Nuclear Power, No Thanks?

The ‘Smiling Sun’ is one of the Anti-Nuclear Movement’s most recognisable images.

The image was created in Denmark in the 70’s to symbolise international opposition of nuclear power. Over 20 million stickers were produced in 45 languages making it one of the most internationally recognised symbols in the world.

Worldwide Anti-Nuclear Movement

The Anti-Nuclear Movement is a social movement opposed to the production of nuclear weapons and the generation of electricity by nuclear power plants.

The goals and ideologies of the antinuclear movement range from an emphasis on peace and environmentalism to intellectual social activism based on knowledge of nuclear technology and to political and moral activism based on conflicts between nuclear power applications and policies and personal values.

Major anti-nuclear groups include Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Peace Action and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

The initial objective of the movement was nuclear disarmament, though since the late 1960s opposition has included the use of nuclear power. Many anti-nuclear groups oppose both nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The movement argues that nuclear-related terrorist attacks and nuclear accidents are probable and that radioactive waste is difficult to adequately dispose of, antinuclear activists push for alternative energy technologies to meet the needs of the human race prior to the depletion of fossil fuels.

The Anti-Nuclear movement grew throughout the 1960s. The Cold War resulted in an elevated fear of nuclear attack, the construction of backyard nuclear-bomb shelters, and regular duck-and-cover drills in schools.

In 1968 the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom signed the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and agreed not to assist other states in obtaining or producing nuclear weapons.

Although the anti-nuclear movement continued in the United States during the late 1960s and into the 1970s, some momentum was lost as many other social issues came to the forefront, such as the Vietnam War, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, and environmental issues.

The formation of green parties in the 1970s and 1980s was often a direct result of anti-nuclear politics.

Large scale nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania in 1979 and Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima, Japan in 2011 brought the dangers of nuclear power to worldwide attention, giving the Anti-Nuclear Movement a renewed focus.

Given the increases in oil prices, concerns about global warming, and the slow advances in alternative energy sources, commercial nuclear power has again come to the forefront of energy and environmental policy decisions. Thus, the Anti-Nuclear Movement is likely to continue campaigning against nuclear power for the foreseeable future.

In terms of disarmament, landmark progress was made in 2007 when the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was established to promote the implementation of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The campaign received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for:

“For its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

UK Anti-Nuclear Movement

The anti-nuclear movement in the United Kingdom consists of groups who oppose nuclear technologies such as nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Many different groups and individuals have been involved in anti-nuclear demonstrations and protests over the years.

The Ban the Bomb movement began in Britain; construction of missile bases were protested; and increasing controversy developed over construction of commercial nuclear power plants.

The best known anti-nuclear group in the UK is CND whose Aldermaston Marches began in 1958 and continued into the late 1960s when tens of thousands of people took part in four-day marches.

Perhaps the most iconic anti-nuclear mobilisation in the 1980s was the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. In London, in October 1983, more than 300,000 people assembled in Hyde Park as part of the largest protest against nuclear weapons in British history.

Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp

In 2005 in Britain, there were many protests and peace camps about the government’s proposal to replace the ageing Trident weapons system with a newer model.

In October 2010 the British government announced eight locations it considered suitable for future nuclear power stations. This has resulted in public opposition and protests at some of the sites. The Scottish Government, with the backing of the Scottish Parliament, has stated that no new nuclear power stations will be constructed in Scotland.

In March 2012, several energy companies announced that they would be pulling out of developing new nuclear power plants – thus putting the UK’s nuclear power industry in doubt.

Sadly, despite significant opposition, the UK Government voted in favour of renewing the Trident missile system in 2016. The UK Government has stated that the renewal will cost £31bn – £41bn for construction and £10bn for contingencies. However, these figures are widely believed to be too low and the final cost could be much higher.

Images by Smudge and

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