OGDEN -- Protecting the earth, like politics, can make strange bedfellows, and so it was at Saturday's Earth Day celebration where the Ogden Nature Center put a booth from the nuclear reactor industry right next to the Utah Environmental Congress.
Several hundred people turned out to watch bird demonstrations, get wreaths made of ivy, listen to music and celebrate Earth Day, a 40-year observance of nature and protecting the planet. Physics professors from Weber State University even set up a telescope with a filter so people could look at the sun.
Sam Evans, an employee of Western Zirconium, a subsidiary of Western Electric which builds nuclear reactors around the world, said his industry's product was all about earth day and protecting the planet.
"It doesn't have any carbon output. All we generate is hot water," he told people who looked at his model of a nuclear plant fuel rod assembly.
And that water is cooled and used again, too, generating electricity.
Western Zirconium has been in Weber County more than 30 years, he said. It produces a very expensive metal that is highly resistant to corrosion in hot water, making it ideal for use in nuclear reactors.
Zirconium is used to make the casings for nuclear fuel rods. Western Zirconium smelts the metal from raw materials purchased around the world. The metal is shipped to other parts of the country for further processing.
"We're the start of the train," he said, but with a coming revival of nuclear power, his plant's role will be vital.
Bob Brister, membership coordinator of the Utah Environmental Congress, wasn't buying it.
Brister, standing within an arm's reach of Evans, cut his teeth protesting nuclear plants as a graduate student in Michigan.
The years have not modified his views.
"I've been an anti-nuclear activist for 33 years so it's kind of ironic," he said and nodded his head to his left where Evans was demonstrating fuel rods to some children.
Is nuclear power carbon free?
"Sure if you don't count the mining, and the refining, and the transportation and the nuclear waste," he said, waving his arms above materials promoting reintroduction of wolves to Utah, one of his group's current missions.
But there was no animosity. The children listened to Evans discuss fuel rods heard how President Obama is making financing guarantees available for nuclear plant construction.
Then they shifted five feet, and Brister told them that the Environmental Congress watches the Forest Service, making sure it manages the forests well.
"And we also protect wildlife, like wolves," he told them. "And we think they should come back to Utah. They were here first."
While the parking lot was full of cars, several dozen people took the Nature Center up on its offer of free admission for people who took the bus or rode a bicycle in.
Mike and Cheryl Ackley rode a tandem bicycle from their new home near 36th Street and Jackson Avenue through town and out 12th Street, despite the construction cones.
They just moved to Ogden from Missoula, Mont., he said, specifically for the outdoors activities. "We read about this in the paper," he said. "We're still trying to find out what there is to do around here."
Tony Caron, at a table inside the Nature Center's headquarters, agreed with their choice of transportation.
He works for Quality Bicycle Products, a distribution company that broke ground Friday for a new warehouse.
Caron just moved to Ogden from QBP's headquarters in Michigan. He said the company is all about its employees, as well as everyone else, using bicycles.
Eventually the Ogden facility will employ 60 people, he said, and "We have a commuting bicycle league for all our employees."