There is a widespread perception that there is a considerable degree of support for nuclear power among environmentalists. Typically such claims refer to people such as James Lovelock and Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore. Yet Lovelock is a self-confessed eccentric who has always supported nuclear power. Moore has been on the payroll of corporate polluters for the past two decades and is currently funded by the Nuclear Energy Institute − a connection which is rarely made explicit in media commentary.

Beyond the dubious examples of Lovelock and Moore, there is precious little support for nuclear power among environmentalists (Friends of the Earth, 2007). Tim Flannery is held up as an Australian pro-nuclear environmentalist. Flannery has made pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear statements, and he has said that: “What I know about uranium you could write on the back of a postage stamp.” (Blue, 2008)

In 2006, Channel 9’s ‘Sunday’ program in Australia hosted a debate on nuclear power including someone claiming to be a representative of ‘Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy’, who acknowledged that the organisation has no existence in Australia and that to the best of his knowledge the organisation has no other supporters in Australia. Yet this phantom group gets a platform on a national, televised debate! This highlights one feature of the ‘pro-nuclear environmentalist’ phenomenon – it is to a considerable extent media-driven. For every self-described pro-nuclear environmentalist there are at least as many people who have shifted in the opposite direction – but this is not considered newsworthy.

A micro-party called ‘Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy’ was formed in 2009 but it was deregistered in April 2010. Despite claims by the party that it had more than 600 members, the Australian Electoral Commission found that it did not have the minimum of 500 members required to maintain federal registration. The party was previously known as Conservatives for Climate and Environment and was described by Labor strategists as a ”Coalition front organisation”. (Dorling, 2010)

There is abundant evidence of strong and unwavering environmental opposition to nuclear power – and that includes many environmental organisations primarily concerned with climate change. The Climate Action Network, an international network of 340 non-governmental organisations, opposes nuclear power and has waged an ongoing battle against proposals to subsidise nuclear power through Kyoto Protocol mechanisms and other avenues such as international financial institutions and export credit agencies. Likewise, in June 2005 a statement from over 270 environmental groups was released rejecting nuclear power as a ‘solution’ to climate change (www.nirs.org).

In Australia, a December 2010 statement opposing nuclear power was endorsed by all major national environment groups, all state conservation councils, and key climate groups such as Climate Action Network Australia. (www.choosenuclearfree.net/energy/joint-statement)

* Blue, Tim, 25 January 2008, ‘Save the world – but you can still have fun’, The Australian.
* Dorling, Philip, 7 April 2010, ‘Pro-nuclear party runs out of energy’, www .canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/pronuclear-party-runs-out-of-energy/1796166.aspx
* Friends of the Earth, 2007, ‘Environmentalists Do Not Support Nuclear Power: Critique of James Lovelock and Patrick Moore’, www .foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/nfc/power/nuke-enviros/view