Greenpeace founder says nuclear power should be part of energy mix

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(Host) A founder of the Greenpeace environmental group told Vermont lawmakers today that nuclear energy should remain a part of Vermont’s energy mix.

Canadian Patrick Moore said nuclear power is undergoing a renaissance because of concerns about global warming.

But some lawmakers were skeptical. VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) In 1970, Patrick Moore helped start Greenpeace in a Vancouver church basement. The organization campaigned against nuclear weapons testing, and he says he believed that all uses of nuclear energy were bad.

(Moore) “It’s unfortunate in retrospect that back then we made no distinction between nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.”

(Dillon) Moore left the organization in 1986, after serving seven years as head of Greenpeace International. His views on nuclear energy have shifted completely. He now says the world should embrace atomic power. He favors the development of renewables such as hydro, wind and solar. But he says for big, base-load power plants, the only real choice is hydro, fossil fuel such as coal or oil – or nuclear.

Most big hydro sites have been developed, he says, and fossil fuels add to global warming.

(Moore) “One of the great policy dysfunctions that we have at the present time is that many leaders are concerned about climate change and against nuclear energy. The fact is that nuclear energy is a logical solution on the climate change side.”

(Dillon) Moore is now a consultant for a local group that favors extending the license of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The owners of Vermont Yankee hope to capitalize on concern about global warming with an ad campaign titled Green not Greenhouse.’

Moore told lawmakers that Vermont’s greenhouse gas footprint is small, but only because two-thirds of its electric power comes from Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee.

(Moore) “You have the privilege and the honor of being the lowest per capita CO2 emitters in this whole country. And the only way that will remain the same is if you retain the renewable hydro and the non-CO2 emitting nuclear energy in the mix.”

(Dillon) But there were many skeptics at the Statehouse. Environmental groups said the nuclear industry has not solved the problem of high-level radioactive waste, which they said is a toxic legacy that must be managed for many generations.

Moore tried to turn that argument around. He called nuclear waste, quote “a national treasure” that contains 95% of its original energy.
He said it can be reprocessed safely to make more fuel.

East Montpelier Democrat Tony Klein wasn’t convinced. He says he’s concerned about waste now stored near the Connecticut River at Vermont Yankee.

(Klein) “We haven’t collected money to manage this waste more than 30 years out. So we don’t know what it’s going to cost, we don’t know where it’s going to be put. We now know that we can expect that it’s going to be on site for the next 100 years. That’s scary.”

(Dillon) Environmentalists also pointed out that nuclear fuel re-processing sites have leaked and damaged the environment in the U.S. and in Europe.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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