Commentary & Analysis from Platts
Nuclear industry flubbed in Kyoto
Bonn (Nucleonics Week) 25 Jul 2001

After 178 countries agreed in Bonn on July 23 to disqualify nuclear energy for credits to help developed countries meet their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the biggest nuclear industry lobby group in the U.S., said in a public statement it was "astonished" by the outcome. It shouldn't have been. During the Bonn negotiations, while industry spokesmen were giving media interviews explaining how nuclear energy creates massive carbon dioxide emissions savings, their critics were working overtime to meet with most of the delegations who would actually do the voting on the United Nations-sponsored agreement. That strategy and dedication paid off. Nuclear industry officials in Bonn said they had already done most of their work before the conference began July 16. But interviews with many negotiators suggested that previous effort was misdirected. Industry counted on G-8 countries including Canada and Japan to hold the line against efforts to eliminate nuclear from Kyoto. That failed, and industry thereafter blamed a handful of Green ministers in the European Union (EU) for the outcome. But in fact, a broad global coalition crystallized in Bonn against including nuclear power, representing all continents and all levels of economic development, from the poorest states such as Myanmar and Congo to rich non-EU countries like Switzerland, South Korea, and Singapore. Diplomats from these last three said that the nuclear industry over-focused on the wrong message: CO2 reductions. Said one Singapore delegate: "Did we doubt that nuclear power can save carbon emissions? Of course not. Our doubts were about nuclear waste and safety," particularly in developing regions with weak infrastructures such as China and eastern Asia where nuclear plant-exporting countries expect to earn emissions credits by building reactors. Those concerns were capitalized on not only by environmental lobbyists but by countries exporting oil and coal.--Mark Hibbs, Bonn (