Nuclear Energy Insight
September 2009—Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, saw the value of nuclear energy and changed from an opponent to an enthusiastic supporter. Now, as co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, Moore is briefing policymakers and giving speeches on nuclear energy’s vital role in our energy mix. Insight recently had an opportunity to interview him.
Q: What are some reactions to what you’ve been doing with the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition and changes you are seeing in the public’s view toward nuclear energy?
Moore: Recently, it’s hard to find a media person who’s against nuclear energy anymore. There’s been a big switch there. The second important thing is the mainstream environmental groups are not making a big push against nuclear energy.
Q: You have had a chance to have conversations with members of Congress. What do you see happening with climate change legislation?
Moore: It strikes me that there are only two approaches to this. One is to move to restrict carbon by increasing its price, which pushes the market towards clean, more expensive technologies. The other is to incentivize clean technologies and forget about punishing carbon.
Q: How do you see public support manifested in the policy discussions about nuclear energy?
Moore: In the relicensing meetings I’ve been in, including some like Indian Point in New York and Vermont Yankee, there’s a lot of pro-nuclear sentiment that comes out.
In upstate New York, they are clamoring for a new nuclear plant. Even in California, there’s a slim majority of Californians in favor of nuclear power. So the meter has moved considerably in the last three years. I think the public’s support is becoming more a matter of fact now.
Q: What are the drivers for that?
Moore: For a lot of people, it is climate change. A lot of people see that connection between nuclear energy and reducing greenhouse gases [and] that nuclear power is nearly 75 percent of the U.S.’s clean electricity and is the most important carbon-free technology.
It’s clear to me that the big change that needs to be made is in clean electricity, which means reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing nuclear energy, with a bit of wind power in the mix. The clean energy can then be used to run geothermal heat pumps in all our buildings, eliminating fossil fuels for heating, cooling and hot water. The clean electricity can also be used to charge batteries in plug-in electric hybrid cars that are coming along soon. If we actually did just those three things, we could move into a far less carbon-intensive world without huge economic pain.
Q: What would you do to change the public’s perception of the nuclear energy industry?
Moore: I think we’re on the right track in changing public opinion and understanding with the CASEnergy Coalition and with the other public education initiatives that are going forward. People are learning at a very fast rate. It’s just about straightforward communications to the public. There’s no substitute for that.
Read the full interview here.
—Read more articles in Nuclear Energy Insight and Insight Web Extra.