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Day 2 – COP23 in Bonn – Press, discussions and hope

marraskuu 8, 2017

A (surprise) press conference on heat decarbonization with nuclear

My second day in Bonn started with a somewhat surprising press conference. What was so surprising about it? It was held by me, and Eric Meyer from Generation Atomic. I presented my study (free pdf available) on how to decarbonize Helsinki Metropolitan area completely (heating, electricity and liquid fuels) by 2050 with small, advanced nuclear reactors. In addition, we talked a bit about how the climate and decarbonization discussion is revolving around electricity, which represents just 20 % of our energy use, and how we should be talking much more also about ways to decarbonize heating, process heat and synthetic fuels made from clean hydrogen.

But yeah. I had a press conference at the COP climate talks, on my research. Achievement unlocked. Not sure how many Finns have done that before, independent or otherwise. Video will be posted later (as we get a proper version edited).

So how did that happen? It’s the story of me telling Eric that I’m available while in Bonn, Eric knowing someone who knew someone who was up for giving their press conference slot for these sort of new ideas on how to decarbonize our energy supply and provide people with affordable, abundant energy. So, Jimmy, a representative of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, offered us the slot. And we took it, of course.

It was too bad that due to the Bonn public transit system having a nervous breakdown that morning, there was only a handful of people present. But then again, we did it, and there will be a video of it.

A “wasted” panel on Nuclear’s role in mitigating climate change

In the afternoon, we had a 2-hour presentation and panel discussion on the role of nuclear power in mitigating climate change. There was Anouk and Petros representing the young generation in nuclear, Tay representing Generation Atomic and their grassroots efforts to keep operating nuclear power plants open in the US and elsewhere, and Kirsty and Wolfgang from Energy for Humanity. Eileen did a splendid job of moderating the whole event.

Kirsty and Tay

So while the presentations they gave were good and inspiring, why did I call it “wasted?” Well, mainly because of the efforts by a handful of anti-nuclear commentators to steer the discussion away from the actual subject (how to mitigate climate change more efficiently with nuclear included in the toolbox) into a perpetual circle of “yeah what about the waste, what about the cancers, what about the uranium/mining, what about Russia building reactors (as they did build Chernobyl…) what about the waste, what about the risks…” and on and on and on.

Anouk and Petros

While some of these people were no doubt genuine in their worries and had simply been fed misinformation through poor and motivated studies (debunked a million times and in direct conflict with what WHO, UNSCEAR and other institutions have found out), some of them are there simply to do just that: keep the discussion away from the possibilities and firmly on the negatives. I know this, as I have seen these people in other nuclear-related events, posing the exact same questions with the exact same purpose.

Here is one graph that, if people wanted to listen and learn, would pretty much answer all of their questions and worries regarding the health effects of the nuclear industry.

This graph is based on data from multiple studies and statistics. Main data is from the European Commission’s ExternE-study and an article published in The Lancet medical journal (2007). The source for the numbers (with further references) is this article published at

The thing about the numbers in that graph is that they include, to the best ability of the researchers and authors (dozens of international, multidisciplinary teams working for many years in the Externe-study for example), the entire fuel chain from mining to transporting to fuel fabrication and so forth, the reactors being built and operated, the possibility/likelihood of severe accidents, the dismantling of the reactors and the final disposing of the radioactive waste for up to 100,000 years, and so forth. With all those included, nuclear is still pretty much the safest way to make energy.

For the next such event, I recommend this picture is shown in the beginning, with the above explanation what has been included in the data. It could help people regarding their anxieties and move the discussion along to more important matters: how to stop climate change as efficiently as possible. If needed, the picture can be shown again if someone still has questions regarding the safety of nuclear power.

France keeping its climate leadership!

The long day was made much brighter by the French announcement to postpone their plan to force a smaller share of nuclear in their electricity mix (a law set by the previous government with little to back it up). It is especially encouraging, as I was one of the signatories of our Open Letter to President Macron a couple months ago. This is another (others: 1 and 2) recent, big step towards more sensible, pragmatic and efficient climate policy. Let’s keep on going!


ps. I will write and publish my journal from COP23 when I have the time to write, so its not real time.

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