Published: April 17, 2008
Posted by Keith Johnson
April 17, 2008
Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore’s cheerleading for nuclear power is hardly news these days. But at a time when nuclear power is increasingly touted as a way to help meet growing energy demand and curb emissions of greenhouse gases at the same time, it’s always instructive to get a peek at the tug-of-war within the environmental movement over a carbon-free—but still controversial—source of power.
Mr. Moore, who now works as a nuclear-power advocate with the Clean and Safe Energy coalition, drops a few interesting pearls in an interview this week with Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International. On why environmentalists—including Mr. Moore in his day—were so opposed to nuclear power:
[W]e made the mistake of lumping nuclear energy in with nuclear weapons, as if all things nuclear were evil. I think that’s as big a mistake as if you lumped nuclear medicine in with nuclear weapons.
On the possibility of renewable energy like solar power riding to the rescue:
[S]olar is completely ridiculous. The cost is so high—California’s $3.2 billion in solar subsidies is all just going into Silicon Valley companies and consultants. It’s ridiculous.
On why environmentalists should stop patting themselves on the back for paralyzing the construction of new coal-fired plants:
Unfortunately now the environmental movement is the primary obstacle here. If it weren’t for their opposition to nuclear energy, there would be a lot fewer coal-fired power plants in the United States and other parts of the world today.
Clearly, Mr. Moore’s message doesn’t always find a receptive audience; Germany and Italy have no plans to roll back their nuclear moratoriums despite the specter of more frequent blackouts. Environmentalists in the U.K. have sharply criticized the government’s plan to ramp up nuclear power production. In the U.S., concerns over storage of long-term nuclear waste, as well as licensing, technology, and cost issues, have all slowed down the nuclear revival.
But when Nicholas Stern, whose grim warnings of climate catastrophe are embraced by environmentalists, advocates the use of a lot more nuclear energy, it’s clearly a debate that still has plenty of legs.