South Korea Letter

27 American scientists and environmentalists write to President Moon Jae-in saying that the South Korea’s planned shift from nuclear power to green energy will actually hurt the environment. The letter was originally published on www.environmentalprogress.org

 

July 5, 2017
 

Honorable President Moon Jae-in
The Blue House
Seoul, South Korea
 

Dear President Moon,

We are writing as scientists and conservationists to urge you to consider the climate and environmental impacts of a nuclear energy phase-out in South Korea.

Over the last 20 years, South Korea has earned a global reputation for its ability to build well-tested and cost-effective nuclear plants. South Korea is the only nation where the cost of nuclear plant construction has declined over time. And in United Arab Emirates, South Korean firm Kepco has proven it can build cost-effective nuclear power plants abroad just as it can at home.

There is a strong consensus among climate policy experts that an expansion of nuclear energy will be required to significantly reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, and dozens of climate scientists and energy experts have affirmed the importance of nuclear energy to climate mitigation.

South Korea’s nuclear industry is especially important given the financial failures of French nuclear giant Areva and Japanese-owned and U.S.-based Westinghouse. If South Korea withdraws from nuclear then only Russia and China would be in the global competition for new nuclear construction.  

A phase-out of nuclear plants by South Korea domestically would profoundly undermine efforts by Kepco to compete for new nuclear construction contracts abroad. Buyer nations would rightly question why they should buy nuclear plants from a nation phasing out its nuclear. And a domestic nuclear phase-out would atrophy the workforces and supply chains needed for South Korea’s global construction efforts.

Solar and wind are not alternatives to nuclear. In 2016, solar and wind provided 1 and 0.35 percent of South Korea’s electricity, respectively. For South Korea to replace all of its nuclear plants with solar, it would need to build 4,400 solar farms the size of South Korea’s largest solar farm, SinAn, which would cover an area 5 times larger than Seoul. To do the same with wind would cover an area 14.5 times larger than Seoul. 

The intermittent nature of solar and wind and the lack of inexpensive grid-scale storage require the continued operation of fossil fuel power plants. As a result, every time nuclear plants close they are replaced almost entirely by fossil fuels, which has resulted in higher emissions from Germany to California to Japan.

Given the intermittency of solar and wind and South Korea’s land scarcity, replacing the nation’s nuclear plants would require a significant increase in coal and/or natural gas, which would prevent South Korea from meeting its commitments under the Paris climate agreement, and would increase air pollution in Seoul.

The high cost of replacing closing nuclear plants would be better spent on technological innovation to make South Korean nuclear plants even safer and cheaper. Replacing nuclear with natural gas would require $23 billion as up-front investment in new plants, and $10 billion per year to pay for gas imports.

Instead of phasing out nuclear, we encourage you to lead an effort to both make nuclear even safer and more cost-economical than it already is through the development and demonstration of accident-tolerant fuels and new plant designs.

The planet needs a vibrant South Korean nuclear industry, and the South Korean nuclear industry needs you as a strong ally and champion. If South Korea withdraws from nuclear the world risks losing a valuable supplier of cheap and abundant energy needed to lift humankind out of poverty and solve the climate crisis.

We support the call by 240 South Korean professors and strongly encourage you to deliberate with a wide range of energy and environmental scientists and experts on these questions before making any final decisions.

We are grateful for your consideration of these ideas, and look forward to your response.
 

Sincerely,

Michael Shellenberger, Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” President, Environmental Progress

James Hansen, Climate Scientist, Earth Institute, Columbia University  

Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Pushker Kharecha, Columbia University, NASA

Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize recipient, author of Nuclear Renewal and The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Stewart Brand, Editor of the Whole Earth Catalog

Robert Coward, President, American Nuclear Society

Ben Heard, Executive Director, Bright New World

Andrew Klein, Immediate Past President, American Nuclear Society

Steve McCormick, Former CEO, The Nature Conservancy  

Michelle Marvier, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University

Richard Muller, Professor of Physics, UC Berkeley, Co-Founder, Berkeley Earth

Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden. Winner of the National Medal of Science, 2001

Paul Robbins, Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Mark Lynas, author, Six Degrees

David Dudgeon, Chair of Ecology & Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, China

Erle C. Ellis, Ph.D, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland

Christopher Foreman, author of The Promise & Peril of Environmental Justice, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland

Norris McDonald, President, Environmental Hope and Justice

Nobuo Tanaka, Sasakawa Peace Foundation

Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World

Wolfgang Denk, European Director, Energy for Humanity

Kirsty Gogan, Executive Director, Energy for Humanity

Joshua S. Goldstein, Prof. Emeritus of International Relations, American University

Steven Hayward, Senior Resident Scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley

Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School

Martin Lewis, Department of Geography, Stanford University

Elizabeth Muller, Founder and Executive Director, Berkeley Earth

Stephen Pinker, Cognitive Scientist, Harvard University

Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, India

Tom Wigley, Climate and Energy Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado

 

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Open letter to President Macron

This open letter, signed by 45 environmentalists, writers and academics, was originally published on Energyforhumanity.org

July 1, 2017
Dear President Macron,

We are writing as environmentalists, conservationists and climate scientists to congratulate you on your win in the presidential election, and to applaud your push for a carbon tax. Nobody has done more for advancing clean energy on the grid than France. In light of this knowledge, we are also writing to express our alarm at your decision to move France away from clean nuclear power.

Few nations have done more than France to demonstrate the humanitarian and environmental benefits of creating a high-energy, nuclear-powered, and electrified society. Not only was France host of United Nations climate talks, it also has some of the lowest per capita carbon emissions of any developed nation.

Any reduction in France’s nuclear generation will increase fossil fuel generation and pollution given the low capacity factors and intermittency of solar and wind. Germany is a case in point. Its emissions have been largely unchanged since 2009 and actually increased in both 2015 and 2016 due to nuclear plant closures. Despite having installed 4 percent more solar and 11 percent more wind capacity, Germany’s generation from the two sources decreased 3 percent and 2 percent respectively, since it wasn’t as sunny or windy in 2016 as in 2015.

And where France has some of the cheapest and cleanest electricity in Europe, Germany has some of the most expensive and dirtiest. Germany spent nearly 24 billion euros above market price in 2016 for its renewable energy production feed-in tariffs alone, but emissions have remained stagnant. Germany is set to miss its 2020 emission reduction goals by a wide margin. Despite its huge investment in renewables, only 46 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from clean energy sources as compared to 93 percent in France.

Solar and wind can play an important role in France. However, if France is to make investments in solar and wind similar to those of Germany, they should add to France’s share of clean energy, not inadvertently reduce it. Renewables can contribute to the further electrification of the transportation sector, which France has already done with its trains and should continue to do with personal vehicles.

Shifting from nuclear to fossil fuels and renewables would grievously harm the French economy in three ways: higher electricity prices for consumers and industry, an end to France’s lucrative electricity exports, and — perhaps most importantly — the destruction of France’s nuclear export sector. If the French nuclear fleet is forced to operate at lower capacity factors, it will cripple the French nuclear industry by adding costs and shrinking revenues. Eventually this will lead to poorer safety standards and less opportunities to fund research, development and efforts to export French nuclear technologies. Nations seeking to build new nuclear plants rightly want to know that the product France is selling is one that France itself values.

The French nuclear program has historically been the envy of the world. It demonstrated in the 1970s and 80s that the decarbonization of an industrialized country’s electricity sector is in fact possible. For France, the next necessary step to help combat climate change and improve air quality is to increase clean electricity from all non-fossil sources and massively reduce fossil fuels used in heating and the transportation sector. Nuclear power must play a central role in this.

Signed,

James Hansen, Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions Program, Columbia University, Earth Institute, Columbia University

Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hans Blix, Director General Emeritus of the IAEA

Robert Coward, President, American Nuclear Society

Andrew Klein, Immediate Past President, American Nuclear Society

Steven Pinker, Harvard University, author of Better Angels of Our Nature

Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize recipient, author of Nuclear Renewal and The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Robert Stone, filmmaker, “Pandora’s Promise”

Pascale Braconnot, Climate Scientist, IPSL/LSCE, lead author for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report and Fifth Assessment Report

Francois-Marie Breon, Climate Researcher, IPSL/LSCE, lead author for the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

Ben Britton, Ph.D, Deputy Director of the Centre for Nuclear Engineering, Imperial College London

Claude Jeandron, President, Save the Climate, French association

James Orr, Climate Scientist, IPSL/LSCE

Didier Paillard, Climate Scientist, IPSL/LSCE

Didier Roche, Climate Scientist, IPSL/LSCE

Myrto Tripathi, Climate Policy Director, Global Compact France

John Asafu-Adjaye, PhD, Senior Fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs, Ghana, Associate Professor of Economics, The University of Queensland, Australia

M J Bluck PhD, Director, Centre for Nuclear Engineering, Imperial College London

Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World

Bruno Comby, President, Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy

Wolfgang Denk, European Director, Energy for Humanity

David Dudgeon, Chair of Ecology & Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, China

Erle C. Ellis, Ph.D, Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland

Christopher Foreman, author of The Promise & Peril of Environmental Justice, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland

Martin Freer, Professor, Head of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute (BEI)

Kirsty Gogan, Executive Director, Energy for Humanity

Joshua S. Goldstein, Prof. Emeritus of International Relations, American University

Malcolm Grimston, author of The Paralysis in Energy Decision Making, Honorary Research Fellow, Imperial College London

Mel Guymon, Guymon Family Foundation

Steven Hayward, Senior Resident Scholar, Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley

John Laurie, Founder and Executive Director, Fission Liquide

Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School

John Lavine, Professor and Medill Dean Emeritus, Northwestern University

Martin Lewis, Department of Geography, Stanford University

Mark Lynas, author, The God SpeciesSix Degrees

Michelle Marvier, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University

Alan Medsker, Coordinator, Environmental Progress – Illinois

Elizabeth Muller, Founder and Executive Director, Berkeley Earth

Richard Muller, Professor of Physics, UC Berkeley, Co-Founder, Berkeley Earth

Rauli Partanen, Energy Writer, author of The World After Cheap Oil

Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden. Winner of the National Medal of Science, 2001

Paul Robbins, Director, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, India

Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress

Jeff Terry, Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology

Tim Yeo, Chair, New Nuclear Watch Europe; former Chair, Energy and Climate Change Parliamentary Select Committee

 

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