A Nuclear Renegade against Greenpeace

Article excerpt

Byline: Fareed Zakaria

Patrick Moore now promotes the worst nightmares of his old allies.

Patrick Moore is a critic of the environmental movement-- AN unlikely one at that. He was one of the cofounders of Greenpeace, and sailed into the Aleutian Islands on the organization's inaugural mission in 1971, to protest U.S. nuclear tests taking place there. After leading the group for 15 years he left abruptly, and, in a controversial reversal, has become an outspoken advocate of some of the environmental movement's most detested causes, chief among them nuclear energy. NEWSWEEK'S Fareed Zakaria spoke to Moore about his sparring with the green movement, and why he thinks nuclear power is the energy of the future. Excerpts:

ZAKARIA: AT Greenpeace, you fought against nuclear energy. What changed?

MOORE: My belief, in retrospect, is that because we were so focused on the destructive aspect of nuclear technology and nuclear war, we made the mistake of lumping nuclear energy in with nuclear weapons, as if all things nuclear were evil. And indeed today, Greenpeace still uses the word "evil" to describe nuclear energy. I think that's as big a mistake as if you lumped nuclear medicine in with nuclear weapons. Nuclear medicine uses radioactive isotopes to successfully treat millions of people every year, and those isotopes are all produced in nuclear reactors. That's why I left Greenpeace: I could see that my fellow directors, none of whom had any science education, were starting to deal with issues around chemicals and biology and genetics, which they had no formal training in, and they were taking the organization into what I call "pop environmentalism," which uses sensationalism, misinformation, fear tactics, etc., to deal with people on an emotional level rather than an intellectual level.

Why do you favor nuclear energy over other non-carbon-based sources of energy?

Other than hydroelectric energy--which I also strongly support--nuclear is the only technology besides fossil fuels available as a large-scale continuous power source, and I mean one you can rely on to be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Wind and solar energy are intermittent and thus unreliable. How can you run hospitals and factories and schools and even a house on an electricity supply that disappears for three or four days at a time? Wind can play a minor role in reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use, because you can turn the fossil fuels off when the wind is blowing. And solar 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.

A number of analyses say that nuclear power isn't cost competitive, and that without government subsidies, there's no real market for it.

That's simply not true. Where the massive government subsidies are is in wind and solar. I know that France, which produces 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear, does not have high energy costs. …