Engineering News – March 3, 2008
Greenpeace cofounder Moore backs nuclear power
By: Christy van der Merwe
Published March 3, 2008
Adding a green voice to the promotion of nuclear power generation, ecologist, environmentalist, and cofounder of Greenpeace, Dr Patrick Moore affirmed his environmental support for nuclear power while in Johannesburg on Monday, and stated that there was “every reason to choose nuclear power over coal”.
Currently chairperson and chief scientist for Greenspirit Strategies consultancy, Moore explained to journalists his shift from ‘politics of confrontation’ in his Greenpeace days, to ‘politics of consensus’ in promoting sustainability and focusing on what should be done rather than what shouldn’t be done.
“The fact is that nuclear energy is already one of the two technologies that is resulting in the most carbon dioxide reductions than anything else,” he said. The other was hydroelectric energy.
“I find it logically inconsistent for people in the environmental movement who say that climate change threatens the very existence of our civilisation, and threatens to drive millions of species into extinction, and then they are opposed to one of the most important technologies that could bring about a resolution to that problem – replacing fossil fuels with nuclear energy,” he reiterated.
He spoke of the “nuclear renaissance”, pointing out countries that had committed to nuclear power such as Finland, France, Sweden, and more recently, Russia, India and China, as well as the US, which was said to have 32 nuclear reactors on the drawing board.
About 16% of the world’s electricity currently comes from nuclear power, and Moore said that there was significant room for growth of nuclear power generation in South Africa, which currently has only 5% of its energy generating capacity supplied from nuclear power (the Koeberg power station).
He felt that the country’s ambitions to install 20 000 MW of nuclear power going forward were a “positive thing”.
Moore noted that, considering the intermittency of renewable energies, there were only two viable options for base-load power in South Africa, namely coal-fired or nuclear. “As an environmentalist, I would choose the technology that does not emit huge amounts of air pollution resulting in tremendous negative impact on public health in terms of respiratory illness, and does not emit greenhouse gas – whereas coal emits millions of tons of it,” he stated.
He admitted that although Greenpeace as an organisation achieved many good things, he felt that it made a “fairly serious mistake by lumping nuclear energy with nuclear weapons, as if all things nuclear were evil – because we were so focused on nuclear war, and the threat of nuclear weapons being used in an all-out exchange and destroying civilisation and the environment with it.”
He added that in retrospect, that would be “as incorrect as lumping nuclear medicine in with nuclear weapons, just because it too is a nuclear technology”.
“Nuclear medicine is in fact a very beneficial use of radioactive isotopes to diagnose and treat millions of people each year. Those isotopes are all produced in nuclear reactors. This beneficial use of nuclear reactors was similar to the beneficial use of nuclear reactors for civilian power use. It is nuclear energy and nuclear medicine that should be lumped into one category and nuclear weapons in a separate category, of destructive uses of the technology.”
Moore commented that one of his main reasons for visiting South Africa was to learn more about the pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR), and meet the people responsible for its design and construction.
“People all around the world are watching this PBMR research and development with anticipation, as the high temperature reactor being constructed here will have applications in industry and technology that the conventional light water reactors simply cannot do, as it will produce a higher temperature of steam and be capable of producing hydrogen directly. Because it is modular, it will also be suitable for a lot more applications than these large 1000-MW-plus reactors. It is going to be a very important technology for the future,” he concluded.