Environmental pioneer James Lovelock welcomes “green label” for nuclear power

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The British physician, chemist and biophysicist James Lovelock, who is now 103 years old and a pioneer in the environmental movement, sees the EU Commission’s proposal for a taxonomy regulation in a positive light. “Only nuclear energy can meet the massive energy needs of modern civilization,” he said New Zurich newspaper (NZZ).

In its proposal for a taxonomy regulation, the EU Commission also envisages classifying nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable. He does not know which arguments and counter-arguments the EU has discussed, but he is pleased “that it is finally beginning to understand that carbon burning is the main cause of today’s climate problems, said Lovelock in the NZZ. Although “impressive amounts of energy can be obtained from renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydropower”, these are neither constant nor reliable.

Lovelock was already warning of the consequences of climate change in the 1960s. In 1971 he was one of the first to demonstrate increased concentrations of chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere, which are fatal for atmospheric ozone. He became world-famous with his book “The Gaia Principle”. In the meantime, he has changed his assessment of global warming, saying that climate change is not happening as the models predicted, he said in an interview with Technology Review at the end of 2016.

In 2004 Lovelock wrote for the British Independent an article in which he referred to nuclear energy as “only green solutiontouted that burning natural gas instead of coal or oil releases half as much carbon dioxide, but unburned gas is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. “Even a small leak would neutralize the benefit of gas.”

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“I actually endeared myself unpopularly by advocating nuclear power as safe energy,” Lovelock said. He suspects massive propaganda by the coal and oil industries against nuclear energy, which they saw as a threat to their prosperity. In addition, many people lack physical and chemical understanding, “even young scientists often prefer biology to these mathematics-heavy subjects”.

The fear of nuclear power plants was initially based on the experience with the atomic bomb and its terrible consequences. “Nuclear power plants were seen by many as a big bomb in their own neighborhood. And indeed, today we fear climate change in a similar way that we feared the bombs after World War II,” Lovelock said.

The amount of nuclear waste that is generated by generating electricity from nuclear power plants is not huge. “Compared to the waste from burning coal or oil, they are actually very small.” He and his wife were taken through nuclear waste dumps and were able to see for themselves how insignificant the disposal problem was.

The Fukushima disaster in 2011 was primarily a natural disaster, the tsunami killed more than 15,000 people, it also damaged the local nuclear power plant, but nobody was killed there. Not even the smallest amount of radiation can cause cancer. “If that were the case, I probably wouldn’t be answering your questions now, at almost 103 years old.”

With this, Lovelock ties in with what he wrote in 2004: “We must stop worrying about the smallest statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Almost a third of us will die from cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air , loaded with this ubiquitous carcinogen, oxygen.”

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