Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nuclear Issues: Alternative Laureates Want Nuclear Plants and Weapons Abolished

By Jutta Wolf Courtesy
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

BERLIN (IDN) - Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award and members of the World Future Council have called for a global phase-out of atomic power reactors as well as the abolition of nuclear weapons. In a joint statement, fifty laureates said the Japanese nuclear disaster had raised global awareness of the extreme dangers that can result from nuclear power generation.

"Grave as these dangers are, however, they are not as great as those arising from the possession, threat and use of nuclear weapons -- weapons that have the capacity to destroy civilization and end most life on the planet," laureates of what is also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize warn.

The conclusion they draw from the nuclear power plant accident in Japan is "that the human community, acting for itself and as trustees for future generations, must exercise a far higher level of care globally in dealing with technologies capable of causing mass annihilation, and should phase out, abolish and replace such technologies with alternatives that do not threaten present and future generations".

This, the statement published on March 29, 2011 says, applies to nuclear weapons as well as to nuclear power reactors.

While extending their "deepest sympathies" to the people of Japan who have experienced a devastating earthquake and tsunami followed by severe damage to the Fukushima nuclear power station, the laureates say, the disaster in Japan has demonstrated "once again the limits of human capability to keep dangerous technologies free from accidents with catastrophic results".

They argue that natural disasters combined with human error have proven a potent force for undermining even the best laid plans. Reliance on human perfection, they add, reflects a hubris that has led to other major failures of dangerous technologies in the past, and will do so in the future.

"What has occurred as a result of the confluence of natural disaster and human error in Japan could also be triggered purposefully by means of terrorism or acts of war."

The joint statement says that in addition to accidental or purposeful destruction, nuclear power plants pose other threats to humanity and to the human future.

The laureates warn that the large amounts of radioactive wastes that are created by nuclear power generation will remain highly toxic for many times longer than human civilization has existed. This is because there is currently no long-term solution to dealing with the threats these radioactive wastes pose to the environment and human health.

"Further, nuclear power plants, with their large societal subsidies, have diverted financial and human resources from the development of safe and reliable forms of renewable energy."

Establishing a linkage between atomic energy and nuclear weapons of mass destruction, the statement explains: "Nuclear power programs use and create fissile materials that can be used to make nuclear weapons, and thus provide a proven pathway to nuclear weapons proliferation."

This is evidenced by the fact that several countries have already used civilian nuclear programs to provide the fissile materials to produce nuclear weapons. Other countries, particularly those with plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities, could easily follow suit if they decided to do so, the laureates say.

"The spread of nuclear power plants will not only make the world more dangerous, but will make more difficult, if not impossible, the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world," asserts the statement issued by experts, activists, politicians, clergy, entrepreneurs and scientists from 26 countries.

Countering the widespread argument that atomic energy helps tackle climate change, the joint statement argues: "Nuclear power is neither the answer to modern energy problems nor a panacea for climate change challenges. There is no solution of problems by creating more problems."

In fact, nuclear power does not add up economically, environmentally or socially, the laureates say. "Of all the energy options, nuclear is the most capital intensive to establish, decommissioning is prohibitively expensive and the financial burden continues long after the plant is closed."

Jakob von Uekull, founder of the Right Livelihood Award and the World Future Council, says: "To get a grip on climate change and on nuclear threats is not a technological challenge. It is a psychological and political challenge."

He adds: "With this declaration we want to demonstrate how strong the worldwide support for a global nuclear phase out is. We believe that a crisis can always be a chance for change.”

Among the signatories of the declaration are: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai from Kenya, environmental activist Vandana Shiva and Ashok Khosla, Co-President of the Club of Rome, both from India, Maude Barlow, UN Consultant from Canada, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, human rights activist from Nigeria, Alexander Likhotal from Russia, President of the Green Cross International, Francisco Whitaker Ferreira from Brazil, Co-Founder of the World Social Forum and Erwin Kräutler, Austrian and bishop in Brazil.