Corporate interests in the IPCC report – nuclear energy

While publications from the World Wildlife Fund that are referenced to in the last IPCC report have recently received some public attention, sources related to corporate (eg nuclear) interests seem to be of no concern – even though they are used to sustain more central claims than the infamous WWF report. The IPCC’s claim that nuclear energy “is therefore an effective GHG mitigation option” seems to be entirely based on reports by nuclear corporations and their lobbying organisations….

Chuck Norris makes nuclear power plants safe - and carbon neutral...?

An error in the IPCC’s fourth assessment (AR4) report (well explained here) has recently been reported by a number of newspapers and caused some excitement within the blogoshpere (mainly amongst climate sceptics, who claim they ‘do not believe’ in the scientific evidence of global warming that is due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels): A projection that Himalaya glaciers may disappear until 2035 included in the AR4 was not based on peer-reviewed science, but solely on a report of the World Wildlife Fund WWF (this version already includes a correction).

Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).

The IPCC has admitted the error, and climate denialists again try to make us believe this undermines the credibilty of climate science as a whole.

Other than some optimists may believe, none of this stops climate change from happening. There are people more expert then me explaining this every day – so I decided to have a look at something different:

I do not believe the climate movement should take over the defense of the IPCC or peer-review science for two reasons: First, scientists are able and better placed to speak for themselves and second, there I one point in which I may agree with some sceptics (and certainly most scientists): Don’t take anything for granted only because it is published by a nobel-price winning institution. There may be specific interests involved that are worth having a look at. However, I do not believe this or the consensus mechanism leads the IPCC to exaggerate global warming – on the contrary. As NASA scientist Jim Hansen has pointed out, science rather tends to be overly cautious in its warnings.

So I decided to check if the WWF was the only non-scientific source cited in the AR4 that might be suspected to have a partisan view on things. Now – surprise, surprise – it isn’t. I started off with working group one (the physical science basis), chapter two (an arbitrary choice) and found our eco-campaigning friends from British Petroleum, cited as BP 2005. To be fair, that is one source out of hundreds and their numbers are only used to extrapolate other statistics for two further years.

this is where the bp data was used in chapter 2 of WG I

Not quite a big scandal, but a first hint that non-scientific sources do not always have to have a pro-environmental bias…

I then went on to working group three – mitigation – and looked at the chapter on energy supply. Quite a number of the references in that chapter are not from peer-reviewed journals. However, I left aside those from public and international governmental bodies (even though some of those clearly have pro-nuclear or fossil fuel positions) and only checked for the involvement of coroprate interests. And here we go:

Total life-cycle GHG emissions per unit of electricity
produced from nuclear power are below 40 gCO2-eq/kWh
(10 gC-eq/kWh), similar to those for renewable energy sources
(Figure 4.18). (WEC, 2004a; Vattenfall, 2005). Nuclear power
is therefore an effective GHG mitigation option, especially
through license extensions of existing plants enabling
investments in retro-fitting and upgrading. Nuclear power
currently avoids approximately 2.2–2.6 GtCO2/yr if that power
were instead produced from coal (WNA, 2003; Rogner, 2003)
or 1.5 GtCO2/yr if using the world average CO2 emissions for
electricity production in 2000 of 540 gCO2/kWh (WEC, 2001).
However, Storm van Leeuwen and Smith (2005) give much
higher figures for the GHG emissions from ore processing and
construction and decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

WEC is the world energy council – basically a confederation of enery corporations, including Vattenfall itself, a swedish firm operating nuclear power plants in several european countries. WNA is the world nuclear association – “the international organization that promotes nuclear energy and supports the many companies that comprise the global nuclear industry.” (from the WNA website). Rogner 2003 is a contribution to a conference, downloadable from the WNA website. Storm van Leuween and Smith (2005) refers to a study by Dutch consultants for the European Greens. None of these sources is peer-reviewed, most of them (and those that have been given more weight, see citation above) are related to nuclear power business interests.

In this case, I didn’t pick out the one exception from loads of peer-reviewed science. And the question isn’t negligible at all: While the dangers from radioactive waste, possible accidents and uranium mining are not necessarily the core business of climate science and thus the IPCC, the question how much carbon dioxide is emitted from nuclear power plants and associated technology sure is. And the IPCC offers an answer to that question – one that seems to be entirely based on contributions from nuclear companies and their associations.

Another area that may be worth a deeper look is carbon capurage and storage – quite a few of the sourced cited in that respect are related to business interests as well. This following is an arbitrary choice of references in chapter 4 of WG 3 that may be (or often clearly are) related to fossile, nuclear or ccs corporations. Shall I have a look on the paragraphs about carbon trading one of these days?

BP, 2004: Statistical review of world energy, BP Oil Company Ltd.,
06480 accessed 05/06/07.
BP, 2005: BP Statistical Review of world energy. BP Oil Company Ltd.,
BP, 2006: BP Statistical review of world energy. BP Oil Company Ltd.,
London. accessed 05/06/07.

CAPP, 2006: Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, http://www.capp.
ca/raw.asp?x=1&dt=NTV&e=PDF&dn=103586 accessed 05/06/07.

Dellero, N. and F. Chessé, 2006: New nuclear plant economics. IYNC
2006 conference paper 234, Stockholm, Sweden – Olkiluoto, Finland,
18-23 June, AREVA, World Nuclear Association, http://www.worldnuclear.
org/info/inf63.htm accessed 05/06/07.

Dow Jones, 2006: Kratwerk mit pilotanlage fur CO2 abscheidung in
Beitrib. Dow Jones Trade News Emissions, 19 May, 10, 11 pp.

Hendriks, C., W. Graus and F. van Bergen, 2004: Global carbon dioxide
storage potential. Ecofys, TNO, Utrecht, Netherlands.
(Ecofys is a consultancy company that is doing JI/CDM and CCS, among others)

Huijer, K., 2005: Trends in oil spills from tanker ships 1995-2004:
International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF). London.

Maeda, H., 2005: The global nuclear fuel market – supply
and demand 2005-2030. WNA Market Report, World
Nuclear Association Annual Symposium 2005, accessed 02/07/07.

Mago, R., 2004: Nuclear power – an option to meet the long term
electricity needs of the country. Nuclear Power Corporation of India
Ltd, Mumbai, India.

NEI, 2006: Nuclear facts. Nuclear Energy Institute,
doc.asp?catnum=2&catid=106 accessed 02/07/07.
“The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is the policy organization of the nuclear energy and technologies industry and participates in both the national and global policy-making process.” (from

Plouchart, G., A. Fradet, and A.Prieur, 2006: The potential of CO2
Capture and Storage of worldwide electricity related greenhouse
gases emissions in oil and gas fields. Paper at the 8th Greenhouse gas
technologies conference, June 19 – 22, 2006: Trondheim, Norway.
(Georgia Plouchart and Anne Prieur attended the conference for the french petroleum institute IFP, a public body that has however invested in an enterprise that is supposed to have its share of the ccs market, Aude Fradet attended for the energy corporation edf)

Rogner, H.H., 2003: Nuclear power and climate change. World Climate
Change Conference (WCCC), Moscow (20 September-3 October), accessed

Shell, 2006: Sustainable choices, stakeholder voices: 2005. Sustainable
Development Report, pp. 36.

UIC, 2005: Civil liability for nuclear damage. Uranium Information
Centre, Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper # 70, December, http://www. accessed 02/07/07.
The Centre is funded by companies involved in uranium exploration, mining and export in Australia.

Vattenfall, 2005: Certified environmental product declaration of electricity
from Forsmark NPP (updated 2005) and Ringhals NPP. S-P-00021&
S-P-00026, June 2004.
reg/026/Chapters/Dokument/EPD-Ringhals.pdf accessed 03/07/07.

new links:,14,0&epdId=24
(the ‘independent’ EDP has been developed and carried out by the swedish enivoronmental managment council, one of whose three member organisations is – Vattenfall. The procedure is following an ISO norm)

WNA, 2003: Global warming. Issue Brief, January 2003, World Nuclear
Association, accessed
WNA, 2005a: The global nuclear fuel market: supply and demand 2005-
2030. World Nuclear Association report,
info/ accessed 03/07/07.
WNA, 2005b: The new economics of nuclear power. World Nuclear
Association report,
economics.pdf accessed 03/07/07.
WNA, 2006a: World nuclear power reactors 2005-06 and uranium
requirements. World Nuclear Association, May 2006, http://www. accessed 03/07/07.
WNA, 2006b: Nuclear power in China. Issue Brief, World Nuclear
Association, February 2006:
accessed 03/07/07.


6 responses to “Corporate interests in the IPCC report – nuclear energy

  1. Schön rausgearbeitet…aber Du verbesserst das Google-Linking von Klimaskeptikern, wenn Du sie verlinkst.
    Die World Energy Reviews von BP werden in der Energietechnik häufig benutzt, das ist in etwas so wie die Shell Jugendstudie.

  2. Pingback: Dove i ghiacciai non arrivarono, forse ci riuscira’ la World Nuclear Association « Il Tafano Climatico

  3. “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. This book is very easy to read and understand. It was NOT written by the nuclear industry. Gwyneth Cravens is a former anti-nuclear activist.

    Page 13 has a chart of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production. Nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas [CO2] than any other source, including coal, natural gas, hydro, solar and wind. Building wind turbines and towers also involve industrial processes such as concrete and steel making.

    Wind turbines produce a total of 58 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Nuclear power plants produce a total of 30 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, the lowest.

    Coal plants produce the most, between 966 and 1306 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Solar power produces between 100 and 280 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Hydro power produces 240 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Natural gas produces between 439 and 688 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Remember the total is the sum of direct emissions from burning fuel and indirect emissions from the life cycle, which means the industrial processes required to build it. Again, nuclear comes in the lowest. Nuclear would produce even less CO2 per kilowatt hour if the safety were lowered to the same level as other sources of electricity. Switching from coal to nuclear is a 97% reduction in electricity’s 40% of our CO2 output.

    Page 15: The Sierra Club used to favor nuclear power over hydro but switched for political reasons.

    Page 17: Coal kills 24000 Americans and 400000 Chinese every
    year. Nuclear has killed ZERO Americans total. Hydro has
    killed 1000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Chinese.

    Page 35: Your golf clubs may contain depleted uranium [DU].
    Don’t worry, and don’t confuse DU with spent fuel. DU is what is
    removed from the uranium to make it enriched in U235. DU is
    pure U238. U238 has such a long half life that it is almost not
    radioactive. DU is safe to handle, but don’t eat it because it is a
    chemical poison. Heavy metals in general are poisons, radioactive
    or not. DU has other uses that depend on its high density.

    Page 50: Power reactors make Plutonium 240 [Pu240]. Pu240 is
    useless for making bombs. Plutonium bombs require Pu239.
    Pu239 is made in reactors that are specialized for making Pu239.
    Governments own Pu239 makers, not power companies.

    Page 60: 0.0007 pounds of uranium enriched to 4% without
    recycling produces as much energy as 149 gallons of oil or 157
    gallons of regular gasoline or 17000 cubic feet of natural gas or
    1780 pounds of coal.

    Page 70: Natural background radiation where the author happens
    to be at the time is higher than what people living at Chernobyl are
    getting. The US national average background radiation is 360

    Page 71: The natural background radiation in northeastern
    Washington state is 1700 millirem/year.
    The natural background radiation on the Zuni uplift is 500 to 700
    The natural background radiation in New Mexico is greater than the
    calculated dose from the Three Mile Island meltdown, if you were
    next to the reactor.
    A chest x-ray gives you 10 millirem.

    Page 72: The natural background radiation inside Grand Central
    Station is 600 millirem/year because Grand Central Station is made
    of granite. [ALL rocks are radioactive.]
    The allowed exposure to the public from a nuclear power plant is
    15 millirem/year.
    A set of dental X-rays gives you 39 millirem.

    Page 74: Smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day gives your
    bronchial airways 1300 millirems/year according to the NCRP OR
    8000 millirems/year according to the National Academy of

    Page 75: A coal fired power plant gives you 100 to 400 times as
    much radiation as a nuclear power plant. Worldwide, an average
    person gets 0.01 millirem/year from nuclear power plants, the same
    as eating one banana. Bananas contain potassium and some of the
    potassium is radioactive potassium 40. This has always been the

    Page 76: The cancer rate in New Mexico is much lower than the
    national average but the natural background radiation is much
    higher than average. The highest rates of cancer are around heavy
    industry, chemical factories and petrochemical factories. [Benzene,
    a petroleum distillate, is a very powerful carcinogen.]

    Page 77: Natural gas contains radon, a radioactive gas.

    Page 86: Among 80000 nuclear bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cancer rate was only 6% higher than expected. Radiation is very weak at causing cancer.

    Page 90: At Chernobyl, only 13 to 30% of the reactor’s 190 metric
    tons of fuel evaporated. .13X190=24.7 tons.
    .3X190=57 tons. [Much lower than the previous estimate of 200
    tons, and trivial to what coal fired power plants give you.]

    Page 98: There is a table of millirems per year from the
    background in a list of inhabited places.
    Chernobyl: 490 millirem/year
    Guarapari, Brazil: 3700 millirem/year
    Tamil Nadu, India: 5300 millirem/year
    Ramsar, Iran: 8900 to 13200 millirem/year
    Zero excess cancer deaths are recorded. All are natural except for

    Page 99: There was an epidemic of PSYCHOSOMATIC illnesses
    caused by the Chernobyl accident.

    Page 100: Only 50 deaths can be directly attributed to radiation at

    Page 140: “Troublemakers know we humans instinctively tend to”
    think of the worst case as the prediction. People think the false
    urban legends about Chernobyl are the norm. [Human instincts
    were evolved over the past 400 Million years of pre-stone-age.
    Human instincts are no longer applicable, but, without training as a
    scientist, most people operate instinctively. Your instincts, and
    mine, are just plain wrong.] Probabilistic Risk Assessment is a
    much better method of making decisions, but it requires a lot of
    science, math and computer time. We have accumulated 12
    Thousand reactor years of safe operation. [Chernobyl is unlike any
    reactor in the western world. American reactors can NOT do what
    Chernobyl did.]

    Page 144: “[A] terrorist trying to crash a jet into a spent-fuel pool
    would fail to cause a disaster.”

    Page 153: “By 2013 a total of 500 metric tons, or the equivalent of 20,000 warheads, will be turned into low-enriched fuel with the energy equivalent of three billion tons of coal (thirty million coal cars).”

    Page 173: “The life span of people in lands with electricity is double that of people in places where there is none,”

    Page 178: A discussion of the generations of reactors. The author omits Generation Zero, the very first reactor ever built, in 1944. The reactors at Chernobyl [there are 3 left] are much like Generation Zero and lack true containment buildings.

    Page 179: The USA is now on Generation 4 reactors. Generation 4 reactors are impossible to melt down, no matter what the operators do.

    Page 180: “”In 2006, more than 435 reactors in thirty two countries supplied 16 percent of the world’s electricity with a safety record far superior to that of fossil fuel or hydroelectric generation — and that’s including the Chernobyl fatalities.”

    Page 181: The core of the reactor at Three Mile Island melted down as badly as the core at Chernobyl, but the reactor at Three Mile Island had a containment building. The containment building did its job. NOBODY was injured.

    Page 183: A helicopter above Three Mile Island measured radiation. [If the radiation released from a nuclear plant was deuterium or tritium, the hydrogen goes straight up and leaves the planet earth, never to return. Deuterium and tritium are “heavy” hydrogen. The earth does not have enough gravity to hold hydrogen or helium. A release of deuterium or tritium gives you and the earth zero radiation.] There was never any danger to people on the ground at Three Mile Island.

    Page 184: The New York Times wrote 120 articles per year on automobile accidents covering 50,000 deaths and 200 articles per year on nuclear power plant accidents covering ZERO deaths. TV news coverage uses inflammatory language regardless of the fact that nobody died and nobody was injured by accidents at nuclear power plants.

    Page 187: The health effects of the Three Mile Island meltdown were psychological.

    Page 190: “In over twelve thousand cumulative reactor-years of nuclear plants making electricity in thirty two countries, there have been only two major accidents in the history of nuclear power, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island-2.” [Reactor number 2 at Three Mile Island.]

    Page 193: Gwyneth Cravens visits a coal fired power plant. It is everything she expected of a nuclear power plant.

    Page 195: The coal fired power plant at Riverbend, North Carolina makes 500 megawatts. It requires 14,300 train cars of coal per year. Coal is 44% of the tonnage for Class I railroads and provides 21% of the railroad’s revenue. There were 154 coal mining fatalities from 2002 to 2006. The Riverbend plant consumes 4,500 tons of coal per day. The plant is super dirty and super noisy.

    Page 196: The captured fly ash includes arsenic, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, chromium, uranium and thorium. The fly ash is mixed with water, then dried out. Coal waste goes into bowling balls, golf balls, wallboard, paving materials and land fills. Mercury is an invisible gas as it exits the stacks. “Coal-fired plants are the biggest producers of mercury emissions in the country, spouting fifty unregulated tons per year.” “A 1,000-megawatt coal plant also freely disperses about twenty-seven metric tons of radiological material a year, exposing people to much more low-level radiation than a nuclear plant would.”

    Page 197: “If you live within fifty miles of a coal-fired plant, you’re exposed to 0.03 millirem a year. Living near a nuclear plant exposes you to 0.009 millirem a year.” “Those [soft coal burning] plants give off four hundred times more radio nuclides a year than a nuclear plant-one to four millirem.” “In the United States in 1999, coal combustion produced over 1,000 tons of uranium and 2,500 tons of thorium. This is enough fissile material to exceed the amount consumed by all the nuclear power reactors in the country in a year. After World War II, when scientists believed uranium to be rare, they considered extracting it from fly ash.”

    Page 198: “Every year a single 500-megawatt coal-fired plant alone sends up into the sky the same amount of carbon dioxide as 750,000 cars do.”

    Page 199: “The average American city-dweller today is responsible for about four tons of coal a year going up as smoke. Since electricity generation accounts for 92 percent, or 1.039 billion tons, of the coal we burn, it’s our reliance on it that helps make our nation the biggest single per capita contributor to the earth’s burden of anthropogenic greenhouse gasses. Our nation’s 626 coal-fired plants, over 500 of them quite old, are major offenders. America’s coal production reached a record 1.133 billion tons in 2005, while consumption reached a record 1.128 billion tons.”
    “[C]oal combustion…..causes an estimated twenty-four thousand premature deaths a year.”

    Page 200 “The industry is planning about 154 new American coal-fired plants.” “Gregory H. Boyce, Peabody’s president and chief executive officer, and one of the biggest donors to the Republican Party, served as chairman of a Department of Energy advisory panel that recommended exemptions to the Clean Air Act that boost coal’s clout over the next two decades.”

    Page 201: “Two truckloads of uranium ore contain the same energy to make electricity as two million tons of coal. “To get a million BTUs, fuel oil costs nine dollars, natural gas six dollars, coal a dollar-eighty-fife, nuclear fifty cents.”

    Page 202: Gwyneth Cravens visits a nuclear power plant. She is amazed at the quiet, the cleanliness, the safety and the security.

    Page 208: “To replace the power generated by Indian Point with a wind farm would require three hundred thousand acres.”

    Page 211: “In 2005, the production cost of electricity from nuclear power on average cost 1.72 cents per kilowatt-hour; from coal-fired plants 2.21; from natural gas 7.5, and from oil 8.09. American nuclear power reactors operated that year around the clock at about 90 percent capacity, whereas coal-fired plants operated at about 73 percent, hydroelectric plants at 29 percent, natural gas from 16 to 38 percent, wind at 27 percent, solar at 19 percent, and geothermal at 75 percent.” The costs per kilowatt hour for solar and wind are 600 or more times the cost for coal, and that is in sunny and windy places, respectively.

    Page 214: “[T]he [nuclear] industry is self-insured.” Liability insurance is NOT paid by tax payers.

    Page 216: Barriers. Terrorists will never get into a nuclear power plant. Quit being paranoid.

    Page 227: “The containment structures for power reactors,… are among the most durable structures on the planet: they’re constructed to withstand 200-mile-per-hour hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, all of which can provide a more energetic impact than anything terrorists would have at their disposal apart from a hydrogen bomb.” [What a waste of a perfectly good H-bomb!]

    Page 238: “As of 2006, nuclear powered submarines and ships had safely traveled a total of 134 million miles, and registered 5,700 naval reactor-years of safe operation of a total of 254 reactors.”

    Page 244: To replace our gasoline with hydrogen in the US, we would have to build 4,000 new nuclear reactors to provide power to make hydrogen and oxygen from water.

    Page 245: “Gasoline is denser and contains thousands of times more energy than its equivalent [volume] in hydrogen, so you can have a relatively small gasoline tank in your car.”

    Page 246: “Even a few watts from time to time have been found to make a difference in health and life expectancy.”

    Page 249: “The manufacture of photovoltaic panels requires highly toxic heavy metals, gasses, and solvents that are carcinogenic. …….. If a residential fire burns a solar panel, people would be at risk for exposure to toxic vapors and smoke, … . If modules are dumped into municipal landfills, then heavy metals such as arsenic and lead can leach into the soil and water table. Hundreds of thousands of years from now, some of those substances will still not have decayed: their life spans are essentially eternal.”

    Page 250: “Solar farms big enough to supply 1,000 megawatts per year [sic] or more would cover over fifty square miles and produce a quantity of toxic waste that would be significant.”
    “For the 70 to 80 percent of the time when nature isn’t cooperating [with your solar power scheme], you need the grid or a fossil-fuel generator.”
    “The largest systems of unsubsidized solar energy in a sunny place range from 22 to 40 cents per kilowatt-hour, in other words, solar is the costliest alternative energy of all.”

    Page 251: Solar power requires cutting down trees to keep the trees from shading your solar panels.
    “Wind tends to fail during heat waves. … Wind power turned out to be highly unreliable, with capacity plunging from its usual 33 percent to 4 percent during the time of peak demand.”

    Page 257: World CO2 emissions from electricity generation come to 9,500 million metric tons a year. Using a small footprint, hundreds of nuclear plants in more than thirty countries cut carbon emissions by 600 million metric tons every year.”

    Page 269: “[E]very day the collective households and industries of America throw away nearly a million tons of garbage containing toxic heavy metals and dangerous chemicals, as well as plastics that will never break down. That garbage will be our culture’s real legacy, enduring for millions of years after all the present nuclear waste has decayed.”

    Page 290: There is a mistake: She says that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico is the only nuclear waste repository in operation. France has one.

    Page 363: France can build a nuclear power plant in 5 years.

    • @Edward: piling up a huge amount of fact and fiction doesn’t make nuclear power save nor resolves the question of disposing of radioactive waste safely for centuries…

  4. can’t work out all the wrong in your post, so just one of them:

    “[T]he [nuclear] industry is self-insured.” Liability insurance is NOT paid by tax payers.”

    nope. That simply isn’t true. Nuclear industry is not insured to cover the full damage of a possible major accident – their energy would be more expensive than solar power in Germany if they were.

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