This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Patrick Moore helped found the environmental group Greenpeace. Now the nuclear-power industry's trade association lines up speeches for him.
He embraced ecology as a student but jokes now that global warming would be good for his native Canada. He attacks the science on climate change, yet touts nuclear energy as a solution to the atmosphere pollution driving it.
Moore visited Salt Lake City last week to speak at the annual customer conference hosted each year by EnergySolutions. He was a big hit, casting himself as an ardent environmentalist who is too smart to be an environmentalist.
"I decided I'd like to be for something for a change," said the onetime Rainbow Warrior.
EnergySolutions is the Salt Lake City-based company trying to become the nation's - and perhaps the world's - largest nuclear waste company.
It operates treatment facilities and government cleanups at nuclear hotspots nationwide, as well as disposal at two of the nation's three commercial sites. In Utah, its best-known facility is 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, a mile-square hazardous and low-level radioactive waste site formerly called Envirocare of Utah that takes most of its waste from government cleanups and nuclear reactors.
With its expansion into a variety of new nuclear services in the past 15 months, the company has set itself on shifting its image as a blight on Utah's environment to being the solution to nation's environmental problems.
Seeking federal contracts to reprocess nuclear waste is part of that effort, as was hiring Moore to rally for a more nuclear future.
Not everyone is buying into the effort.
"Patrick Moore is to nuclear power what the Tobacco Institute was to Big Tobacco," said Vanessa Pierce, executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah [HEAL Utah], an environmental group and frequent critic of EnergySolutions. "Nuclear power and reprocessing are no more promising solutions for global warming than smoking is for leading a healthy lifestyle.
"Promoting nuclear power is in EnergySolutions' self-interest because it will boost their bottom line. It means more taxpayer-funded contracts for the company, and more nuclear waste for Utah. If the company really wants to be part of the solution, it would invest in efficiency, conservation and developing our state's renewable energy resources."
For his part, Moore skewered environmentalists for being opposed to the "realistic" energy sources needed to maintain Western lifestyles.
"They are against 99.2 percent of the world's energy resources," he said. "And that's not a viable approach to energy in the future."
He jabbed at scientists for being "alarmist," quoting fiction writer Michael Crichton's novel State of Fear: "I am certain there is too much certainty in the world."
But, in the end, Moore seemed to share the main conclusions of both - that climate change is real, humans have a role in it and that it makes good sense for people to take measures to lessen their impacts.
Conservation and using more renewable-energy sources are one step toward that, he said. So is nuclear power.
The United States gets about 20 percent of its electricity from 103 nuclear plants. Twenty more would not be enough, Moore said.
"We have to talk about 100 or 200 new plants in the U.S."
Utah has none now. But an energy policy adopted by state lawmakers last year includes a provision to study such a step.
Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, was among the lawmakers who pushed for the nuclear provision, proposing the use of school trust land near Lake Powell as a good location for a Utah plant.
One of more than a dozen lawmakers who attended the Moore dinner and speech at Little America, Noel was energized. "That was great!"
Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert recalled hearing about Moore in his Rainbow Warrior days and appreciated the opportunity to listen to "a counterpoint" to former Vice President Al Gore's popular movie on climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth." He left the speech with a few energy-saving ideas for buildings.
"This," he said of Moore's speech, "is important for anyone who's concerned about the future."