An interview with Patrick Moore...
The former founder of Greenpeace talks to Wired News...
Wired News: We don't want to dwell on the past, but can you describe your conversion from Greenpeace co-founder to nuclear energy promoter? What changed your mind?
Patrick Moore: Going back to the early days in Greenpeace in the 1970s and 1980s, we were totally focused on nuclear war and nuclear testing in the Cold War. We failed to distinguish between the beneficial uses of the technology and the evil uses of the technology.
It became clear to me that there was a logical disconnect. The people who were most concerned about climate change were most opposed to nuclear power. Greenpeace is against fossil fuel, nuclear and hydroelectric power. Those three technologies produce over 99 percent of world energy. What kind of a path to a sustainable future is that?
WN: You take rising electricity demand as a given. Does that mean that conservationism has failed?
Moore: Not at all, it's just that the economy has grown faster than our ability to invent new energy efficiency measures. Energy efficiency has improved about 1.5 percent per year since the beginning of the industrial revolution. If you look at GDP, it has increased 150 percent from 1973 to today and energy consumption has only gone up 32 percent. That is conservation and efficiency in spades. You can't expect to have the economy growing and at the same time be able to reduce the overall amount of energy you're using.
WN: Why would you support nuclear energy over, say, coal plants with carbon capture and storage technologies?
Moore: Because those clean coal technologies are in the R&D stage. The sequestration of CO2 is a difficult process that would make coal power cost at least twice -- maybe as much as four times as much. You've got to separate the oxygen from the nitrogen at the front end. We know how to do it, but it takes a lot of energy. Then at the back end, you have to liquefy the CO2 and pump it underground.
I believe that clean coal is largely a marketing concept. I do not believe it is a description of a real technology that exists today. If Congress passed a law that all coal plants must sequester their CO2, no more coal plants would be built.
Plus, there's the liability issue of CO2 escaping from the ground after it has been put there.
WN: People, often negative to neutral on nuclear, say that nuclear plants' risk factors are much worse than coal. It seems like your counter is that a coal plant with a carbon capture and sequestration system has similar risk factors?
Moore: Yeah, but the risk is maybe even worse.