By Michael Mariotte

From the beginning of the nuclear fuel chain exemplified here by Australia’s Ranger uranium mine, to the end of the chain characterized by lethal radioactive waste with no scientifically-defensible storage method, nuclear energy is dirty energy.

NIRS is launching a new campaign today, called #NuclearIsDirty. Over the next twelve weeks, we will be rolling it out through a series of online events, publications, and social media forums. #NuclearIsDirty is a forum to inform the public of the real environmental impacts of nuclear power, from the mining of uranium and production of reactor fuel, all the way through to the long-term storage and management of radioactive waste.

The rollout series will follow the story of that nuclear fuel chain, combining technical information with testimony from real people whose communities are affected. As you know from our commentary and advocacy in the pages of GreenWorld, NIRS is committed to a nuclear-free, carbon-free world, and strong action on global warming and climate justice. We believe the transition to 100% renewable energy is not just possible, it is necessary.

The human and environmental costs of nuclear power are not abstract. They are not an “accident,” though so-called accidents are what most people think of. As Mary Olson’s reports from Japan over the last few weeks show, real people are hurt by nuclear power. Real communities are destroyed. Whole regions can be devastated–environmentally, economically, and socially. And while nuclear plant disasters like Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island are the most dramatic and well-known examples, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

So when the nuclear industry mounts an expensive public relations campaign to label nuclear power as “clean” energy, that is no joke. But why launch #NuclearIsDirty now?

The five-year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster–and the upcoming thirtieth of Chernobyl–makes for appropriate timing. But the real reasons are much more important and immediate.

We need to end the myth of “clean nuclear power.” For the last two years, GreenWorld has monitored a new wave of efforts to bail out and prop up nuclear power. The industry’s objectives are primarily financial: subsidizing their increasingly uneconomical power plants against competition from cheaper and cheaper renewable energy sources. That has included both attacking renewable energy programs, as well as proposing new subsidies for old reactors.

This has proven a pretty tight needle for nuclear lobbyists to thread, and has not met with much success, so far. Strong opposition from renewable energy supporters and cost-sensitive energy consumers has blocked most of the industry’s subsidy proposals from moving forward so far. But the industry is playing a long game, working to change perceptions of nuclear power, at least in the minds of policymakers.

One of the consistent messages they are pushing is that nuclear power is “clean energy.” They are repeating it over and over again, in op-eds, press releases, and through paid spokespeople. It’s a tried and true PR strategy: if you tell a lie often enough and long enough, people will start to believe it. And if you are looking for …read more

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