Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Public Opposition to Nuclear Power

Public Opposition to Nuclear Power.  https://renewextraweekly.blogspot.com/2022/02/public-opposition-to-nuclear-power.html February 19, 2022

Nuclear power is not popular with the public in most countries. After the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, a global Ipsos survey put global public opposition at 62% averaged out, with it being much higher in some countries e.g. 79% in Germany.  94% voted against it in a referendum in Italy in the wake of Fukushima. 

While opposition remain strong in most places around the world, with concerns about climate change rising, there have been some shifts in view in some countries, for example, in the USA , at least according to a survey by Bisconti. But even in countries that are relatively pro-nuclear, public support for it is not that strong. For example, it was reportedly at 38% in 2021 in the UK, compared to 79% support level for renewables, with just 2% opposed to them. 

Though its strength may have varied over time, opposition to civil nuclear power has been a world-wide phenomenon attracting people in many countries. To some extent, it grew out of opposition to nuclear weapons, a grass roots response which expanded significantly in the 1960s in Europe in particular, and continued at varying levels right up to the end of the cold war in the late 1990s, and indeed exists still, as does the threat of nuclear war.  

Opposition specifically to civil nuclear power emerged in the early 1970s, but, although it drew on some of the same roots as opposition to atomic weapons, it took on its own character and dynamic. In particular, it reflected increasing generational conflicts and the rise of an ‘alternativist’ anti-establishment counter culture amongst young people in the West. It also reflected growing environmental concerns, and support for alternative energy, as indicted by the ubiquitous ‘smiling sun’ graphic part of ‘Nuclear Power? No thanks!’ campaign button that had originated in Denmark in 1975. 

Although at times quite militant, there was a preference, shared with the anti-bomb movement, for non-violent direct action/passive resistance. For example, in the USA, in the 1970’s there were mass peaceful demonstrations at nuclear sites, with, in May 1977 a 2,500 strong citizens ‘sit down’ occupation of the site of the proposed reactor at Seabrook in New Hampshire, leading to 1,400 people being arrested and detained. The late 1970s also saw some of the largest demonstrations against nuclear power in the UK, at the proposed site of the Torness nuclear power station in Scotland, with 5,000 demonstrating in 1978 and up to 10,000 the following year. 

Although at times quite militant, there was a preference, shared with the anti-bomb movement, for non-violent direct action/passive resistance. For example, in the USA, in the 1970’s there were mass peaceful demonstrations at nuclear sites, with, in May 1977 a 2,500 strong citizens ‘sit down’ occupation of the site of the proposed reactor at Seabrook in New Hampshire, leading to 1,400 people being arrested and detained. The late 1970s also saw some of the largest demonstrations against nuclear power in the UK, at the proposed site of the Torness nuclear power station in Scotland, with 5,000 demonstrating in 1978 and up to 10,000 the following year. 

However, that was avoided. Indeed, nuclear opposition, locally and globally, was subsequently renewed, reinforced and widened, with many new participants becoming involved, by nuclear accidents like that at Three Mile Island in the USA in 1979, Chernobyl in the Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima in Japan in 2011. The industry certainly faced set back after each of these events, with public opposition increasing. For example, following the Three Mile Island accident, an anti-nuclear protest was held in New York City, involving 200,000 people; Chernobyl led to protests around the world, including up to 200,000 opposing Italy’s nuclear plans; and directly after Fukushima, 60,000 people marched in opposition to nuclear in central Tokyo and again, in 2012, 75,000 people joined a march, this in a country where public displays of dissention on any issue were rare.

Following Fukushima, opposition to nuclear spread across Asia. For example, 130,000 people took to the streets in Taiwan in March 2014 calling for a nuclear phase out. Strong local opposition also emerged in South Korea and Thailand and continued in India. From often being easily dismissed as a fringe, marginal movement, opposition to nuclear power was now wide spread, attracting large majorities (80% and above in polls) in many countries.

Looking back over the whole period, it has to be said that few proposed plants have been halted by direct action/protest campaigns, although they have arguably contributed to a change in political climate, for example in Germany & Spain, but then so did the accidents, e.g. in Asia, following the Fukushima plants spectacular demise. There has been a lot of scholarly research on what mobilises people to act on nuclear issues, much of it done after Fukushima, which clearly had a big impact.

However, so has economics. The progressively poor economics of nuclear has probably been the main reason why nuclear has been in decline in many places. Though there can be two-way interactions between political opposition, with for example linked public demands for improved safety, and the economics of nuclear power. Looking ahead, it may be that the increasingly poor economics and the slow delivery potential of nuclear power compared to renewables, which are clearly progressing, will now move even more people to an anti-nuclear/pro renewables position, including those who see climate change as needing an urgent response. And that may constrain nuclear further. 

The Bottom line 

Nuclear is not doing well. In the US, given the increasingly competitive alternatives, old nuclear plant closures continue, although some plants may be kept open for a while with subsidies (see my last post), and one new one is being built. Some small new plants may also be tested. But otherwise, nuclear is, in effect, phasing itself out there. In Asia, although Japan has restarted a few reactors, no new ones are planned. China is expanding renewables very dramatically, and although it, and India, are also continuing with nuclear expansion programmes, they are relatively small compared with their renewable programmes. Meanwhile, South Korea has continued with its nuclear phase out by 2030 policy. 

In Europe, the UK, France and Finland, as well as some Eastern European countries, still  back nuclear, but in addition to the well-known case of Germany, with its last plant scheduled to close by the end of the year, nuclear phase out commitments have also been made in Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland. As noted earlier, after Fukushima, Italy also voted overwhelmingly in a referendum not to go nuclear, a position already adopted by Denmark, Austria, Ireland, Greece and Portugal.  

All of which makes the recent statement from the pro-nuclear group Human Progress inaccurate as well as appalling: ‘Whereas a few months ago European Union bureaucrats drawing up the “taxonomy” that defines which energy sources would be considered carbon-free (i.e. valid substitutes for fossil fuels) excluded nuclear power, now nearly all except the fanatical Germanic states have reversed themselves. Indeed, the map of pro- and anti-nuclear Euro¬pean countries now closely resembles a map of World War II circa March 1945, shortly before the taking of the Ludendorff Bridge broke the last line of organised resistance in the Reich’. 

Well, it is usually the left that is chastised for playing the ideology card! See my next post…

February 21, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: