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Greenpeace founder sees nuclear as viable power option

www.dunnvillechronicle.com: KAREN BEST - January 02, 2008

One of the founders of greenpeace has changed his course to promote nuclear energy as the power generation option of choice to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Thirty years ago, Patrick Moore believed nuclear energy would lead to a holocaust. Now he tours the world speaking about clean sources of sustainable energy. On a recent southern Ontario stop, he shared this position with a small crowd at a public meeting sponsored by Bruce Power.

The only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to satisfy growing demands is to build new nuclear power plants to replace aging facilities, he said of solutions to Ontario's energy dilemma. Sharing his vision for a sustainable energy future, he offered solutions to close the carbon dioxide cycle including renewable energy development and conservation and efficient energy use. Due to construction time for nuclear plants, Moore said the Ontario government cannot possibly shut down coal-fired generation by 2014. He tailored his talk to the Haldimand County scenario. By building a nuclear plant in the Nanticoke industrial park, jobs and a power source are retained and transmission lines are used.

"Some energy facility other than coal has to be put at Nanticoke," said Moore. "For base load power, nuclear is the only choice."

This was a key message that Bruce Power wanted delivered in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties, where Moore made presentations several weeks ago. Energy issues, especially nuclear, are issues in these municipalities, said John Peevers, media relations spokesperson for Bruce Power. The company sponsored the event because it is constantly trying to publicize the benefit of this energy option and, with his greenpeace background, Moore offered a unique perspective, he continued.

Earlier this year, Bruce Power president Duncan Hawthorne provided information at several public meetings. Although interested in the Nanticoke site, the company was also keen on determining if residents were willing to consider the option of a nuclear plant in their community.

Later in the year, a company-sponsored survey showed support and a company-sponsored financial impact study showed millions of dollars pouring into the county with construction and operation of a plant. Haldimand County council has supported Bruce Power's pursuit for an Ontario environmental assessment on the site.

In his two hour lecture, highly laced with technical and scientific information, Moore debunked greenpeace opposition and the fear of rising temperatures on the earth.

The environmental group opposes harvesting trees and burning wood even though this form of energy produces no carbon dioxide emissions and rejects flooding valleys to create more hydro electricity, he said.

"Surely it's okay to flood for energy," said Moore calling greenpeace ridiculous for opposing the most abundant source of energy in Canada.

He also attempted to extinguish nuclear meltdown fears. At Three Mile Island, radiation was sequestered in the plant and no one was injured, he said. In Chernobyl, Russia, a military reactor was converted to a commercial plan with no containment facilities and the 34 deaths resulted from fighting a fire that took two weeks to douse. Among the 340,000 evacuated, divorce and suicides soared. This was worse than living through radiation levels not much higher than natural levels, he pointed out.

Canada has 18 nuclear reactors and 104 are located south of the border. Across the world, the inventory is 442 and there's been no serious accidents since 1986, Moore pointed out.

Fuel rods retain 90 per cent of its radioactivity making it valuable to recycle. While technology is under development, rods can be stored safely for two centuries, Moore indicated. Within 40 years, radioactivity drops to one one-thousandth of its original spent fuel level.

He then turned his attention to coal, the fossil fuel burned at the Ontario Power Generator plant in Nanticoke. It is the major contributor of carbon dioxide, and levels of it are increasing in the world's atmosphere, he said referring to columns of data and figures in a power point presentation.

While it's likely people are causing an increase in carbon dioxide, a billion of years of climate change show periods of warm and cool temperatures over earth's existence, Moore said. "We're in an interglacial period," he added. The average global temperature in the earth is 14.2 degrees Celsius but at the height of an ice age it is 12 degrees Celsius.

In the warmest period, temperatures soared to 22 degrees Celsius and ice melted at both poles. A graph of temperatures illustrated his theory with warmer times during the Roman Empire and a little ice age after Christ. Trends continued for centuries in known history.

Winters were cold in 1940 and 1980 but the severest cold came in the 1960s. "No one can explain this anomaly," Moore said. Then warming began in the 1980s with a peak in 1998.

In a definitive statement, Moore said the planet was not in the midst of an environmental catastrophe. "We really can't prove with science what will happen in the future," he noted.

Wind and solar energy are renewable but expensive options that cannot replace coal and not enough corn can be grown to provide sufficient biomass energy, he pointed out.

Along with promoting nuclear energy, Moore said the most effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is driving hybrid cars powered by batteries.

To lighten demands for power, he advocated drawing energy from the sun's warmth absorbed by land and water. This geothermal source of heat is limitless and can be accessed one kilometre under ground, he said. Together the Ontario and Canadian governments provide a $7,000 tax credit for installation of the $20,000 systems.

After attending the talk, Frank Nightingale, recently named as the Haldimand Norfolk Green Party candidate, said Moore used selective information. Thousands may die yet as a result of Chernobyl and meltdowns are serious and still occur, he added.

Nightingale, who is the president of the Norfolk Federation of Agriculture, also pointed out that a seismic fault near the Nanticoke location is a concern especially because spent fuel rods could leak if jostled by an earthquake.

Instead he preferred taking another look at refurbishing the Nanticoke plant because it is flexible enough to supply power during peak demand times.

Nightingale believed biomass energy can be created in converted boilers and replace 25 per cent of the coal-generated power at the plant. A member of Farmers for Economic Opportunity with 85 other farmers in Haldimand, Norfolk, Elgin and Brant Counties, he said they have 15,000 acres available for wind generation and corn crops. They also recently approached Haldimand County to seek support for their proposal to harvest methane gas from the Tom Howe landfill site near Hagersville.

The FEO also hope to open a renewable energy site at Nanticoke with the support of Haldimand and Norfolk Counties.

Also at the meeting, Janet Fraser of Cayuga told Moore about the local energyquest4nanticoke.ca website. It provides information on assorted energy options and encourages readers to provide feedback. "We have a big decision to make in Haldimand," she said.

She and others launched the website to provide reports and blog space so county residents can arrive at their own decision.

As far as Lorraine Bergstrand is concerned, nuclear power generation is a real opportunity that must be looked at in a reasonable fashion. Also out to hear Moore, she felt a plant was a real opportunity for the county and as a way to retain more than the 600 jobs at the coal plant.

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