By T. Marshall
I’ve been asked an unsettling question a number of times since I’ve been at the COP21 meeting in Paris this week, and that is “Why would nuclear be part of a climate conference?” The unfortunate genesis of the question is in the continued stigma that nuclear struggles to shake off as a “dangerous and dirty” energy. I wish you could have seen the face of a newspaper reporter from Bangladesh when I explained that nuclear is low-carbon, in answer to his question, “What’s the difference between nuclear and coal, aren’t they the same (carbon emissions)?”
Then there is the matter of an entire booth devoted to urging Japan to move ahead without nuclear energy, featuring a photo of an explosion at the Fukushima plant.
The good news, however, is that Nuclear for Climate’s two booths (in the Blue Zone hall accessible only to delegates and media, and in the La Galerie business exhibit hall also accessible to accredited visitors) have had a steady stream of interested visitors. While some seem surprised, and some stop to tell us they are opposed to nuclear energy, the majority are genuinely interested in discussing how their nations are progressing with nuclear programs.
On the afternoon of December 2, representatives of the Association des Ingénieurs en Génie Atomique (AIGAM) from Morocco gave an interesting presentation at the Nuclear for Climate booth about their plans for building nuclear energy in the country by 2050. They are moving forward with government and private support, and a clear plan for the future.
Nuclear is also front and center at the U.S. Department of Energy exhibit, with a large 3-D printed model of a reactor. While we would have liked to see more mention of nuclear energy at the large U.S. exhibit in the “countries” hall, we are expecting nuclear to get much more attention once Secretary Moniz arrives this weekend.
Today, we’re looking forward to a press conference featuring climate scientists and environmentalists James Hansen, Tom Wigley, Ken Caldeira, and Kerry Emanuel, who are expected to make a major announcement in which nuclear will figure prominently.
There will be more to come for nuclear in the days ahead.
Ms. Marshall is the Director of Communications and Outreach at the American Nuclear Society.