-maker behind Pandora’s Promise. Further, the targets of reality-based advocacy on nuclear energy will have to be the members of environmental groups, as opposed to the established leaders; the leaders have too much at stake in established positions.

    Mr. Green is an example of how environmentalist leaders will only acknowledge facts on nuclear issues when there is no viable alternative to doing so. His acknowledgement of a factual error appears to be a passing phenomena that came about because he could not avoid it anymore. His error was simply too big, too blatant, and too broadly called-out, for him to simply ignore it. When Mr. Green acknowledged his error, he immediately fled to another, equally specious rationalization – – the supposed unbroken link between civilian nuclear energy and nuclear weapons – – that could “justify” his stance.

    I would not call this courage. I would call it clever.

    It is futile to hope that institutionally connected environmentalists in leadership positions will exercise full intellectual integrity, and carefully weigh all the issues associated with nuclear in light of the full set of relevant facts, and in light of the climate and energy challenges. Doing so would make them uncomfortable, and the social and professional costs of changing one’s opinion are too high.

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