WWF Australia Joins Pro-Nuclear Camp

Published July 1, 2006

Greg Bourne, CEO of World Wildlife Fund Australia, appears to have joined a growing list of prominent environmental activists who support increased use of nuclear power.

According to the May 9 Australian, Bourne has set out to convince other WWF officials to support increasing the use of nuclear power.

“The outspoken chief of environment group WWF Australia has gone to London to lobby the international organization to overturn its anti-nuclear stance,” reported the Australian.

Changing Position?

While Bourne continues to argue Australia has alternative renewable power sources that make new nuclear power plants in the nation unnecessary, he apparently believes global warming concerns mean an increase in nuclear power production must be considered in the world energy market as a whole.

The WWF Australia Web site continues to assert Australia does not need to build new nuclear power plants. However, the May 9 Australian reported Bourne ordered a statement opposing any nation utilizing nuclear power be removed from the WWF Australia Web site.

According to the June 8 issue of the Australian newspaper The Age, Bourne “has carefully endorsed the concept of nuclear power” for countries such as China and India that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Others Switching Sides

Bourne joins a substantial number of environmental activists who have indicated support for nuclear power as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace; James Lovelock, creator of the Gaia Earth theory; and Hugh Montefiore, former chairman and trustee for Friends of the Earth, are just a few of the high-profile environmental activists who have recently switched sides on the nuclear issue.

“Nuclear power plants do not produce greenhouse gases or nitrogen oxide or sulfur dioxide,” explained Adrian Heymer, senior director for new plant deployment at the Nuclear Energy Institute. “This, of course, gives nuclear a tremendous environmental advantage over other economically competitive power sources.

“Compared with a lot of other industries,” Heymer added, “we don’t generate as much hazardous waste. Plus, we monitor it–we know where it is, and we make sure that people and the environment are adequately protected from it.”

International Momentum Growing

Nuclear power is favored by leaders of such otherwise disparate nations as Australia, Canada, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

“Economically, nuclear power has a lot going for it,” explained a May 22 house editorial in the Australian. “Though reactors are pricey to build, once up and running, the fuel costs in OECD nuclear power plants run to about one-third of those in coal-fired plants and a quarter of those in natural gas plants.

“Furthermore,” the editorial continued, “taking the Chernobyl disaster–the result of Soviet-era construction and mismanagement–out of the equation, nuclear power is comparatively safe. France, which 30 years ago took 80 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels, now generates approximately that same percentage from uranium, and has not suffered a significant accident.”

“At the beginning of the century, China and India’s economies began taking off, and you need energy to accomplish this,” Heymer observed. “China has recently begun looking into nuclear power, for economic and environmental reasons. In China alone, they are going to build a substantial number–at least 40–nuclear power plants in the next 25 years. One million tons of CO2 emissions will be avoided if these are operating. That is a significant benefit to the environment.”

U.S. Outlook Bright

The international popularity of nuclear power is not being lost on U.S. legislators. Nuclear power “is safe. The technology is here,” observed Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) at a May 22 meeting with citizens in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Pointing out that nuclear plants produce more than three-quarters of France’s power, and that nations such as Russia and China are rapidly expanding their nuclear power supply utilizing the latest technological advances, McCain said nuclear roadblocks in the United States are “a NIMBY [not in my backyard] problem, and a waste-disposal problem. It is not a technological problem.”

“The potential for growth in the United States is positive,” Heymer agreed. “Ten years ago, when natural gas was $1.75, if you had mentioned new nuclear power plants, people would not have taken the idea seriously. Now, with CO2 concerns, environmental concerns, and natural gas prices floating around $7.00, nuclear is a very sensible option. We need to build our base load power generation in a manner that minimizes pollution and CO2 emissions.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

For more information …

“WWF boss to push N-power at meeting,” The Australian, May 9, 2006, http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19070034-30417,00.html.

“Nuclear Panel Has Trouble in Fusion,” The Age, June 8, 2006, http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/nuclear-panel-has-trouble-in-fusion/2006/06/07/1149359818691.html.

WWF Australia, http://www.wwf.org.au/.