THE “NOT-TOO-HIDDEN AGENDA” OF THE IAEA
Nukespeak, and seductive devices, doctrines, dogmas, strategies and fallacies
Dr F.K. Knelman is the Vice President of the Whistler Foundation for a Sustainable Environment, and Dr. Joan E. Russow, was the delegate for the Whistler Foundation at the New York Preparatory Committee for UNCED and at the Earth Summit at Rio. The Whistler Foundation and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation had circulated a Declaration that was signed by 37 Nobel Laureates; this declaration called for the phasing out of Nuclear energy. They requested permission to read this declaration at one of the plenary session at Rio Centro; permission was denied.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was initially set up in the 1960’s to regulate Nuclear energy; they have, however, become one of the strongest proponents of nuclear energy. A fundamental regulatory principle of the “separation of function” is that “the agency entrusted for regulating a technology cannot be the same agency that promotes the use of that technology”(Knelman, 1975). The IAEA , through its UNCED document entitled “Nuclear Techniques and Sustainable Development.” acted as a major proponent, not only of the current use, but also of the increased use of nuclear energy.
Agenda 21– the 700-page far-reaching action-plan document from UNCED, was adopted unanimously by the global community represented at the Earth Summit in Rio. In Agenda 21 the following concern about radiation was expressed:
The deterioration of environmental quality, notably air, water and soil pollution owing to toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, radiation and other sources, is a matter of growing concern. (Chapter 16. subsection 12),
The extent of the consequences of the nuclear industry were also identified in Agenda 21:
Annually about 200,000 m3 of low-level and intermediate- level waste and 10,000 m3 of high-level waste (as well as spent nuclear fuel destined for final disposal) is generated world wide from nuclear power production. These volumes are increasing as more nuclear power units are taken into operation, nuclear facilities are decommissioned and the use of radionuclides increases. (Chapter 22, subsection 1)
Yet at one of the plenary sessions, Mr. Hans Blix, Director-General of the IAEA, was given permission to present a document advocating nuclear energy as being a safe alternative energy for the future. The International Non Governmental Organizations, (NGOs), however, recognized that the fundamental regulatory principle had been violated, and gave IAEA, the dubious honour of being presented with the International NGO Community’s “Most Preposterous Proposal Award” “for presenting nuclear power as the environmental solution in energy and successfully keeping its problems out of the documents”.
We would like to highlight some of the SEDUCTIVE DEVICES, STRATEGIES, DOCTRINES, DOGMAS and FALLACIES that have made the IAEA worthy of this honour. The examples will be drawn from the IAEA document, which was prepared for UNCED. Also references will be made to other UNCED Documents such as Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration– the Earth Charter– 1992, and the Canada’s National Report for UNCED, 1992.
The seductive devices, strategies and fallacies used by the IAEA all draw upon the fundamental language of “nukespeak”. Knelman (1986, 1992) has expanded on the euphemistic nature of Nukespeak:
The rule is sanitizing by euphemism: political euphemism is of course older than nuclear power. How many of us recognize the “elimination of unreliable elements”? There are forbidden words in the language of civil nuclear power. For example, the words “accident”, “pollution” or “disease” are never used. Accidents are either “transients”, “events”, “significant events”, “anomalies’, “occurrences” or “abnormal occurrences”. In the extreme, they become “normal abnormalities”, i.e. truth becomes lies. Explosions are “events of rapid disengagement” or “prompt criticality”. Waste dumps are “residue areas”. Thermal pollution becomes “thermal effects” and pollution becomes “impacts”. Disease becomes “health effects”. This is a euphemism for cancer and genetic malformations. And missing plutonium, which is the link to clandestine acquisition of nuclear explosives is “material unaccounted for” or simply MUF! (Knelman, 1986.)
Other names relating to nuclear accidents are criticality, nuclear excursions, abnormal evolution, normal aberration, plant transients, unnecessary ignition sources. “Nukespeak” is perpetuated through “nuclear acceptance campaigns” by the PR departments of the nuclear establishment, designed to find “palatable synonyms” for “scare words” through the use of “truth squads” in order to remove “undue public concern”, create “pro-energy climate” where “technically qualified persons” would agree that nuclear power poses “no significant threat” and could be “entrusted” for the timely detection of potential abnormalities, or there is “no evidence” of such threat (as though lack of evidence is proof of assertion) and the promises that turned into lies i.e. that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter” providing society with “boundless energy” and save us from “freezing in the dark”, this is the language of Orwell’s 1984, where peace is war and truth is a lie.
Seductive devices, doctrines, dogmas, strategies and fallacies
• The “blatant misrepresentation or expedient omission” device
This device involves the convenient exclusion of any part that could be detrimental to one’s position.
The IAEA through expedient omission (possibly for advantageous “clarification”) has left out a significant section in Agenda 21, which does not include nuclear energy in the list of “safe” technologies for the future.
To “clarify” Agenda 21, the IAEA in its UNCED document stated the following:
The UNCED Agenda 21 notes the need for a transition to environmentally sound energy systems, which will entail major changes in the patterns of energy production and consumption (IAEA Document, p.5, 1992)
In the Atmosphere chapter of Agenda 21, the following [safe] and sound technologies are advocated:
cooperate to increase the availability of capacity, capabilities and relevant technologies …for utilizing and producing environmentally [safe and] sound renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and biomass,… Each resource should be utilized in a manner that … minimizes environmental stress and health impacts, …. (Section 9. Subsection 9 g Agenda 21, 1992)
Thus, we see that in the Energy section of Agenda 21, Nuclear energy is not mentioned as being one of the [safe] or sound technology.
• The “co-opted terms” strategy
This strategy involves the stipulating of a new definition for a term that would jeopardize one’s own argument.
In the Rio Declaration the following precautionary principle was advocated:
Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” ( Rio Declaration, 1992).
In the following statement, the IAEA redefines the important precautionary principle that was agreed to in the Rio Declaration, 1992.
The basic principles for radiation protection and safety in all applications and activities in nuclear science and technology are precautionary (IAEA Document , p. 2, authors emphasis)
The Rio principle, however, if enacted and truly adhered to, would bring about a moratorium on new nuclear power plants while phasing out currently existing ones.
• The “comparison of convenience” device
This device involves the narrowing down of alternatives so that whatever aspect is compared will appear favourable to the proposed alternative.
In the following statement from the IAEA document, the IAEA narrows the alternatives used for comparison to those, which would appear to be favourable within the terms of reference of their comparison. Thus, for example, they compare the relatively low volume of nuclear wastes to the much larger volume of wastes from fossil fuels. However, it is the volume of wastes multiplied by their toxicity that is significant. Merely comparing volumes is a “comparison of convenience”. The same false comparison is used to compare fuel requirements for the same energy output.
A nuclear plant would require 27 tonnes of slightly enriched uranium each year, which corresponds to a few truckloads. The corresponding quantity of natural uranium is 160 tonnes.
A coal-fired plant would need 2.6 million tonnes of coal each year… which corresponds to the load carried by 5 trains, each transporting 1400 tones. Every day an oil-fired plant would require 2 million tonnes of fuel oil per year, which is about 10 super-tanker loads. (IAEA document, 1992, p.12)
The nuclear establishment never fails to compare coal and nuclear as competing energy sources, always claiming the inherent superiority of nuclear. Usually this is accomplished by failing to include the entire fuel cycle over its full life of impacts, social and environmental. They conveniently exclude safety factors, production of wastes, disposability of wastes, degree of potential for bioaccumulation, lifetimes of wastes, toxicity and proliferation problems associated with nuclear.
Yet no bombs are built of coal, no terrorist is interested in hijacking coal or in the clandestine acquisition of coal weapons, coal plants do not have to be decommissioned and mothballed after some 30 to 50 years of operation, their hazardous wastes do not have to be guarded for 100,000 years, coal dust is easier to contain than radon and coal plants do not require liability subsidies by acts of parliament” ( Knelman, 1992)
• The “lull and lure of the technological fix” syndrome, the “misleading assurance” device or the fallacy of “technological omnipotence”
This syndrome, device or fallacy involves the revealing of the seriousness of the problem and the offering of a “solution” which is usually worse than the problem
The proponents of a potentially dangerous act indicate that they recognize the danger and focus on one area for which they can offer a technological fix
In the following statement from the Radioactive Wastes section of Agenda 21, into which it appears that the IAEA had input, the following situation is recognized:
Annually about 200,000 m3 of low-level and intermediate-level waste and 10,000 m 3 of high-level waste ( as well as spent nuclear fuel destined for final disposal) is generated world wide from nuclear power production. These volumes are increasing as more nuclear power units are taken into operation, nuclear facilities are decommissioned and the use of radionuclides increases. The high level waste contains about 99 percent of the radionuclides and thus represents the largest radiological risk. ( Agenda 21, Radio Active wastes, 21.1.)
In the IAEA document the authors affirm the certainty of the technological fix.
There is nevertheless a consensus among experts that safe geological disposal of high level wastes, including spent nuclear fuel, is technically feasible. ( IAEA Document, p.17)
The view of experts in the field is that safe technological solutions exist for managing the waste. (IAEA Document, 1992, p. 15)
Knelman (1992) points out that:
The assumption behind the notion of permanent disposal of High level wastes deep in a stable geological formation is false because this assumption relies on the mistaken belief that anything we do technologically can be permanent. This assumption of permanence is particularly false when we are dealing with the lithosphere over some 100,000 years and when we must first disturb the geological structure by digging a very deep hole. AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited) has dug a deep hole near Lac du Bonnet in Manitoba which is totally inappropriate for such so-called “permanent” disposal. For one thing you must, in all events, avoid water. Yet, The AECL hole must be soaked. Walt Patterson, a nuclear critic described this AECL research as follows: A drunk has lost his keys and is discovered by a police officer crawling around a street light. When questioned, the drunk admitted that he had lost his keys in front of a dark building, a block away. When asked why the drunk was then searching around the streetlight, the drunk said “you see, officer, the light is better here” and as Dr Martin Resnikoff, an expert on geological waste disposal has put it “the earth does not stand still. In other words, experts in the relevant fields do not agree. (Knelman, 1992, in progress)
• The “rhetoric of notwithstanding clause” doctrine
This doctrine allows for the indulging in strong statements about deep concern and the need for significant change and then including a notwithstanding clause that negates the strong statement.
In the Rio declaration (1992) there is a strong statement about third world dumping:
States should effectively cooperate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other States of any activities and substances that cause sever[e] environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health. (Principle 14 Rio Declaration, 1992)
There are, however, disturbing “notwithstanding clauses” that appear such as in the following statements:
Develop regulatory and non-regulatory measures and procedures aimed at preventing the export of chemicals that are banned, severely restricted, withdrawn or not approved for health or environmental reasons, except when such export has received prior written consent from [t]he importing country or is other wise in accordance with the PIC procedure; ( Section 19. subsection 53 f , Agenda 21, 1992)
In the following statement in the IAEA document, the IAEA energetically adopts the spirit of the “rhetoric of notwithstanding clauses”:
The IAEA in 1990 promulgated a Code of Practice on the International Transboundary Movement of Radioactive Waste as a basis for harmonization of national legislation and policies. The code lays down the conditions and principles for international waste transfers, such as that movement must be made in a manner consistent with the international safety standards, that there must be prior notification and consent of the sending, receiving and transit States, and that each State involved should have a regulatory authority… ( IAEA Document, 1992, p. 20
• The “flamboyant absurdity” doctrine or dogma
This doctrine or dogma carries the concerns of one’s opponents to the point where the regulations governing the opponents concerns should become the standard by which other potentially lesser concerns will be addressed.
The IAEA appears to advocate that, what is considered to be the most dangerous industry, just because it is dangerous, has developed stringent standards, and that they who contribute to possibly the greatest uncontrollable hazard are the ones who should assist the community in dealing with other hazards.
The basic principles for radiation protection and safety in all applications and activities in nuclear science and technology are precautionary and are so well founded in science and so widely accepted that they are now also being regarded as a source of guidance in controlling pollutants and impacts arising from other human activities. Their wider application would undoubtedly contribute towards sustainable development. (p.2)
• The “justification through dire consequences of alternatives” device
This device involves the revealing of the dire consequences of the current practices and offering one’s own practice as the salvation for the problem.
In the following statement the IAEA cites the dire consequences of the other alternatives to justify their proposed alternative:
The problem of acid rain, which is linked to emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, has been recognized for decades. … the primary concern about the continued and increasing use of fossil fuels is the problem of CO2 emission and the potential impact on world climate. … World conference on the Changing Atmosphere… need to reduce CO2 emission (IAEA document, p. 5)
climate change in connection with fossil fuels (p. 9)
•The “benevolent outcome exploitation” strategy
This strategy involves the selection of the outcome which the opposition to the proposed alternative would advocate and the subsequent attempt to demonstrate that the proposed alternative, which the opposition would condemn, would be the best way of achieving that outcome.
In the following statements from the IAEA document, the IAEA focuses on the desired outcomes of reducing acid rain and limiting greenhouse gas to justify the selection of their proposed alternative:
Several governments have already made commitments to reduce carbon emission, while recognizing that this will be hard to achieve except through drastic policy decisions in the energy sector. (IAEA Document, 1992, p.6)
Nuclear power plants in normal operations cause very little environmental detriment and are beneficial when they replace plants which would emit CO2, SO2, and NO2 (p. 12). In this resects they would help to reduce acid rain and limit greenhouse gas emissions (IAEA Document 1992 , p. 12)
To accomplish the above, IAEA and other nuclear proponents are recommending the construction of some 4000 to 5000 new commercial nuclear power plants. [...]
The “nukespeak” and the seductive devices, strategies, syndromes used by the Nuclear Industry involve the language of delusion and distortion. Hopefully, through continued revealing and categorizing of these words of delusion we could, in some small way, counteract the impact of the not too-hidden-agenda of the IAEA, and the rest of the nuclear establishment and their government supporters.