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Dispute over Paks and carbon neutrality

October 5th, 2019

A left-wing commentator dismisses the government’s argument that nuclear power helps Hungary reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A pro-government columnist finds such criticism ideologically motivated, short-sighted and irrational.

In Népszava, Miklós Hargitai castigates PM Orbán and other government politicians for claiming that the planned new blocks at the Paks nuclear plant will reduce Hungary’s carbon footprint. The left-wing commentator points out that nuclear plants only account for 12 per cent of electric power produced in the EU, and only half of EU member countries run nuclear power stations. Hargitai argues that nuclear energy requires intense mining and transportation, and therefore is not carbon neutral. But even if it were, it takes more time to build nuclear power stations than the time left to reverse climate change and avoid its catastrophic effects, he adds. In a passing remark, Hargitai also claims that the Paks nuclear expansion is based on a new, untried design, and may therefore not be safe.

Magyar Hírlap’s Károly Lóránt, on the other hand, contends that nuclear energy is still the best available option. The pro-government columnist claims that there is no clear scientific consensus concerning the role of human activity in global warming, and even less certainty regarding the long-term implications of climate change. Lóránt suggests that those who take it for granted that global warming is caused by human activity are ideologically rather than rationally motivated. The same people, he suggests, also support migration. As for carbon neutrality in the EU, Lóránt predicts that carbon dioxide emissions in the developing world and the US are likely to grow, and therefore whatever the EU does will have no significant impact on global trends, while harming European economic growth. Lóránt claims furthermore that alternative energy is far more costly than nuclear power. In conclusion, Lóránt thinks that environmentalist critiques of nuclear power are as irrational as the thinking of former Communists.

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