Saturday, February 24
Vermont was recently disgraced by an industry-sponsored visit from
Patrick Moore, who claims to be a "founder" of Greenpeace, and who is
out selling nuclear power as a "green" technology.
The two claims are roughly equal in the baldness of their falsehood.
But the impacts of the lies about Vermont Yankee are far more
serious. Vermont is now at a crossroads in its energy and environmental
future. The reactor is old and infirm. Every day it operates heightens
the odds on a major accident.
In a world beset by terror, there is no more vulnerable target
than an aged reactor like Vermont Yankee. Its core is laden with
builtup radiation accumulated over the decades. Its environs are
stacked with supremely radioactive spent fuel. Its elderly core and
containment are among the most fragile that exist.
Despite industry claims, VY's high-level nuke waste is going
nowhere. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Edward McGaffigan has told the
New York Times he believes the Yucca Mountain waste repository cannot
open for at least another 17-20 years, if ever. At current production
levels, it will by then require yet another repository at least that
size to handle the spent fuel that will by then be stacked at reactors
like VY. In short: the dry casks stacked at Vermont Yankee comprise
what amounts to a permanent high level nuke dump, on the shores of the
The Better Business Bureau recently recommended that the
Nuclear Energy Institute pull its advertising that claims atomic
reactors are clean and nonpolluting. The NEI is an industry front
group. The BBB says that reactors cause thermal pollution in their
outtake pipes and cooling towers, and also create substantial amounts
of greenhouse gases in uranium production. In short, the Better
Business Bureau has punctured the industry's claim the Vermont Yankee
and other reactors are any kind of solution for climate chaos. The idea
that VY is a "green" facility is utter nonsense.
Indeed, all nuclear power plants produce huge quantities of
global warming gases as they are wrapped up in the mining of the
uranium ore that goes into the fuel, and in the milling of that ore
into fuel rods. The American West is littered with gargantuan piles of
mill tailings that pour thousands of curies of radioactive radon into
Fabricating fuel rods is one of the most electricity-intensive
industries on earth, consuming millions of tons of coal in the process,
emitting untold quantities of greenhouse gases. The radioactive
emissions from the plants themselves also unbalance the atmosphere, and
the heat they dump into the air and water directly heats the planet.
The alleged "renaissance" of nuclear power is nothing more
than heavily funded industry hype. Wall Street financiers are not
lining up to invest in these dinosaurs, and numerous utility executives
have publicly doubted the wisdom of building them.
One reason is the explosive take-off of the renewable energy
industry. Wind power is now very substantially cheaper than nukes. The
production of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight directly to
electricity, can barely meet demand. Investments in biofuels such as
ethanol and biodiesel are soaring, as are those in the cheapest form of
recovered energy, increased efficiency. Shutting VY would open Vermont
to the revolution that is reshaping the future. Keeping it open locks
Vermont into a sorry past.
Nuclear power is a 50-year experiment that has failed.
Extending the operations of Vermont Yankee will only leave the state
with more radioactive waste, a Connecticut River increasingly
threatened by heat and radioactive emissions, and an increasingly
radioactive relic despoiling the region. Nukes cannot compete in the
market, and would all cease to operate overnight if the huge subsidy of
federal liability insurance was removed.
It is fitting, therefore, that the industry has insulted
Vermont by sending in a spokesman of the caliber of Patrick Moore.
Moore has claimed for years to be a founder of Greenpeace, an
exaggeration of his actual role. Moore sailed on the first Greenpeace
campaign, but he did not actually found the organization. According to
Dorothy Stowe, an American Quaker, who immigrated to Canada in 1966 and
founded Greenpeace with her husband Irving Stowe and other Canadian
pacifists and ecologists, "Technically, Patrick Moore cannot be
described as a founder of Greenpeace. He was there in early stages with
a lot of others. But what he is doing now is unconscionable."
In "Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists, and
Visionaries Changed the World," author Rex Weyler writes "Greenpeace
was founded by Quakers Dorothy and Irving Stowe, Marie and Jim Bohlen,
and journalists Ben Metcalfe, Dorothy Metcalfe, and Bob Hunter. This
group organized the first campaign to sail a boat into the U.S. nuclear
test zone on Amchitka Island in the Bering Sea.
"Canadian ecologist and carpenter Bill Darnell coined the name
"Greenpeace" in February 1970. A year later, Moore wrote to the
organization, applying for a crew position on the boat and was
Moore wrote his letter on March 16, 1971, two years after the
group was founded, describing himself as a graduate student "in the
field of resource ecology." Clearly, then, Moore was not a founder of
Greenpeace. Founders don't write letters applying to join. After the
Stowes, Metcalfes and Bob Hunter left the organization, Moore briefly
served as president, from 1977 to 1979. Former members recall that his
bullyism nearly scuttled Greenpeace. He launched an internal lawsuit
against his rivals in other Greenpeace offices, was replaced as
president in 1979, and eventually drummed out of the organization as a
According to Steve Sawyer, who still works with Greenpeace in
Amsterdam, "Moore harbored hopes of regaining his throne. Those hopes
were dashed when he was chucked off the board in 1985." Moore started a
fish farm, but did not succeed. He then did public relations for the
Canadian forestry industry, absurdly defending massive clearcuts as an
ecologically viable logging practice.
In a newspaper column in 1993, authentic Greenpeace founder
Bob Hunter, called Moore "The Judas of the ecology movement." According
to Hunter, Moore "burned off his old buddies because of his hubris. He
was always a Green Tory at heart."
Moore says he is the "head scientist" of his public relations
firm, but has never published a peer-reviewed scientific study. Moore
exaggerates his role in Greenpeace and his credentials as a scientist
to serve as a public relations hack for hire.
Moore now gets big money defending the indefensible, posing as
a reformed environmentalist who has seen the light ... any light he is
paid to see. He has hyped genetically modified crops, PVCs, and
brominated flame retardants. He has soft-pedaled dioxins and toxic mine
tailings dumped by Newmont mines into Indonesia bays.
Now he wants to sell Vermont on its nuke power plant. In
exchange for a paycheck, he portrays Three Mile Island as a "success
story." But if a melt-down turned Vermont Yankee into a TMI-type,
billion-dollar liability, would he pitch in his pitch man's paychecks
to help you underwrite this "success?"
Years ago, when he worked for Greenpeace, Moore wrote:
"Nuclear power plants are, next to nuclear warheads themselves, the
most dangerous devices that man has ever created. Their construction
and proliferation is the most irresponsible, in fact the most criminal,
act ever to have taken place on this planet."
Greenpeace agrees. The "revival" of nuke power is a hype being
perpetrated by phony experts. Wall Street is not exactly lining up to
invest in a failed technology with fifty years of proven failure.
Vermont Yankee must be shut, dismantled and buried. Closing it now will
narrow the burden of its permanent waste dump and open the door on the
booming revolution in the real energy of the future: renewables and
Harvey Wasserman, senior advisor to Greenpeace USA
since 1990, is author of "Solartopia: Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D.
2030," (available at www.solartopia.org/). This article was written with research help from past and current Greenpeace associates.