By Michael Mariotte

The nuclear industry is well-represented inside the conference hall; anti-nuclear groups haven’t been allowed to set up information booths.

Last Saturday, December 5, two NIRS staff arrived in Paris and joined anti-nuclear colleagues from across Europe for the United Nations climate conference. Officially, this is the 21st Conference of Parties on climate, or COP 21 for short. All year, we have been working as part of the Don’t Nuke the Climate coalition, preparing to mobilize thousands to COP 21 under the nuclear-free, carbon-free banner we flew at the People’s Climate March in New York City last year. That march was, in fact, the first wave of grassroots mobilization to fight for a strong, legally binding climate treaty. Especially with the conference happening in the most nuclearized country in the world, we’ve expected a major push to turn climate action into a feeding trough for poison power. And our expectations have not been disappointed.

The good news so far is that nuclear is not even mentioned in the drafts of the climate agreement presented over the last several days. There have been enough countries opposed to nuclear for there to be zero consensus on what to say about it: not a solution, not a problem, no clear direction at all. That might sound good, and is better than an agreement that promotes nuclear power.

But you wouldn’t know that by actually attending the COP. The nuclear industry and its governmental allies in the U.S., France, and elsewhere are here in force–with exhibit booths and events promoting nuclear power as a climate solution–whereas no explicitly anti-nuclear groups have been allowed to have an exhibit booth or hold an official event. Those decisions were made before the prohibition on public protests after the horrible violence on November 13 that have dampened the voice of protest outside the UN conference grounds. But they underscore the influence of corporate sponsors at the COP–like Electricite de France (EDF), the largest nuclear power company in the world. The industry is desperately trying to make itself seem relevant in the face of global stagnation, and avoid accelerating into rapid decline.

Of particular concern are the actions of the U.S. government here. Three months ago, the Obama administration enacted the U.S.’s first major climate action regulation–the Clean Power Plan–which determined nuclear is not a good way to reduce carbon emissions. But in the weeks leading up to the COP, the White House held a special summit on nuclear power, announcing new research and development programs and putting out misleading information on the “opportunities” for nuclear under the Clean Power Plan. And on the opening day of the conference, President Obama held a press conference with software tycoon Bill Gates to promote investment and research in nuclear reactor designs as supposed climate solution. Then, on the second day, he announced that the US would not accept a treaty with legally binding emissions targets.

That is better than some had hoped, but falls far short of what is needed at this stage in the game: …read more

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