Klaus Töpfer ex German Minister of the Environment - "It would be disastrous if we were to consider a future with nuclear energy once again"
Klaus Töpfer, the 69- year- old former head of the United Nations Environment Program, spent 11 years a member of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's cabinet. He spearheaded environmental policy as Minister of Environment and introduced ground breaking environmental regulations and laws such as the law on the life-cycle economy and the packaging recycling system "Green dot".
He was Federal Minister of Regional Planning, Building and Urban Development as well as Coordinator of the Transfer of Parliament and Federal Government to Berlin from 1994 to 1998. He held office as Federal Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety from 1987-1994 - when he took up this office he stated "We must invent a future without nuclear energy."
Prior to becoming a member of the German Federal Cabinet he was State Minister of Environment and Health of the Federal State of Rhineland-Palatine (1985-1987) and State Secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Environment for the same state (1978-1985).
He also initiated several laws to ban the use of environmentally harmful substances such as SO2 and ozone depleting substances. He actively contributed to the success of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and was a forerunner in the negotiations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the establishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). In 1998, Töpfer went to Nairobi to serve as director of the United Nations Environment Program. He currently works as a consultant, advising the Chinese government on climate policy issues and teaching sustainable development at prestigious Tongji University in Shanghai.
Der Speigel interviewed him to discuss discusses the new nuclear energy consensus, the global hunger for energy and the leading role played by Germany in creating a world without atomic power.
You can read the interview in full here .... Here are some quotable quotes ...
"a dramatic rise in the global thirst for energy, especially in countries like China and India, has led to exploding prices in the West. The emerging nations want to participate in economic growth. As a result, people in industrialized nations like Germany are now afraid that they will no longer be able to drive their cars, pay for electricity and heat their homes. I stand by my words: We must invent a future without nuclear energy, "
"We need to face the fact that energy will never be as cheap as it once was."
"You know, many conveniently overestimate the importance of nuclear energy in protecting the climate. Conversely, the risk that nuclear material could end up in the wrong hands is often underestimated. That's my main argument against nuclear energy: the proliferation of weapons-grade nuclear material."
"it's high time that we hurry up and develop alternatives to nuclear energy. US President George W. Bush warned against a third world war, because Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea bluffed hard with the nuclear threat. And French President Nicolas Sarkozy is offering relatively unstable North African countries nuclear power plants. Time is running out."
SPIEGEL asks the question :" If the nuclear power plant operators had their way, they would extend the operating life of their plants by 30 years, in line with the international standard of 60 years. How much of an extension would you permit?"
Töpfer: "We should not give in just because America and France are urging us to abandon the path we have chosen. I am familiar with the concern that extending operating life would only be used to push back efforts to develop renewable energy sources. This absolutely cannot be allowed to happen."
"As cabinet minister, I was responsible for Germany's nuclear power plants for seven-and-a-half years, so I'm not exactly like a blind man explaining color. No one is unprincipled enough to operate a nuclear power plant or extend its operating life when he knows that it's unsafe. Of course, there is always a residual risk with any nuclear reactor. Besides, the question of disposal of nuclear waste also remains unresolved. That's why I'm so concerned about the fact that so few young people are interested in these technologies."
"It would be disastrous if we were to consider a future with nuclear energy once again, simply for the sake of possibly extending the operating lives of plants by a few years. Germany has been a leader in the development and promotion of renewable forms of energy. Now it's time to prove that a flourishing economy can develop an energy supply without nuclear energy. If we don't do it, who will?"