Doctors say dangers from nuclear weapons and nuclear power are linked
The international group of physicians committed to avoiding nuclear war, a cause for which they won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, has had a change of heart over the closely associated danger posed by nuclear power.
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) passed a resolution titled, “Links between Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power,” and it states, “IPPNW affirms that the links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons are such that in order to fully abolish nuclear weapons, we also must stop the parallel process of nuclear power.”
This position is a departure for the organization which has traditionally opposed linking nuclear weapons to nuclear power, preferring to keep them separate policy discussions.
The resolution calls for no new nuclear power plants to be constructed, and an expeditious transition from nuclear power to renewable energy sources. It was passed at the IPPNW World Congress held in Mombasa, Kenya on April 30th, 2023, and has been shared widely by long-time anti-nuclear power campaigner Gordon Edwards.
Nuclear power has been a controversial topic within the anti-nuclear movement for decades. The concerns expressed by opponents of linking the issues generally fall into two categories: political and practical.
The bedrock anti-nuclear treaty, the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), links nuclear weapons and nuclear power, albeit in a positive way.
As the UN describes it, NPT signatories accept, “the obligation to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament [emphasis added].”
From a practical standpoint, some anti-nuclear weapon advocates fear that conflating the twin objectives of banning weapons and power stations makes both issues too difficult to achieve.
But the reason for renewed focus on the danger posed by nuclear power to human life may be connected to Ukraine. The IPPNW’s final declaration from their congress in Kenya states:
Nuclear power, which is an expensive, ineffective, and dangerous response to the climate crisis, also fuels nuclear proliferation by inextricably increasing fissile materials and the capacity to produce them. As we are seeing in Ukraine, nuclear power reactors are vulnerable military targets—essentially huge, pre-positioned radiological disasters-in-waiting. Misplaced investments in nuclear power, besides exacerbating this danger, delay the rapid scale-up of renewable energy, increased energy efficiency, and energy storage.Congress Declaration of IPPNW’s 23rd World Congress in Mombasa, Kenya, 27-29 April 2023
(Cover image from https://twitter.com/RLSEastAfrica)
1 reply added
I’m glad you’ve distinguished the different views about linking nuclear power and weapons abolition. There are arguments for and against nuclear power plants. Campaigning linkage however is primarily a strategic question. Even the Ukraine situation seems a weak argument for IPPNW to change positions. Nuclear power plants have always been known to pose a (radiation) hazard in wartime. It would be interesting to know the internal process that resulted in this change. In my personal view, it should be reversed.