Some of the most prominent “nuclear environmentalists” (?an oxymoron)

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner and state regulator Peter Bradford sees the finance issue as the nuclear industry’s Kryptonite.

“Trying to solve climate change with nuclear is like trying to solve world hunger with caviar,” he said Peter Dykstra, 9 Feb 15  “…In recent years, some major science and environmental players have come forward to endorse nuclear power. Former EPA administrator and Obama climate czar Carol Browner is one of the glitziest.

Browner signed up for the newest and shiniest effort to sell nuke plants, the year-old Nuclear Matters, founded by electric giant Exelon in 2014.

Nuclear Matters is run by public relations agency Sloane & Associates. Critics call it a nuclear front group, but Sloane prefers to bill it as “starting a national conversation on nuclear power,” and adds that other utilities, nuke builders and suppliers have joined Exelon as sponsors.

The group recruited several other bipartisan political heavyweights as paid spokespeople but none that are catnip for the environmental community, where opposition to nuclear power is the rule, not the exception.

So when Nuclear Matters hauled in Browner as a spokesperson of its Leadership Council last year, she was a big catch.

Browner said she typically devotes a few hours a week to Nuclear Matters and is compensated for her time, but neither she nor Nuclear Matters will discuss her fee. In late January, she appeared at a Nuclear Matters event in Chicago……..Browner was reluctant to discuss the current financial struggles of multiple nuke plants, and acknowledged that the industry was still “trying to figure out” the unsolved problems of nuclear waste storage.

Since launching in Washington last April, it’s difficult to determine the impact the Nuclear Matters campaign has had. But Browner is far from the only convert.

James Lovelock  …..Lovelock stood on the extreme edge of the scientific community with his bleak climate views, and eventually walked them back, affirming in 2012 that climate change was real, but not to the “alarmist” extent he’d thought. In another interview that year with Nature, Lovelock stuck by his nuclear guns, downplaying the nuclear accidents at Fukushima and Chernobyl.

Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand has been one of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, an LSD-loving Grateful Deadhead, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, and inventor of something that vaguely preceded the computer mouse.

Ten years ago, Brand published a manifesto called Environmental Heresies” in which he denounced “romantic” environmentalists and what he perceived as a reluctance to embrace genetic engineering. And he stuck a flag in the ground in favor of nukes as a climate fix….

Christine Todd Whitman New Jersey Governor in the 1990’s and George W. Bush’s first EPA Administrator, Whitman signed on to a paid position as co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASE), organized by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the primary trade association for nuclear in the U.S. Like Browner and Nuclear Matters, Whitman acknowledges that she is compensated, but has declined to disclose how much she or her consulting firm are paid…….Whitman continues to co-chair CASE. NEI’s site lists dozens of op-eds and media appearances by Whitman, including a defense of Georgia Power’s rate increases to fund construction of new reactors near Augusta.

Patrick Moore Billing himself as a founder of Greenpeace (the organization, where I once worked, disputes this), Pat Moore switched sides in dramatic fashion. He’s now a vocal critic of Greenpeace and the entire environmental movement and a ubiquitous spokesman for an array of industries with environmental image problems.

He was a compensated pitchman for CASE and the Nuclear Energy Institute for a decade, though neither Moore nor NEI will say for how much. He announced his retirement in 2013, but last February, he appeared in print and radio ads touting nuclear’s “low carbon” energy as a fix for climate change. NEI posted the video ad on YouTube on February 24, 2014. A day later, Moore testified before the House Science Committee that human-caused climate change is unproven.…….

Moore added “I have been a skeptic on climate since at least 1990 when it first got real prominence. In the mid-2000s I became convinced that the ‘warmist’ movement was more politics than science and today I think we are being duped into spending hundreds of billions for nothing while at the same time denying developing countries the benefits we enjoy.”

However, in a 2006 op-ed for the Washington Post, Moore was still promoting nuclear by sounding the climate alarm. “Nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.”

James Hansen …….In November 2013, Hansen joined three other leading climate scientists – Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, Kerry Emanuel of MIT, and Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research — in an open letter, calling on environmentalists to embrace “a fresh approach to nuclear power in the 21st Century.”……

Rajendra K. Pachauri Pachauri has chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nation’s gold-standard climate science group, since 2002. ……In a discussion in Atlanta last month, Pachauri echoed IPCC’s recommendation for nukes: “You’ve got to look at nuclear. Some countries will, some countries won’t.” Pachauri’s native India is one that will. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck a deal last month with President Obama that could open the door for U.S. contractors to build new nuclear plants in India.

George Monbiot British environmental journalist Monbiot made a sharp turnaround on nuclear in 2011, but don’t expect to see the industry featuring pull quotes from him. “Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry. Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. ….

Unanswered questions

Critics say two crucial vulnerabilities of nukes go unaddressed in U.S pro-nuke pitches: unresolved questions about nuclear waste disposal, and Wall Street’s wariness about the industry.

Nuclear power plants currently store their waste on-site. Intended as a stop-gap method until a national nuclear waste repository is built, on-site storage in above-ground containers may be as good as permanent, since plans for the Yucca Mountain repository north of Las Vegas were halted by the Obama Administration after decades of delays.

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner and state regulator Peter Bradford sees the finance issue as the nuclear industry’s Kryptonite. “Wall Street doesn’t want (reactors), the utilities don’t want them,” said Bradford, who is also Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS is officially neutral on the use of nuclear power, but has often criticized what it sees as safety and financial vulnerabilities in the industry.

“Trying to solve climate change with nuclear is like trying to solve world hunger with caviar,” he said. Peter Dykstra is the weekend editor for Environmental Health News

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