IAEA’s First Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels: More than 600 organisations protest globally, call it “fairy tale”

Brussels, 21 March 2024 – An international coalition of climate, environment and peace activists will stage a protest demonstration in Brussels today, near the “Nuclear Energy Summit” which the Prime Minister of Belgium and the International Atomic Energy Agency are co-hosting. The summit brings political and nuclear industry leaders together and aims to attract public finance to advance the goal, announced by a group of countries at COP28 in Dubai, of tripling global nuclear capacity by 2050.

According to activist group Don’t Nuke the Climate, tripling nuclear capacity by 2050 would require countries to connect between 24 and 28 new reactors to the grid each year for the next 26 years, a completely unrealistic goal. These are large reactors; even more would be needed if the reactors are smaller.

The protest exposes this goal as nothing more than a fantasy, and will feature representatives from groups like Greenpeace and the European Environmental Bureau, as well as Don’t Nuke the Climate, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and many more.

Activists in costumes will stand near the Atomium in Brussels, holding a banner reading “NUCLEAR FAIRY TALES = CLIMATE CRISIS” in front of an inflatable fairy tale castle. Activists will take to the podium to deliver short speeches on the many ways in which nuclear power has consistently failed to live up to the hype of its industry and political backers.

*** High quality photo and video of the protest will be available for media to download here ***

Lorelei Limousin, senior campaigner at Greenpeace EU, said: “It’s impossible to take politicians seriously when they talk about tripling global nuclear capacity by 2050. Maybe in children’s stories there’s a creature that can transform from a donkey into a unicorn, but pretending that the nuclear industry can pull this off will only delay the whole energy transition. Why waste so much time and money on these nuclear fairy tales when governments can achieve their climate and energy goals with energy savings and renewable energy?”

Marc Alexander, activist with Don’t Nuke the Climate, said: “Nuclear power is the opposite of social and climate justice. Promising a reactor at some point in the coming decades does nothing to bring emissions down this decade, and it does nothing to help people struggling with energy poverty. The threats of nuclear war and nuclear disaster are still just as intolerable as they have always been. It’s time to transform this industry, and to create millions of good jobs building the safe and climate-regenerative renewable energy system that the planet needs and that people, including nuclear workers, deserve. The future is renewable, not radioactive!” 

Cosimo Tansini, Policy Officer for Renewables from the European Environmental Bureau, said: “Renewables are already cheaper than nuclear, and the gap will continue to grow in the coming years. The attendees of this summit are advocating for investments in new nuclear and unnecessary lifetime extensions. This risks diverting public money and attention away from the real challenges to climate neutrality: halving energy demand, tripling renewable energy capacity, and investing in grids and flexibility.”

Global civil society speak out against nuclear fantasy

This week, more than 500 organisations worldwide have made a joint declaration (link goes live on 21 March), calling on governments not to waste time and money on nuclear fairy tales and to provide safe renewable energy instead. The organisations come from at least 56 countries and territories and include climate and environment organisations, frontline communities, networks of peace activists, as well as youth groups, churches and other civil society representatives.

The full text of the statement is copied below. The statement and list of signatories will be available here on 21 March.

Practical information

Location of the demonstration: Boulevard du Centenaire, Brussels 1020 (between Expo and Atomium)

Time: 08:00-11:00, 21 March 2024

Spokespeople will be available at the protest for journalists to interview in English, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Czech, Slovak, Italian.

Speeches will be delivered at the protest by activists from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Russia (TBC), South Korea, UK, and USA. Other statements will be read aloud on behalf of movement allies from Ukraine, First Nations and indigenous frontline communities.

Useful resources 

COP28 and the nuclear energy numbers racket – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

What is the role of nuclear energy in achieving climate targets in global scenarios? – German Environment Agency

Nuclear myth busting – Don’t Nuke the Climate

Myth buster: Nuclear energy is a dangerous distraction – Climate Action Network Europe

The cost of new nuclear: the unbearable lightness of EDF (in French) – Greenpeace France

Note to editors

On 21 March, please check the latest number of signatories to the statement.

Joint statement: Safe, affordable and climate-friendly energy for all

The international nuclear lobby, at the invitation of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Prime Minister of Belgium, will hold a nuclear energy summit in Brussels on 21 March 2024. The nuclear lobby camouflages itself beneath a climate-friendly facade, hoping to divert massive sums of money away from real climate solutions, at the expense of people and the planet.

The world faces multiple social, environmental and economic crises. People are worried about the cost of living, extreme weather events linked to climate change, and their energy bills. Lobbyists and politicians at the nuclear energy summit will present building new nuclear power plants as the answer, but this does not pass a basic reality check.

New nuclear power is too slow to tackle the climate emergency. Nuclear power plants under development have been severely delayed and won’t be able to meaningfully contribute to cutting carbon emissions this decade. Whereas greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically cut by 2030 to limit global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees, any new nuclear plants announced today would not be connected to the grid until well past this deadline. New nuclear power plants are a distraction which slows down the energy transition. A rapid shift away from fossil fuels should instead focus on building a 100% renewable energy system coupled with energy efficiency and measures to avoid excessive energy use. Together, these steps can meet the world’s energy needs in a way that is fair, environmentally friendly, and achievable.

Nuclear energy is much more expensive than renewables. While nuclear projects face huge budget overruns and cancellations due to sky-rocketing costs, renewables are cheaper than ever before, declining sharply in relative costs compared to nuclear. New nuclear power plants are up to nearly four times as expensive as wind power, according to the 2023 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. Governments need to invest in proven climate solutions, such as home insulation, public transport, and renewable energy, rather than expensive experiments, like small modular reactors, which have no guarantees of actually delivering.

Nuclear power is dangerous. From mining for uranium to radioactive waste, nuclear power production is a risk to people’s health, safety, and the environment. Nuclear power can be used as military targets and increase the risk of spreading nuclear weapons across the world, the use of depleted uranium and atomic bombs. The climate crisis also increases the risks involved in nuclear power, as increased heatwaves, droughts, storms, and flooding all pose significant threats to the plants themselves and to the systems that aim to prevent nuclear accidents.

We are living in a climate emergency. Time is precious, and too many governments are wasting it with nuclear energy fairy tales. What we demand is a just transition towards a safe, renewable and affordable energy system that secures jobs and protects life on our planet.

Full list of signatories available here from 21 March 2024.


Lorelei Limousin, Greenpeace EU senior campaigner:  +32 (0)477 79 04 15, llimousi@greenpeace.org

Marc Alexander, Don’t Nuke the Climate activist: +32 (0)474 87 89 98, marlex@skynet.be

Cosimo Tansini, European Environmental Bureau policy officer: +32 (0)2 289 13 03; cosimo.tansini@eeb.org

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, pressdesk.eu@greenpeace.org

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs: www.twitter.com/GreenpeaceEU

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning network that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. We do not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties. Greenpeace has over three million supporters, and 26 independent national and regional organisations with offices in more than 55 countries.

EU Transparency Register: 9832909575-41

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