South Korea, climate talks, and why nuclear advocates need to be in the room.
Last week marked an important victory for nuclear energy in South Korea. In a stunning reversal, a jury of nearly 500 South Koreans chose to continue the construction of two nuclear reactors. Our friends at Environmental Progress have been on the case for months and played an important role in providing data that helped frame up exactly what was at stake the country.
Just weeks after leaving Environmental Progress last November, I went to Marrakesh, Morrocco to assist in the COP22 efforts. Here is my journal entry from back then, with some mild editing for length and clarity.
#COP22-- How “One Less Nuclear Plant” is the saddest goal in environmentalism.
Today was my first day at the COP22 and after getting my bearings I wandered into the Korean Pavilion. My “anti-nuclear” spidey sense was tingling and a quick look at the 84 page full color book they were handing out confirmed my suspicions
The title? “One Less Nuclear Power Plant, Phase 2”
I sat down to listen to the presentation. It was a discussion of all the necessary steps needed to maybe, just maybe, be able to replace all of one nuclear plant’s reliable carbon free generation. The crux? All renewable and efficiency ducks would have to be in a row, and getting the buy-in of people to cut back significantly on energy consumption would be absolutely critical to success.
Finally the question and answer session began. I got the first one, and it was a doozy.
“This is a question about looking at the evidence. In Germany, they’ve spent over $150 billion (now $222B)building out renewables, just to see their emissions remain flat, while their electricity remains 10 times dirtier than France. In the US, we lost 5 reactors to renewables mandates and cheap fracked gas. This amount of emissions free power was the equivalent of our entire solar generation last year. So knowing all of that, my question is-- if we’re really concerned about climate change, why would we ever shut down our largest source of clean energy? And shouldn’t we be a bit more pragmatic in our decision making when considering what’s at stake for the future of humanity?”
That was a lot for a translator to communicate back to the presenter, and I’m doubtful she got it all. In her reply she doubled down on the necessity for massive community buy-in to consume less electricity before undertaking a nuclear plant closure.
My reply, “The community really determines what happens, doesn’t it? And I would suggest that the community was taught to fear nuclear power absent fact, and now it is the responsibility of everyone in this room and everyone that makes decisions about energy in Korea to be giving the public facts so that we’re making decisions based on fact, not fear.”
The Lesotho delegation in the audience gave me a thumbs up and a big smile. That small gesture spoke volumes. I still believe there are scores of people that are just looking for the best, science based solutions, but they’ve been lead down the wrong path by anti-nuclear campaigners who would rather burn fossil fuels than entertain nuclear as part of the solution.