Vermont, like too many other places with nuke reactors, 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
But the impacts of the lies about Vermont Yankee---like so
many other reactors---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 built
up 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 Connecticut River.
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 the atmosphere.
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 accepted.�
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 bullying 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 troublemaker.
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 clear-cutting as an ecologically viable
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�s 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 meltdown turned Vermont Yankee into a TMI-type, billion-dollar
liability, would he pitch in his pitch man�s paychecks to help you underwrite
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
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 50 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 efficiency.
Wasserman, senior advisor to Greenpeace USA since 1990, is author of �Solartopia: Our Green-Powered Earth, a.d. 2030.� This article was written
with research help from past and current Greenpeace associates. A version of
this article was published by the Brattleboro Reformer.