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​Let's not waste nuclear waste!

Currently, despite the publics perception, used nuclear fuel is safely stored and managed. But it still contains enormous amounts of energy.

It can be recycled, in advanced reactors known as a fast breeder reactors, and used to provide a future of abundant clean energy.

  • Do you work for the nuclear industry?
    Lol. Such a boring question. No we don't. We are entirely independent of industry and accept no funding from them. We just genuinely believe in what we're saying.
  • Why are you targeting Greenpeace instead of fossil fuel companies?
    To deal with the Climate Crisis we need to rapidly phase out fossil fuels. Many environmental organisations are focused directly on stopping fossil fuels. We are focusing our limited resources on promoting the solutions that will ultimately replace those fossil fuels. Energy is essential to human welfare, we can't just stop using energy, there need to be clean sources ready to go. Greenpeace has substantial resources, they spend 10s of millions annually on lobbying and employing campaigners. Our call is for Greenpeace to use these resources to focus on fossil fuels, both fighting against expansion of fossil fuels and for clean energy solutions like nuclear, wind and solar.
  • What do you mean by legal action?
    With the help of a law firm called Houthoff in Amsterdam we’ve submitted papers to the EU Court of Justice asking to enter a legal challenge of the inclusion of nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities brought by Greenpeace against the European Commission. If accepted by the court, we would be participating as an “interested party”. This would allow us to present evidence and call experts but in defence of carbon free nuclear energy.
  • What's RePlanet's relationship to this?
    The idea for this campaign was initiated by Ia Aanstoot and her team of young climate activists. The campaign then grew out of a conversation with the campaigners at RePlanet who agreed to partner with them and support the creation of the campaign.
  • Who funds you?
    The Dear Greenpeace campaign is run by volunteers. Other costs are covered by RePlanet, who gets its funding entirely from charitable donations - see our transparency statement here.
  • Why is Ia's father on the board of RePlanet?
    Ia Aanstoot went pro-nuclear at a young age. She spoke to her father - a well known public figure in Sweden - and eventually converted him to being pro-nuclear also. As a result he is now an unpaid volunteer for the board of RePlanet.
  • Are you funded by Quadrature Climate Foundation (QCF)?
    RePlanet is a recipient of a funding grant from Quadrature Climate Foundation (QCF). Quadrature Climate Foundation (QCF) provides funding grants to numerous environmental organisations including the European Climate Foundation, the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). You can read about QCF here - More information about our funding can be found in our transparency statement.
  • Who funds you?
    As a young global environmental organization, the start-up of our activities has been made possible by membership fees and donations, as well as very welcome contributions from the Rodel Foundation, Quadrature Climate Foundation, The Dreamery Foundation and the Anthropocene Institute. Our funding has come exclusively from charitable sources. As part of our commitment to transparency all donors of over €5,000 are listed here. We have not received any funding from industry or party-political sources.
  • Are you Ecomodernists?
    Short answer: Yes and No. Long answer: RePlanet is a diverse movement with national organisations and individuals with a range of ideas but a common goal, that being to liberate nature and elevate humanity. Many of the original national organisations and individuals involved in forming RePlanet identified as ecomodernists. However, there was strong consensus that the concept needed to evolve. Mark Lynas explains further, “We needed a vision, something which could inspire, a manifesto for an environmental movement that would be technology-friendly, science-based, progressive, and even, you might say, modern. We called it ecomodernism, which was a good name for what was distinctive about the philosophy, but it wasn’t quite right, because for me it seemed like there was a lot of modernism and not much eco. So when we came together in 2021 for a meeting in Antwerp, back in the time of Covid, I think many of us were ready to try something different. And this was RePlanet. Not just a disparate movement but a professionally organised network of activists in multiple countries, dedicated to overtaking mainstream green thinking, not just in science but in ambition. For example, if we have a moonshot programme for renewables and SMRs combined, why not have an earlier net zero date, like 2040?” Read more here, or watch here.
  • Are you against renewables?
    No, except for biomass on a large scale, that's a no no. Burning things for energy (especially for electricity) should be a last resort, not an industry. Of course, in planning wind and solar projects, indigenous rights have to be upheld, and natural habitats can't be displaced.
  • Do you support nuclear power?
  • How can I make a donation?
    You can donate to RePlanet here.
  • How can I contact you?
    How can I contact you? You can contact us directly here.
  • Doesn’t radioactive material pose a significant risk to the health of humans and the environment?
    Radioactive material is a hazardous material that can pose a risk to the health of humans and the environment. Hazardous materials are not unique to nuclear energy. The cleaning products in your cupboard, the fuel in your car, and even certain drugs used for medical therapy, these are all hazardous materials. The difference between hazardous and dangerous is how we use and manage these materials.
  • Don’t accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima prove that nuclear energy is unsafe?
    The fact that many people know the names Chernobyl and Fukushima is a demonstration of the safety of nuclear energy. Much like commercial air or rail travel, accidents are rare. However, when we an accident does occur, they are traumatic and get a lot of media coverage. This can give us the false impression that these activities are dangerous. Statistically, both flying in a plane or using nuclear energy are extremely safe methods of travel and generating energy. Whether commercial air travel or nuclear energy, the safety that has been achieve is a result of robust government regulation and oversight. RePlanet strongly advocates for transparent and democratically accountable regulations to ensure the highest safety for nuclear and all technologies.
  • Is it really zero carbon?
    Well, not really. Everything from mining, transportation and waste management should be taken into account when looking at each energy source. Such life-cycle analyses, combined with electricity output and longevity, show nuclear power has CO2 emissions similar to, or lower than, solar and wind which are generally referred to as zero-carbon energy. Source: UNECE
  • Doesn’t nuclear power mean leaving a toxic waste legacy for future generations?
    How we manage waste of any kind is as much a political question as it is a technical one. For example, solar panels can be recycled as part of a circular economy but are often sent to landfill, exiting the system. ‘Nuclear waste’ or used fuel, is a ceramic (solid) which needs to cooled for a period of time once leaving the reactor, and is then nearly always stored on site. Just like the solar panel example, we have a political choice whether to recycle this used fuel into a circular economy or let it exit the system. There are two ways two handle this spent fuel in the longer term: Store it indefinitely in a geological repository. (so it becomes waste) Recycle it, to use it again, as fuel. Find out more how nuclear can be part of a circular economy. Read our article on Nuclear waste. Check out our upcoming 'What a Waste!' Report.
  • Don’t we risk the proliferation of nuclear weapons if we use more nuclear energy?
    The development of nuclear weapons is a political choice and is separate to civilian nuclear energy. Only 7 of 32 countries with civilian nuclear energy have nuclear weapons and 2 countries with nuclear weapons do not have civilian nuclear energy. Here’s a thought experiment. To make fertiliser or conventional explosives requires similar chemical processes, should we ban fertiliser or put in safeguards to regulate the production of explosives? We believe that we should use the democratic process to hold our governments to the strong international agreements that guard against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works diligently to ensure these treaties are upheld.
  • Doesn’t requiring a fuel leave nuclear vulnerable to geopolitics and price volatility?
    The quantity of uranium needed for fuel is relatively small, uranium deposits are abundant and it is currently mined in a number of countries. Nuclear fuel is also extremely energy dense. A typical fuel assembly spends an average of 5 years in a reactor. Approximately every 18-24 months a reactor is shutdown to replace some of the fuel assemblies. This gives plant operators significant time to organise new fuel assemblies. Different reactor designs have different fuel assembly designs, this can be a factor in the availability of fuel but it can be resolved. For example, a number of European countries wanting to reduce their reliance on Russia have secured deals with US companies to produce fuel assemblies for their Russian designed reactors.
  • What happens to a nuclear power station when it is shutdown?
    It depends on a number of factors including; reactor design, acountries regulation, orfuture plans for the site. It is possible to completely dismantle a nuclear power station to a brownfield site to allow for other land uses, including rewilding. Find out more about how different countries manage the decomissioning process here.
  • There are different types of nuclear waste.
    Nuclear waste is the byproduct of nuclear power generation, nuclear medicine, and nuclear weapons production. It refers to any material that contains radioactive elements that have reached the end of their useful life and are no longer needed for their original purpose. Some examples of nuclear waste include spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants, protective gown, gloves and tools from nuclear research or medical facilities, and materials from decommissioned nuclear weapons. Low-level radioactive waste has a lower level of radioactivity and is typically generated from various sources such as medical facilities, research institutions, and industries that use radioactive materials in their processes. Examples of low-level radioactive waste include contaminated materials from hospital rooms, laboratory instruments, and protective clothing. This type of waste is less hazardous and can be managed and disposed of in less specialized facilities, such as landfills designed for low-level radioactive waste. It's storage containers are sometimes the type of (yellow) barrels you'll see depicted in popular depictions of nuclear waste, however, this waste is neither unique to nuclear power, nor is it a serious hazard. In contrast, highly radioactive waste, such as spent fuel from nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons production, is extremely radioactive and can remain hazardous for thousands of years. It is typically a solid ceramic, not the leaky green glowing goo from the Simpsons. This is the waste that has given rise to the question 'what about the waste?'. This type of waste, spent nuclear fuel*, requires careful handling, transport, and storage, typically in special facilities designed for high-level radioactive waste. The radioactivity levels of highly radioactive waste are so high that it requires shielding to protect workers and the environment from exposure. This type of waste is either stored in pools on site to cool of, or in big metal/concrete cannisters as you'll see in our video. * This is also the kind of waste that can be recycled and turned into energy.
  • Nuclear waste, aka spent nuclear fuel, can be recycled.
    Yes, nuclear waste can be recycled using breeder reactors. Breeder reactors are a type of nuclear reactor that can produce more nuclear fuel than they consume by converting non-fissile isotopes into fissile isotopes. By using breeder reactors, it's possible to extract the remaining uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel and use them as fuel in the breeder reactor. The breeder reactor can then produce additional fuel, which can be used in other nuclear reactors, effectively recycling the nuclear waste. One of the potential benefits of using breeder reactors for nuclear waste recycling is that it can significantly reduce the amount of radioactive waste that needs to be stored. Additionally, it can help reduce the demand for new uranium resources, as the breeder reactor can produce more fuel than it consumes.
  • Could nuclear waste be used to produce an atomic weapon by terrorist groups?
    It is theoretically possible for terrorist groups to use nuclear waste to produce an atomic weapon, but in reality technical and economic challenges would make it impossible to do so. The process of creating an atomic weapon requires highly enriched uranium or plutonium, which is not typically found in nuclear waste. Instead, nuclear waste contains lower levels of these materials and other radioactive isotopes that are not suitable for weaponization. Moreover, the process of extracting the usable materials from nuclear waste is highly complex and requires specialized knowledge, technology, and equipment. This process is also highly regulated and monitored by national and international organizations to prevent the misuse of nuclear materials. Furthermore, most countries have strict regulations in place to prevent the theft, diversion, or illegal trafficking of nuclear materials, including nuclear waste. These regulations include strict security measures, transportation requirements, and tracking systems to ensure that nuclear waste is properly accounted for and managed. Overall, while it is theoretically possible for nuclear waste to be used in the production of an atomic weapon, the practical difficulties and regulatory measures in place make it highly unlikely, not to say, impossible.
  • How dangerous is spent fuel?
    Since the dawn of the civil nuclear power industry, spent nuclear fuel has never caused harm to people or planet. Spent nuclear fuel is therefore not dangerous, because it is regulated and handled as to not pose any threat to human health or the biosphere. Spent fuel is either stored in spent fuel pools, to cool them of (and you could actually swim in these pools without receiving a significant dose of radiation larger than natural background radiation) However, spent fuel is hazardous, since it contains radioactive materials that can cause cancerous growths and genetic problems. The radioactive isotopes eventually decay, or disintegrate, into harmless materials. Some isotopes decay in hours or even minutes, but others decay very slowly over thousands of years. By recycling spent fuel we can reduce the lifetime of these isotopes (to a few hundred), and reduce the total volume of long lived highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel.
  • How does a breeder reactor differ from a traditional nuclear reactor?
    A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor that generates more fissile material than it consumes. These reactors can be fueled with more commonly available isotopes of uranium and thorium, such as uranium-238 or thorium-232, as opposed to the rare uranium-235 which is used in conventional reactors. Unlike regular reactors, which barely use uranium-235 as their nuclear fuel, breeder reactors use natural uranium-238. (Uranium-235 is only available in low concentrations of about 0.7% of natural uranium with no enrichment, while uranium-238 is much more common.) Breeder reactors can create 30% more fuel than they consume. After an initial introduction of enriched uranium, the breeder reactor only needs infrequent addition of stable uranium, which is then converted into the fuel.
  • What is the current status of breeder reactor technology?
    There are four countries in the world that currently have operating fast breeder nuclear reactors: China, Japan, India and Russia. The total number of countries with breeder reactors is down from nine countries, including the U.S., which had a breeder reactor program that was terminated in 1994.




Nuclear waste is called waste, because we intend to waste it. Let's do better.

In our latest report by lead author Mark Lynas, we quantify how existing nuclear materials stockpiles currently considered ‘waste’ can instead be repurposed to provide energy to support wind and solar in achieving a net zero economy in Europe.

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