Patrick Moore Q & A
Q&A | Patrick Moore
By David Adams, Times Staff Writer, St. Petersburg Times
In print: Monday, July 7, 2008
Patrick Moore was one of the founders of Greenpeace, the environmental activist group, and has worked in the field for more than 30 years. The Canadian ecologist has caused gasps among fellow environmentalists by advocating nuclear energy as a way to reduce global warming and avoid catastrophic climate change. He recently joined the nuclear industry lobby group Clean and Safe Energy Coalition to campaign for the issue.
Moore, 61, talked with the Times at Gov. Charlie Crist’s Climate Change Summit in Miami late last month about nuclear energy and leaving Greenpeace.
How much has nuclear power plant safety improved?
Polls are pretty clear that about two-thirds of the people support nuclear energy and think it should be part of the future. The closer people live to the nuclear plants the more supportive they are of nuclear energy. There’s about 80 percent support within 10 miles of the plant. There are three reasons for that. One, they know it’s safe because they live there and it’s never hurt them. Two, the air is clean and compared to living near a coal plant they know it’s not causing any environmental damage. And third, it’s a huge economic generator. They employ about twice as many people as a coal plant and they employ higher-skilled and higher-paid people than a coal plant.
How big a shift is it going from Greenpeace to being pro-nuclear?
Although I realized we got a lot of things right in the early years of the environmental movement, Stop the Bomb, Save the Whales and all of that, we weren’t perfect and we made a mistake about nuclear energy. We failed to distinguish between the beneficial and the destructive uses of nuclear technology. That’s like lumping nuclear medicine in with nuclear weapons. …
When did you know it was time to make a move?
I left Greenpeace in 1986 after 15 years in the top committee. I was one of the five international directors for the last six years I was there. I came to be uncomfortable with the direction my fellow directors were taking, and in particular I looked around one day and realized I was the only one with a science education among all of the international directors at Greenpeace. I also wanted to move on from confrontational politics, which is basically telling people what they should stop doing.
What is that science background?
I did a Ph.D. in ecology, and I also have an honorary doctor of science from North Carolina State University. Before that I did my bachelor’s degree in biology and forestry.
Is there a legitimate concern about nuclear waste?
Used nuclear fuel at all the reactors in the world is one of our most important future energy resources, because 90 percent of that energy is still in those fuel rods. France is doing it and has been for over 20 years. They have modified 22 of their 59 nuclear reactors to burn recycled mixed oxide fuel … basically a mixture of mostly uranium and some plutonium. That’s why we don’t need to be afraid of it lasting 250,000 years, because we’re going to burn it and make fission products out of it, which only last for 300 years, and that’s the longest-lived ones.