Braving the brutal forces of the Pacific Ocean, Patrick Moore and a group of like-minded activists steered a little boat into the heart of a nuclear testing site in the Aleutian Islands to protest what was about to take place in 1971.
That same group went on to found the environmentalist organization Greenpeace. Although Moore is still passionate about environmental causes today, his stance has changed drastically concerning the issue that first brought him to create the group.
Moore advocated his pro-nuclear energy position Monday night as part of the Crain Lecture series. The co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace addressed about 30 people in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum during a lecture titled “From Greenpeace to CASEnergy: Why I Took Another Look at Nuclear Power.”
“It was quite a ride, and we got a lot of things right in those early years,” Moore said about the beginnings of Greenpeace. “But we made one serious mistake.”
The Clean and Safe Energy (CASEnergy) Coalition is a grassroots organization which promotes the use of nuclear power to support America’s increasing energy needs. It is funded by the industry-based Nuclear Energy Institute. “We were young, enthusiastic; but fearful of nuclear war,” said Moore, now the national co-chair of CASEnergy Coalition.
With that fear of nuclear war, Greenpeace rejected all things nuclear. But after studying nuclear energy, Moore found the merits of the power source. After leading Greenpeace for 15 years, Moore split with the environmentalist group.
“I saw the organization drifting away from science and logic, and drifting into sensationalism,” he said. Today, Moore is the chair and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies, an environmental policy and communications consulting group.
“I believe, from a purely environmental view, [nuclear power] is the correct choice for the United States,” he said. According to Moore, nuclear energy makes up nearly 75 percent of clean, carbon-free energy in the United States. There are currently 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S.
“We do not have thousands of years worth of oil and gas,” he added later.
Although wind and solar energy are both environmentally-friendly, Moore said they were “intermittent,” unreliable, and costly. “The sun does not shine at night or when it’s cloudy,” he said.
His strong support of nuclear power also stems from its reliability, its safety and its ability to create jobs.
However, during the question and answer session, audience member David Kraft, the executive director of watchdog group Nuclear Energy Information Service, sparked a small debate. He argued that the claims CASEnergy Coalition and Moore made about the safety and cleanliness of nuclear power may be unsubstantiated.
“We can’t let public ideas go unchallenged,” Kraft said later. He pointed to a decision made 11 years earlier that stated claims made by the Nuclear Energy Institute may be too broad, and misleading to consumers. Afterwards, Kraft also noted CASEnergy Coalition’s public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, which has created controversy over the dangers of public issues in the past, such as issuing major statements saying that cigarette smoking showed no links to cancer.
“You can’t just take these sound bites and make them our energy policy,” Kraft said after the lecture.
Moore openly acknowledged CASEnergy Coalition’s ties to both the NEI and Hill & Knowlton. He responded, “Nuclear fuel is not harming anyone. There are many technologies that are used for good and bad,” he said. “Fire, for example. Are you going to ban fire?”
Fifty percent of American energy actually comes from dismantled Russian warheads, Moore noted.
While nuclear energy powers many countries like France and Sweden, Moore said, “We aren’t at a high enough level of support from the government to create this renaissance.” Additionally, he said many U.S. citizens would not accept the nationalization of energy yet.
Moore advocated for the right of every country to pursue nuclear energy, as the “basis of clean and safe power for the future.”