November 22, 2013

Yesterday, hundreds of environmental activists walked out of the UN Climate Conference in Warsaw. Among the dissenters were Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, two of the most prominent international antinuclear groups. Among the cited reasons for their action was frustration with Japan for lowering its emission targets. (NHK World) In the process, these leading antinuke groups have revealed that they have a conflict of agenda.

Ever since Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s regime has sought restarts of some nukes, both groups have loudly protested his energy policy. They claim that all idled nukes should remain shuttered and decommissioned, to be replaced by renewables. During the nuclear moratorium, Japan has had no choice but to restart moth-balled natural gas and coal-fired generators to compensate for the loss of 30% of its electrical supply system. In the process, the emission-belching thermal units have made it impossible for the nation to meet its previous commitment.

But Greenpeace and FOE are blasting Japan for doing exactly what the groups want – keeping the nukes off-line. Now, they also want Japan to meet more-stringent emission goals in tandem with the nuke moratorium. In other words, they want to have their cake and eat it too. “Along with backsliding by Japan, Australia and Canada, and the lack of meaningful leadership from other countries, governments here have delivered a slap in the face to those suffering as a result of dangerous climate change,” said Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International. (AFP) Friends of the Earth International’s Asad Rehman said: “Climate change is probably the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.” For decades, both groups have called nuclear energy the greatest threat to mankind, but now they make the very-same dire claim with respect to climate change. (The Guardian)

Greenpeace and FOE have long-held that it is entirely possible to replace all fossil-fueled and nuclear electric generation with solar, wind, and energy efficiency. The facts say otherwise. The massive amounts of money needed for such a staggering replacement, not to mention the gargantuan amount of land area that would be sacrificed to construct solar and wind farms, is necessarily prohibitive. Plus there’s the serious problem of both solar and wind being unavoidably intermittent in their power output. Finally, energy efficiency is has been a major contributor during Japan’s nuclear moratorium, and they have literally reached their limit on that one. While all three alternatives are attractive and should be a part of the solution, to believe a full-scale shift to renewables at this point in time is a pipe-dream.

The bottom line is this. If nukes are mankind’s greatest threat, Greenpeace and FOE must necessarily be willing to accept that Japan cannot meet the desired reduction in emission standards. If climate change is really the greatest threat, then both groups must accept the operation of nukes. They cannot have both. Replacing both with renewables and energy efficiency is mere rhetoric. It simply won’t work.

The fastest, cleanest and most economical way to get Japan back on the emission-reduction track is to get their nukes up and running. Japan knows this and looks forward to it happening in 2014. The result will greatly improve the nation’s imbalance of trade and lower their volume of emissions.  But, no matter what Japan does, Greenpeace and FOE will cry “foul” and scream bloody murder.