[ExI] Greenpeace on fusion: Whatever it is, we're against it

Stefano Vaj stefano.vaj at gmail.com
Fri Oct 24 20:44:00 UTC 2008

Greenpeace on fusion: Whatever it is, we're against it

Luddites 2.0

By Andrew Orlowski <andrew.orlowski at theregister.co.uk>

CERN boffins are confident that fusion, the holy grail of cheap, safe power
will be economical and usable within thirty years. It's a finger in the air
sort of estimate, based on projects from the Age of Scientific Optimism,
such as the Los Alamos and Apollo moon landing projects.

The Soviets built the first experimental fusion reactor in the 1950s, and
the technique remains the basis of current investment. The (Joint European
Torus) JET reactor in Culham, Oxfordshire was completed 25 years ago, and
work is underway on ITER in Cadarache, France, a €10bn facility, backed by
six countries (including China) plus the EU. The Czech Republic has a
smaller-scale reactor, called Compass. All use magnets to force a fusion of
two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, releasing enormous amounts of
energy. Eventually, it's hoped, more than goes in. ITER is designed to
produce 500MW for 300 to 500 seconds with an input of 50MW.

"We'll certainly have it in fifty years," ITER's Neil Calder told the Swiss
Broadcasting Corporation last week. But not if Greenpeace has its way.

Yes, the fuel for fusion is abundant, and far more productive than fossil
fuel - one litre of seawater can produce as much as 30 litres of petrol.
It's much safer than nuclear fission. And it doesn't release CO2. So what's
the problem?

"Governments should not waste our money on a dangerous toy," Jan Van de
Putte of Greenpeace International said when ITER was announced in 2005. Van
de Putte predicted it will never be efficient - so why bother?

Spokesperson Bridget Woodman said: "Nuclear fusion has all the problems of
nuclear power, including producing nuclear waste and the risks of a nuclear

(Which must break the record for the number of false and contradictory
assertions you can cram into a 17-word sentence. But that's par for the
course these days. When you hear a phrase like "sustainable energy" the
opposite is usually intended - the speaker is referring to an energy source
that won't sustain anything for very long or very reliably.)

Greenpeace began life as a citizens' group devoted to fighting pollution and
the whaling industry, but it's now a powerful de-industrialisation lobby.
Its hostility to progress snags it well over $200m income a year. If a
scientific breakthrough promises a better of quality of life, then the
organisation is probably against it.

Two of Greenpeace's co-founders, Patrick Moore and Paul Watson long since
departed: Watson to run his own anti-whaling group and Moore criticising its
anti-human, anti-development agenda. "By the mid-1980s, the environmental
movement had abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and
sensationalism," Moore lamented.

Fusion seems to exemplify what Moore means: an anti-modernity superstition.
Greenpeace doesn't understand what fusion is, but whatever it is it will be
scary, it will be bad, and it must be stopped. (R)
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