October 6, 2017
To the South Korean Citizen Members of the Jury on Nuclear Energy,
We are writing as independent scientists, conservationists, and energy experts to warn against a misinformation campaign being waged by Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear organizations against the South Korean people.
In statements on social media and to the news media, anti-nuclear spokespersons are making demonstrably false claims that are designed to frighten the South Korean people.
Rather than risk reinforcing the misinformation by repeating it, we would like to respectfully offer the following facts for your consideration:
Nuclear power currently accounts for 96 percent of South Korea’s clean, low-carbon electricity. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, electricity from nuclear produces one-fourth as many carbon emissions per unit of energy as solar panels.
Solar and wind, by contrast, provide just 1.35 percent of South Korea’s electricity. South Korea would need to build 6,400 solar farms the size of one of South Korea’s largest, Sinan, at a cost of around $400 billion. It would need to cover an area seven times larger than Seoul. To do the same with wind would require $170 billion and cover an area 19 times larger than Seoul.
South Korea needs nuclear energy to meet the commitments it made at United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Paris in 2015. For South Korea to meet its climate targets it must replace all of its coal and natural gas with clean energy. Even after doing so, South Korea would need to reduce its emissions by an additional 100 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Replacing South Korea’s nuclear plants with natural gas would increase carbon emissions the equivalent of adding 15 - 27 million cars to the road.
Replacing South Korea’s nuclear plants with coal would increase the risk of deaths from air pollution. Already, over 50 percent of all South Koreans are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution, according to an international study published by Yale University last year. Seoul’s pollution is five times worse than that in Los Angeles.
Nuclear energy is the safest way to make electricity according to the prestigious medical journal Lancet, and to date has saved 1.8 million lives.
A significant expansion of natural gas could pose a significant threat to public safety. One reminder of the hazards of natural gas comes from South Korea: in 1995, 83 South Koreans were killed — many of them school children — and 181 wounded after a natural gas explosion occurred in Taegu.
Replacing South Korea’s nuclear plants with natural gas would cost at least $10 billion per year for the natural gas purchases alone. That amount of money could instead be used to create the equivalent of 343,000 jobs paying South Korea’s per capita annual average salary of $29,125.
South Korea has long been a model to the world with its ability to build safe, clean and low-cost nuclear power. We urge you not to let misinformation frighten you into making choices that could hurt the South Korean people, and increase the risk of dangerous air pollution.
James Hansen, Climate Scientist, Earth Institute, Columbia University
Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress
Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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”
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
Kirsty Gogan, Executive Director, Energy for Humanity
Joshua S. Goldstein, Prof. Emeritus of International Relations, American University
Richard Steeves, MD, Ph.D, Prof. Emeritus of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin
Steve Kirsch, CEO, Token
Joe Lassiter, Professor, Harvard Business School
John Lavine, Professor and Medill Dean Emeritus, Northwestern University
David Lea, Professor, Earth Science, University of California
Martin Lewis, Department of Geography, Stanford University
Mark Lynas, author, The God Species and Six Degrees
Michelle Marvier, Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University
Norris McDonald, President, Environmental Hope and Justice
Alan Medsker, Coordinator, Environmental Progress - Illinois
Samir Saran, Vice President, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, India
Jeff Terry, Professor of Physics, Illinois Institute of Technology