Anti-nuclear movement

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The term "anti-nuclear" can embrace those who oppose nuclear energy and those who are against nuclear weapons. Here it means the former[1].

The anti-nuclear movement is those people and organisations who are opposed to nuclear energy on principle, as distinct from having reasonable criticisms of specific facets of the technologies, or concerns based on lack of understanding or misinformation. The essential distinctions are whether or not they are prepared to change their opinions when presented with new evidence, and whether they accept the scientific consensus for example the IPCC assessment of nuclear energy. This is similar to climate denialism, opposition to modern agriculture (especially biotechnology), and medicine (especially vaccines).

There are various factors involved in these sorts of un- or anti-scientific positions.

One factor is ignorance, or lack of accurate information. In science communication terms this is known as "information deficit". Some people will revise their opinions when presented with accurate information from trusted sources; this may be friends, family, professionals, etc whose judgement they trust, or the scientific literature, or a combination. Others, especially organisations, will reject more accurate information, often "moving the goalposts" to raise other objections, but never accepting more accurate information and changing position. Often scientific evidence is rejected as tainted if involves the work of experts working in the relevant fields, with the implication, or explicit claims, of conspiracy motivated by personal gain. For example climate denialists have claimed that climate scientists are conspiring to perpetuate a global warming "hoax" to protect their careers and research grants.

A particular factor is political and cultural positions. Political conservatives tend to reject climate science whilst political left/liberals tend to reject solutions such as nuclear energy and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage. Amongst Greens an attitude that "small is beautiful" conflicts with large nuclear projects, and even large offshore wind farms. Historically there has been an attitude amongst environmentalists that plentiful energy would be harmful for society.[2][3]


Germany’s ‘Energiewende’ as a model for Australian climate policy? Graham Palmer, Energy Matters; June 2014

history of anti-nuclear movements in Germany & Australia

Shellenberger On The Anti-Nuclear Movement: A Synopsis William Walter Kay; Principia Scientifica International; 21 Nov 2018

Synopsis of Michael Shellenberger's views on the anti-nuclear movement.
(Note: Principia Scientifica International is an AGW denialist organisation)

Beyond Nuclear

site hosting a range of anti-nuclear scare stories, approvingly citing Helen Caldicott


Mark Lynas' criticism

Time for the Green Party – and the Guardian – to ditch anti-nuclear quackery Mark Lynas; blog; 21 April 2011

Lynas discusses Chris Busby, his "purportedly scientific research outfit" Green Audit "which has spent years ‘discovering’ non-existent leukaemia clusters and around Britain and blaming them on nuclear power stations", former Green Audit people Paul Dorfman, and Richard Bramhall and Molly Scott Cato

Green Audit

According to their website Green Audit was founded in 1992 by Chris Busby, Patrick Adams and Molly Scott Cato. Adams left the operation in 1995 to become a farmer in Devon.

Paul Dorfman

Dorfman is a former member of Chris Busby's Green Audit.

Nuclear Consulting Group

In his LinkedIn bio Dorfman describes himself as Founder of the anti-nuclear "Nuclear Consulting Group", launched in 2007, which describes itself as "an independent, non-profit virtual institute dedicated to providing expert research and analysis of nuclear issues". It is supported by the Greenpeace Environmental Trust. It claims to comprise "leading academics and experts in the fields of environmental risk, radiation waste, energy policy, environmental sustainability, renewable energy technology, energy economics, political science, nuclear weapons proliferation, science and technology studies, environmental justice, environmental philosophy, particle physics, energy efficiency, environmental planning, and participatory involvement." Its members include the Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Earth (FoE) England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Kate Brown, author of the "deeply flawed and clearly biased"[4] Manual for Survival about the effects of the Chernobyl accident, the author of a 100% renewables study in Australia, a nuclear campaigner with FoE Australia, an Australian Green Party senator, a Greenpeace nuclear campaigner, a Greenpeace scientist, an anti-nuclear campaigner, an editor of The Ecologist, and Jonathon Porritt.[5]

European Climate Foundation

The European Climate foundation, founded in 2008, is an international non-profit organisation whose stated aims are to promote climate and energy policies that it says would reduce Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and to help Europe play a stronger international leadership role in mitigating climate change. (From Wikipedia)

It explicitly promotes only renewables for climate mitigation in the energy sector, implicitly excluding nuclear energy and the use of fossil fuels with Carbon Capture and Storage, contra the findings of IPCC WG3 assessments[6]:

At the heart of the zero-carbon economy will be an energy system that has moved beyond fossil power to renewables such as wind and solar. This means more than simply moving beyond coal. Europe must avoid falling into a new addiction to other polluting energy sources.

In a 2017 report it calls for the "proactive retirement" of nuclear generation in France,[7] even where that would require a compensating increase in inefficient open-cycle gas turbine generation (claiming that the running hours of the gas plants would be "very low").[8]

Carbon Brief

Carbon Brief is funded by the European Climate Foundation.[9]

Energy Watch Group

German based anti-nuclear group.

Their 'About Us' page says:


The Energy Watch Group (EWG)* is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan global network of scientists and parliamentarians.

The network was established in 2006 by an international group of parliamentarians under the direction of the then-member of the German Parliament Hans-Josef Fell with the idea that zero-emission technologies and especially the field of renewable energy needed much more political advocacy in order to withstand the political influence of the conventional energy sector.

Until today, policies are often shaped by international organizations and governments heavily influenced by the conventional energy industry that profits from the status quo. The powerful fossil and nuclear industry often use science as a tool to serve their own interests, leading to an intentional underestimation of the growth potential of renewable energy and its manifold opportunities for mankind.

As an independent think-and-do-tank, we are committed to change the status quo and open new perspectives, giving a voice to objective science. We are dedicated to change political action towards 100% renewable energy and climate protection.

  • The EWG is a project of the Global Eco Transition gGmbH.


Research & Publications

  • Developing 100% renewable energy scenarios
  • Critical & fact-based analyses of status quo & review of external energy analyses
  • Analysing impact of new technologies
  • Investigative analyses on political influence of fossil & nuclear industry

Monitoring & Communications

  • Monitoring energy trends & political developments
  • Social media activities & publication of monthly newsletter
  • Tracking global divestment progress via Divestment Tracker
  • Own events & participation at international conferences

Political Advice & Advocacy

  • Close exchange with network of parliamentarians & other political decision-makers to disseminate scientific findings, transfer experiences & share best practices
  • Developing policy recommendations for implementation of 100% renewable energy roadmaps

Fossil fuel industry astroturf campaigns

No Nuke Subsidies: Let the Free Market Work Natural Gas Now blog

Natural Gas Industry Blasts Nuclear Power With Fake News James Conca; Forbes; 15 Jun 2017

The American Petroleum Institute has flooded the airwaves in Ohio and Pennsylvania with anti-nuke commercials by pushing fear – fear of higher prices and fear of radiation.

Food and Water Watch

Dark Money Behind Food & Water Watch Ad Blitz Attacking Clean Energy in New York Environmental Progress; 9 Jun 2017

A $14 million-a-year anti-nuclear outfit called Food and Water Watch refuses to say who is funding its slick, last minute TV ad blitz and lobbying effort aimed at killing New York's largest source of clean energy in the state legislature.

The climate scientist James Hansen calls Food & Water Watch the "most anti-environmental of all the anti-nuclear groups in New York" Environmental Progress; 3 Nov 2016

“It’s sad to see the effort by Food and Water Watch to close New York’s largest source of clean power, nuclear energy," said climate scientist James Hansen in a statement today. "If their efforts succeed, they will increase fossil fuel burning, pollution, asthma, and premature deaths. With its campaign, Food and Water Watch has established itself as the most anti-environmental of all of the anti-nuclear groups operating in New York state. Thank goodness Governor Cuomo is exhibiting good common sense on this matter.”

Nuclear and AGW mitigation

Nuclear power : a false solution to climate change Sortir de Nucleaire

French anti-nuclear group Wikipedia
Makes series of claims against nuclear energy, including GHG emissions, expense, waste, disaster, proliferation; and argues for conservation, 100% Renewables (citing ADEME and Jacobson) and Germany

‘Emission free’ nuclear power is more greenwash Justin McKeating; Greenpeace blog

How Nuclear Power Causes Global Warming Harvey Wasserman; The Progressive; 21 Sep 2016

Supporters of nuclear power like to argue that nukes are the key to combatting climate change. Here’s why they are dead wrong.
A Gish Gallop of anti-nuclear claims ranging from misleading to completely untrue.

False solution: Nuclear power is not 'low carbon' Keith Barnham; Ecologist; 5 Feb 2015

Claims that nuclear power is a 'low carbon' energy source fall apart under scrutiny, writes Keith Barnham. Far from coming in at six grams of CO2 per unit of electricity for Hinkley C, as the Climate Change Committee believes, the true figure is probably well above 50 grams - breaching the CCC's recommended limit for new sources of power generation beyond 2030.


Point Refuted a Thousand Times: “Nuclear is not low-carbon” Luke Weston; Energy Reality Project; 2015

This is a rebuttal to Barnham’s recent opinion piece in The Ecologist titled, False solution: Nuclear power is not ‘low carbon’.

So, it’s 2015 and we’re still having to go back over Storm van Leeuwen and Smith, again?

This was debunked and done to death and put to bed over 10 years ago ...

William T. Vollmann - No Immediate Danger

The Ideology of Fear: William T. Vollmann and Nuclear Power Will Boisvert; Progress and Peril; 9 Apr 2018

Review of No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies

Hot water

'Hot Water': Film Review Frank Scheck; The Hollywood Reporter; 16 Mar 2016

The doc features extensive commentary by scientists and academics who testify to the negative long-term effects, including Dr. Helen Caldicott, who has devoted much of her career to opposing nuclear power. Another party heard from is former congressman and environmental activist Dennis Kucinich, who happens to be married to the film's co-producer, Elizabeth Kucinich.

But the array of talking heads, impressive and convincing as they are, don't have the impact of the personal stories included, such as the moving accounts by the members of a Native American South Dakota clan who have suffered abnormally high cancer rates (the director actually steps out from behind the camera to comfort one tearful subject). Comments are often blunt and to the point, such as when one testifier declares, "Water killed my mother."

We hear about such things as the contamination of livestock, resulting in tainted meat; high levels of cancers and birth defects among people living in affected areas; and the huge costs of clean-ups, which are inevitably passed on to the public.

Footnotes and references

  1. Science for Sustainability opposes nuclear weapons
  2. Amory Lovins, 1977

    If you ask me, it'd be 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.

  3. Robert Stone

    ... we also thought that as you provide societies with more energy it enables them to do more environmental destruction. The idea of tying us to the natural forces of the wind and the sun was very appealing in that it would limit and constrain human development

  4. "Review of “A Manual for Survival” by Kate Brown" by Professor Jim Smith, University of Portsmouth, who Brown consulted for her book.
  5. Nuclear Consulting Group "about" page
  7. Cleaner, Smarter, Cheaper, downloaded from website dated 21 November 2017
  8. "Cleaner Smarter, Cheaper" report page 35:

    Secondly, over half of the retired coal and nuclear capacities are compensated by an increase in gas capacity (around 35 GW of new OCGT capacities is built) to compensate for the lack of demand side flexibility in this sensitivity. Still, the running hours of these new plants are very low. This comes with increases in cost.

  9. Carbon Brief website "About Us page"