STEPHEN TINDALE: ON GOING PRO-NUCLEAR

Last week, we sat down with Stephen Tindale, former director of UK Greenpeace, to discuss why, after many anti- years, he decided to go pro-nuclear.

If you’re interested in hearing more about nuclear issues and you’ll be in London this week, check out our Seriously Stimulating Debate Series.

This event is invite-only, so email Nick (nick@casualfilms.com) to get on the list.

Can you tell us why you now support nuclear energy, when you used to oppose it? 

Because it’s less bad than fossil fuels. It will take decades to phase out fossil fuels, so nuclear is needed at least as a low-carbon bridge technology.

How do you believe the 250,000 tonnes of nuclear waste we already have globally can be managed safely? (And assuming part of your answer maybe that we use it to make power, what about the waste from that?)

It is pretty safe – nuclear waste doesn’t kill people. Coal does. The existing ‘waste’ should be reused in advanced nuclear reactors. The waste that comes out of that (much smaller quantity) should be vitrified.

The costs associated with Hinkley Point rise each year – does this concern you and do you believe nuclear can be an economic solution (including waste management costs) when the average cost for nuclear is around $11bn per gigawatt compared to $3bn per gigawatt for solar?

Of course cost is a concern. The EPR is an over-complicated reactor design. Other existing designs (eg AP1000, ABWR, CANDU) are more economic. Fact that solar is cheaper is irrelevant – we need both to get rid of fossil fuels asap.

Do you believe nuclear energy and nuclear weapons can be truly separated?

Yes. Some countries have got nuclear power but not weapons. There are other, cheaper and quicker ways to get nuclear weapons than to build civil nuclear reactors. But proliferation remains a serious issue. Gen IV is less risky in proliferation terms (and in every other way) so should be developed and deployed asap.  

Do you believe nuclear plants will ever be able to be insured?

No. Serious accidents are very unlikely and very rare, but when they occur they are very expensive.

Is there truth in those saying that the Nuclear industry is increasingly lobbying against renewables and that the do not really want coexistence but they actively want to ensure subsidies from renewables reach their industry? 

True of some in nuclear industry. But more true that many in renewable industry are tribally against nuclear, and also want to get hold of nuclear subsidies. Tech tribalism is a major problem for clean energy progress. All should unite against coal.

What do you think are the real figures of people affected by Chernobyl (killed and physically impaired)? 

Killed, WHO says 4,000. Don’t know impairment figures. Chernobyl was a serious disaster, but was not an accident. It was a experiment carried out in an operating reactors, and shows the need for very firm regulation

What is the real cost of nuclear energy per gigawatt hour? Please explain your answer!

The ‘real’ cost would have to include all externalities. The externalities of nuclear are much less serious than those of fossil fuels, so the real cost of nuclear is lower than the real cost of fossil fuels. Higher than most renewables, but that is irrelevant. We need both.

What did you think of the pro-nuclear film Pandora’s Promise

Terrible name. And not a great film: no credible anti-nuclear voices and no serious coverage of the proliferation issues.

Do you think there will be any progress (either way) on nuclear at COP21?

No. There will be no progress on anything at COP21. UNFCCC is basically just a talking shop. National (and EU) policy much more important.

Now are you interested? This event is invite-only, so email Nick (nick@casualfilms.com) to get on the list!