The Null Device

A glowing green

Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace and former anti-nuclear activist, has changed his mind about nuclear energy, and now argues that mass adoption of nuclear power may be our only hope of averting catastrophic global warming:
Here's why: Wind and solar power have their place, but because they are intermittent and unpredictable they simply can't replace big baseload plants such as coal, nuclear and hydroelectric. Natural gas, a fossil fuel, is too expensive already, and its price is too volatile to risk building big baseload plants. Given that hydroelectric resources are built pretty much to capacity, nuclear is, by elimination, the only viable substitute for coal. It's that simple.
Moore then goes through the most common objections to nuclear power and offers refutations for each one:
Nuclear plants are not safe. Although Three Mile Island was a success story, the accident at Chernobyl, 20 years ago this month, was not. But Chernobyl was an accident waiting to happen. This early model of Soviet reactor had no containment vessel, was an inherently bad design and its operators literally blew it up. The multi-agency U.N. Chernobyl Forum reported last year that 56 deaths could be directly attributed to the accident, most of those from radiation or burns suffered while fighting the fire. Tragic as those deaths were, they pale in comparison to the more than 5,000 coal-mining deaths that occur worldwide every year. No one has died of a radiation-related accident in the history of the U.S. civilian nuclear reactor program. (And although hundreds of uranium mine workers did die from radiation exposure underground in the early years of that industry, that problem was long ago corrected.)
Nuclear waste will be dangerous for thousands of years. Within 40 years, used fuel has less than one-thousandth of the radioactivity it had when it was removed from the reactor. And it is incorrect to call it waste, because 95 percent of the potential energy is still contained in the used fuel after the first cycle. Now that the United States has removed the ban on recycling used fuel, it will be possible to use that energy and to greatly reduce the amount of waste that needs treatment and disposal. Last month, Japan joined France, Britain and Russia in the nuclear-fuel-recycling business. The United States will not be far behind.
Nuclear reactors are vulnerable to terrorist attack. The six-feet-thick reinforced concrete containment vessel protects the contents from the outside as well as the inside. And even if a jumbo jet did crash into a reactor and breach the containment, the reactor would not explode. There are many types of facilities that are far more vulnerable, including liquid natural gas plants, chemical plants and numerous political targets.

There are 6 comments on "A glowing green":

Posted by: Peter http://www.frogworth.com Tue Apr 18 14:19:04 2006

He has no respect in the environmental community though. e.g. Aussie environmental commentator Tim Lambert, from a day or two ago: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/04/patrick_cofounder_of_greenpeac.php Lambert calls him "Patrick co-founder of Greenpeace (his middle name is 'Moore')..." - Moore tries to base his credibility on being a co-founder of Greenpeace, but "Moore is not an environmentalist who is supporting nuclear power because he thinks it is the best way to prevent global warming." He is in fact a greenhouse sceptic these days.

Nuclear power's problems aren't just problems of radioactive waste and the dangers of meltdowns. Proponents of nuclear power also gloss over the amounts of energy required to build and maintain them, not to mention mining uranium. It *may* be a slightly better option than coal, but it's presented as "don't bother with that renewable stuff, just go nuclear!"

Posted by: Colin Tue Apr 18 16:37:15 2006

If it's safe, why is it always refered to as a stopgap measure until better sources of energy can be deployed?

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/ Tue Apr 18 17:19:52 2006

If you had to choose between nuclear and fossil-fuel energy, which would you choose? Given the increasingly obvious damage that CO2 emissions are causing, and the improved safety and efficiency of recent nuclear reactors, nuclear does look sensible.

I agree that it is not as desirable as renewable energy, though renewables still have some way to go before they can provide sufficient power.

Posted by: jimbob http://the-fix.org Wed Apr 19 01:09:33 2006

The latest deal is Thorium reactors - apparently, they can be used to "eat" the plutonium currently treated as nuclear waste / weapons material, produce safer wastes overall, and Thorium is several thousand times more abundant than Uranium anyway. http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,68045,00.html

Posted by: El Bizarro Sat Apr 22 02:46:31 2006

Moore is a fat old blow hard who nobody in the environment movement takes seriously and the right wing pundits wheel out whenever they need a "converted" greenie. Moore was one of a dozen "founders" of Greenpeace and by many personal accounts, a real dickwad. But then, you only have to look at all those gimboids flogging green left weekly in Martin Place to get the picture, how many of them will be moving up to the Northern Suburbs and the Mercedes when they graduate and take thte big corporate cocksucker job...

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/ Sat Apr 22 23:11:06 2006

Though does that invalidate his arguments about nuclear power being a necessary part of any realistic near-term greenhouse-containment strategy? Regardless of what sort of person he is, I'd want to see solid refutations of his argument before I reject it.

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