Our Monster

i remember a conversation clearly from nearly 20 years ago.  i was in Prague, i was talking with several talented grassroots campaigners about a recent failed action attempt at the Temelin nuclear plant by the newly formed Czechoslovak chapter for Greenpeace.  There was quite some criticism of Greenpeace but then one activist said.  “Greenpeace is a monster, but it is our monster and if it did not exist we would have to create it.”

I feel this strongly today.  GP is on the ground at Fukushima forcing the government to expand the evacuation zone to include 115K more people (in the 20 to 30KM distance from the meltdowns) by revealing radioactive contamination data that shows people are at risk.  GP called Fukushima a level 7 disaser 3 weeks ago, only now the government is agreeing.  And this week GP is landing in Vienna.

Vienna is the ironic home of the IAEA.  Ironic because Austria held one of the most famous and democratic battles over  the fate of nuclear power.  Only Austria and Italy in the world have closed operating reactors at the will of the people.  But the world headquarters for the UN’s top body on nuclear safety and proliferation control is in Vienna – the city was chosen to host the bureaucracy before the reactor was closed.

Greenpeace is decaring the Vienna summit on nuclear safety an evacuation zone.  It is time to stop pretending the solution is making better reactors and instead stop building new ones and shut down the old ones.  Germany is going to show us how.

Here is the press release from the action

Greenpeace declares evacuation zone at Atomic Energy Agency HQ

The organization calls for end of Nuclear Age
April 14th 2011, Vienna – Greenpeace activists created a symbolic evacuation zone in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna today, demanding that representatives of countries attending its safety committee meeting start moving towards a global phase out of nuclear energy.
The activists created the evacuation zone around a steaming cooling tower symbolising nuclear power plants and unfurled a banner with the
words ‘Exclude Nuclear power from our future’ during the final session of the IAEA’s Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), which comes just days after the Japanese government upgraded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis to the same level as Chernobyl (1).
”There is only way to ensure nuclear safety and that’s to phase out nuclear power”, said Greenpeace Campaigner Aslihan Tumer. “The countries represented here today in Vienna must learn the lessons of Fukushima, and commit to phasing out nuclear power and instead invest in both energy efficiency and in safe, secure and clean renewable energy sources.(2)”
“The Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters prove that nuclear can never become a safe method of electricity production, despite the efforts of governments and the nuclear industry to play down the risks. What we’re seeing in Fukushima is that the consequences of nuclear accidents can reach levels far beyond any rating scale”, continued Tumer.
Greenpeace also criticised the IAEA’s role during the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, calling the IAEA’s recommendations, comments and information policy on Fukushima contradictory and not transparent.
“The IAEA claims to be an independent watchdog on atomic energy, yet actively promotes nuclear power. This is clearly an unsustainable position, and results in the kind of contradictions we have seen during the Fukushima crisis, with the agency regularly circulating dated, inconsistent and unreliable information(3). The IAEA should abandon its promoting role and change its mandate into phasing out nuclear energy in the
safest possible way”.
Aslihan Tumer, Greenpeace International Energy Campaigner, (m) +31 6 4616 2022
Melanie Beran, media contact, 0043-664-6126718
Patrizia Cuonzo, Greenpeace International Communication, (m) +31 6 461 62038Photos available on request, John Novis, Greenpeace International Picture Desk, +31 (0) 629 00 1152
Notes to the Editor:
(1) On april 12th the Japanese government has labelled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident as INES level 7.
 (2) Energy efficiency and state-of-the-art renewable power are solutions to our power needs and at the same time with the potential to reduce CO2 emissions quicker and cheaper than nuclear energy can, while being safer, reliable and globally applicable. An outlined scenario has been published in the Energy [R]evolution available athttp://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/climate/2010/fullreport.pdf
While a more specific  feasibility study focussed on Europe in presented in „The battle of the Grid“ athttp://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/climate/2011/battle%20of%20the%20grids.pdf
(3) Examples of the contradictory and misleading information provided by the IAEA:

  • Hydrogen explosion at Daiichi unit 2 reported with a 2-day delay
  • “controlled release of vapour” (March 13, on the venting of „radioactive“ steam that caused most of the iodine contamination now being observed.)
  • “dose rates in Tokyo and other areas outside the 30-kilometre zone (…) are not dangerous to human health”. (March 20, contradicting established scientific understanding that there is no safe radiation dose)
  • “No significant risk to human health has been identified” (March 23, referring to the entire situation).
  • IAEA first confirmed that Iitate town had to be evacuated, but two days later backpedaled and revoked its statement

No one else is doing this in this flashy media smart way – and it desperately needs to be done.
Picture Credit:  Temelin Blockade 1991.  Honza Beranek is in the center of the picture with an odd hat.  He is 20 in the picture, and soon to become my boss (i was 34).  Best boss i ever had.  Now he runs the Greenpeace international nuclear campaign.