Balancing green and pro-nukes
Former head of Greenpeace backs use of nuclear energy

May 08, 2008

A traitor to the Earth or 21st century environmental champion?

The former head of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, has been called both. Now co-chairman of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, he plans to discuss today the benefits of nuclear energy to the Victoria Economic Development Corp.

Promoting nuclear energy, Moore steps away from many environmentalists who decry nuclear power as an expensive and hazardous energy source.

Before Moore joined Greenpeace, now a global environmental advocacy group, he grew up in Vancouver Island, British Columbia, playing alongside salmon streams in a veritable wilderness. He calls his love for nature innate and he continued to explore that love through college, earning a doctorate degree in ecology and a bachelor's of science in forest biology.

In the 1970s, Moore joined the anti-nuke movement, protesting nuclear power, weapons and testing. He served nine years as president of Greenpeace Canada and seven years as director of Greenpeace International. Moore was a driving force of the environmental activist organization, but left in 1986 and eventually founded Greenspirit, a consulting agency focused on environmental policy.

"I was against nuclear energy when I was with Greenpeace, and I think we made a mistake," Moore, now 60, said. "Those were the days when we were concerned the whole world was going to be blown up by nuclear bombs."

Moore said he lumped any positive benefits of nuclear energy with the negative aspects of nuclear war. He now promotes nuclear energy as a clean, safe and reliable alternative to coal and fossil fuels.

But environmentalists point out that the Nuclear Energy Institute, the policy organization for the nuclear technologies industry, funds the CASE coalition. Moore said the coalition receives money, but operates independently.

"We are very critical of Patrick Moore and his so-called greenwashing of nuclear power plants," Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of the Texas office of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said. He added that Moore works for various corporate entities who look to environmentally spin their products and services.

"About the only green left of Patrick Moore is the money that's left in his pocket," Smith said.

Moore denounced environmentalists for attacking his opinions. He added he could work in a number of occupations or fields, but chooses to promote nuclear energy to create a sustainable energy future. Nuclear energy won't produce air pollution or emit greenhouse gases, he said, adding that it's more cost-effective and reliable than wind and solar.

"I work for the nuclear industry in that sense because I support it," Moore said.

Greenpeace nuclear policy analyst Jim Riccio said Moore flip-flopped on nuclear energy when he realized its profitability.

"He can deny it all he wants," Riccio said. "I have to question his motives. He's a front group for the nuclear industry."

Riccio calls nuclear a false solution that produces unhealthy levels of radiation, a potential terrorist target, and has a waste storage problem that has yet to be solved.

Smith agreed and added all aspects of nuclear energy, from the mining to enriching to construction, produce harmful emissions and that the "disposal of radioactive materials will haunt Texans for tens of thousands of years."

Moore doesn't seem to be considering the costs, former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Peter Bradford said.

"The estimates for nuclear plants are very high and have a potential to cause really substantial rate increases," Bradford, now a Vermont professor, said. "Money would be more efficiently used if spent on other approaches such as energy efficiency and renewables."

Moore agrees that renewable resources and energy efficiency all should be placed in the country's future's energy portfolio, but that the world needs reliable energy.

"I'm thinking of a realistic approach," Moore said.

Bradford said the billions of dollars spent building nuclear facilities could be spent on other solutions, but the United States can't do everything and must establish priorities.

With the McFaddin area in Victoria County a proposed site for Exelon's next nuclear plant, attorney Sandra McKenzie said she would like for all residents to have their concerns addressed in a public forum. Several residents approached the attorney with concern.

"There is opposition," McKenzie said. "There is a coalition of people who understand that the Exelon request will change our community forever, and they want information and answers to hard questions, not a stump speech from a paid spokesman."

Moore said he's not just a spokesman but an environmentalist in his own right. He's a member with 9,000 others in a group called Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy.

"There's all kinds of ways we can change the way we do things in order to make this a better world," he said.

Tara Bozick is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact her at 361-580-6504 or tbozick

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