The anti-nuclear movement is a social movement that opposes the use of nuclear technologies. Many direct action groups, environmental groups, and professional organisations have identified themselves with the movement at the local, national, and international level. Major anti-nuclear groups include Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. The initial objective of the movement was nuclear disarmament, though the focus has shifted primarily to opposition to the use of nuclear power.
There have been many large anti-nuclear demonstrations and protests. A protest against nuclear power occurred in July 1977 in Bilbao, Spain, with up to 200,000 people in attendance. Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, an anti-nuclear protest was held in New York City, involving 200,000 people. In 1981, Germany's largest anti-nuclear power demonstration took place to protest against the Brokdorf Nuclear Power Plant west of Hamburg; some 100,000 people came face to face with 10,000 police officers. The largest anti-nuclear protest was held on June 12, 1982, when one million people demonstrated in New York City against nuclear weapons. A 1983 nuclear weapons protest in West Berlin had about 600,000 participants. In May 1986, following the Chernobyl disaster, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people marched in Rome to protest against the Italian nuclear program.
For many years after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster nuclear power was off the policy agenda in most countries, and the anti-nuclear power movement seemed to have won its case. Some anti-nuclear groups disbanded. More recently, however, following public relations activities by the nuclear industry, advances in nuclear power technology, and concerns about climate change, nuclear power issues have come back into energy policy discussions in some countries. There have been reports of a revival of the anti-nuclear movement in Germany and protests in France during 2004 and 2007. In the United States, there have been protests about, and criticism of, several new nuclear reactor proposals and some objections to license renewals for existing nuclear plants. At the same time some environmentalists have adopted a more pro-nuclear stance.
Scientists and diplomats have debated nuclear weapons policy since before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. The public became concerned about nuclear weapons testing from about 1954, following extensive nuclear testing in the Pacific. In 1963, many countries ratified the Partial Test Ban Treaty which prohibited atmospheric nuclear testing.
Some local opposition to nuclear power emerged in the early 1960s, and in the late 1960s some members of the scientific community began to express their concerns. In the early 1970s, there were large protests about a proposed nuclear power plant in Wyhl, Germany. The project was cancelled in 1975 and anti-nuclear success at Wyhl inspired opposition to nuclear power in other parts of Europe and North America. Nuclear power became an issue of major public protest in the 1970s.
Early anti-nuclear advocates expressed the view that affluent lifestyles on a global scale strain the viability of the natural environment and that nuclear energy would enable those lifestyles. Examples of such expressions are:
If you ask me, it'd be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won't give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other."–Amory Lovins, The Mother Earth - Plowboy Interview, Nov/Dec 1977, p. 22
Giving society cheap, abundant energy ... would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun–Paul Ehrlich, "An Ecologist's Perspective on Nuclear Power", May/June 1978 issue of Federation of American Scientists Public Issue Report
We can and should seize upon the energy crisis as a good excuse and great opportunity for making some very fundamental changes that we should be making anyhow for other reasons.–Russell Train (EPA Administrator at the time, and soon thereafter became head of the World Wildlife Fund), Science 184 p. 1050, 7 June 1974
Let's face it. We don't want safe nuclear power plants. We want NO nuclear power plants.–A spokesman for the Government Accountability Project, an offshoot of the Institute for Policy Studies, The American Spectator, Vol 18, No. 11, Nov. 1985
The existential threat of nuclear war by accidental or deliberate nuclear strike is a pressing concern. Also, many local communities are affected by nuclear weapons testing, uranium mining, and the disposal of radioactive waste.
However, the threat of global nuclear annihalation has been reduced since the end of the Cold War and as a result of on-going arms control efforts by the U.S., Russia, and some other countries. Yet concerns about an exchange of nuclear firepower remain. Some scientists estimate that a war between two countries that resulted in 100 Hiroshima-size atomic explosions would cause significant loss of life, in the tens of millions. There would also be much soot thrown up into the atmosphere which would blanket the earth, causing the disruption of food chains.
Of these concerns, nuclear accidents and disposal of long-lived radioactive waste have probably had the greatest public impact worldwide.
In his book Global Fission: The Battle Over Nuclear Power, Jim Falk explores connections between technological concerns and political concerns. Falk suggests that concerns of citizen groups or individuals who oppose nuclear power have often focused initially on the "range of physical hazards which accompany the technology". Concern often starts with a single issue, such as radioactive waste, but over time concerns usually spread and the focus broadens. Falk suggests that with a richer and more sophisticated understanding of issues comes more concerns and eventually, almost inevitably says Falk, this leads to a "concern over the political relations of the nuclear industry". Falk argues that if all the different concerns over the physical hazards of nuclear power were distilled into one succinct statement, it might be this: "that it is a technology whose safety people deeply distrust". Falk says that that distrust also applies more widely, to the whole nuclear enterprise:
People must have come not only to distrust the safety of the technology but also the authority of those who have assured them so confidently that nuclear power is safe. In this sense people distrust the entire nuclear enterprise -- not only its technology, but the public and private organizations, the political parties, and those often prestigious scientists who advocate and assist in the development of nuclear power.
In 2010, Baruch Fischhoff, a social science professor said that many people really do not trust the nuclear industry. He stated that "although it hasn–t done anything recently to lose the general public–s trust, it hasn–t done anything to gain people–s trust".
Since 2000 the nuclear industry has undertaken an international media and lobbying campaign to promote nuclear power as a solution to the enhanced greenhouse effect and climate change. Nuclear power, the industry claims, emits no or negligible amounts of carbon dioxide. Anti-nuclear groups respond by saying that only reactor operation is free of carbon dioxide emissions. All other stages of the nuclear fuel chain – mining, milling, transport, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management – use fossil fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide.
Anti-nuclear groups generally claim that reliance on nuclear energy can be reduced by adopting energy conservation and energy efficiency measures. Energy efficiency can reduce the consumption of energy while providing the same level of energy "services".
Anti-nuclear groups also favour the use of renewable energy, such as wind power, solar power, geothermal energy and biofuel. According to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy technologies are essential contributors to the energy supply portfolio, as they contribute to world energy security and provide opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gases. Fossil fuels are being replaced by clean, climate-stabilizing, non-depletable sources of energy:
...the transition from coal, oil, and gas to wind, solar, and geothermal energy is well under way. In the old economy, energy was produced by burning something – oil, coal, or natural gas – leading to the carbon emissions that have come to define our economy. The new energy economy harnesses the energy in wind, the energy coming from the sun, and heat from within the earth itself.
Greenpeace advocates reduction of fossil fuels by 50% by 2050 as well as phasing out nuclear energy, contending that innovative technologies can increase energy efficiency, and suggests that by 2050 the majority of electricity will be generated from renewable sources. The International Energy Agency estimates that nearly 50% of global electricity supplies will need to come from renewable energy sources in order to halve carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and minimise significant, irreversible climate change impacts.
Anti-nuclear groups have undertaken public protests and acts of civil disobedience which have included occupations of nuclear plant sites. Other salient strategies have included lobbying, petitioning government authorities, influencing public policy through referendum campaigns and involvement in elections. Anti-nuclear groups have also tried to influence policy implementation through litigation and by participating in licencing proceedings.
Anti-nuclear power organisations have emerged in every country that has had a nuclear power programme. Protest movements against nuclear power first emerged in the USA, at the local level, and spread quickly to Europe and the rest of the world. National nuclear campaigns emerged in the late 1970s. Fuelled by the Three Mile Island accident and the Chernobyl disaster, the anti-nuclear power movement mobilised political and economic forces which for some years "made nuclear energy untenable in many countries".
Some of these anti-nuclear power organisations are reported to have developed considerable expertise on nuclear power and energy issues. In 1992, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that "his agency had been pushed in the right direction on safety issues because of the pleas and protests of nuclear watchdog groups".
The "Smiling Sun" icon of the anti-nuclear movement which came from the Danish anti-nuclear movement.
In 1971, the town of Wyhl, in Germany, was a proposed site for a nuclear power station. In the years that followed, public opposition steadily mounted, and there were large protests. Television coverage of police dragging away farmers and their wives helped to turn nuclear power into a major issue. In 1975, an administrative court withdrew the construction licence for the plant. The Wyhl experience encouraged the formation of citizen action groups near other planned nuclear sites.
In 1972, the anti-nuclear weapons movement maintained a presence in the Pacific, largely in response to French nuclear testing there. Activists sailed small vessels into the test zone and interrupted the testing program. In Australia, thousands joined protest marches in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney. Scientists issued statements demanding an end to the tests. In Fiji, activists formed an Against Testing on Mururoa organization.
In Spain, a strong anti-nuclear movement emerged in 1973, which ultimately impeded the realisation of most of the planned nuclear power projects. On July 14, 1977, in Bilbao, Spain, between 150,000 and 200,000 people protested against the Lemoniz Nuclear Power Plant. This has been called the "biggest ever anti-nuclear demonstration".
In France there were a series of mass protests in the early seventies, organized at nearly every planned nuclear site in France. Between 1975 and 1977, some 175,000 people protested against nuclear power in ten demonstrations. In 1977 there was a massive demonstration at the Superphnix breeder reactor in Creys-Malvillein which culminated in violence.
In West Germany, between February 1975 and April 1979, some 280,000 people were involved in seven demonstrations at nuclear sites. Several site occupations were also attempted. In the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, some 120,000 people attended a demonstration against nuclear power in Bonn.
In 1981, Germany's largest anti-nuclear power demonstration took place to protest against the construction of the Brokdorf Nuclear Power Plant on the North Sea coast west of Hamburg. Some 100,000 people came face to face with 10,000 police officers.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the revival of the nuclear arms race, triggered a new wave of protests about nuclear weapons. Older organizations such as the Federation of Atomic Scientists revived, and newer organizations appeared, including the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and Physicians for Social Responsibility. In the UK, on 1 April 1983, about 70,000 people linked arms to form a human chain between three nuclear weapons centres in Berkshire. The anti-nuclear demonstration stretched for 14 miles along the Kennet Valley.
On Palm Sunday 1982, an estimated 100,000 Australians participated in anti-nuclear rallies in the nation's largest cities. Growing year by year, the rallies drew 350,000 participants in 1985.
In May 1986, following the Chernobyl disaster, clashes between anti-nuclear protesters and West German police became common. More than 400 people were injured in mid-May at the site of a nuclear-waste reprocessing plant being built near Wackersdorf. Also in May 1986, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people marched in Rome to protest against the Italian nuclear program, and 50,000 marched in Milan. Hundreds of people walked from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. in 1986 in what is referred to as the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. The march took nine months to traverse 3,700 miles (6,000 km), advancing approximately fifteen miles per day.
The anti-nuclear organisation "Nevada Semipalatinsk" was formed in 1989 and was one of the first major anti-nuclear groups in the former Soviet Union. It attracted thousands of people to its protests and campaigns which eventually led to the closure of the nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, in north-east Kazakhstan, in 1991.
There were many anti-nuclear protests in the United States which captured national public attention during the 1970s and 1980s. These included the well-known Clamshell Alliance protests at Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant and the Abalone Alliance protests at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, where thousands of protesters were arrested. Other large protests followed the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.
A large anti-nuclear demonstration was held in May 1979 in Washington D.C., when 65,000 people including the Governor of California, attended a march and rally against nuclear power. In New York City on September 23, 1979, almost 200,000 people attended a protest against nuclear power. Anti-nuclear power protests preceded the shutdown of the Shoreham, Yankee Rowe, Millstone I, Rancho Seco, Maine Yankee, and about a dozen other nuclear power plants.
On June 12, 1982, one million people demonstrated in New York City's Central Park against nuclear weapons and for an end to the cold war arms race. It was the largest anti-nuclear protest and the largest political demonstration in American history. International Day of Nuclear Disarmament protests were held on June 20, 1983 at 50 sites across the United States. In 1986, hundreds of people walked from Los Angeles to Washington DC in the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. There were many Nevada Desert Experience protests and peace camps at the Nevada Test Site during the 1980s and 1990s.
A few injuries have occurred during anti-nuclear protests:
For many years after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster nuclear power was off the policy agenda in most countries, and the anti-nuclear power movement seemed to have won its case. Some anti-nuclear groups disbanded. More recently, however, following intense public relations activities by the nuclear industry, and concerns about climate change, nuclear power issues have come back into energy policy discussions in some countries. Anti-nuclear activity has increased correspondingly.
In January 2004, up to 15,000 anti-nuclear protesters marched in Paris against a new generation of nuclear reactors, the European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPWR).
On May 1, 2005, 40,000 anti-nuclear/anti-war protesters marched past the United Nations in New York, 60 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was the largest anti-nuclear rally in the U.S. for several decades. In Britain, there were many protests about the government's proposal to replace the aging Trident weapons system with a newer model. The largest protest had 100,000 participants and, according to polls, 59 percent of the public opposed the move.
On March 17, 2007 simultaneous protests, organised by Sortir du nuclaire, were staged in five French towns to protest construction of EPR plants; Rennes, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille, and Strasbourg.
During a weekend in October 2008, some 15,000 people disrupted the transport of radioactive nuclear waste from France to a dump in Germany. This was one of the largest such protests in many years and, according to Der Spiegel, it signals a revival of the anti-nuclear movement in Germany. In 2009, the coalition of green parties in the European parliament, who are unanimous in their anti-nuclear position, increased their presence in the parliament from 5.5% to 7.1% (52 seats).
In October 2008 in the United Kingdom, more than 30 people were arrested during one of the largest anti-nuclear protests at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston for 10 years. The demonstration marked the start of the UN World Disarmament Week and involved about 400 people.
In 2008 and 2009, there have been protests about, and criticism of, several new nuclear reactor proposals in the United States. There have also been some objections to license renewals for existing nuclear plants.
A convoy of 350 farm tractors and 50,000 protesters took part in an anti-nuclear rally in Berlin on September 5, 2009. The marchers demanded that Germany close all nuclear plants by 2020 and close the Gorleben radioactive dump. Gorleben is the focus of the anti-nuclear movement in Germany, which has tried to derail train transports of waste and to destroy or block the approach roads to the site. Two above-ground storage units house 3,500 containers of radioactive sludge and thousands of tonnes of spent fuel rods.
On April 21, 2010, a dozen environmental organizations called on the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission to investigate possible limitations in the AP1000 reactor design. These groups appealed to three federal agencies to suspend the licensing process because they claimed containment in the new design is worse than existing reactors.
On April 24, 2010, about 120,000 people built a human chain (KETTENreAKTION!) between the nuclear plants at Krmmel and Brunsbttel. In this way they were demonstrating against the plans of the German government to extend the period of producing nuclear power.
In May 2010, some 25,000 people, including members of peace organizations and 1945 atomic bomb survivors, marched for about two kilometers from downtown New York to a square in front of United Nations headquarters, calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Beginning in the 1960s, anti-nuclear ideas received coverage in the popular media with novels such as Fail-Safe and feature films such as Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), The China Syndrome (1979), Silkwood (1983), and The Rainbow Warrior (1992).
Dr. Strangelove explored "what might happen within the Pentagon ... if some maniac Air Force general should suddenly order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union". One reviewer called the movie "one of the cleverest and most incisive satiric thrusts at the awkwardness and folly of the military that has ever been on the screen".
The China Syndrome has been described as a "gripping 1979 drama about the dangers of nuclear power" which had an extra impact when the real-life accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant occurred several weeks after the film opened. Jane Fonda plays a TV reporter who witnesses a near-meltdown (the "China syndrome" of the title) at a local nuclear plant, which was averted by a quick-thinking engineer, played by Jack Lemmon. The plot suggests that corporate greed and cost-cutting "have led to potentially deadly faults in the plant's construction".
Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) was a musical group founded in 1979 by Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt, and John Hall, following the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. The group organized a series of five No Nukes concerts held at Madison Square Garden in New York City in September 1979. On September 23, 1979, almost 200,000 people attended a large anti-nuclear rally staged by MUSE on the then-empty north end of the Battery Park City landfill in New York. The album No Nukes, and a film, also titled No Nukes, were both released in 1980 to document the performances.
Historian Lawrence S. Wittner has argued that anti-nuclear sentiment and activism led directly to government policy shifts about nuclear weapons. Public opinion influenced policymakers by limiting their options and also by forcing them to follow certain policies over others. Wittner credits public pressure and anti-nuclear activism with "Truman–s decision to explore the Baruch Plan, Eisenhower–s efforts towards a nuclear test ban and the 1958 testing moratorium, and Kennedy–s signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty".
In terms of nuclear power, Forbes magazine, in the September 1975 issue, reported that "the anti-nuclear coalition has been remarkably successful ... [and] has certainly slowed the expansion of nuclear power." California has banned the approval of new nuclear reactors since the late 1970s because of concerns over waste disposal, and some other U.S. states have a moratorium on construction of nuclear power plants. Between 1975 and 1980, a total of 63 nuclear units were canceled in the USA. Anti-nuclear activities were among the reasons, but the primary motivations were the overestimation of future demand for electricity and steadily increasing capital costs, which made the economics of new plants unfavorable.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons became a presidential priority issue for the Carter Administration in the late 1970s. To deal with proliferation problems, President Carter promoted stronger international control over nuclear technology, including nuclear reactor technology. Although a strong supporter of nuclear power generally, Carter turned against the breeder reactor because the plutonium it produced could be diverted into nuclear weapons.
For many years after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster nuclear power was off the policy agenda in most countries. In recent years, intense public relations activities by the nuclear industry, increasing evidence of climate change and failures to address it, have brought nuclear power issues back to the forefront of policy discussion in the nuclear renaissance countries. But some countries are not prepared to expand nuclear power and are still divesting themselves of their nuclear legacy.
Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987, all territorial sea and land of New Zealand is declared a nuclear free zone. Nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships are prohibited from entering the country's territorial waters. Dumping of foreign radioactive waste and development of nuclear weapons in the country is outlawed. Despite common misconception, this act does not make nuclear power plants illegal. A 2008 survey shows that 19 % of New Zealanders favour nuclear power as the best energy source, while 77% prefer wind power as the best energy source.
In Italy the use of nuclear power was barred by a referendum in 1987. Recently, however, Italy has agreed to export nuclear technology and now intends to restart its civil nuclear power program.
Touted as a victory by the Alliance '90/The Greens political party, which positions itself as anti-nuclear, Germany set a date of 2020 for the permanent shutdown of the last nuclear power plant in the Nuclear Exit Law, although recently there have been discussions about extending this date or repealing the law.
Ireland has no plans to change its non-nuclear stance and pursue nuclear power in the future.
In the United States, a 2007 University of Maryland survey showed that 73 percent of the public surveyed favours the elimination of all nuclear weapons, 64 percent support removing all nuclear weapons from high alert, and 59 percent support reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles to 400 weapons each. Given the unpopularity of nuclear weapons, U.S. politicians have been wary of supporting new nuclear programs. Republican-dominated congresses "have defeated the Bush administration's plan to build so-called 'bunker-busters' and 'mini-nukes'."
Today, some 26,000 nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of the nine nuclear powers, with thousands on hair-trigger alert. Although U.S., Russian, and British nuclear arsenals are shrinking in size, those in the four Asian nuclear nations–China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea–are growing, in large part because of tensions among them. This Asian arms race also has possibilities of bringing Japan into the nuclear club.
During Barack Obama's successful U.S. presidential election campaign, he advocated the abolition of nuclear weapons. Since his election he has reiterated this goal in several major policy addresses. In 2010, the Obama administration negotiated a new weapons accord with Russia for a reduction of the maximum number of deployed nuclear weapons on each side from 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675–a reduction of some 30 percent. In addition, President Obama has committed $15 billion over the next five years to improving the safety of the nuclear weapons stockpile.
In 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency presented the results of a series of public opinion surveys in the Global Public Opinion on Nuclear Issues report. Majorities of respondents in 14 of the 18 countries surveyed believe that the risk of terrorist acts involving radioactive materials at nuclear facilities is high, because of insufficient protection. While majorities of citizens generally support the continued use of existing nuclear power reactors, most people do not favour the building of new nuclear plants, and 25% of respondents feel that all nuclear power plants should be closed down. Stressing the climate change benefits of nuclear energy positively influences 10% of people to be more supportive of expanding the role of nuclear power in the world, but there is still a general reluctance to support the building of more nuclear power plants.
In the United States, the Nuclear Energy Institute has run polls since the 1980s. A poll in conducted March 30 to April 1, 2007 chose solar as the most likely largest source for electricity in the US in 15 years (27% of those polled) followed by nuclear, 24% and coal, 14%. Those who were favourable of nuclear being used dropped to 63% from a historic high of 70% in 2005 and 68% in September, 2006.
A CBS News/New York Times poll in 2007 showed that a majority of Americans would not like to have a nuclear plant built in their community, although an increasing percentage would like to see more nuclear power.
The two fuel sources that attracted the highest levels of support in the 2007 MIT Energy Survey are solar power and wind power. Outright majorities would choose to –increase a lot– use of these two fuels, and better than three out of four Americans would like to increase these fuels in the U. S. energy portfolio. Fourteen per cent of respondents would like to see nuclear power "increase a lot".
A poll in the European Union for Feb-Mar 2005 showed 37% in favour of nuclear energy and 55% opposed, leaving 8% undecided. The same agency ran another poll in Oct-Nov 2006 that showed 14% favoured building new nuclear plants, 34% favoured maintaining the same number, and 39% favoured reducing the number of operating plants, leaving 13% undecided. This poll showed that the approval of nuclear power rose with the education level of respondents.
A September 2007 survey conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland showed that:
63 percent of Russians favor eliminating all nuclear weapons, 59 percent support removing all nuclear weapons from high alert, and 53 percent support cutting the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to 400 nuclear weapons each. In the United States, 73 percent of the public favors eliminating all nuclear weapons, 64 percent support removing all nuclear weapons from high alert, and 59 percent support reducing Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to 400 weapons each. Eighty percent of Russians and Americans want their countries to participate in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
According to a 2010 Soka Gakkai International survey of youth attitudes in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand and the USA, 67.3% reject the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. Of the respondents 59.1% said that they would feel safer if nuclear weapons no longer existed in the world. Identified as most needed measures toward nuclear abolition were political and diplomatic negotiations (59.9%), peace education (56.3%) and strengthened measures within the UN framework (53.7%). While 37.4% said that nuclear abolition is possible, 40.7% said that nuclear arms reduction not abolition is possible.
Some environmentalists criticise the anti-nuclear movement for under-stating the environmental costs of fossil fuels and non-nuclear alternatives, and overstating the environmental costs of nuclear energy.
Of the numerous nuclear experts who have offered their expertise in addressing controversies, Bernard Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Pittsburgh, is likely the most frequently cited. In his extensive writings he examines the safety issues in detail. He is best known for comparing nuclear safety to the relative safety of a wide range of other phenomena.
Anti-nuclear activists are accused of representing the risks of nuclear power in an unfair way. The War Against the Atom (Basic Books, 1982) Samuel MacCracken of Boston University argued that in 1982, 50,000 deaths per year could be attributed directly to non-nuclear power plants, if fuel production and transportation, as well as pollution, were taken into account. He argued that if non-nuclear plants were judged by the same standards as nuclear ones, each US non-nuclear power plant could be held responsible for about 100 deaths per year.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is the main lobby group for companies doing nuclear work in the USA, while most countries that employ nuclear energy have a national industry group. The World Nuclear Association is the only global trade body. In seeking to counteract the arguments of nuclear opponents, it points to independent studies that quantify the costs and benefits of nuclear energy and compares them to the costs and benefits of alternatives. NEI sponsors studies of its own, but it also references studies performed for the World Health Organisation, for the International Energy Agency, and by university researchers.
Critics of the anti-nuclear movement point to independent studies that show that the capital resources required for renewable energy sources are higher than those required for nuclear power.
Some people, including former opponents of nuclear energy, criticise the movement on the basis of the claim that nuclear energy is necessary for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. These individuals include James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis, Patrick Moore, and Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog. Lovelock goes further to refute claims about the danger of nuclear energy and its waste products. In a January 2008 interview, Moore said that "It wasn't until after I'd left Greenpeace and the climate change issue started coming to the forefront that I started rethinking energy policy in general and realised that I had been incorrect in my analysis of nuclear as being some kind of evil plot."
Some anti-nuclear organisations have acknowledged that their positions are subject to review. Nuclear-energy opponents take the position that militant environmentalist organisations have not changed their views:
While some environmentalists, in the interests of reducing the CO2 emissions associated with burning carbon-based fuels, have switched from anti- to pro-nuclear power in recent years, it is clear that many – if not most – of the militant environmentalist organizations remain adamantly opposed to the expansion of nuclear power. Many even propose decommissioning and dismantling the existing nuclear power electrical plants.
In April 2007, Dan Becker, Director of Global Warming for the Sierra Club, declared, "Switching from dirty coal plants to dangerous nuclear power is like giving up smoking cigarettes and taking up crack."
James Lovelock, who originally proposed the Gaia hypothesis, criticizes holders of such a view: "Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media." ". . .I am a Green and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy."
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