Former Greenpeace director tells Mo. commerce group nuclear power is safe

Nuclear power as an energy source is going to grow in the future, Patrick Moore told Missourians attending the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s “Energy Future” conference Thursday.

“It’s heartened a lot of us who support nuclear power that, even under the situation that exists in the world today, virtually all world leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear energy,” Moore said, “Not only ones who have nuclear energy now, but countries that are planning to have nuclear for the first time.”

He acknowledged that Japan’s crisis has the world asking questions about nuclear safety, and that there’s nothing wrong with double-checking safety issues.

But, Moore noted, Japan’s biggest problems in the crisis were caused by a major earthquake and the following tsunami.

“It looks like 28,000 people have lost their lives, at least 250,000 people are homeless,” he said. “Vast areas of land have been destroyed for a long period of time, (including) a lot of agricultural land. ...

“Nobody has died from the Fukushima (Nuclear Plant) crisis ... and nobody is expected to (die).”

He said the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, formed to track the survivors of the World War II Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb blasts, has determined “that there is insufficient exposure in both the population and the workers to warrant a follow-up study (of the Fukushima disaster) because it is certain that no health impact will be able to be discerned” between those exposed to radiation and those who were not exposed.

The biggest lesson to be learned from the Japanese crisis — at least in the early days — is that “they obviously did not have sufficient back-up power ... to pump cooling water through the core of the reactor, which is still very hot because of the heat of the decay of the fission products,” Moore said.

He supports those Missourians interested in developing a second reactor at Ameren Missouri’s Callaway plant site near Reform, where the first reactor has been operating safely since the mid-1980s.

And nuclear plants are safe places to work, Moore said, as shown by a 2004 Columbia University study of 53,000 nuclear plant workers finding “there are significantly, statistically, less cancers, less diseases and they live longer.”

Moore’s presentation includes his own story of how he came to support nuclear power — a story that begins in 1969 as he was “doing my Ph.D. in ecology at the University of British Columbia (and) I became radicalized at the height of the Vietnam War ... the Cold War and the threat of all-out nuclear holocaust.”

That’s when he “joined this little group in a church basement in Vancouver, called the ‘Don’t Make A Wave Committee’ and helped plan a protest voyage across the Pacific, against U.S. hydrogen bomb testing to symbolize our concern about the escalation of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war.”

That little group became “Greenpeace,” and Moore helped lead Greenpeace-Canada and, later, the international group “leading campaigns around the world.”

But in 1986, Moore said, “I found myself the only International (Greenpeace) director with a formal education in science, and I felt it was becoming too sensationalist and political in nature.”

Among the mistakes the activist group has made, he said, was confusing the dangers of nuclear weapons with the safety of nuclear power.

All forms of energy production have risks, he explained, “but there is less risk with nuclear power.”

About five years ago, Moore co-founded the “Clean and Safe Energy Coalition,” which he co-chairs with Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and EPA administrator (2001-03) in the George W. Bush administration.

He said the United States and Canada can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels substantially, by using ground-source heat-pumps for home heating and cooling needs and adopting hybrid technology with plug-in charging for vehicles.

With today’s known uranium and thorium resources, he said, nuclear energy should last for “tens of thousands of years.”

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