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
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 14:53
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    Possible duplicate of Why does the Green New Deal push for green energy but not for nuclear energy? Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 14:57
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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
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 12:17

16 Answers 16


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. Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 14:50
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    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
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 23:52
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    @Baz, I'm not arguing either way, I'm reporting the public statements given by the Greens. That is what the question was about.
    – o.m.
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 19:14
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    Hydro-electric power also has serious environmental consequences (flooding valleys), can cause large numbers of deaths (through dam collapses), but any damage will be gone within a few decades, while nuclear power has the potential to cause damage for thousands of years.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 8:46
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    @JonathanReez, Germany has no operational permanent disposal site. The south of the country suggests salt mines in the north, the north suggests rock formations in the south, everybody agrees on NIMBY.
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 14:42

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
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 18:16
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    @Fnguyen the much higher deaths attributed to fossil fuels are mostly from air pollution. And consider environmental problems of coal, from the mines themselves (far more plentiful than uranium mines) to the coal slurry spills. I bet the badness of coal was evident in the 1970s, but even today the German Green party wants nuclear gone before coal. I think the reason is historical inertia, with a history more about bombs than power.
    – Qwertie
    Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 21:33
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    And perhaps it's related to the environmentalism of oil barons. According to this, oil baron Maurice Strong founded a number of environmental movements (and took an antinuclear stance). And oilman Robert Anderson gave $200,000 in 1970 to the new anti-nuclear group "Friends of the Earth" ($1.5 million 2022 equivalent; FoTE founded 1969).
    – Qwertie
    Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 21:58
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    One should remember that wind and solar weren't viable on grid scale until the 2000s (one of the first unsubsidized solar PV plants was commissioned in 2013.) Therefore, antinuclear efforts were beneficial to fossil fuels from the 1960s-1990s. This isn't to say that oilmen can't be genuine environmentalists, but that human beings don't usually believe their behavior could be bad (tobacco executives used to be avid smokers yet dismissive of the lung-cancer link). Is the oil-environmentalism link a strong one? Can't tell.
    – Qwertie
    Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 22:10

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
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 13:17
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    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
    Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 0:37
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    @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.
    – user20672
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 9:36
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    To properly explain the Green stance on nuclear power, it's important to figure out why they opposed nuclear more than fossil fuels. Germany has been following through on their plan to phase out nuclear 8 years before coal (much to coal's benefit). As with nuclear, we can make a long list of disadvantages of coal, oil & natural gas pollution, starting with lives lost. From the 1960s to1990s there was virtually no solar/wind on the grid, so opposition to nuclear helped fossil fuels. Why did greens do that then?
    – Qwertie
    Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 23:38
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    A difficulty in understanding politics is that if a political agent is for/against X, they'll use any and every argument they can think of, but this doesn't actually tell you their motivation for being for/against X in the first place, let alone why they act like X is worse than Y. Also in politics, if you demonstrate the original motivation was based on misinformation, probably you are called a shill and ignored. My hypothesis is, there was a misunderstanding throughout the cold war about how nuclear bombs are connected to nuclear power. But I have no way to prove or disprove this idea.
    – Qwertie
    Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 23:54

(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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    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
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 9:45
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    @gerrit ok, that took some time, apologies. But if you look at iaea.org/newscenter/news/… you get more of the picture. Right now, the price of uranium is so low, that reprosessing spent fuel is a higher cost than just replacing it with new. We not only have around 135 million tonnes in potentially recoverable reserves, there is also still 99% fuel in the spent rods waiting to get used. Now, factor in that we know how to create fast breeder reactors and thorium cycle reactors - it is just too expensive right now to start doing it.
    – Stian
    Commented Dec 11, 2019 at 16:26

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 fail to provide 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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    I think this is a great point. People in political parties tend to pick up beliefs of others in the same party. Instead of people just choosing leaders based on their beliefs, they pick up beliefs from their leaders! In the US it's especially striking, as there are only two parties. So there seem to be endless numbers of pundits who conveniently agree with virtually every idea associated with one party and reject virtually all ideas associated with the other. So when the anti-nukes joined the left coalition, most of the other people in the coalition became anti-nuke as well.
    – Qwertie
    Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 0:02
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    @Qwertie Maybe to a degree; but the main effect is that in the 1970s, the "traditional left" (socialists, Maoists, Trotzkists etc.) only joined the green movement that later would become the Green Party if they were disenchanted and already anti-nuke (and, to a degree, anti-tech, like anti-gene tech, anti automation, anti-industry etc.). The more "conservative left" (e.g. the GDR party) stayed strictly pro-industrial, pro-nuclear, pro-industry for ideological reasons: Industry = progress + more proletarians. The Greens, by contrast, have this romantic Thoreau-like thing going. Commented Jun 26, 2022 at 6:01

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. Commented Dec 4, 2019 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). Commented Dec 4, 2019 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. Commented Dec 4, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 8:37

Perhaps the green parties are arguing from a financial perspective:

  • Japan - Tepco 90 billion of debt on it's books
  • France - EDF 70 billion of debt, money vanishing into caviar
  • Korea - Kepco losing 3-4 billion per year in equity

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.

Korean Kepco and French EDF are both losing 3-5 billion euros per year, their share price is very low becaus wind energy is 3 times cheaper. EDF owes 43 billion to the banks and is missing another 30 billion necessary to decomission it's power stations. Korean Kepco's share price in 2022 is 33% of what it was in 2017.

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.

60 billion is sufficient to buy 400TWh/yr of wind generators, the total of the french nuclear fleet in 2014. Despite it struggling at 285TWh in 2022. (Heliade X unit is 10 million pounds, 73GWh/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. Commented Dec 6, 2019 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. Commented Dec 6, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 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. Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 8:39
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    @Geromino : all the metal produced until the 18th century was melt in furnaces running on renewables.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 14:33

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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 9:03
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    @Agent_L Fair enough, I have removed my downvote.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 9:18

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

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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

  • 7
    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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 16:19
  • 8
    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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 16:31
  • 7
    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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 16:50
  • 6
    This answer is extremely misleading as Scenario #4 has nothing to do with using nuclear or other technologies. Please revise it to be accurate. Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 4:40

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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 10:52
  • 1
    @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. Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 11:03
  • 2
    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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 11:38

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.


I want to clarify labeling I am using in my answer first. While being leftist and green is not entirely the same, green parties tend to be leftist or centre-right. Whether something is left or right, depends on the political spectrum of the society you live in. So when I single out the political right here, it is because the most vocal opposition to green policies tend to exist on the right, while leftist parties tend to also be green parties to different degrees.

The Populist Right are Against Renewable Energy

The primary reason the question about why Greens or the Left are against Nuclear power is in my experience because the populist right are trying to undermine the effort to expand renewable energy.

Climate denial is strongly linked to right wing populism. Nuclear power is more popular on the right than on the left, and often viewed as the best solution for climate change.

Right wing populists such as Donald Trump e.g. has significantly boosted investment in Nuclear Energy. This while calling climate change a hoax and vilifying renewable energy.

We see the same sentiment echoed in populist right wing media such as Breitbart. They push numerous articles presenting climate change as a hoax, while at the same time attacking the left for being against Nuclear Power.

They embrace Andrew Yang and Cory Booker e.g. for being in favor of Nuclear power as a way to fight climate change. Yet it is hypocritical to praise either one for this argument given that Breitbart believes climate change is a hoax. In other words what point is there in Nuclear power if there is no climate change going on?

Coal power is significantly cheaper than nuclear power. Nuclear is quite expensive. It would only make sense with nuclear power if you had no access to cheap coal or there is no other way to reduce CO2 emission.

This is a classic distraction tactic. Here is a great example of it with Breitbart news. Climate change is being mocked as a hoax while at the same time they are praising Mike Shellenberger, despite the fact that he is fighting climate change. So why does he get the praise? Because he is pushing nuclear power. Logically speaking this praise makes no sense given that he pushes to stop something Breitbart believes is a hoax.

However to the right wing populists Nuclear power is simply a way to attack and mock the left and undermine the effort to transition to renewable energy.

Anyone interested in this could follow Shellenberger on twitter and notice he has a huge following among climate deniers despite being an environmentalist. This is all due to this Nuclear advocacy.

Why Green Parties and the Left are 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.

  • 12
    Please try to add some references to support your answer.
    – JJJ
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 16:52
  • 3
    It's worth mentioning that Russia and France are heavily invested in nuclear energy, both instigated under leftist administrations.
    – user12171
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 0:37
  • 3
    @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. Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 4:49
  • 3
    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
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 8:54
  • @gerrit thanks for the feedback, I have tried to nuance my answer and substantiate better the link between right wing populism and nuclear advocacy. I will try to dig up references about renewable costs and nuclear costs later. But I hope this is a step in the right direction ;-) Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 13:19

Historically, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons have been intertwined. To acquire nuclear isotopes for nuclear weapons one needs nuclear reactors. Uranium based nuclear reactors can either produce just weapons grade materials, or they can do that and produce nuclear energy at the same time.

Thorium based nuclear reactors can only produce energy and waste. Their fission products cannot be used for nuclear weapons, which is one of the reasons why they have not been developed.

People have been trying to ban nuclear weapons since the end of World War II.

The unusual nuclear reactor destroying events that occurred at Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011), as well as the Windscale (1957) and Kyshtym (1957) events spread a lot of radioactive nuclear material around the world. These events, as well as Three Mile Island (1979) and others elsewhere, raise questions about the safety of nuclear reactors and the effect they can have on the environment.

The other way radioactive material has been spread around the world was via atmospheric nuclear testing.

As others have mentioned in comments and answers to this question, Greens politics began in the early 1970s, usually starting with non-nuclear environment issues. Anti nuclear positions became part of their platforms, which included nuclear disarmament and opposition to nuclear energy. French atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific during this period re-enforced a mindset. The last French atmospheric nuclear test was in 1974. The mindset still continues.

If something catastrophic occurs at a coal or gas fired power station, the effect is local. When a catastrophe happens at a nuclear power station the effect can be global and because long lived radioactive material is involved people get very concerned.

  1. "Green" is not exclusively about carbon emissions.
  2. Extraction processes for uranium are expensive, energy-expensive, and leave toxic waste sites in their wake when the mines are considered to be depleted. Toxic waste sites would be contrary to "green" values.
  3. They still don't have an answer for what to do with the waste. No one wants it, and it stays dangerous for long periods of time, and we've seen that nothing we build lasts forever, let alone for centuries, so pretending that we'll just "figure it out" could result in toxic consequences. Until we have a safe answer, "green" advocates probably won't accept just hopeful thinking.
  4. Uranium must be enriched to be useful for nuclear fission. Enrichment requires energy. Currently, that means using methods that are more carbon intensive than fission, itself, to enrich the ore to be fission-ready.
  5. While safe in terms of likelihood of an accident, when those accidents do happen, the potential damage and length of long-term effects are potentially large.
  6. Fission by-products are dangerous in other ways. One way to more efficiently handle fission waste is to re-process the spent fuel to retrieve usable uranium, and to harvest plutonium, which can also be used for fission. The biggest worry about this is that, while enriching uranium to high enough levels to be weapons-grade is a technological hurdle that is both daunting and somewhat easy to track, the ability to turn plutonium into a nuclear weapon is much, much easier. While that is more of a proliferation issue, I think it is generally accepted that nuclear weapon use and the risk of that use is contrary to "green" values.

While one may or may not agree with those arguments as obstacles to greater nuclear energy generation, it does illustrate that "green" concerns go beyond just CO2/KWh considerations.

But that's my take on the arguments. Here's Greenpeace, themselves, laying out why they don't think nuclear is considered "green":

Greenpeace: Six reasons why nuclear energy is not the way to a green and peaceful world


In another answer here I said that the function of Green parties, like all parties, includes providing a political identity for their clientele which leads to policies which are not entirely rational.

But today I came across an interesting interview with an "elder statesman" of German environmental politics, Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker. He is a physicist like his father Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, of the eponymous Bethe–Weizsäcker or CNO cycle of nuclear fusion.

The younger Weizsäcker has been active in climate protection science and politics since the 1980s. The interview addresses, among other topics, a question related to this one: Can nuclear power be a climate saver? His answer includes a statement which is entirely relevant here (translation by me):

SPIEGEL: Climate researcher Jim Hansen, who, in 1988, was the first to warn about climate change in front of the U.S. congress, is now betting on nuclear power because the other solutions appear too slow to him. Can you relate to that?

Weizsäcker: I consider that a massive mistake. First of all, nuclear power cannot be separated from weapons and terrorism, and that pushes the peace question, which is of equal importance to the climate question, to the margins.

That is a crucial point for this discussion because the peace movement is another one of the major roots of the Green parties. The inseparability of nuclear power and nuclear proliferation is a showstopper.

  • 1
    But Japan for example is using nuclear power peacefully to a great extent but does not pose any significant military threat to anyone (so far). Not sure if there is a substantial "green" party in Japan, but maybe that proves that one could separate nuclear power from nuclear weapons. Aren't there nuclear power station design working with low enriched Uranium which is as such rather unsuitable for nuclear weapons unless you enrich it additionally? One could then additionally be totally open and transparent about the whereabouts of all radioactive material used. Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 10:35
  • @Trilarion Probably one of a handful of countries you'd trust with that. As for weapon: A dirty bomb with conventional detonation and large-scale nuclear contamination could be produced from any spent fuel. Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 10:42
  • @Trilarion Protecting the plutonium from unauthorized access is another issue I didn't even go into here: In effect, every nuclear power must significantly ramp up surveillance and correspondingly curb their citizens' rights in order to prevent abuse ("the nuclear state"). Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 10:48

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.

  • 2
    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
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 16:18
  • 3
    @user31389: To quote Jonathan Reez’s comment from another answer, “Relying on vague promises of future innovation is a recipe for disaster.”
    – chirlu
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 8:37
  • 2
    @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. Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 10:00
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 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
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 17:55

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