Joint press release: Nuclear power cannot be a climate solution - COP28


The 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) opened on November 30, 2023, in the United Arab Emirates. Today, the third day of the COP, the United States took the lead and announced a pledge to triple the nuclear energy capacity worldwide by 2050, with around 20 countries including Japan showing their support.

Nuclear power is an unstable, dangerous, and economically unreasonable source of power, polluting the environment and violating human rights, from uranium mining to operation, decommissioning, and disposal of nuclear fuel. It should not be regarded as a solution to the climate crisis. 

The pledge to triple the nuclear capacity worldwide by 2050 is simply not realistic. World leaders have not learned from the failures of the nuclear industry in recent years. For example, Toshiba, a leading Japanese company, was brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the failure of its nuclear power business in the United States. Just recently, NuScale Power, a U.S.-based company, announced the cancellation of its plan to build small nuclear reactors (SMR). It was obvious that NuSscale’s SMR was not price competitive even after a large subsidy injection. Spending public money on nuclear power, which has no future, will only unjustifiably enrich the nuclear industry.

To tackle the climate crisis, it is necessary to phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible. False “solutions” such as nuclear power will only delay real action and strengthen existing structures of injustice. 

In response to the announcement, civil society organizations and activists from around the world issued the following comments.

The world has already witnessed many crises caused by nuclear power. Nuclear power plants are not only expensive but also unstable and dangerous sources of power, prone to accidents and troubles. In Japan, nearly 13 years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, but the situation is far from over and people are still suffering from its effects. The disposal site for high-level radioactive waste has not been determined. Keeping nuclear power plants running will leave a huge burden on future generations. Kanna Mitsuta, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Japan

“Promoting a nuclear expansion at COP 28 is only a plan for climate failure. If this is what the Biden Administration has to offer, the rest of the world should stop listening,” said Tim Judson, executive director of the US-based NGO, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “Hinging climate action on nuclear energy could derail the entire Paris Agreement and block any possibility of keeping global warming below 2C, much less 1.5C. The Biden Administration knows this, because building nuclear power plants has already proven to be a total failure, both in the US and the rest of the world. More than half of the nuclear reactors proposed in the US have been canceled over the last 60 years, the average construction time of those that were completed is over 10 years, the cost of construction has risen steadily for the industry’s entire history, and nearly every project has significant cost overruns and delays. We already know what actually works. Wind and solar are the cheapest and fastest-growing sources in the world, and other renewable, efficient solutions for a clean energy transition are on the same path. If the US government wants to be a leader, then it must first stop pushing failed techno-fantasies and false solutions like nuclear power and carbon capture, use its power and influence to advance a just and equitable transition to renewable energy, and pay its fair share for climate finance and loss and damage.” 

“It is baffling that in 2023 countries like Japan are still promoting nuclear as a solution to the climate crisis. The nuclear industry has proven time and again to be a major source of destruction, it has no role to play in the just and equitable energy transition we so direly need. We have no time to waste on such false solutions that only delay and distract real and adequate action to address the climate crisis." Friends of the Earth International, Lise Masson

“Introduction of nuclear power plant usually takes 20 years and it will do nothing to deal with the climate change we are currently facing. While we are waiting for the nuclear power plant to be constructed, we have to rely on existing fossil fuel infrastructure which will delay decarbonization. The cost of nuclear power plants far exceeds that of renewable energy. The number of climate-related shutdowns at nuclear power plants has increased about eight times over the past 30 years. Nuclear power plants are highly vulnerable to climate change. The government and industry forcefully promote costly and time-consuming nuclear power rather than renewable energy that is cheaper and faster to introduce, but it does not do any good for either decarbonization or for consumers” Hajime Matsukubo, Executive Director of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center

“Nuclear power is vulnerable to both climate change and wars. Increasing number of climate change consequences, such as floods, hurricanes, droughts, heat waves or storms, are creating big risks for nuclear safety. While wars are increasing the risk of military attacks, such as happening at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant in Ukraine. Nuclear power in today’s unstable world creates additional risks of radioactive disasters. It also poses a risk of nuclear proliferation because every civil nuclear plant produces nuclear materials that can be used to create nuclear explosive device or dirty bomb. Compare it to renewables where such risks do not exist" Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman for environmental group Ecodefense and the laureate of Right Livelihood, alternative Nobel prize.

Japanese energy policy heavily depends on fossil fuel and Japan has not committed to total coal phase out. Without fossil fuel phase-out, we cannot solve the climate crisis even if we increase the production of nuclear power. In the past, Japan increased its nuclear capacity but it did not decrease the emission at all. After the nuclear crisis in 2011, Japan’s emissions decreased due to the expansion of renewable energy and energy saving. Moreover, nuclear power plants were mostly being shut down while decreasing emissions. Legal actions and extra safety measures prevent the restart of nuclear power plants in Japan and it is unclear if Japan meets its energy target with nuclear power. While the cost of nuclear energy increases, the cost of renewable energy keeps decreasing. It does not make any sense to triple the production of nuclear power by 2050.” Mie Asaoka, Attorney at Law and President of Kiko Network

“Pro-nuclear voices have put a lot of money and effort into this CoP to promote nuclear power as a climate response. We don’t agree. Existing nuclear technology is high cost and high risk and new or ‘next generation’ nuclear, including the heavily promoted small modular reactors (SMR’s), is unproven and not in commercial deployment anywhere in the world. We need effective climate action, not nuclear distractions. The Australian experience of communities and First Nations people with the impacts of uranium mining, nuclear testing and waste dumping has shown the gap between nuclear industry rhetoric and lived reality. Our shared energy future cannot be built or based on industry assurances or politicians promises. Renewable energy is proven, popular, safer, cheaper and far more deployable. Our low carbon energy future is renewable, not radioactive.” Dave Sweeney, Nuclear policy analyst, Australian Conservation Foundation

“Despite being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change I still don’t support nuclear energy as a climate solution because I know as a Marshallese person the destructive, volatile nature of nuclear energy. To this day we’re still feeling the horrific consequences of the US nuclear weapons testing program on our country so to see if touted as a climate solution is horrifying.The solutions are already here. Cheap, reliable and safe renewable energy like wind and solar are proven and expanding. We can’t afford to be distracted, renewables should be our focus.” Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Climate Envoy for the Republic of the Marshall Islands

“The legacy of nuclear in the Asia Pacific region is a harmful one, as is the legacy of climate-destroying fossil fuels. This is not a climate solution, and it should not be greenwashed as one. It is not safe for our people nor is it affordable. To address the worst of the climate crisis, we need to urgently phase out fossil fuels and transition to genuine climate solutions like safe, clean, fair renewable energy." Joseph Sikulu, 350 Pacific Managing Director

“There is no space for dangerous nuclear power to accelerate the decarbonization needed to achieve the Paris climate goal. In Japan, we experienced the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster in 2011, of which the cause is still unidentified and from which many are still suffering. Japan must stop using the climate crisis to justify its addiction to nuclear energy while it allows carbon-intensive industries to prolong fossil projects. It is nothing more than a dangerous distraction. The attempt of a “nuclear renaissance” led by nuclear industries’ lobbyists since the 2000s has never been successful – it is simply too costly, too risky, too undemocratic, and too time-consuming. We already have cheaper, safer, democratic, and faster solutions to the climate crisis, and they are renewable energy and energy efficiency.” Masayoshi Iyoda, 350 Japan Campaigner


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