Nuclear greenwashing - Page 2

Global warming has suddenly put nukes back on the agenda — but there's a lot the industry isn't telling you

"My fellow environmentalists ought to be grateful to the nuclear industry for supplying 20 percent of our electricity."

And then there's Moore, the 15-year Greenpeace veteran who once put his body in the way of a seal hunter's club and wrote in an April 16, 2006, Washington Post op-ed, "My views have changed and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.

"Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely."

The bio for the Post piece identifies Moore as cochair of "a new industry-funded initiative, the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which supports the use of nuclear energy."

It's one of the few articles that make such a disclosure, although more probably should. A survey by Diane Farsetta, a senior researcher at the Center for Media and Democracy, came across 302 recent articles mentioning Moore and nuclear power as a possible option for mitigating the effects of global warming.

Only 37 — a mere 12 percent — said he's being paid to support nuclear power by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a national organization of pro-nuke industries that's hired Moore to front its nuclear renaissance.

Only the Columbia Journalism Review has drawn the further connection that Hill and Knowlton has been paid $8 million to help the NEI spread the word that the nukies have the silver bullet for solving global warming.

Hill and Knowlton knows a little something about pushing dangerous products. The company created the tobacco industry's decades-long disinformation campaign about the effects of smoking. Veterans of that campaign then helped ExxonMobil try to bury the truth about global warming.

Before laughing these folks out of the reactor room, consider this: Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein, who've been against nukes in the past, are now suggesting nuclear energy needs to be considered in light of global warming.

Al Gore and Hillary Clinton have also made similar recent murmurings. Of all the major 2008 presidential candidates, only Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards have offered up energy plans that don't include more nukes.

Eight states are working on pro-nuclear legislation, and although a bill to lift the moratorium on new plants in California was shot down in the Assembly's Committee on Natural Resources, its sponsor, Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), told us he intends to introduce it again and again until it passes.

In the meantime a private group of Fresno investors has signed a letter of intent with a nuclear power company to put a 1,600-megawatt nuclear plant in the San Joaquin Valley. So far the only thing stopping the group is the state's 30-year-old moratorium, which says no new nuclear power plants may be built in California until a permanent solution to the waste is established. The investors are already working on a November 2008 ballot measure to end the ban and allow new nuclear plants.

A new nuclear plant hasn't been built in the United States since 1978, when concerns about safety, cost, and the long-term waste management challenge (nuclear rods will still be deadly hundreds of thousands of years from now) overwhelmed the industry.

But if there were ever an opportunity for a nuclear renaissance, the threat of climate change has created one. And the poster child is Moore, a relatively innocuous Greenpeace exile who's traveling around the country with a B-movie version of Gore's Oscar-winning documentary, speaking to communities and drumming up what he calls a grassroots coalition of mayors, business leaders, and community activists.