Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant: The WikiBook/Anti nuclear movement

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Protests in Bonn on October 14, 1979.
A modern protest of the anti-nuclear movement targeted towards the European Pressurized Reactor.

The anti-nuclear movement, a new social movements|social movement, is the international opposition to the use of nuclear technology|nuclear technologies. The largest sect of the movement opposes nuclear power, but some other issues that may be taken up by anti-nuclear groups are:

  • opposition to nuclear weapons, weapons using depleted uranium, and in favour of nuclear disarmament
  • opposition to the use of radioactivity and food irradiation
  • opposition to radiation including microwave radiation

Historically, this opposition has come from both political organisations and grassroots movements. Common political targets are new List of nuclear reactors|nuclear plants (see EPR image to right), deep geological repository|waste repository sites, transport of waste, nuclear reprocessing, or any other nuclear connected technology. Many also see uranium mining and nuclear reprocessing as unacceptable, because of perceived and real environmental consequences of these activities.


[edit | edit source]

The symbol of the anti-nuclear movement is a smiling, traditionally red sun, usually on a yellow background. There are several variations, such as pugnacious raised fist or angry face. It is often accompanied by the slogan "Nuclear power? No thanks!" This symbol has its roots in the Danish anti-nuclear movement in the 1970s and has since gained worldwide usage.

A symbol of resistance against nuclear waste transport is a (mostly yellow) X. This symbol is newer than the smiling sun. It originated in the German anti-nuclear movement.

The coat of arms is not recognized internationally known Free Republic Wendland shows an orange sun on dark green background.


[edit | edit source]

The anti-nuclear viewpoint, as distinct from the movement, stems mainly from three roots:

  • First, within Western culture there is a thread of mistrust of science and technology which dates back to novels written in the early nineteenth century, in which ambitious and over-confident scientists unleashed uncontrollable forces. Beginning in the 1960s, the trend was escalated in the popular media by novels such as Fail-Safe (novel)|Fail-Safe and films such as Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
  • Second, radioactive materials were misused and carelessly handled in the early twentieth century (see Radioactive quackery), which led to a general belief that all forms of radiation were dangerous at any level.
  • Third, nuclear energy was, and is, associated in the public mind with atomic weapons.

All three of these roots coalesced following the use of atomic weapons on Japan and the subsequent bomb tests, with resultant distribution of radioactive fallout. The anti-nuclear movement grew out of this convergence.[1]

In the 1960s, the environmental movement grew mainly in reaction to obvious deterioration of the natural and urban environments. Although some environmentalists favoured nuclear energy as a way to reduce pollution, the majority came to the movement with already-formed anti-nuclear attitudes, and at present the anti-nuclear movement and the environmental movement have considerable overlap.[1]

A common theme among environmentalists is the belief in the need to reduce consumerism. Early anti-nuclear advocates thought that nuclear energy would enable lifestyles which would strain the viability of the natural environment. This belief reinforced their generally anti-nuclear attitudes.

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

Opponents of nuclear energy used the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty of 1968 to reinforce the connections between the international export and development of nuclear power technologies and the nuclear proliferation|proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Finally, because nuclear power has always been a technology which requires and employs specialists, some individuals with little or no scientific training view it as an elitist technology.[2] The public view of nuclear power is based on popular political and social perception rather than in-depth knowledge of the technology and scientific specifics of nuclear power.

Much early opposition to nuclear power was expressed in relation to environmental grounds: thermal pollution, known and postulated Nuclear accidents|reactor accidents, potential release of radiation during shipments, and still-developing means for long term radioactive waste storage and disposal. The environmental movement made such concerns well-known, whereas opposition on issues such as concentration of capital in major engineering endeavours rather than decentralised and less productive energy sources, and proliferation of nuclear weapons, did not attract much attention.

By the time of the rise of New England's Clamshell Alliance, California's Abalone alliance|Abalone Alliance, and dozens of similar regional groups dedicated to stopping the growth of nuclear power through nonviolent civil disobedience based actions, points of opposition had expanded from concerns about pollution and proliferation to include concerns about economic viability and terrorist target threats.[3]

The movement was popularised in part by artists. Popular performers such as Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne recorded songs about nuclear or alternative power sources.[4][5] Along with numerous documentary film treatments, the Academy Award nominated The China Syndrome, 1979, and Silkwood movies dramatised the fears of anti-nuclear activists.

Types of protests

[edit | edit source]

The movement uses a number of methods to influence policy and gain publicity. Many prominent institutionalized groups advocate Non-violent direct action. Others, individuals or anti-nuclear groups, have taken violent direct action (such as rocket attacks on the Superphénix site). Types of actions taken include:

  • Demonstrations and information desks. Many nuclear power opponents man information desks and organize demonstrations. These, however, gain little attention from the press and the public if they are not very big. Forms of demonstrations may include:
    • Concerts
    • Picketing
    • a Die-in - this has been done by groups such as Stop Rokkasho [1]
  • Power Exchange. In Deregulation of the Texas electricity market|Texas and in Germany, almost every customer chooses electricity providers himself.[6][7] By switching to a provider who doesn't use nuclear power, people can be protesting with little effort.
  • Non-violent direct action. Similar to a Sit-in, this kind of action is commonly considered civil disobedience.
    • Blockages. Often nuclear transports or nuclear plants blocked by protesters. This leads to large seat blockades with several thousand people, based on the principle of nonviolence, but also smaller demonstrations happen. In Germany, if a blockade states that it is not coercive, there are no severe legal repercussions to the activists. In Austria, a blockade was staged in protest of the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant across the Czech Republic border. Critics of the movement see such measures as a nationalistic. In France in November 2004, an activist died on train tracks after chaining himself down.
  • Direct action.
    • Sabotage. Another method is sabotage, such as track and signal systems of the railway. Also, damage to overhead lines by hook claws have been a result of this kind of protest. After an engine driver was slightly injured, the method has been labelled as a "severe interference in the rail transport".
  • Education
    • Websites. Many anti-nuclear groups maintain websites which include information on nuclear technology. One group, Mothball Millstone, was sued for advertising an unrelated still birth as a death from radiation.[8]

Anti-nuclear events have seen participation in the tens of thousands on a number of occasions. Exact counts, however, are generally impossible, and estimates may differ by large margins in some cases, making an exact ranking difficult. A likely candidate for the largest anti-nuclear protest was a weapons protest in West Berlin boasting on the order of 600,000 participants in 1983.[9] The largest petition was against nuclear weapons and boasted 32 million signatures.[10] The largest protest against nuclear power may have been on July 13, 1976 in Bilbao when 200,000 have been estimated to be in attendance, platform was to have public votes on nuclear plants.[11]

Most of the actions have followed the Martin Luther King, Jr.|Martin Luther King inspired principles of non-violence from the civil rights movement, but there have been some violent and terrorist actions against nuclear plants. A few injuries have occurred which include a train worker who was hurt when a hook claw sabotage method was used once. No deaths have resulted from violent action, one resulted from non-violent direct action, and one resulted from an attack on a protest.

Not all actions against nuclear power are taken by members of the anti-nuclear movement, some are done by Agent provocateur|provocateurs, some were undertaken by a state.[12][13]

  • In 1977 over 10 acts of violence targeted EDF connected sites. Coined as Nuclear's night of terrorism, acts included explosive charges placed outside the senior management building, a garage, in Toulouse and Talence buildings, and on pylons supporting the Bugey Nuclear Power Plant and the Saint-Maurice Nuclear Power Plant. A group called C.A.R.L.O.S. claimed responsibility under the purpose of urgently stopping the building of nuclear plants.
  • In 1979 a group called CRANE stole irradiated plates in Lyon and placed them in scattered places throughout the university. 11 out of 14 were found. The group intended to demonstrate what a terrorist group could do.
  • On 18 January 1982, five rockets were fired at the Superphénix under construction, 2 reached the building. Magdalena Kopp, the wife of international terrorist Carlos, claimed to provide support. The objective of the terrorists was to halt construction of the facility.
  • In 1990 an anti-nuclear group claimed responsibility for attacks on the EDF dam at the Malause Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Also in 1990 two pylons holding high voltage power lines connecting the French and Italian grid were blow up by Italian eco-terrorists, and the attack is believed to be directly against the Superphénix.[14]
  • In 2004, a 23 year old activist who had tied himself to train tracks in front of a shipment of nuclear reprocessing|reprocessed nuclear waste was ran over and effectively cut in two by the wheels of the train. The event happened in Avricourt, France and the fuel (totaling 12 containers) was from a German plant, on its way to be reused.[15]
  • On July 21, 2007, a Russian antinuclear activist was killed in a protest outside a future Uranium enrichment site. The victim was sleeping in a tent camp, which was part of the protest when it was attacked by unidentified raiders who beat activists who were sleeping, injuring 8 and killing one. The protest group was self identified as anarchist and the assailants were suspected to be right wing.[16]

The results of one study that investigated the relative prevalence of each kind of protests in the anti-nuclear movement in Germany are shown below.

Profile of German anti-nuclear protests from 1988 through 1993.[17]
Type of protest Entire German
Environmental Movement
Anti-nuclear Movement
Appeal 16.1 7.2
Procedural 8.9 7.7
Demonstrative 42.3 44.5
Confrontational 16.9 24.6
Light violence 5.7 2.4
Heavy violence 6.2 10.9
Other 3.8 2.6
Total 100 100
Sample size 1,377 62

Impact on public policies

[edit | edit source]

By the nations legislation 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”.[18]

In Italy the use of nuclear power has been barred by a referendum in 1987.[19] Recently, however, Italy has agreed to export nuclear technology.[20] Ireland also has no plans to change its non-nuclear stance and pursue nuclear power in the future.[21]

Germany has set a date of 2020 for the permanent shutdown of the last nuclear power plant in the Nuclear Exit Law, although recently there has been some discussion to extend this date.[22]

In the United States, the Navajo Nation forbids uranium mining and processing in its land.[23]


[edit | edit source]
nuclear power is just a very sophisticated way to boil water ... and insanely dangerous too
— Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer
Where we want only to create temperature differences of tens of

degrees, we should meet the need with sources whose potential is tens or hundreds of degrees, not with a flame temperature of thousands or a nuclear temperature of millions—-like cutting butter with a chainsaw.[24]

— Amory Lovins, Energy Strategy:The Road Not Taken?

Safety and nuclear accidents

[edit | edit source]

Nuclear accidents are often cited by anti-nuclear groups as evidence of the inherent danger of nuclear power (see list of nuclear accidents). Most commonly cited is the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which resulted in large amounts of radio-isotopes being released into the environment.[25] Also cited is the Three Mile Island accident which happened in 1979 in the USA, ironically two weeks after the release of the film, The China Syndrome.

For many, this is a fundamental objection to the technology.

High level nuclear waste

[edit | edit source]

According to anti-nuclear organisations, rendering nuclear waste harmless is not being done satisfactorily and it remains a hazard for anywhere between a few years to many thousands of years, depending on the particular isotopes. The same organisations usually oppose, and lobby against, processing the waste to reduce its radioactivity and longevity, and also oppose isolating the residual waste from the environment.[26][27][28]

The length of time waste has to be stored is controversial because there is a question of whether one should use the original ore or surrounding rock as a reference for safe levels. Anti-nuclear organisations tend to favour using normal soil as a reference, in contrast to pro-nuclear organisations who tend to argue that geologically disposed waste can be considered safe once it is no more radioactive that the uranium ore it was produced from.

Monetary cost of nuclear power

[edit | edit source]

Anti-nuclear organisations consider that the Economics of new nuclear power plants are unfavourable because of the initial costs of constructing a nuclear plant (see Darlington Nuclear Generating Station), the public subsidies and tax expenditures involved in research and security, the cost of decommissioning nuclear facilities, and the undetermined costs of storing nuclear waste.[29][30]

Nuclear proliferation

[edit | edit source]

Part of the radioactive material produced in some types of nuclear reactors has the potential to be used to make nuclear weapons by countries equipped with the capability of chemical and isotope separation. Anti-nuclear activists claim that this makes nuclear power undesirable out of concern for nuclear proliferation.[31]

Nuclear-free alternatives

[edit | edit source]

Anti-nuclear groups favour the development of distributed generation of renewable energy, such as biomass (wood fuel and biofuel), wind power and solar power, and efficiency-enhancing approaches including co-generation.[31] Some favour geothermal power as well, though it isn't distributed and emits considerable amounts of air pollution and greenhouse gases. About half the world's geothermal heat comes not from the earth's core but from the decay of natural radioactivity in the earth's mantle.[32]

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.[33]

In general, anti-nuclear groups tend to claim that reliance on nuclear energy can be reduced by adopting energy conservation policies. Some favour changing human lifestyles to allow lower energy consumption that can be supported by renewable energy sources, believing those lifestyles would generate less pollution.

Criticism of the anti-nuclear movement

[edit | edit source]

Criticism comes mainly from three sources: nuclear experts with specialised technical knowledge, environmentalists, and businesses that conduct nuclear activities. The principal criticisms are that nuclear opponents overstate the impacts on human health and on the environment from nuclear energy and fail to consider the impacts of alternatives, that they make the same unbalanced comparisons with respect to economic cost, and that they ignore the practical limits of alternatives. Beyond that, critics charge that the more radical nuclear opponents argue points which are frightening but irrelevant, that they misrepresent the facts about nuclear energy and fail to substantiate their statements, and that they contradict independent analyses done by unbiased professionals.

Environmentalists criticise the anti-nuclear movement for under-stating the environmental costs of fossil-fuels and non-nuclear alternatives, and over-stating the environmental costs of nuclear energy.[34][35]

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.[36][37]

The Nuclear Energy Institute[38] (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,[39] for the International Energy Agency,[40] and by university researchers.[41]

Criticism rising from concerns over global warming

[edit | edit source]

Some environmentalists, including former opponents of nuclear energy, criticize the movement on the basis of the claim that nuclear energy is necessary for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions. These individuals include James Lovelock,[34] originator of the Gaia hypothesis, Patrick Moore (environmentalist)|Patrick Moore,[35] and Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog.[42][43] Lovelock goes further to refute claims about the danger of nuclear energy and its waste products.[44]

Nuclear opponents counter that capital resources would be spent more productively on renewable energy sources than nuclear plants, arguing further that the problem of intermittancy can be overcome through storage, biofuels, and oversizing the electrical-distribution grid.[45][46]

But critics of the movement point to independent studies that show the opposite: that the capital resources required for renewable energy sources are higher.[47] They also point out that storage and long-distance redistribution of electricity, assuming they could be accomplished, would add to the cost and that the inefficiencies of both mitigation methods would raise the costs even more. They also argue that biofuels can't even replace a major part of petroleum-based fuel for vehicles, much less generate electricity.[48] Some have gone so far as to claim that incorporating renewable technologies such as wind may increase fuel consumption and carbon emissions, in places such Denmark.[49]

Public perception of nuclear power

[edit | edit source]

Image:Spain2006.gif|thumbnail|2007 opinion survey in Spain regarding energy sources. Nuclear obtained a low rating (3.1 on a scale of 10)[50]

Feb 2005 opinion poll regarding nuclear power in the USA.

Opinion Poll|Approval ratings of nuclear energy, which are a reflection of the anti-nuclear movement's position prevalence in the general public, vary from poll to poll. These variations can be due to news coverage of events concerning e.g. nuclear reactors, energy supplies, global warming. Some polls show that the approval of nuclear power rises with the education level of the respondents.[51]

The results of the polls tend to be variable, depending on the question asked: 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.[52]

A poll in the European Union for Feb-Mar 2005 showed 37% in favour of nuclear energy and 55% opposed, leaving 8% undecided.[53] 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.[51]

In the United States, the Nuclear Energy Institute has run polls since the 1980s which had shown a general trend toward favourable attitudes on nuclear energy.[54] 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.[55]

In Spain in 2007, nuclear energy received a low poll rating at 3.1 on a scale of 10. Solar and wind received the highest rating, at 8.6 and 8.3, respectively.[50]


[edit | edit source]

International organisations

[edit | edit source]
  • International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
  • International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Greenpeace
  • Ploughshares Fund
  • Nuclear Information and Resource Service - World Information Service on Energy

National and local

[edit | edit source]
  • Anti-nuclear movement in Africa
    • Earthlife Africa
    • Koeberg Alert
  • Anti-nuclear movement in Australia
  • Anti-nuclear movement in Canada
    • Sortir du nucléaire (Canada)|Sortir du nucléaire
  • Anti-nuclear movement in the European Union
    • Sortir du nucléaire (France)|Sortir du nucléaire in France
    • Anti-nuclear movement in Germany
    • No New Nukes! in the United Kingdom
  • Anti-nuclear movement in Japan
  • Anti-nuclear movement in the United States
    • Anti-nuclear movement in California


[edit | edit source]
  1. a b Weart, Spencer R. Nuclear Fear: a History of Images. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988
  2. Toward Renewed Legitimacy? Nuclear Power, Global Warming, and Security p. 110.
  3. Social Protest and Policy Change: Ecology, Antinuclear, and Peace Movements
  4. “For What It’s Worth,” No Nukes Reunite After Thirty Years
  5. Musicians Act to Stop New Atomic Reactors
  7. Cheaper Power to the People; In Germany, a Radical Deregulation Benefits Households (pg. 3)
  8. TheDay.com Parents Say Anti-Nuclear Group Exploited The Death Of Their Child. December 15, 2007.
  9. http://www.blogsforbush.com/mt/archives/2007/02/edwards_calls_i.html
  10. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=6237
  11. http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-and-Environment/1977-11-01/Friends-of-the-Earth.aspx
  12. 1981: Israel bombs Baghdad nuclear reactor
  13. Report: Israeli Jets Destroyed Syrian Nuclear Plant Last Month
  14. WISE Paris. The threat of nuclear terrorism:from analysis to precautionary measures. 10 December 2001.
  15. Indymedia UK. Activist Killed in Anti-nuke Protest.
  16. Energy Daily. Russian Anti-Nuclear Activist Killed In Attack. July 21, 2007.
  17. Dieter Rucht. University of Essex. The Profile of Recent Environmental Protest in Germany.
  18. New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act
  19. Italy
  20. Italy joins GNEP
  21. Electricity Regulation Act, 1999
  22. German Parties Set to Clash Over Nuclear Power
  23. Navajo Nation outlaws uranium mining
  24. The Road Not Taken
  25. Chernobyl Reminds Us that Nukes are NOT Green
  26. http://members.greenpeace.org/action/start/87/ Greenpeace Website
  27. http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/pnucpwr.asp NRDC Website
  28. http://www.citizen.org/cmep/energy_enviro_nuclear/electricity/energybill/articles.cfm?ID=9997 Public Citizen Website
  29. Nuclear power is not the answer to tackling climate change or security of supply, according to the Sustainable Development Commission
  30. The Economics of Nuclear Power report
  31. a b Energy revolution: A sustainable world energy outlook
  32. Geothermal
  33. http://www.energyblueprint.info/fileadmin/media/documents/national/usa_report.pdf
  34. a b James Lovelock: Nuclear power is the only green solution
  35. a b Going Nuclear
  36. Bernard Cohen
  37. The Nuclear Energy Option
  38. Nuclear Energy Institute website
  39. Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health: Budapest, Hungary, 23–25 June 2004
  40. Executive Summary
  41. Ari Rabl and Mona. Dreicer, Health and Environmental Impacts of Energy Systems. International Journal of Global Energy Issues, vol.18(2/3/4), 113-150 (2002)
  42. Environmental Heresies
  43. An Early Environmentalist, Embracing New ‘Heresies’
  44. James Lovelock
  45. http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/global-warming-and-energy
  46. http://www.citizen.org/documents/RenewableEnergy.pdf
  47. http://www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/ElecCostSUM.pdf
  48. http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/2007-10/biofuels/biofuels.html
  49. Spiked Online. Energy: the answer is not blowing in the wind.
  50. a b Study FBBVA on Social Attitudes (Spanish)
  51. a b http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_271_en.pdf
  52. Energy
  53. http://www.euractiv.com/en/opinion/majority-europeans-oppose-nuclear-power/article-145003
  54. Going Nuclear: Frames and Public Opinion about Atomic Energy
  55. Survey Reveals Gap in Public’s Awareness
[edit | edit source]


[edit | edit source]
  • Lawrence S. Wittner The Struggle Against the Bomb Stanford, CA: Stanford University 3 vol. ed I 1993 II 1997 III 2003