Through the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement created to address climate change, the nuclear industry hopes to get credit (to offset construction costs) for something it cannot deliver: clean, environmentally friendly, non-polluting, energy production.

Language in the Kyoto Protocol will allow developed nations to build power plants in other countries and get a pollution credit if the new plant leads to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. However, the country receiving the credit does not have to reduce their own greenhouse gas production. This concept is called the Clean Development Mechanism, or CDM. In essence, it is a worldwide pollution trading credits scheme. The United States (Three Mile Island), Russia (Chernobyl), and Japan (Tokaimura) are among the nations eligible for CDM credits. Each of these countries has a poor nuclear technology record and a history of sacrificing democratic principles, such as public participation, for nuclear industry profit.

Decisions on policies and enforcement for the Kyoto agreement happen at annual meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Climate Change Convention. This year is the sixth meeting (COP 6). It will be held in The Hague, Netherlands from November 13-24, 2000. Decisions on the CDM may be made, however, at an interim meeting occurring September 4-15 in Lyon, France. In fact, the nuclear industry is pushing hard to give nuclear power CDM credits during LYON and is relying on the US, China and Japan to push the industry position during the negotiations.


One of the CDMís primary objectives is to help developing countries achieve sustainable development by subsidizing previously unsubsidized industries. Allowing nuclear energy to receive pollution trading credits through the CDM would in effect reduce the cost of nuclear reactor construction, thereby giving nuclear power another huge, undeserved subsidy, while keeping money from sounder, proven investments like energy efficiency. Every dollar invested in energy efficiency is up to seven times more effective in CO2 emissions reduction than that same dollar invested in nuclear power. Energy efficiency alone could account for 60% of the emissions reduction necessary in the U.S. to meet the Kyoto protocol.

Further investment in nuclear would also keep funds away from renewable energy development. This trade-off is exactly what has happened in the U.S. over the past 50 years. When comparing U.S. government subsidies for nuclear, solar, and wind, the nuclear power industry has received the majority (96.3%) of $150 billion in investments since 1947; thatís $145 billion for nuclear reactors and $5 billion for wind and solar. Nuclear subsidies have cost the average household a total amount of $1,411 [1998 dollars] compared to $11 for wind. The more money we spend on nuclear power, the less greenhouse gas reduction benefit we receive, while we hurt sustainable technology investment.

The U.S. claims it does not want to limit "developing" nations to certain technologies; that developing nations should decide for themselves which technologies are sustainable and which are not. While this seems to be a reasonable position on its face, implementation of the Kyoto agreement allows for very little equitable public participation. Therefore, a mechanism for ensuring that the citizens of a nation really want a certain technology does not exist. Additionally, many smaller developing nations fear nuclear power CDM credits would favor high-growth nuclear projects in developing countries over smaller, sustainable projects in non-nuclear developing nations. As an Indonesia delegate commented: "I think it is simple colonialism to push nuclear power onto developing countries, leaving them with all the burdens that come with it". Indian NGOís have worded a letter to the U.S., Japan, and Canada stating, "[T]he undersigned Indian social and political organizations , human rights organizations, NGOs, women's rights organizations, and trade unions are writing to urge you to exclude nuclear power from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol". Member nations of AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) oppose giving nuclear reactors credit for greenhouse gas reduction, asking that CDM projects "Not support the use of nuclear power". Countries of AOSIS do not support the use of nuclear power to address global climate change even though their island nations stand to lose the most from sea level rise.

Each current 1000-megawatt reactor produces 40 bombís worth of plutonium per year and atomic waste which will be dangerous for many thousands of years, with no proven storage technology able to last for the entire hazardous life of these radioactive wastes, natural and man-made barriers included.

Finally, nuclear reactors threaten our health. As a matter of normal operation, reactors release radioactive substances to the air and water. Many human population studies demonstrate that additional, low, constant levels of radiation can cause cancer and genetic mutations in this and future generations. Subjects of these studies, often nuclear facility workers and communities, suffer higher rates of diseases than non-nuclear communities, even with apparent normal operation of these facilities.

For more information, Contact: Cindy Folkers, Energy Future Project Coordinator, Nuclear Information and Resource Service/World Information Service on Energy, 202-328-0002