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As far as I can tell, green political parties worldwide are almost all opposed to nuclear power.

Considering nuclear power is a low-carbon source of electricity (in fact, in terms of the total-lifecycle, emissions are better than hydro or solar power reference 1, reference 2), and it had a proven track record as a power source (France sources more than 70% of its electricity from nuclear), why are green parties generally so opposed to its use or development?

To clarify, I guess it would be most interesting to hear explanations from party officials/leaders/representatives about why this is the case. Maybe some have given interviews in the past where this subject has come up?

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    Very closely related: politics.stackexchange.com/q/38414/20220 – F1Krazy Dec 4 '19 at 14:53
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    It's probably worth specifying that you're looking for explanations from party officials or documents explaining their reasoning -- otherwise you're likely to get a lot of people giving their own personal opinions on the matter. – LShaver Dec 4 '19 at 14:53
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    The proposed-duplicates seem to be far more America-centric than this question, so I'd like to see it stand. – Roger Dec 4 '19 at 15:09
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    @PoloHoleSet It is not a duplicate. That question is about a specific piece of legislation. This question is about the policies of green parties in general. – JBentley Dec 5 '19 at 12:17

13 Answers 13

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Burning fossil fuels has a negative impact on the environment. This impact is relatively well understood and predictable.

Nuclear power may have a negative impact on the environment, both when the fuel rods and reactors reach their end of life and when accidents happen. The problems of radioactive waste disposal are not solved and accidents are unpredictable, uncommon, but severe.

So one might well make the case that nuclear power is the lesser evil, but many environmentalist parties want to stop both.


Here is what the German Greens have to say:

1) Leave the climate-detrimental coal. [...]
5) [...] Nuclear power is an unpredicably risky technology. [...]

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    It’s worth combining this with some historical notes. The green political movement was largely shaped in the ’70s–’80s, when nuclear power was very new, and its risks little-understood and much greater than today. At that date, environmentalist opposition to it, for the reasons in this answer, was certainly justified. Today, many people have argued (like OP, and I agree) that nuclear is safe, clean, and well-understood enough that environmentalists should support it. But that early anti-nuclear feeling in the green movement is very deeply rooted, so many green voters are still unconvinced. – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Dec 5 '19 at 14:50
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    Comments deleted. Please don't use comments for political debates. Please use comments for only those purposes outlined in the help article about the commenting privilege. – Philipp Dec 6 '19 at 9:35
  • I don't really agree with this. While it's true that radioactive waste still presents a real problem, your claim of nuclear being unknown seems out of date. As to the claim of accidents, that's just not accurate. Sure chenobyl was huge and terrifying, but one has to remember they did everything one could ever do wrong with ancient technology after turning off their safety systems. We have better technology and learned not to act idiotic with our reactors now. Relative to it's usage nuclear has lead to fewer lives lost, and less environment harm, then coal or natural gas have. – dsollen Feb 18 at 23:52
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TL;DR: Many green political parties worldwide predate widespread concerns over climate change.

A timeline of events is in order:

1988: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is created.

1990: IPCC releases its First Assessment Report.

1992: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is adopted.

Compare this with the establishment of various political parties:

1972: PEOPLE Party (UK)

1980: Die Grünen (the Greens) (West Germany)

1983: Green Party of Canada

1984: Les Verts / The Greens (France)

1986: Federazione delle Liste Verdi (The Federation of Green Lists) (Italy)

...and so on. A review of the history of these parties will reveal that many of them were founded on explicitly anti-nuclear policy platforms.

Generally speaking, it's very difficult for any political party to make a radical shift in policy, especially over a timeframe of only thirty years or so, without alienating much of its established base.

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    I would add here that green parties are about environmentalism and not just climate change. River pollution, mistreatment of animals, destruction of lands, etc. are all big concerns as well. Nuclear power pits some of those interests against each other (protection of climate vs. protection of local environments) and many green parties are very idealistic, wanting for solutions for both. This is why you will also find some green parties on a local level who are against solar or wind power as well because of the local impact. – Fnguyen Dec 4 '19 at 17:10
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    @Fnguyen That's an important point: you should really make that its own answer, since it's something that's missing from the others. You'd get my upvote – divibisan Dec 4 '19 at 18:16
  • Comments deleted. Please don't use comments for political debates. Please use comments for only those purposes outlined in the help article about the commenting privilege. – Philipp Dec 6 '19 at 9:43
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I can explain why the Swedish green party Miljöpartiet is against nuclear power. They have lots of arguments against nuclear power, but those which they consider the most important are summarized on their web page about nuclear power:

  • Nuclear power is dangerous. Fukushima 2011 is given as an example.
  • Nuclear power causes pollution. Examples include uranium mining, enrichment and storage of radioactive waste.
  • Both nuclear power and climate change are environmental problems. Solving one problem by creating a new one is irresponsible.
  • Nuclear power is unnecessary; investing in wind, solar and energy efficiency is cheaper and quicker than building new nuclear power plants.

Another Swedish party, also against nuclear power, is Centerpartiet offering similar reasons:

  • Investments in nuclear power is unprofitable.
  • Nuclear power causes environmental problems such as uranium mining, accidents and storage of radioactive waste.
  • Nuclear power is subsidized. We are against energy subsidies.

As you can see, Centerpartiet's reasons are more economical in nature. I don't know if other countries' green parties argue similarily. Countries with cold climate and heavy industry likely has a larger need for electricity. On the other hand, countries with lots of hydro power have an easier time transitioning away from nuclear power than countries without.

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    Comments deleted. This is not an appropriate forum to discuss nuclear safety. The question asks what reasons green parties have to oppose nuclear power. Whether or not they are good reasons is a different topic for a different stack exchange site. – Philipp Dec 6 '19 at 13:17
  • Finally, after 10 minutes of scrolling, a single answer that bothered actually citing what the actual party says. – user4012 Dec 7 '19 at 17:04
  • It's funny to bring up Fukushima as an example, as casualties from it consist of 1 dead and 2 with radiation burns. A typical car crash can be worse, and there are hundreds of those happening every day. – Alice Dec 8 '19 at 0:37
  • @Alice It's not (just) about individual safety, but also ecological safety. In a 40km radius around Fukushima people had to be evacuated, but plants and animals obviously were not and they are still contaminated, though mostly not to dangerous levels. Food was still affected for years. who.int/ionizing_radiation/a_e/fukushima/faqs-fukushima/en - In the end, for all it's damage, Fukushima was a fairly contained incident, though the impact on fauna and flora is still hard to measure. The next incident might be worse and additional safety measures increase the cost of nuclear energy. – Morfildur Dec 9 '19 at 9:36
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(Note: not all Green parties oppose nuclear; see the greens are no longer anti-nuclear in Finland)

If we got all our energy from nuclear power, identified resources with extant widely deployed reactor types would last us five (5) years. This is unsustainable. (However, there exist technologies at various levels of readiness levels that can potentially extend this by a factor of 100 or more.)

Uranium and thorium are non-renewable energy sources. Therefore, nuclear power is not sustainable and impossible to use indefinitely. There's not that much currently available:

In terms of years of world energy consumption in 2000 (yWEC) these uranium resources, used in non-breeder fission reactors, would produce at a minimum an energy equivalent to 5 yWEC (identified resources), 10 yWEC (undiscovered resources), 20 yWEC (phosphates resources) and 900 yWEC (oceans resources)

Source: European Research Course on Atmospheres, 2011

For an example of a Green party politician using this argument, see Baerbock in Germany (link in German; thanks to comment by user Jan for pointing this out). The same source also quotes Fridays for Future climate activist Greta Thunberg (not in any political party afaik, but probably viewed positively by many green party members) holding a similar position.

Theoretically, resources that will last longer exist. Those are not currently technologically or economically available on a large scale, and mining from the oceans would raise unclarified ownership questions. With nuclear reprocessing or breeder reactors that can (also) burn thorium, we could last a lot longer (from what I've read, around a factor 100). There aren't many breeder reactors around, and nuclear reprocessing has its own disadvantages (see the linked wikipedia article).

Of course, only a fraction of world energy consumption is nuclear (about 4% of energy consumption and 10% of electricity production), and even if we were to adopt nuclear power much more massively than we do now, that fraction will never be close to 1; reserves should last by yWEC/f where yWEC is years of world energy consumption and f is the proportion of energy from nuclear fission. At 2014 consumption levels, identified resources are expected to last 135 years (see Wikipedia on Peak uranium for more details), so unless we identify more resources, 4× more nuclear energy would mean proven resources only last for about 35 years, less than the lifetime of a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear fission fuels are even less renewable than fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are produced by biological processes on Earth and are, strictly speaking, renewable on a scale of tens of thousands to millions of years. Nuclear fission fuels are only produced in stars and can only reach Earth as trace amounts in meteorites.

A large-scale commercial deployment of breeder reactors does not currently exist. There are only two commercially operating breeder reactors as of 2017: the BN-600 reactor, at 560 MWe, and the BN-800 reactor, at 880 MWe. Both are Russian sodium-cooled reactors. Their development would require significant research and development, and may require extensive subsidies before it can be economically independently profitable, if at all (for any research and development, the outcome is uncertain). Green parties argue that such money may be better invested in technologies that don't share the disadvantages mentioned in other answers.

Green parties argue to make a transition to renewable, sustainable sources of energy. They argue that nuclear fission power is not, and that is an argument that can be backed up by some evidence.

(Nuclear fusion power is beyond the scope of this answer.)

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  • @MarkBooth This analysis is entirely due to technology currently deployed (hence "extant reactor types"). See the penultimate paragraph about research and development for ether types. As for nuclear fusion; I don't think green parties are generally fundamentally opposed to research going on at ITER, but it remains to be seen whether that will become economically feasible in our lifetime. The ITER initiative began in 1985 and full fusion experiments are expected by 2035. I strongly support the research, but unfortunately it takes a very long time to get results. – gerrit Dec 6 '19 at 12:17
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    Also, no power source can carry our society on itself, only reduce the strain on the others. Nuclear power would allow electrification of car fleets that don't involve burning coal/oil to generate electricity to cars and railroads (instead of directly burning oil/coal to generate motion, saving the cost of energy conversion) – Geronimo Dec 6 '19 at 12:49
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    @MarkBooth I don't know about CANDU. My answer was never intended to be a full review of the nuclear industry, nor could it be. The peak uranium argument is being made in opposition to nuclear power, I didn't say or mean to imply there are no counter-arguments to be made. The question was why green parties are often opposed, not whether those reasons are universally valid and insurmountable. :) – gerrit Dec 6 '19 at 16:09
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    This is false. We have near 3000 years of uranium reserves, with reprosessing. Some couple of hundred without. – Stian Yttervik Dec 6 '19 at 20:01
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    @gerrit no, ordinary reprosessing - 'spent' nuclear fuel mainly consists of unspent nuclear fuel... Breeder reprosessing makes use of u 233, thorium and others as well (good way to safely get rid of pu) I'll make the effort to stitch together a source or two once I am on the pc. – Stian Yttervik Dec 7 '19 at 9:45
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I would attribute the basis to the monster movies of the 1950s and 1960s, which established an underlying "Omigawd, it's radioactive! We're all gonna DIE!" cultural meme.

Combine that with the fact that neither the public in general, nor the membership of "green parties" in particular, have any great understanding of science (consider the way popular SF movies have ships banking in space, and going "Boom!" in a vacuum :-(), and you have a voter base that'll readily believe whatever scare stories the extremists may make up, either out of malice or from honest ignorance.

Now add the fact that nuclear power requires large capital investments. A great many green parties might more accurately be described as watermelon parties (they're Green on the outside, but Red on the inside), and so are fundamentally opposed to the large corporations or government agencies that would be needed to build and operate nuclear plants, and IMHO you have a pretty good explanation.

Response to comments:

1) Movies from the 1950s-60s timeframe that movies and books that praised nuclear: I am not enough of a movie fan to remember any such, while I can remember many where "radiation" was the reason for whatever monster/disaster the movie was about. The books that I do recall having a benign view of nuclear power were all in the SF ghetto. The anti movies OTOH became part of the popular zeitgeist, e.g. "Godzilla", "On the Beach"...

2: "Circumstantial evidence is not enough..." Not in and of itself, but it's a pretty good pointer. Certainly there are many, many scientific & engineering studies regarding the relative safety of nuclear power. The various green groups never refer to any of these, preferring to make exaggerated claims of the dangers.

3: Fukushima et al. What seems to be ignored here is that no member of the public died from exposure to radiation. (One power plant worker later died of lung cancer that might have been due radiation.) Several dozen died as the result of forced evacuations. Over 18,000 died as the result of building cities on a tsunami-prone shore.

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    If you think the main reason is "they don't know any better" can you cite any sources? Circumstantial evidence is not enough to show that green parties by and large are ignorant. – Björn Lindqvist Dec 4 '19 at 19:42
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    This seems mostly like a rant without substance (i.e. there were also movies and books that praised nuclear as the solution for everything back then), that at the very least would need some references/reasoning to support the claim that nuclear isn't dangerous/environmentally unfriendly etc / is only opposed due to scaremongering. The classification as Red seems quite at odds with being against large government agencies, when that's typically attributed to red aka socialist/communist approaches (being in support of large governments). – Frank Hopkins Dec 4 '19 at 23:08
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    You could start with @BjörnLindqvist's own answer. Go through each of those points, and show why anyone who thinks that way is, uh... mathematically challenged is probably the most polite way to put it. For example, we know that nuclear pollutes, but it can be shown (and has been shown) that pollution from fossil fuels causes several orders of magnitude more environmental harm per kwh. Etc. – StackOverthrow Dec 4 '19 at 23:58
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    @njzk2 : and tell that to the orders of magnitudes more people who got cancer because of coal power plants. If 2 people die and 10 get cancer from a nuclear accident, it's labeled as a "global catastrophe" and featured in headlines for years, but if thousands die due to a chemical factory accident, and millions get cancer from coal power plants, chemical plants and other non-nuclear sources, it's not a big deal. – vsz Dec 5 '19 at 7:06
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    @njzk2 Tell that to the tens of thousands who had to be moved because somebody decided to build a dam somewhere. Nobody is saying that nuclear plants are not dangerous. Every industry we've ever done is dangerous. The point is that people have a tendency to treat nuclear as something especially dangerous; inflating all the risks and damages magnitudes over the many accidents (and planned damage) from "conventional" industry and power production. That makes good decision making impossible - solars, winds, waters, all are dangerous. We need to judge the risks and benefits fairly, or we lose. – Luaan Dec 5 '19 at 8:37
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The answer is simple: Green parties are similar to other political parties in that they are not entirely rational. They reflect a certain constituency's and clientele's mindset and interests.

Most Green parties emerged from a confluence of social movements of the 70s: The modern peace movement, the anti-nuclear movement, feminism, and the radical left; in the U.S. the civil rights movement was another important constituent. The original proponents were mostly young, well educated, but not immersed in society and economy in the way older people are: It was a protest movement exposing flaws which were less visible to people who were already highly invested in the system.

It is in the nature of opposition and protest to be biased: A more balanced and nuanced approach would stop providing the identity which is necessary for a protest movement. This is not necessarily bad: One often must exaggerate and overshoot in order to have an impact at all. So while there is good reason to criticize the military-industrial complex, the nuclear industry, the patriarchy and the overall capitalist socioeconomic system, the Green parties both sprung from and served to provide a home for not only rational critique; but also for a certain off-mainstream mindset. This social-movement opposition to the established ways is still part of the parties' DNA, even while they provide an institutional conduit for the critique to enter into the established political process.

The Green parties are no exception to the rule that a particular world view usually aligns with particular interests. Due to a process of mutual elimination one will not find many coal miners, nuclear Engineers or automobile lobbyists among the Greens, but instead liberal arts academics, teachers and generally non-technical folk buying organic and riding their bicycles. (I'm one of them.)

Nuclear is the enemy, and nothing will ever change that: It's part of what constitutes the movement.

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Are any party officials really needed to ask for their opinion?

Fact is, that in all scenarios nuclear energy is dangerous in all respects, and it doesn't make a real dent in terms of preventing climate change.

Going by a simulation of these complex interactions:

Scenario 1: Business as usual so far on all levels:

enter image description here

Scenario 2: Business as usual but going max nuclear:

enter image description here

Scenario 3: Business as usual but backing off from nukes:

enter image description here

Scenario 4: Going for the low hanging fruit with the biggest impact on climate change while backing off from nukes as well:

enter image description here

Scenario 5: Going for the low hanging fruit with the biggest impact on climate change while keeping all nukes highly subsidized as well:

enter image description here

The En-ROADS Climate Solutions Simulator is a fast, powerful climate simulation tool for understanding how we can achieve our climate goals through changes in energy, land use, consumption, agriculture, and other policies. The simulator focuses on how changes in global GDP, energy efficiency, technological innovation, and carbon price influence carbon emissions, global temperature, and other factors. It is designed to provide a synthesis of the best available science on climate solutions and put it at the fingertips of groups in policy workshops and roleplaying games. These experiences enable people to explore the long-term climate impacts of global policy and investment decisions.

En-ROADS User Guide, v2.7.6, December 2019

Play with those sliders for yourself.

Increasing nuclear spending gives you a lot of toxic waste, a few meltdowns and explosions, cancers and death. A hierarchical, centralised power grid, the possibility to build a-bombs.

But for reaching any climate goals the impact of nuclear power is negligible.

Nuclear power with all of the attendant dangers of nuclear proliferation, catastrophic accidents and long-lived deadly radioactive waste can make at best a negligible impact on climate change. It is used uniquely to generate electricity.
Nuclear power is dirty, dangerous and expensive. (Physicians for Social Responsibility)

Nuclear power with all of the attendant dangers of nuclear proliferation, catastrophic accidents and long-lived deadly radioactive waste can make at best a negligible impact on climate change.

10 Reasons to Oppose Nuclear Energy

And of course:

  1. Long Time Lag Between Planning and Operation
  2. Cost
  3. Weapons Proliferation Risk
  4. Meltdown Risk
  5. Mining Lung Cancer Risk
  6. Carbon-Equivalent Emissions and Air Pollution
    There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. Emissions from new nuclear are 78 to 178 g-CO2/kWh, not close to 0. Of this, 64 to 102 g-CO2/kWh over 100 years are emissions from the background grid while consumers wait 10 to 19 years for nuclear to come online or be refurbished, relative to 2 to 5 years for wind or solar. In addition, all nuclear plants emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh.
    In fact, China’s investment in nuclear plants that take so long between planning and operation instead of wind or solar resulted in China’s CO2 emissions increasing 1.3 percent from 2016 to 2017 rather than declining by an estimated average of 3 percent. The resulting difference in air pollution emissions may have caused 69,000 additional air pollution deaths in China in 2016 alone, with additional deaths in years prior and since.
  7. Waste Risk

Summary To recap, new nuclear power costs about 5 times more than onshore wind power per kWh (between 2.3 to 7.4 times depending upon location and integration issues). Nuclear takes 5 to 17 years longer between planning and operation and produces on average 23 times the emissions per unit electricity generated (between 9 to 37 times depending upon plant size and construction schedule). In addition, it creates risk and cost associated with weapons proliferation, meltdown, mining lung cancer, and waste risks. Clean, renewables avoid all such risks.

Nuclear advocates claim nuclear is still needed because renewables are intermittent and need natural gas for backup. However, nuclear itself never matches power demand so it needs backup. Even in France with one of the most advanced nuclear energy programs, the maximum ramp rate is 1 to 5 % per minute, which means they need natural gas, hydropower, or batteries, which ramp up 5 to 100 times faster, to meet peaks in demand. Today, in fact, batteries are beating natural gas for wind and solar backup needs throughout the world. A dozen independent scientific groups have further found that it is possible to match intermittent power demand with clean, renewable energy supply and storage, without nuclear, at low cost. Finally, many existing nuclear plants are so costly that their owners are demanding subsidies to stay open. For example, in 2016, three existing upstate New York nuclear plants requested and received subsidies to stay open using the argument that the plants were needed to keep emissions low. However, subsidizing such plants may increase carbon emissions and costs relative to replacing the plants with wind or solar as soon as possible. Thus, subsidizing nuclear would result in higher emissions and costs over the long term than replacing nuclear with renewables. Derivations and sources of the numbers provided herein can be found here.

–– Mark Z. Jacobson (Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Director, Atmosphere/Energy Program, Stanford): "The 7 reasons why nuclear energy is not the answer to solve climate change", June 20, 2019

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    I was surprised by those figures at first, since it seems like scenario 2 shows significant reductions in fossil fuel usage with little effect, but the lack of effect of Nuclear power seems to be driven by the long startup time: even in the Max Nuclear scenario, there is basically no increase until 2040, and it doesn't get big enough to bend the fossil fuel usage curves until 2060, at which point most of the damage has already been done – divibisan Dec 5 '19 at 16:19
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    Surely comparing scenarios 2 and 4 is completely unfair as you've maxxed out the transport, population, growth etc. modifiers for 4 but not for 2? If I do the same for 2 it produces the same result (1.7 degrees of warming) – Sean Dec 5 '19 at 16:31
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    So the time taken doesn't seem to matter. What I'm trying to point out is that comparing scenario 4 with 2 in the answer above is completely unfair comparison. Because one assumes decarbonisation of the whole economy (4), while the other assumes only some decarbonisation of energy supply (2) – Sean Dec 5 '19 at 16:39
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    @Sean The argument is not that nuclear hurts the climate, it's that it has little effect on the climate, but large possible costs elsewhere (cost, waste, possible meltdowns) – divibisan Dec 5 '19 at 16:50
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    This answer is extremely misleading as Scenario #4 has nothing to do with using nuclear or other technologies. Please revise it to be accurate. – JonathanReez Dec 6 '19 at 4:40
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Perhaps the green parties are arguing from a financial perspective:

enter image description here The Nuclear industry receives far more than 60 billion per year just for power plants and equipment. $67 Billion in 2019. Its a 200 billion dollars-per-year global industy including staff and safety. i.e. Hinkley B total running costs is 3.5 times the price of the equipment cost.

The industry therefore has huge amounts of money at stake, to spend on good marketing and lobbying. What we read about the virtues of nuclear has huge financial backing.

Green parties are not funded by nuclear lobbyists, more often by solar and wind companies, so they owe their allegiance not to nuclear, it's also a lobby/marketing fight.

Nuclear would have had a bright future if it had not been completely undercut by green technologies price-wise:

Consider a single power plant... the UK Hinkley point B extension, it costs 60 billion (estimated) to run for the next 60 years, including the 18 billion pounds development cost. That is 1 billion per year.

Most power plants currently stem from government commissions initiated prior to 2010. Since 2010, the wind and solar power costs have become cheaper, amounting to the 30% of the cost of nuclear energy... If governments had realized in 2005, when signing for the current wave of Nuclear plants, that it was three times more expensive than wind including 2000 kilometer transmission lines and megabatteries to provide a constant supply, the governments would have taken different decisions back then.

The nuclear lobby is therefore hiding the fact that the end-energy-cost of 2020 and onwards nuclear would be two or three times as expensive as green sources.

US miners have had some compensation for cancers in the previous decades, perhaps less so in France, so imagine the USSR, Africa and kazakhstan. That isn't ideal for a progressive industry.

An average uranium mine, after the miners have drilled it from caves wearing respirators and quarried it:

enter image description here

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    Solar and wind cannot provide consistent power. Gas and coal can, but they have their own issues. – JonathanReez Dec 6 '19 at 4:04
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    Technology might get better eventually, but until that happens solar and wind power cannot fully serve the needs of our civilization. Relying on vague promises of future innovation is a recipe for disaster. – JonathanReez Dec 6 '19 at 4:37
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    @JonathanReez: Relying on vague promises of future innovation is a recipe for disaster. – Great argument against nuclear energy, where there is still no reliable way to dispose of the radioactive waste that needs to be safely guarded for hundreds of thousands of years. – chirlu Dec 6 '19 at 8:28
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    @chirlu there's more than enough desolate land to store waste, contrary to what environmental activists want people to believe. Dump it in the middle of Siberia and it's a done deal - the Russians have been doing it for decades without issues. – JonathanReez Dec 6 '19 at 8:39
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    @Geromino : all the metal produced until the 18th century was melt in furnaces running on renewables. – Evargalo Dec 6 '19 at 14:33
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Because this is what their voters want.

The main purpose of a party is to represent it's voters. The policy and the statute is subject to reflect their views, and evolve with the consciousness of citizens. Green parties being opposed to nuclear power is merely a reflection of general sentiment of their voters.

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    I have upvoted, because it is plainly seen in much of politics that the opening line is true, even if not officially. It is apparent to many of us that to get votes is the goal in itself. How else can we explain politicians saying they will do one thing to get votes, then doing the opposite? Or parties who run a platform of low-tax, minimal governmental interference passing higher taxes than parties who run a platform of tax-backed social welfare? The goal is to get the office. – Aaron Dec 5 '19 at 15:29
  • @Aaron The last line of your comment contradicts the first line of the answer. If the goal is to get the office, then getting votes is still a means and not a goal. There are certainly politicians whose goal is to get into power (power corrupts and all that), but then votes are still just one way to get there. Becoming the CEO of a very powerful company and then bribing politicians is another way to get power, without getting any votes. – gerrit Dec 5 '19 at 15:44
  • @gerrit Well, the whole point of my post is the difference between goals that are written in statute (advertised) and the goals that are actually realized. Green party opposing nuclear is excellent example. How can I phrase my answer better? – Agent_L Dec 5 '19 at 20:21
  • @Agent_L If you're arguing parties are universally corrupt, not caring about their own ideology but only caring about getting into power, then state that (with sources). It would also help to add sources to show how voters of green parties think about nuclear power versus coal. But really, I think your answer assumed an overly simplistic model of multi-party politics. Parties want to not just keep existing voters, but gain new votes. From the exact starting point, one could reason green parties should support nuclear if they think it gains them more voters than it loses. How about Finland? – gerrit Dec 6 '19 at 9:03
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    @Agent_L Fair enough, I have removed my downvote. – gerrit Dec 7 '19 at 9:18
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While the opposition against nuclear energy used to be promoted by green parties, today most parties are apprehensiveness against it due to a lack of public support. The opposition against nuclear energy started well before we became worried about climate change. It is based on distrust of the nuclear industry's capability to take appropriate safety measures and to make sure waste products are kept isolated from the environment. Demonstrations against nuclear power have made the population at large to view nuclear energy as a dangerous resource to exploit. The Chernobyl accident greatly amplified this sentiment.

To exploit nuclear energy on a large scale, one needs to use breeder reactors. After Chernobyl, the Europeans canceled the SNR-300 project and the US canceled the Integral fast reactor project, which pretty much steered the World toward to disastrous situation it finds itself in today.

What was not appreciated at the time is that climate change poses a far greater risk than the potential hazards of nuclear energy. The dangers of nuclear accidents had been enormously overestimated, both due to overestimating the health effects of very large accidents like Chernobyl, and by overestimating the risk of such accidents happening in the first place. As we can read here there is a huge discrepancy between the actual number of cancer cases as a result of the Chernobyl accidents and the predicted number. This is due to the use of the unrealistic Linear no threshold model:

Those predictions were based on a theory called the Linear no threshold (LNT) model. This model was derived by studying the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who received huge radiation doses; yet there is almost no data to support the model at the sort of levels of radiation exposure caused by Chernobyl. The LNT model is, the experts admit, little more than an informed guess. Horizon's investigation has turned up evidence to suggest that there is a threshold below which radiation may be harmless.

So, by choosing not to expand the use of nuclear energy, we've lost the means to avert the real danger that poses an existential threat to our civilization. As pointed out in the article, it's not the radiation but the fear of radiation that's the real problem:

What is accepted by all the experts Horizon talked to is that for the victims of Chernobyl the real problem is not radiation - but radiophobia, the fear of radiation, which has caused acute psychological trauma.

Could we all find ourselves victims of radiophobia, as we fight shy of a technology which may be vital in the fight to save our civilization from the effects of global warming?

And now it looks like it's too late. The predicted global temperature increase under optimistic pledges is 2.9 C:

Predicted global temperature rise

This greatly exceeds the Paris accord goal of 1.5 C global temperature increase, which isn't even a guarantee to stay out of trouble. As we can read here:

This analysis implies that, even if the Paris Accord target of a 1.5 °C to 2.0 °C rise in temperature is met, we cannot exclude the risk that a cascade of feedbacks could push the Earth System irreversibly onto a “Hothouse Earth” pathway.

Hothouse Earth will pretty much end our civilization:

Our analysis suggests that the Earth System may be approaching a planetary threshold that could lock in a continuing rapid pathway toward much hotter conditions—Hothouse Earth. This pathway would be propelled by strong, intrinsic, biogeophysical feedbacks difficult to influence by human actions, a pathway that could not be reversed, steered, or substantially slowed.

Where such a threshold might be is uncertain, but it could be only decades ahead at a temperature rise of ∼2.0 °C above preindustrial, and thus, it could be within the range of the Paris Accord temperature targets.

The impacts of a Hothouse Earth pathway on human societies would likely be massive, sometimes abrupt, and undoubtedly disruptive.

So, it is the combination of severely underestimating the effort needed to curb climate change, and severely overestimating the dangers of nuclear energy that has led to the choice of abandoning nuclear energy. While at the time less was known about climate thresholds and the impact of CO2 emissions, enough was known to justify moving away from coal.

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    This seems to be focused more on how nuclear energy could have prevented the current levels of climate change, than on answering the actual question. (I agree with you, for the record, but Politics.SE isn't the place to be soapboxing about tangential topics.) – F1Krazy Dec 5 '19 at 10:52
  • @F1Krazy Opposition to nuclear energy was due to concerns about the .environment. So, the fact that climate change was not taken into account at the time, is a relevant factor. At the time, we did know enough about the dangers posed by our CO2 emissions. – Count Iblis Dec 5 '19 at 11:03
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    Most if this post addresses the question "why should green parties support (or have supported) nuclear power", not "why do they not oppose it". And although I agree we need to ditch fossil fuels before we ditch nuclear, I'm not convinced that even if we had much more nuclear power than we do, we could achieve the Paris climate agreement goals; nuclear power is suitable only for baseload and cannot cover peak demand, and a large part of CO₂ emissions is due to transport, agriculture, and industry as opposed to electricity production. – gerrit Dec 5 '19 at 11:38
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The Right are Against Renewable Energy

I think this is partly the wrong way to look at it. It is more of an issue that right wing parties or those skeptical towards climate change, conservatives etc often have a sort of tribal aversion to renewable energy.

Many conservatives view solar and wind power as a leftist, treehugger kind of thing. They don't favor it because they don't identify as a leftist or liberal. The way politics has radicalized, many will favor nuclear power for the simple reason that leftists are against it.

I am not making this up. I have had many conversations with conservatives and free market types of different shades who reject global warming as being man made. The ironic thing is that many of these people despite not regarding global warming as a problem we need to tackle strongly favor nuclear power.

This makes no sense given that, if global warming is not an issue, why would a transition to nuclear power even be necessary?

Instead nuclear power gets argued simply as a tactic to undermine efforts to pursue renewable energy production.

Why the Left is Against Nuclear Power

The simple answer is that we have much better options. Nuclear power advocacy is often simply a method of derailing the debate. Nuclear power makes absolutely no sense for multiple reasons:

  1. Solar and wind power is significantly cheaper.
  2. Solar and wind power prices drop rapidly year on year, while nuclear power prices increases or remain stagnant.
  3. Building nuclear power is very slow. It will take a long time to actually displace fossil fuel if we are building nuclear power plants.
  4. Technology development of nuclear power is very slow. New reactor designs take decades of testing and may not amount to anything. We don't have time for this.
  5. The public for good reasons doesn't like it and don't want it.

A lot of the arguments for Nuclear power is based on numerous flawed assumptions. For instance a popular argument for Nuclear advocates is how French power is significantly cheaper than German power. France of course has lots of Nuclear power while Germany is relying on renewable energy and coal.

The problem is that it is in an apples or oranges comparison. The cost of building out renewable power in Germany is factored into the electricity price. While a lot of the cost of Nuclear power in France is payed by the tax payer rather than the electricity consumer. Insuring against nuclear accidents is not included in the electricity bill, nor is the full cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants, or the risk of massive cost overruns when building new reactors.

The French energy company building and running reactors EDF is basically bankrupt and will likely need a huge taxpayer paid bailout. It has suffered huge financial blows from cost overruns of building new reactors, and it has significantly underestimated the cost of decommissioning old reactors.

Hence the price the French pay for electricity is in no way a reflection of the true cost of Nuclear power.

In fact Germany renewable energy corporations are expanding into France because they are profitable and competitive.

What About Future Modern Nuclear Reactor Designs?

There is no silver bullet in nuclear reactor design. There are almost always downsides to a design solving one issue. Pebble bed reactors for instance cannot have a nuclear meltdown by design. However in many ways they have a higher chance of causing a radioactive spill and they produce far more nuclear waste that must be treated.

Small Modular Reactors promise lower cost through mass production of smaller units. However this has never been proven nor we know if we will get the volumes that will create this price advantage. These reactors are also far less efficient and hence will consume more fuel and produce more waste.

A number of promising nuclear reactor types whether breeder reactors or thorium reactors have thus far not been demonstrated as economically viable. While we can certainly develop better design, the experience thus far has been that progress in the area simply advances very slowly.

Wind and solar power advance quickly because many units get mass produced in large factories. Nuclear power generation simply isn't mass producible in the same sense and thus you don't get the same rapid iterations and price reductions.

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    Please try to add some references to support your answer. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Dec 5 '19 at 16:52
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    It's worth mentioning that Russia and France are heavily invested in nuclear energy, both instigated under leftist administrations. – user12171 Dec 6 '19 at 0:37
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    @Rich not sure about historical France, but the major left parties in the democratic world are extremely different from the Soviet Union’s social policies, and the policies on the environment of that one-party state are not really very comparable to current political parties—too much time's passed, etc. – Stormblessed Dec 6 '19 at 4:49
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    There are some good points here, but the question was about green parties. Your answer does not even mention green parties. Not all green parties are on the left. Not all right-wing parties are against renewable energy. Can you edit your post to (1) add references, and (2) answer the question by addressing green parties? – gerrit Dec 6 '19 at 8:54
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Well, there are by-products from nuclear reactors that need to be disposed of securely, and if one knows how this is done, then one might come to know the logic behind opposition to nuclear energy. This hazardous by-product is buried deep underground, but it still going to be a problem for the environment.

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    These by-products can be used as fuel for fast-neutron reactors or transmuted. Both approaches result in a much less problematic waste that will need to be stored only for about 300 years before it's safe (approx. 10 times the half life of caesium-137). – user31389 Dec 5 '19 at 16:18
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    @user31389: To quote Jonathan Reez’s comment from another answer, “Relying on vague promises of future innovation is a recipe for disaster.” – chirlu Dec 6 '19 at 8:37
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    @user31389 Yeah, the fast breeders with a sodium/water heat exchanger, right? Tons of sodium, right? Like, the two substances which you really want to be as far apart as possible, right? Close to large amounts of Plutonium, right? I once lived together with a roommate who studied process engineering. He was literally going pale when he learned about the design. It never went live in Germany. There is a nice amusement park on the premises these days. Much safer. – Peter - Reinstate Monica Dec 6 '19 at 10:00
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica Lead has been used too. Modern designs avoid sodium for the reason you mentioned. Molten salts or gasses like helium can be used. – user31389 Dec 6 '19 at 12:14
  • Hello. Please update your question to show that this concern has been raised by a green party (which is what the question is about). – yannis Dec 7 '19 at 17:55
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The formation of green parties in the 1970s and 1980s was often a direct result of anti-nuclear politics - John Barry and E. Gene Frankland, International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics, 2001, p. 24

Obviously there are many reasons, but one of the ones not listed in any of the existing answers, is that the roots of many green parties are in anti-nuclear movements, which - using the now fashionable terms - was due to Russian interference.

For example, in Great Britain, CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), was definitely influenced by KGB (Wikipedia article lists the evidence in "Allegations of Communist influence and intelligence surveillance" section):

The British journalist Charles Moore reported a conversation he had with the Soviet double agent Oleg Gordievsky after the death of leading Labour politician Michael Foot. As editor of the newspaper Tribune, says Moore, Foot was regularly visited by KGB agents who identified themselves as diplomats and gave him money. "A leading supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Foot ... passed on what he knew about debates over nuclear weapons. In return, the KGB gave him drafts of articles encouraging British disarmament which he could then edit and publish, unattributed to their real source, in Tribune." [58] Foot had received libel damages from the Sunday Times for a similar claim made during his lifetime.[59]

The security service (MI5) carried out surveillance of CND members it considered to be subversive and from the late 1960s until the mid-1970s it designated CND as subversive by virtue of its being "communist-controlled".[60] Communists have played an active role in the organisation, and John Cox, its chairman from 1971 to 1977, was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain;[61] but from the late 1970s, MI5 downgraded CND from "communist-controlled" to "communist-penetrated".[62]

While the most known aims of the movement was against nuclear weapons, the third main capmpaign listed on Wikipedia is "The closure of the nuclear power industry", citation '"CND aims and policies". Cnduk.org. Archived from the original on 2008-04-27. Retrieved 2011-01-09.'

Relationship of CND and green movement is covered in "The Second Wave: 1980–1983" section of Wikipedia article.

Another example is USA. According to New York Times (hardly a bastion of right wing):

Over the last two years, the Danish and Swiss governments have exposed attempts by ostensible Soviet diplomats, actually K.G.B. officers, to influence or buy their way into groups trying to block deployment of new medium-range missiles in Western Europe. The cases are the best evidence offered by Western counterintelligence officers who believe that the Soviet espionage agency's highest priorities in Western Europe include attempts to exploit the disarmament movement.

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