Mycle Schneider

(1997, France)
Joint Award with Jinzaburo Takagi

...for serving to alert the world to the unparalleled dangers of plutonium to human life.

About

Mycle Schneider was born in 1959. Interested in the civil and military uses of nuclear energy, and concerned that there was so little international information available in France, he set up WISE-Paris in 1983, as the French connection of the World Information Service on Energy (WISE) International. From 1990 on, it worked independently.

Contact Details

Mycle Schneider
45, allée des deux cèdres
91210 Draveil
FRANCE

mycle@orange.fr
skype: mycleschneider

Website:
www.worldnuclearreport.org
www.ieac.info

Biography

The objectives of WISE-Paris are to develop and distribute high quality information on the various sources and forms of energy; to increase public comprehension of energy issues, especially the impact of the civil and military uses on the health and security of present and future generations, and to increase citizen involvement in environmental and energy saving issues.

In 1988, Schneider was full-time adviser to the Rainbow Group in the European Parliament on the Inquiry Committee on the Handling and Transport of Nuclear Materials. In 1992 he initiated and was one of the authors of the first "World Nuclear Industry Status Report" published by World Watch Institute, Greenpeace International and WISE-Paris. Recent updates of the report (2004, 2007, 2008) have reached international reference status.

In 1994-95 he co-authored a German TV documentary on the International Commission of Radiological Protection, entitled "With Friendly Recommendation - Radiation Death".

He has written many papers and articles on energy and environmental issues, including a series of reports on the connection of Japanese, Belgian, Dutch and German plutonium, as well as Canadian uranium, with the French nuclear weapons programme. Schneider considers the plutonium industry to be "the single most threatening industrial activity for mankind and the environment".

In 1991, Schneider went to Japan at the request of Jinzaburo Takagi, to participate in an International Plutonium Conference. He was struck by the similarities in the two countries' treatment of the nuclear issue, and the two men started working together on the issues of waste and plutonium shipments between the two countries.

With Japan and France hosting the two remaining large-scale interests in plutonium use, and MOX (uranium-plutonium mixed oxide fuel) being the only use for plutonium outside fast breeder reactors (FBRs), Schneider started work with Takagi on a two-year intensive international research project on 'A Comprehensive Social Impact Assessment of MOX in Light Water Reactors', which was realeased in November 1997.

In December 1997, France shut down its Superphénix FBR. In Japan, after several accidents and scandals, public confidence in the industry decreased dramatically.

Schneider has given evidence and held briefings at Parliaments in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, UK and at the European Parliament. Between 1998 and 2003 he was an advisor to the French Environment Minister's Office and to the Belgian Minister for Energy and Sustainable Development. Since 2000 he has been a consultant on nuclear issues to the German Environment Ministry.

After 20 years in office, Mycle Schneider left his position as Executive Director of WISE-Paris in April 2003 and now works as independent consultant on energy and nuclear policy. Since 2004 he has been in charge of the Environment and Energy Strategies Lecture of the International Master of Science for Project Management for Environmental and Energy Engineering at the French Ecole des Mines in Nantes. He has lectured extensively on four continents, including at Carlton University, Ottawa (Canada), Tsinghua University (China), Ecole de Commerce, Rouen (France), Freie Universität Berlin (Germany) and Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto (Japan).

In 2005 Schneider was appointed as nuclear security specialist to advise the UK Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). He was on the board of directors of the Takagi Fund for Citizen Science in Tokyo between 2001 and 2005.

In 2006-2007, Mycle Schneider was part of a consultant consortium that assessed nuclear decommissioning and waste management funding issues on behalf of the European Commission.

In 2007, Schneider was appointed as a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), based at Princeton University, and he joined the Independent Group of Scientific Experts (IGSE) on the detection of clandestine nuclear-weapons-usable materials production.

In 2009, International Perspectives on Energy Policy and the Role of Nuclear Power, co-edited by Mycle Schneider, was released. The book includes 31 in-depth country studies by 30 authors. In addition, Schneider is the author of the World Nuclear Industry Status Reports.

Since 2013, Schneider serves as the Coordinator of the Seoul International Energy Advisory Council (SIEAC), a group of energy thinkers including Amory Lovins. They advise the Seoul Metropolitan Government on the Seoul's Sustainable Energy Action Plan (called "One Less Nuclear Power Plant"), which had the ambitious goal to reduce or substitute the equivalent of 2 MTOE (approximate output of one reactor) in 32 months, succeeding 6 months earlier. SIEAC also helped to design the annual Seoul International Energy Conference in November 2014.

After that success, Schneider, spokesperson for SIEAC, and other members set up the creation of the International Energy Advisory Council (IEAC), launched in January 2015. 

Speeches

Acceptance Speech by Mycle Schneider

December 8th, 1997

WE'VE COME A LONG WAY, BUT THERE'S STILL A LONG WAY TO GO

Madam Speaker, Honourable representatives of the Swedish Parliament, honourable embassy representatives, representatives of the RLA Foundation, fellow Awardees, my friend Jin Takagi, Ladies and Gentlemen,

One day, eleven years ago, I opened the evening newspaper and read in an article on the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe the following astounding statement:

"Even if there was this type of accident every year, (...) I would consider nuclear power to be a valid source of energy".

You might wonder what sort of person could have put such an insensitive thing on the record: perhaps you could understand it being said by a clean-up worker employed by a utility subcontractor for radioactive decontamination and afraid about losing his job; this statement was in fact made only four months after the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 by Dr. Morris Rosen, then head of the Department of Nuclear Safety of the Vienna based United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (Le Monde 28/8/86). I was very shocked.

What difference does it make whether people are, or are not, aware of such statements? My theory is simple: It makes a great deal of difference. I have overwhelming confidence that most of the people on this planet, whether they be agricultural worker or queen, stock brokers or factory workers, blacks or greens would not accept the consequences of another Chernobyl-type accident and thus would not put their destiny into the hands of someone who considers such a disaster not only possible but actually acceptable. However, Morris Rosen, an extremely influencial top international official, and many, many other Rosens, stay in their jobs.

The problem is always twofold: firstly, you need to identify the relevant information and secondly, you have to find means of influencing the decision making process.

Obtaining and distributing facts as well as inventing and using appropriate policy making tools is precisely what I have been trying to do over the last 15 years. Investigating until I can identify and understand what the core of the problem is.

However, people do not have to become experts to make up their minds on highly complex issues. They need to be aware of the statement, of the technical context, the social implications which refer to their own personal opinion and ethical values. And humanistic values and references are, or at least should be, common to all of us.

Clearly, we do not lack information; we are, in fact subjected to an overwhelming amount of information. But the problem is deciding what is important and what is not! What is right and what is wrong! What information is pertinent to a particular situation! What is relevant to me, what is indispensable to my colleagues! How to identify the information I need!

This question is - or rather should be - subject to a collective effort of society to educate its members to prioritise perceived or perceivable information. This is not the case today. Social pressure leads to a "demand" for the availability of environmental information but people tend to get lost in the disparate maze of information available. The first people to get lost are journalists, politicians and environmentalists whose role is to provide the general public with a coherent picture of the different issues at stake.

Plutonium. Priorities. What does the man in the street need to know about plutonium? There is a scientific debate whether 12 microgrammes or 20 microgrammes  of plutonium are necessary to develop fatal lung cancer. There is a "SECRET" stamp on the document which deals with the question whether three or five kilogrammes of plutonium is needed to fabricate a crude nuclear device. Fact is that France alone has a stock of more than 65 metric tons of plutonium, of which 35 tons belong to other countries. Fact is that two or three convoys of plutonium are transported by road in France every week. Fact is that the French State utility EDF has assigned a zero monetary value to its plutonium stock "given the uncertainties of its future use".

What more does the citizen require to make up his mind? This is an ironically ridiculous affair: plutonium which is extremely radiotoxic is being produced at a price of about 7,500 FRF/kg (nobody knows the real cost) - seven times the value of a silver bar of equivalent weight to be put on the shelves, in quantities enabling France alone to fabricate some 5,000 nuclear weapons, or to put it in another way, enough to  deliver a lethal dose to every single human being on earth.

What if some terrorist organisation hijacks transported plutonium, forwards a credible threat of one nuclear explosive device and threatens international society and governments? Does anybody seriously believe that organisations who kill women and children with their bare hands by the thousand, who blow up buildings containing child care centers or bomb attack sky scrapers would show the least bit of hesitation about using such means of mass destruction?

The world would change completely from one day to another.

Nevertheless, plutonium production and use continues. Two weeks ago, Dr Takagi and myself published the results of the 2 year in depth analysis of the social impacts of the use of plutonium bearing MOX fuel in LWR - the same type as the 12 Swedish reactors.

This careful assessment was carried out by an international group of distinguished experts, including Dr Frank Barnaby well known in Sweden and worldwide for he was the director of SIPRI for 10 years.

The Project report concludes that "there is no reasonable justification or identifiable social benefit in the continuation of Pu separation and the launch of a MOX fuel program for LWR."

Sweden has an outspoken anti-plutonium production policy - so I thought. Since I came to Sweden a few days ago, I have asked many people about what I had read a few months ago was a project of the - partly State owned utility OKG operating the Oskarshamn NPP. The plan would jeopardize the - so far - consequent Swedish approach: OKG, it said, intends to reprocess 140 t of fuel which has been stored at the UK Sellafield site for 20 years, then manufacture the extracted plutonium into MOX fuel and load it into the Oskarshamn reactors.

Nobody I talked to here in Sweden, neither activists nor politicians were aware of the current state on the issue. So I inquired myself this very morning at the utility OKG.

The OKG´s president office referred me to the fuel manager, who gave me a breathtaking answer:

Ladies & Gentlemen, according to OKG now Sweden owns 600 kg of separated Pu, the reprocessing has already been carried out at Sellafield and was finished a month and a half ago. OKG intends to use that Pu in the form of MOX fuel after 2003 in its power plant. However, OKG has neither a license to operate any reactor on MOX fuel nor any MOX fabrication contract.

If this information is correct - and there is no reason to believe it is not - this would be a major blow to the international hopes for a Pu free future, hopes Swedish policy has been nourishing over the past 15 years. Once again the Pu industry is creating a dangerous fait accompli.

Let me take this opportunity to urge the Swedish Parliament and the Swedish government to take appropriate action, now, to prevent at least the implementation of a Swedish MOX plan.

Sweden could still be trendsetting again if it did firmly decide on a scheme which provides for conditioning and storage of its plutonium as radioactive waste.

Internationally, for the implementation of a ban on future Pu production and use, Dr. Jinzaburo Takagi is a key element in the successful acomplishment of our task. Rarely have I encountered anybody as efficient in producing and using information and policy tools as my colleague and dear friend Jin. And it is a superb honour for me to share this award with such an exceptional devoted, intelligent and effective person. Also I cannot think of anyone else with whom I feel so much in harmony as far as international political, strategic and tactical analysis are concerned.

The RLA jury has called our cooperation a "unique partnership" to rid humanity of the threat posed by plutonium. I think that this partnership is indeed quite unique. Nevertheless, there is also an important methodological element in this partnership. Fundamental radical changes in areas which have such profound implications for the future of humanity will only come about with in depth cooperation extending beyond political and national borders. We both have the privilege to work with exceptional people around the globe. To be effective, everyone in this unofficial network needs to be highly reliable, rapid and... a friend. It is an illusion to imagine that intense research and political work, often under incredible financial and time constraints, could be carried out in an efficient manner without close human relationships between people.

One of my biggest tasks will be to pass on my experience to others, an area in which I feel I have to a large extent been unsuccesful. People come and go, references however remain.

But who will continue the work of the scientific and human giant, John Gofman? I stress that we are lucky to feel as if we have received the RLA twice: the first time by having been nominated by John Gofman, the second time today.

Our work ultimately consists of providing options so that our kids will be able to choose. Nuclear power, far from being a fatality, is a choice.

And I will keep the luxury of being able to be astounded, shocked and furious about daily statements showing ignorance and arrogance, the news of terror and suffering. If we ever get used to the horror of manslaughter in Algeria and hundreds of thousands starving in Iraq, we have lost our souls.

I will keep asking myself whether I have the right priorities. For the time being I feel my work on energy and environmental issues is useful. I have chosen to work on different urgent matters. In this respect, I feel not only highly honoured by the Award but also very much at ease with my fellow recipients of this year's prize and those of previous years whom I shall now have an excellent opportunity to get to know much better.

Thank you very much.

Interviews

FAQ about Mycle Schneider

Questions asked in 2005

1. Do you foresee a renaissance of nuclear energy? 

In 2003, the wind power industry alone generated over 8,000 megawatts (MW) worldwide for a turnover of 8 billion euros ($10.5 billion), 12 times the capacity added by the nuclear industry to the power grids in the world that year.

But that's anecdotal. The point is, beyond issues of belief and wishful thinking, independently of your opinion on nuclear power as such, nuclear reactors will not be able to make a major difference on climate change in the future because nobody orders them. And even if they were ordered, they would come in too late. We need solutions now! And as long as available energy-efficiency measures remain 4 to 7 times cheaper than nuclear power - in fact cheaper than most of the low carbon energy generating technologies - we should not remain stuck in a theological debate about nuclear power.

In reality, the nuclear industry is not even in a position to maintain the number of operating plants in the world. As we have shown in a recent report, the average age of the operating power plants is 21 years. We have assumed an average lifetime of 40 years for all operating reactors.

Considering the fact that the average age of all 108 units that already have been closed is equally about 21 years, the doubling of the operational lifetime seems rather optimistic. The exercise enables an evaluation of the number of plants that would have to come on-line over the next decades in order to maintain the same number of operating plants.

Roughly 80 reactors would have to be planned, built, and started up over the next ten years - one every month and a half - and an additional 200 units over the following 10-year period - one every 18 days. Even if Finland and France build a European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) and China went for an additional 20 plants and Japan, Korea, or Eastern Europe added one plant, the overall trend will be downwards.

With extremely long lead times of 10 years and more - the last unit to come online in the US took 23 years to build - it is practically impossible to maintain or even increase the number of operating nuclear power plants over the next 20 years, unless operating lifetimes could be substantially increased beyond 40 years on average, simultaneously raising significant safety issues. There is currently no basis for such an assumption. In fact, the Lithuanian reactor Ignalina-1, that was shut down on 31 December 2004, remains exactly on world average at age 21.

The relevance of nuclear power for the supply of commercial primary energy to the world is marginal with about 6% - tendency already downward. If you look at the share of final energy, that is the portion available for end-use after the losses in transformation and transport, nuclear power provides between 2% and 3% of the total.

Nuclear power is most likely on its way out. And it does not make a difference whether you like it or not.

(From http://www.utne.com/webwatch/2005_195/news/11620-1.html)

2. You describe plutonium production as an "autocratic activity". What do you mean by that?

The plutonium economy is an authoritarian system beyond any democratic control. Furthermore, it does not have any corrective mechanisms that would allow severe strategic errors to be repaired. The most impressive illustration is the Japanese case: the official figure for the overall cost of 40 years of plutonium "fuel cycle" translated into a cost figure per gram of plutonium at least 40 times the current price of gold.

At the same time, the largest holders of non-military plutonium stocks in the world, BNFL and UKAEA in the UK and EDF in France have both allocated a zero value to these stocks.

3. You are a strong advocate of energy-efficient electrical devices. What can policy-makers do to promote their use?

There are countless possibilities what policy-makers could do in order to foster energy efficiency. The question is less to promote but to implement. The key point is the policy maker's respective position in society. Each specific position allows for the implementation of specific measures. Let me name two examples:

Labelling of energy efficiency levels on electric household appliances has proven exceptionally efficient. Standards are set by national governments or supra-national institutions (e.g. the European Commission). But responsibility is also taken by the individual consumer. Energy efficient lighting, public and private, can be fostered by city councils, regional governments, electricity utilities and individual consumers. I'm still waiting for a city council or any other local authority to prohibit the sale of "Edison type" light bulbs on their territory. I believe it would be legally possible to enforce.

See also Amory Lovins:

Competitors To Nuclear: Eat My Dust

Nuclear Power's Scorned Small-Scale Competitors Are Walloping It in the Marketplace

Publications

For more recent publications by/interviews with Mycle Schneider, and for the World Nuclear Industry Status Reports, please see

http://www.worldnuclearreport.org

Other publications by/interviews with Mycle Schneider:

Nuclear Power Made in France - A Model?
In: Nuclear Power's Global Expansion: Weighing Its Costs and Risks.
Strategic Studies Institute - US Army War College, December 2010;
pp.189-277 (PDF and hard copy).

Reprocessing in France. With Yves Marignac, commissioned by the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM). Princeton University, May 2008, 70 p.

Residual Risk - An Account of Events in Nuclear Power Plants Since the Chernobyl Accident in 1986. With Georgui Kastchiev, Wolfgang Kromp, Stephan Kurth, David Lochbaum, Ed Lyman and Michael Sailer, commissioned by MEP Rebecca Harms, May 2007, 116 p.

Summaries in English, French, German, 12 p.

The Permanent Nth Country Experiment - Nuclear Weapons Proliferation in a Rapidly Changing World. Commissioned by the Greens-EFA Group in the European Parliament. March 2007, 42 p. L'accès à l'information - un droit citoyen en mal d'application. Commissioned by Institut pour la radioprotection et la sûreté nucléaire (IRSN), February 2006, 12 p.

International Perspectives on Energy Policy and the Role of Nuclear Power. Edited by Mycle Schneider, Lutz Mez and Steve Thomas. Multi Science Publishing 2009.

Publications and interviews with Mycle Schneider on Fukushima

"Post-Fukushima nuclear allergy spreads in France"
The Japan Times, 19 April 2012
www.japantimes.co.jp/text/eo20120419a1.html

"Fukushima un an après: 'La crise est loin d'être réglée'"
Interview avec Médiapart, 31 mars 2012
www.worldnuclearreport.org/Green-European-Journal-Belgium

"Routes de campagnes: Fessenheim et Toulouse"
Invité sur le plateau de Médiapart, 23 mars 2012
www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/230312/mediapart-2012-routes-de-campagnes (vidéo, 28 min)

"Fukushima a bouleversé notre rapport au nucléaire"
Interview et analyses avec Le Figaro.Fr, 9 mars 2012
videos.arte.tv/fr/videos/debat-6439130.html (video, 21:15 min)
www.arte.tv/fr/Video-Live-Chat/6439080.html (video, 52:58 min
videos.arte.tv/de/videos/debat-6439130.html (video, 21:15 min)
www.arte.tv/de/Video-Live-Chat/6439080.html (video, 53:08 min)

"Ein Jahr nach Fukushima - Was wird aus der Energiewende?"
Gespräch mit André Zantow, Wortwechsel, Deutschlandradio, 2. März 2012
ondemand-mp3.dradio.de (audio, 52 min)

Interview with Monitor, WDR-TV, "Ausser Kontrolle: Die brisanten Interna zu Fukushima", 2011-04-07 

Journalist, "Ich muss aufpassen, nicht aggressiv zu werden", April 2011

Journal télévisé de TV5 Monde, Fukushima ou la fin du nucléaire", 2011-04-07
Rue89, "Fukushima: "Distribuons de l'iode à la moitié du Japon", 2011-03-26

Links

Contact

Right Livelihood Award Foundation

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Phone: +46 (0)8 70 20 340
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