Skip to content

Business Lansing – November 23, 2009

Take 5: Patrick Moore

five questions. five answers.
November 23, 2009

He says nuclear energy is clean, safe and creates jobs. And the co-founder and former director of Greenpeace, an environmental activist group opposed to nuclear energy said he made a mistake early on by opposing nuclear energy.

“Our main focus then was to stop nuclear weapons and because of our focus on that we painted everything nuclear as being evil,” he said. The United States has 104 nuclear energy plants at 64 sites, Moore said, and there are “plans to build 20 or 30 more in the near future, in the next decade or so.”
But Moore said that’s not enough to meet the country’s growing energy needs.

“The (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) did a study of what would be required to meet the legislation that’s going through Congress now on climate change – to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050 – they estimated that 185 new nuclear plants would be required to do that,” he said.

Why is nuclear energy better (in your opinion) than solar or wind energy?

Nuclear energy is, first off, clean. It produces no air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions, and it runs 24/7, unlike solar or wind, which are intermittent in nature. … So that means wind and solar can only be a small part of the total, whereas the baseload power will be provided by fossil fuels, or hydroelectric or nuclear. Michigan doesn’t have much of any hydroelectric resource, and I would argue that nuclear is superior to fossil fuels, in that it’s clean.

How do you go from being a founder of Greenpeace, which is adamantly opposed to nuclear energy, to a proponent of nuclear energy?

Because I think we made a mistake in the early years of the environmental movement. Our main focus then was to stop nuclear weapons and because of our focus on that we painted everything nuclear as being evil, where as nuclear energy is actually a beneficial use of nuke technology. Nuclear weapons are a destructive use. We got a lot of things right in the early years: stop the bombs, save the whales, stop toxic waste, but we made a mistake (on) nuclear power.

How do you deal with people who say, ‘What about Three Mile Island or Chernobyl (sites of nuclear accidents)?’
People who say, ‘We don’t want it in our backyards?’

The closer you get to a nuclear plant in the United States, the stronger the support for nuclear energy is. On average, 60 percent of the general public is in favor of nuclear energy today, but within 10 miles of a nuclear plant that figure is 80 percent. And that’s because people who live near nuclear plants know they are clean, know they are safe, and know that they are huge wealth-creating machines in their community. Each one creates about $400 million of economic activity each year.

What are some misconceptions people have about nuclear energy?

No member of the public has ever been harmed by a nuclear power plant in the United States. Another thing is, nuclear plants cannot explode like a bomb. And one more, the used nuclear fuel, often referred to as nuclear waste, can be recycled and is actually one of the most important future energy resources for the United States.

Why is going green with nuclear energy a good thing for the country? Why should businesses go green?

Going green basically means reducing your negative impacts on the environment, reducing pollution in particular, and going nuclear eliminates pollution from nuclear energy production, or virtually … because the plant itself is not producing any emissions. So nuclear is green because it is sustainable and clean.