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Is it time for nuclear energy for Australia?

Is it time for Australia to embrace nuclear energy? Many in Australia would say the answer is a resounding “No!”. After all, Australia is richly endowed with non-nuclear energy resources. But it really…

If Australia wants low emissions and energy security, it’s time to talk about nuclear. Drew Bandy

Is it time for Australia to embrace nuclear energy? Many in Australia would say the answer is a resounding “No!”. After all, Australia is richly endowed with non-nuclear energy resources. But it really depends on what our objectives are for Australia’s energy sector.

Governments around the world are trying to balance the “trilemma” of providing their nations with security in energy supply, maintaining economic growth and mitigating their impacts on climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Australia, despite its ample resources, is no different.

Including nuclear energy in the low-emission energy mix could provide opportunities for all three. Certainly, nuclear energy is proven to be consistent and reliable, with a levelised cost of electricity similar to that of the lowest cost renewable forms of energy, because of its reliability (it can provide electricity 85-90% of the time compared to, say, wind, at 25-30%).

A market-determined mix of nuclear and renewables could provide energy security in a carbon constrained economy, along with up to 55,000 new jobs for Australia.

If Australia was to build, operate and maintain a nuclear energy industry, it would require significant investment in education and training to develop a highly skilled workforce with an ingrained safety culture.

The spin-offs, however, could be significant: new investment in mining operations, service industries and advanced manufacturing.

To maintain energy security, investment in uranium conversion and enrichment facilities would allow Australia to fuel its domestic nuclear energy market. This would result in hundreds of further jobs and add value to a resource that currently is supplied to the international market as yellowcake at only around half of the potential fuel value.

The complexities of the international market may make it hard to justify domestic conversion and enrichment facilities on export grounds alone, but indirect economic benefits and energy security are another matter.

This brings us to climate change. Australia has set itself an unconditional target of reducing carbon emission to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020. Our longer-term, more ambitious target, is 80% below 2000 levels by 2050. Australia was expected to achieve the former with a combination of domestic emission reductions primarily through a carbon price, and the purchase of overseas abatement credits.

Whether it will achieve even the modest near-term target remains to be seen. Scenarios to achieve the longer-term target are heavily reliant on the large scale deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) on coal-fired power stations. However, to date, no such facilities exist anywhere in the world.

The general indication is that economically viable carbon capture is still a long way off, if achievable at all, and that it may well be only viable for a limited number of sites. So, if that is the case, what options are we left with?

It should be noted that the above targets were set based on a 2°C global average temperature rise. It is now widely accepted that we have already missed that boat. What should be our next target? 4°C? 6?

Whatever we choose will result in greater economic hardships for all in the future. Adaptation plans are now being formulated – but adaptation will cost more in the long run than mitigation.

Certainly we need to transition away from fossil fuels. However, it is difficult to see how a 100% renewable energy system could be achieved, given our current demands for energy and the migration of the human population to urban environments with very large energy footprints. It’s widely acknowledged we will need renewables and nuclear in order to meet the 80% target.

Nuclear energy would displace coal burning power plants with significant carbon emission savings. In Australia, having 10 to 25 GWe nuclear energy capacity would remove one to three-quarters of Australia’s total electricity-related carbon emissions. The remainder could be avoided with renewable energy and energy demand reduction measures.

Such a transition will require policy certainty to encourage the necessary long-term investment. University College London’s International Energy Policy Institute (IEPI), based at its Australia campus in Adelaide, undertakes economic, regulatory and policy research on how Australia could develop a nuclear energy industry and manage its externalities, including decommissioning and waste.

The Institute is considering whether markets are impeding the effectiveness of energy-sector policies designed to mitigate climate change through long-term investment in low-carbon technologies.

Price “signals” are intended to encourage investment in new capacity, but long-term investment decisions appear to conflict with the short-term (even instantaneous) nature of the market and may impede the effectiveness of climate policies. Measured policy interventions could be required for nuclear power to develop in Australia.

We suggest long-term feed-in contracts and Government-backed loan guarantees that share the risks between the investors and consumers: these would result in a net welfare gain for the community.

Stefaan Simons is presenting this week at the ATSE conference, Nuclear energy for Australia?, being held in Sydney on 25 and 26 July.

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215 Comments sorted by

    1. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Murray Holdom

      Yes, Simons does say, correctly, "Australia is richly endowed with non-nuclear energy resources."

      But what "richly endowed with non-nuclear energy resources" actually means, in the real world, is coal and gas.

      And we should be bloody well replacing them in the most scalable, fastest, cheapest, most realistic fashion - with nuclear power - not expanding them!

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Murray Holdom

      The engineering nature of energy storage will inherently make it unreliable for the amount needed to supply energy as we currently live.
      Perhaps something like a nuclear battery might be well over the horizon as an answer and meanwhile we should be exploring all means of energy production including nuclear as interim steps to sustaining reliable energy or suffer the consequences of power shortages which we will likely do anyway because of ageing base load power stations.

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    3. Murray Holdom

      Student

      In reply to Luke Weston

      The point of my response was that if we simply replace centralised coal power stations in the most "scalable, fastest, cheapest, most realistic fashion" it will be next to impossible to reach arguably the cleanest, fairest and most ecologically and socially just energy system.

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    4. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Murray Holdom

      The problem is nuclear energy knows no borders. When surrounding countries employ nuclear energy, if Australia wants to influence how those plants are constructed and maintained it has to have a demostrated expertise in nuclear energy.
      There is one and only one way for Australian to demonstrate expertise in nuclear energy management and that is with working, safe and properly maintained nuclear power stations.
      So Australia can either behave like the idiot ostrich of cartoons and bury it's head in the sand and pretend it's not happening or it can take realistic steps and make research into safe nuclear reactors a national priority as the best way of ensuring safe reactors are installed all around it.

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    5. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      So Australia can just march into Indonesia or PNG or New Zealand and tell them how they must do things properly?

      And as a professional engineer with 25 years experience, though I think Australian engineers are first class, Australian management and politicians are well below average when it comes to technology.

      The list of expensive technical stuff-ups within Australia is very long.

      So I would be very scared if Australian management and politicians were let anywhere near something nuclear.

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    6. Donald Runcie

      retired

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Forgive my ignorance, but why no mention of a long term project to generate energy by fusion reactors? As I understand it, there would be little high level waste from these, and what there was could be fixed in Synrock.

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    7. Fred Smith

      Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Donald Runcie

      Donald, fusion reactor generation is still between 20-50 years off. Nuclear reactors are a proven and evolving technology. Thorium nuclear reactors are new and are about as clean and safe as you can get with some nice benefits like consuming old nuclear waste. There are a couple of Thorium reactors up and running at the moment, but as Robert is saying, Australia's approach to cheap, clean and effective nuclear energy is to play ostrich.

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    8. Donald Runcie

      retired

      In reply to Fred Smith

      Thanks, Fred. Fusion power: fifty years off for the last fifty years! as someone said.

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    9. Steve Pan
      Steve Pan is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Student

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg,
      there is some great progress with "industrial sized batteries" being done with Liquid (molten) sodium / liquid metal batteries / thermal batteries. This technology is looking to fill that gap for 'grid level storage', ie a 2MWh shipping container sized 'battery'. Japan and America have both been working on this with relatively cheap materials (Mg, Na, Sb and S).

      Another more expensive option is capacitor storage, Japan has been working on this.

      Also, as vehicles start moving more toward electric there will be a vast array of storage devices where these vehicles are charging.

      There is a solar-thermal plant in Spain that utilises molten salt as storage and a solar-thermal testing site installed by CSIRO in Newcastle.

      The technology is moving fast and combined with idea's like the salt water pumped storage you mentioned, grid level storage won't be such an issue.

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      "given that, some time or other, we're bound to run into peak uranium (or thorium"

      If Uranium is completely consumed and extracted from the oceans then it will last many millions of years.

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    11. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Billions of years, actually. Longer than the evolution of the sun towards the end of the main sequence will support life on Earth.

      See "Breeder reactors: A renewable energy source", Am. J. Phys. 51(1), Jan. 1983.

      (Anyone who disputes that conclusion is encouraged to provide peer-reviewed literature of comparable quality to Am. J. Phys.)

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    12. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Realistically what needs to be applied to nuclear is regional treaties regarding construction, maintenance and disposal of waste. This because even though the worst of the problem with regard to failure is local, the potential for nuclear waste to cross national borders is to great to ignore.
      Having outside parties scrutinise and audit your power plants is the surest way of ensuring their safety, the only persons to oppose this will be right wing authoritarian types because it's their psychological nature and of course those corporations that could increase their profits and readily socialise (pass back onto the public) any losses.

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  1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

    I fear that discussing nuclear will be just a distraction from the urgent action needed in the short term to reduce emissions.

    Did you know that Labor's plan for our domestic carbon emissions from energy, industry, and agriculture is a 42.9% INCREASE from 1990 levels by 2020.

    So while much of the western world is reducing its emissions, we are leading the world in making short term economic gains at the expense of the planet's future.

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    1. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Zwitkowskis 2006 report to Government on uranium mining opportunities for Australia makes for interesting reading.

      I'm sure the estimates have been improved since then but my reading is that he claimed by way of example that 25 nuclear reactors put in place between 2020 to 2050 would reduce GHG emissions by almost 20% "compared to business as usual".

      Actual emissions would continue to rise and stabilize at 7/4 ths of 1990 values even with 25GW of Nuclar power in place by 2050. In the meantime…

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    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      The reason we are seeing very little angst is that our industry and energy sector emissions are increasing.

      But just imagine the public response against nuclear - I really don't think that either major party would ever be suicidal enough to endorse nuclear.

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    3. Neville Mattick
      Neville Mattick is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "Did you know that Labor's plan for our domestic carbon emissions from energy, industry, and agriculture is a 42.9% INCREASE from 1990 levels by 2020."

      We all need to recognise the power of Mineral Extractive Industries' and the media that supports their control in this country.

      They are larger than Government and any that 'takes them on' such as with the MRRT will suffer accordingly.

      A turn around takes time - just like public acceptance of Science and it is happening - large scale renewables - I know because my Station will be part of one soon.

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    4. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I don't think public opposition to nuclear power is as substantial as you seem to think it is - sure, there is a loud, vocal minority, but that's just like the small but vocal opposition you're going to see when talking about vaccinations, fluoridation, biotechnology, chemtrails or the New World Order etc.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Much of the western worl is likely gaining any reductions in emissions they are because of loss of industry to places like China and Indioa where emissions would hardly be measurable.

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    6. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I think it was John Howard nearly a decade back that said we should be considering nuclear.
      We know Labor is all words and meanwhile you may underestimate the maturing of the Australian electorate when it comes to nuclear and it could well be the way of the future determined with a few major power shortages.

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    7. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Luke, is this your gut feeling or have you seen some surveys around this? My gut feel is that the public discomfort with nuclear energy is quite deep and widespread. Wether this discomfort is based on accurate perception of risk or on science fiction mythology is another issue.

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    8. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      That accords with Ziggy's report - all of the posturing around the benefits of uptake of nuclear power were around a potential 18% reduction in the "increase" in emissions by 2050.

      Prior to the carbon tax there was "no" mandated pathway to meeting Australias stated emissions reductions targets (soft as they are).

      Meanwhile, most every climate indicator we have is suggesting that we are tracking towards between 2 and 6 degrees of temperature rise by 2100. Knowledge of how this is affecting…

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    9. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      The problem is also WHO feels discomfort from nuclear.

      If I believed that climate change wasn't real then I would be a strong supporter of Victoria using it's massive coal reserves for electricity.

      So nuclear isn't going to get much support from those who don't want action on climate change.

      And of course most of those most passionate about NO to nuclear are also those who are most passionate about taking action to prevent climate change.

      Nuclear is an impossible sell in Australia.

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    10. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Luke, I think that, if you bother to look at the polling that has been published over the years, your characterisation of the numbers is, at best, inaccurate. which tend to make you snide little slur that follows as inaccurate as it is childish.

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    11. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Greg North

      My major problem with Howard's suggestions for nuclear was that the proposal to dam Qld's Mary River at Traveston Crossing was all about turning a river into a wide, flat, shallow river basin into a cooling pond for a nuclear power plant.

      That's why Caboolture, on Brisbane's northern outskirts, was considered as site for a nuclear fuel enrichment plant.

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    12. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I think you have a lot of faith in our major parties. They consistently ignore public opinion when it suits them and in any case with the help of the media they can do a great deal to sway that opinion, just as they have done with the "boat people" debate.

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  2. John Newlands

    tree changer

    Germany has been doing the anti nuke experiment for us. Result ... very high power prices, little if any emissions savings and new coal fired power stations. Absent a gigajoule scale energy storage breakthrough Australia would have to spend hundreds of billions on wind and solar with novel backup power schemes such as burning hay. This would not only be visually oppressive but is likely to need draconian demand management as well. Think of power rationing or night time power prices in heat waves…

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Newlands

      The German case is interesting: correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that as they build new high-efficiency coal-fired generating capacity, they retire old, low-efficiency coal-fired generating capacity.

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  3. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Every now and then someone pops up and suggests 'time for nuclear'. I just don't know where in Australia you'd build one. No-one wants a nuke as a neighbour, especially after Fukushima.

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      One of the reasons nuclear is just a distraction is that a nuclear plant would need the support of the federal government for many electoral cycles and it would need the support of the state government for many electoral cycles.

      If the two major parties continued to receive the vast majority of votes, then nuclear can only go ahead if both federal and state Liberal and Labor commit to this.

      Otherwise a change in state or federal government could lead the plans being scrapped.

      I cannot imagine nuclear getting this bipartisan support - thus it just isn't politically viable in Australia.

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    2. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      But you seem to think we'd rather have millions of tonnes of coal burning in the proverbial backyard, which is what we have now, instead of nuclear power?

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    3. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Luke Weston

      I've become a nuclear agnostic. In other words, I think it ought to be on the table for consideration. The fact remains, however, that the footage from Fukushima convinces anyone who saw it not to have a nuke as a neighbour.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Luke, if you reduce the discussion to an artificial binary you will get the results you suggest. But it's really just a rather cheap pea and thimble trick. Renewable energy systems and technologies are already able to provide the kind of energy we need and are improving all the time. yes it would be expensive, as the AEMO has pointed out, to convert our current system to 100% renewables, but have you had a look lately at the costs for nuclear?

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    5. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Excellent question: if nuclear power plants are to be built, where should they be? Let's begin with where they should not be.

      1) Anywhere away from the coast. Reason: Australia doesn't have enough fresh water, so it would be stupid to waste any of it as cooling water (this also applies to existing coal-fired power also - we'll be needing that inland fresh water for other purposes).

      2) Any "coastal" location that doesn't have ready access to open ocean for dissipation of warmed cooling water…

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    6. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to David Arthur

      Yes. Plausible locations but a looong way from population centres needing power!

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    7. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Thanks for that, but I'm not too worried about population centres - as other comment-posters have pointed out, solar PV (and possibly other distributed generation) is scaleable, and transforms power users from consumers to consumer-producers.

      The reactor locations I've proposed are for nation-building industrial projects; sooner or later we'll not be living off the backs of coal miners.

      If people want more power than that, then have some generators at North Head and Wilson's Promontory, or something - just don't waste inland fresh water up the spouts of cooling towers.

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    8. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to David Arthur

      Agreed. Wind gens on all tall buildings in Sydney and for gawd's sake, turn off the lights at night. Such profligacy!

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    9. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to David Arthur

      David,
      Are you suggesting that we don't actually have to build nuclear power plants in our own back yard; (literally rather than methaphorically speaking), that we could build them hundreds of miles from the population and then just ship the power where it is needed.

      Just how many kilometres (or thousands of kilometres) of this remote coastline do you think we have.

      Next you'll be suggesting that the nuclear waste from these remote locations would never have to be brought through our cities or close to any significant population location.

      We don't need sensible observations like this we need to rant and rave about the exaggerated risks of highly unlikely events.

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    10. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to David Rennie

      Thanks Mr Rennie. You'll note I've suggested industries in the vicinity of each such plant; that is, I've outlined possible uses for the generated power, with an emphasis on value-adding to Australia's mineral exports; this is essential for the nation's future, since the world is going to wean itself off Australian coal and gas.

      Carpentaria coast, near Weipa, powering CO2-free bauxite to aluminium metal.

      Pilbara coast, near Port Hedland, powering CO2-free iron ore to iron metal and steel…

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    11. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to David Arthur

      David,
      My point is that we can supply electricity to Sydney or Melbourne and most of Asia with nuclear power from the remote sites on our coast that you suggest without putting any nuclear facilities within coo-ee of any population centres.

      With UHVDC cabling there would be very little power loss transporting the electricity from the Pilbara to Sydney or Shanghai. UHVDC cabling would also be ideal for a distributed renewables system which would assist the integration of cost effective renewables.

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    12. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to David Rennie

      Fair comment, Mr Rennie; Weipa is ~800 km from Cairns and ~700 km from Port Moresby, Ceduna is ~500 km from Port Augusta and ~1300 km from Kalgoorlie, and Port Hedland is ~900 km from Geraldton and ~2000 km from Jakarta - all distances within the feasibility of HVDC.

      For me, one issue of going holas-bolas nuclear, as well as transmission costs, is the possible impact of warmed discharge cooling water on receiving waters - so while I suggest the aforementioned projects, wouldn't want any of them big enough to cactus up their otherwise pristine environments.

      Another issue is the lost opportunity for smaller scale distributed generation and lost opportunity for beneficial political and civic impacts - instead of people and communities becoming partners with power corporations by producing their own power, they simply stay consumers.

      Guess which future is IPA-preferred.

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    13. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Arthur

      In my earlier post on Tidal energy I claimed that it could supply 80% of electricity needs. ie bulk transmission by UHV DC to major centers. Smaller scale distributed generation and bio fuels from waste such as baggass and other renewables would make up the difference and supply those beyond the grid.

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    14. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Arthur

      Glad to see you share my vision for down stream processing of alumina but do it with Tidal energy

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    15. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Excellent points Ivan: I'm not a 'booster" for having nuclear power plants, I don't see them as having intrinsic value beyond there power output. If tidal power can meet the demands of metal refineries at Weipa and Port Hedland (NW WA has particularly large tidal ranges) without excessive environmental disturbance, then that's excellent.

      Rather than burn fibre wastes eg bagasse for power, I'd rather the fibre waste was used to make paper, at least to meet Australian demand; excess fibre thereafter could be burned.

      Julian Cribb states that Australia's entire liquid fuel requirements could be met from <10,000 sq km of ponds of algae (http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publications/associate-papers/1044-food-and-fuel-forever.html).

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  4. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    Combine the large costs of nuclear with a vast and gold-plated grid, and it looks like this particular set of parasites are going to kill their hosts, economically and ultimately, physically as well.
    Whereas, decentralised renewables, not really grid dependent, look to be more intrinsically sustainable.
    If vast regions of an island continent are to remain wilderness zones because, arguably, it will never be economically feasible to string up a grid connection, then the economic upshot is that those…

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    1. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to James Hill

      Personally I don't share the need that you see for small, "decentralised" generators without using gigawatt-scale generators, but if you want to then sure, it's absolutely possible to have small-scale, decentralised nuclear generators. As you correctly point out, very small reactors are a very mature, well proven technology in marine propulsion.

      Imagine if you put a Toshiba 4S in your backyard, generating 10 megawatts continuously 24 hours a day for 30 years with no maintenance or refuelling.

      Now imagine that you were getting paid a consistent, equal feed-in tariff of 60c/kWh or whatever whopping tariff it is that the solar PV evangelists expect to get paid. 48 million dollars a year - not bad eh?

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Thanks for that further information, Luke, so the bid question must be why is it not happening?
      On the Island continent issue, decentralisation is the obvious question for those who have actually ventures more than a few hours derive away from the major coastal cities.
      A lot of untapped potential unrealised because the grid will never ever get there.
      Do we set that aside as the "Wilderness Zone"?
      Seems slightly moronic to me.

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    3. Fred Smith

      Electrical Engineer

      In reply to James Hill

      James, I am not sure why there is such a need for the small "decentralised" generators. I work in the poles and wires side of energy in the middle of NSW, and you will find that power lines exist almost everywhere people do already. Most of the work that is being done is 20 years of maintainence that has been neglected in the 80's and 90's.

      I cringe every time I hear the term "gold plating" as it is the same as the more accurate "future proofing". You never hear the media describing the Labor…

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    4. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Fred Smith

      Fred, I do not discount your observations about the grid reaching those places where people already live.
      But can I argue that there are plenty of viable places where people might live but which are too distant from the grid for inexpensive connections.
      If one looks back to the installations of renewables, they started with isolated dwellings where the cost of grid connection was large and more than the cost of the renewables.
      Now while there are very tight restrictions, via local government…

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    5. Fred Smith

      Electrical Engineer

      In reply to James Hill

      It is as you say though. People either connect to the grid, or use standalone systems on the basis of cost. The majority of my work is involved in extending the grid to these people. If the cost is too high, I recommend stand alone systems and point them in the right direction to educate themselves as to what they require.

      The biggest adjustment with standalone systems is the adjustment in lifestyle for those coming from a grid connected residence. In PV solar situations you have to use the…

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    6. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Fred Smith

      Local councils don't like those communes, Fred, they provide too much competition for their rezoning of farmland to residential, at very, very large differences in price.
      Getting in on this rort is main reason for many to put themselves forward as councillors in the first place.
      Living on "unserviced" land tends to be frowned upon as getting in the way of some very fancy profits.
      Standalone technologies, by overcoming the problem of services, reduce the scarcity and expense of serviced land and provide large competition for expensive subdivisions.
      Very inconvenient.
      And apparently there are some people actually going around enabling this sort of "alternative" living!

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  5. Malcolm Short

    Superannuation

    Don't worry about peak thorium, Felix - it will occur in tens of thousands of years. China and India are madly keen on it and are investing significantly in research and development - it's been claimed that the Chinese have approved more than 1,000 PhD students on thorium studies. It appears that they're quite serious about devolving this particular breed of nuclear technology and, if they're successful, we'll then be able seriously consider it as part of our own energy mix in the coming decades.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Malcolm Short

      Good point, Malcolm and if and when they are able to demonstrate the safety and reasonable cost I wouldn't oppose adoption in Australia.

      However, if we haven't anyway spent the intervening years investing heavily in converting to renewables the game will likely be pretty much over anyway. In short, I suspect that, by the time thorium is fully realistic we'll already be well on the way to effective renewable systems and it would mostly be either irrelevant or even a backward step.

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  6. Garry Baker

    researcher

    A well constructed read, however it will never happen in this lifetime, since it's widely believed that this is the Lucky Country, and we will never run out of anything. Therefore its pointless to speak of strategic interests for the next generation. ie: We don't need to mill that U308 stuff, or worse still, get into the filthy processing of UF6, when we still have plenty of fossil fuels to burn.

    More to the point, the way Australia Inc is being run by our 4th rate managers in Canberra, we…

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  7. Ulf Steinvorth

    Doctor

    A chair of the world's biggest uranium mining company and director of an Institute co-funded by BHP is recommending nuclear. Thank you for declaring the conflict of interest in your own disclosure statement.

    The actual cost of nuclear energy has never been found out as no nuclear power station has insurance because no insurance company is willing or able to insure against what can and has happened. Unlike the profits the risks are left for the State and the citizens to pay - just like the security of reactors and the transports and storage of its radioactive waste, a problem that in 50 years of research has still not found an answer.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ulf Steinvorth

      The French would have to be the mist successful power generation nation in the EU if not on the planet, they supplying quite a bit of power to other European countries and the majority of this is done by nuclear.
      Latest designs are using spent uranium from other power stations thus minimising the radioactivity and time concerns for storage of ultimate waste.
      Bill Gates is even talking to the Chinese re development of waste being nuclear fuel, it not a new concept, precviously shelved because of technical issues but between Gates and the Chinese, who knows what could eventuate.

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    2. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Ulf Steinvorth

      Isn't it odd how you can spend about 500 milliseconds on Google to find the commercial insurance providers who specialise in nuclear engineering - Nuclear Electric Insurance Ltd, Nuclear Risk Insurers Ltd, American Nuclear Insurers, etc?

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    3. Ulf Steinvorth

      Doctor

      In reply to Luke Weston

      You are right, of course there are insurers - only they all have a cap and do not cover the worst-case scenarios, a bit like having a home insurance that does not cover fire or floods actually destroying the house, that old trick we've experienced here in QLD a few times now.

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    4. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Ulf Steinvorth

      We can take the very large amount of fertile and fissile uranium, thorium and plutonium that has already been processed in the world today - for example so-called "used" or "spent" nuclear fuel, so-called "depleted" uranium, as well as the stockpiles of weapons-grade fissile materials from the decommissioning of nuclear weapons and power the world cleanly forever - without mining any uranium (or thorium) or fossil fuels ever again. That is, if we want to.

      Personally, I think BHP should just focus on the base metals for engineering - Cu, Ni, Al, Fe. etc - since their demand is never going away, :)

      Of course, if you're running a large copper mine and you've got uranium present anyway, you might as well extract that uranium out of the tailings stream and use it constructively without just sending it to the tailings dam - that's more environmentally responsible, isn't it? And that's exactly what we do at Olympic Dam, for example.

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    5. Ulf Steinvorth

      Doctor

      In reply to Greg North

      The French government has a military commitment to nuclear, just like most major players in the civil nuclear field being military nuclear powers. They can and have subsidized nuclear civil use heavily because they need a functioning national nuclear market for their nuclear fleet and weapons.
      That does not reflect on the ability to produce cheap or safe electricity though.

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  8. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    Especially blatant rent-seeking; much positive spinning about efficiency, then an admission at the end that markets don't actually work.

    Nuclear power is popular with denialists because it is a hard technology that requires social and economic stratification. For the testosterone-driven Hard Right It is also a prominent symbol of Man’s dominion over Nature.

    As with the deep pockets behind Big Tobacco, and climate change denial, the nuclear industry has spent millions on a global marketing…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to R. Ambrose Raven

      It's not the technology expertise we lack, it is competent management and government.

      Would any Victorian trust nuclear power with the people (Labor and Liberal) who bought us the worlds most expensive public transport ticketing system and fails to deliver what it should?

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    2. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to R. Ambrose Raven

      The reason environmentalists favour Nuclear Power is that it is cost effective now, and available now.

      Proposing nuclear as a solution to AGW is not a denier position its a realist position. We can't with the money available to us rapidly reduce global CO2 emissions without the nuclear option.

      The Beyond Zero Emissions project puts the cost of transitioning to renewables at the equivalent of completely building the NBN every year for the next ten years. Politically and economically…

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  9. Andrew Stiles

    Teacher

    What's the point of using nuclear to maintain economic growth when it will set us up for a bigger fall than fossil fuels? By which I mean we will continue the economic growth ponzi scheme which has encouraged in the past more suburban sprawl, more pollution, over fishing, loss of green space, farmland and other species but inevitably we will start to find it more energy intensive to mine uranium. But in addition we'll have loads of wastes we are going to have to hope stay put and do the "expected…

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    1. Fred Smith

      Electrical Engineer

      In reply to Andrew Stiles

      Interesting comments Andrew. While I agree with you about the unsustainability of the perpetual growth model, that is an entire other topic by itself. Nuclear is not just one type of generation, but covers Uranium fission, Thorium fission and even fusion. It is one of those technologies that is evolving into something that is safe, clean and reliable.

      A lot of the pro nuclear countries are locked onto the Uranium nuclear model based on their desire for the byproducts (enriched Uranium, Plutonium…

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  10. Craig Schumacher

    logged in via Facebook

    Nuclear power is certainly the way of the future, in spite of the fossil-fuel enabling naysayers who desperately try to shape the public narrative according to their unscientific prejudices. Just how far off that future may be is the important question. Hopefully the gradual and ongoing widening acceptance of the virtues of nuclear power within the Australian community which we have seen over the past 5-10 years will take us past the tipping point in official policy before too much longer.

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    1. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Craig Schumacher

      In 1963 The Concerned Union of Scientists which included scientists from both sides of the cold war and Prof Linus Pauling (Nobel Laureate x2) and Prof Joshua Lederberg pushed for and got the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty agreed to by most nations and respected by all ever since. This was done because the dangers to all life forms including humans of radioactive materials including Pu239 in the biosphere were recognised and greatly feared. This danger has not gone away or diminished. Thanks to the nuclear power industry it has in fact increased.
      Chernobyl put 200 times more radioactive material into the atmosphere than the Hiroshima bomb did and Fukushima even more plus all the other spills like Mayak (50+ tons of high level waste), Rocky Flats and Cumbrian coast to name a few.

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  11. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    Let's look at where the author of this article comes from : BHP Billiton.

    The big end of town loves nuclear energy because it relies on mining and selling a non-renewable energy source - uranium.

    And that's why they hate solar. The sun is free and belongs to no -one.

    The advances in solar thermal technology will render nuclear irrelevant in the not too distant future. If we have the wisdom to invest in it

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    1. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to John Newton

      The copper, glass, aluminium, steel, silicon, phosphorus, arsenic, cadmium, tellurium etc. needed to build solar power infrastructure doesn't grow on trees.

      Where does it come from? Oh that's right, from mining.

      And you need far more raw materials mined to generate a kWh from solar than you do from nuclear power.

      If anything, you'd expect the "big bad mining corporation conspiracy" to *support* solar power - especially when we include all the natural gas they're going to be selling for backup of low-capacity-factor generation!

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    2. Ulf Steinvorth

      Doctor

      In reply to Luke Weston

      Luke, you are very knowledgeable in this field and active in discussions about it - you know very well where the profit and thus the incentive for articles and publications lies.

      Of course big energy and mining industries have long since switched on to the renewable energy sector to continue their share in the future market - but at the moment there are still much bigger profits to be made with selling nuclear for them and as John rightly pointed out that has a lot to do with the sun and most renewables (so far) being free for everyone to use unlike nuclear or carbon-based energy production.

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  12. Michael Lardelli

    logged in via Facebook

    Unless we act to stabilise our population size first then any actions taken to reduce emissions are ultimately futile, including nuclear energy.

    Of course, BHP is all about growth, growth, growth while the resources on which BHP depends are steadily depleting. This Saturday we will have a seminar at University of Adelaide, "Peak Mining" by Dr Simon Michaux (in the Rennie Lecture Theatre behind the child care centre through gate 10 off Victoria Drive) starting at 1.30 PM. All welcome. I have seen the details of Simon's talk and one of the things he will address is the safety/stability of nuclear power plants and their waste stockpiles when energy supply in those plants fails (e.g. as at Fukushima).

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      Population is irrelevant to urgent action on climate change.

      If the world keeps going as it is, then in 15 years we will have emitted enough carbon to have an 80% chance of reaching 2 degree or more warming.

      So it is too late to keep warming at or under 2 degrees.

      But it is even more urgent to keep warming as low as possible, and this means massive cuts in emissions soon.

      In the timeframe we need to act on climate change the increase in the population won't be very significant - what is significant is the emissions per person - which must be reduced significantly.

      Of course population growth is a major problem when we look at other environmental issues - and so for example I think we should not be heading for the Big Australia which is supported by both Liberal and Labor.

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    2. Michael Lardelli

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Consider this - what with permitting, financing, construction etc. it would probably be 15 years before you built the first nuclear power station in Australia and you would have to invest huge amounts of fossil fueled energy/materials into its construction to do so. In other words, building a nuclear plant would lead to increased CO2 emissions from Australia during construction Alternatively, you could reduce Australia's population growth rate (currently running at one city the size of Canberra per…

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    3. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      Though I support increasing our refugee intake I also support cutting our immigration by more. So yes - big Australia is bad.

      Real action on climate change means cutting our 1990 emissions by about 40% by 2020. Labor's plan is to substantially INCREASE our domestic emissions by much more than our population increase.

      So our population growth is unimportant compared to what we do with our emissions.

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    4. Michael Lardelli

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Since emissions are the product of population size x per capita emissions you cannot say that population growth is unimportant.

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    5. Michael Lardelli

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      But since our population growth rate is actually about 1.8% giving a doubling time of ~40 years it is a significant contributor. However, the real concern is that the various forms of fossil fuels are peaking in production or will in the not too distant future meaning difficulties with food production and investment in low carbon infrastructure. On the "plus" side we will, in about a decade, be able to see those large decreases in fossil fuel use that peaking precedes and that are needed to combat climate change. But being forced to reduce consumption when the population is greater that it might have been will involved greater pain for most.

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    6. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      Don't get me wrong - I agree with you that population growth is a huge problem - and thus protecting the planet's future requires action on both.

      The differences are in timing and recovery. Population growth is relatively slow and if the world really wanted we could in the near future turn population growth into a declining population and after a while population would become more manageable.

      But climate change is happening fast - and once carbon is emitted it will be in the atmosphere for hundreds of years - so if we heat the world up to 4 degrees there is no quick cooling it down again.

      So both climate change and population growth need to be fixed - but climate change is the urgent problem.

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    7. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      Michael,
      Australia like most industrial countries (> 65 last time I checked) has already achieved birth rates consistent with ZPG.

      Migration to this country, tends to reduce the birth rate globally as migrants adapt to our low birth rate culture.

      We need to reduce our emissions per head of population, and that should be the primary focus of our action on AGW. Developing better low cost, low emission technology should be another major focus. Nuclear power is one readily available…

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    8. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "both climate change and population growth need to be fixed - but climate change is the urgent problem"

      The emission reduction target could be increased from 5% to 15% simply by halting population growth. Maybe there are other measures that could achieve that result but certainly this measure (halting population growth) would be one of the most effective. Population growth is eating up most of the effect of existing methods to reduce emissions.

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  13. Edward Cannella

    Zoologist

    I will just concentrate on one issue of what is a major discussion.

    Mr Simons has crafted a brief but coherent argument for Nuclear Power and has used the same justifications (low greenhouse gas emissions and just the slightest nod to an "exemplary" safety record). He also speaks of it as the only option in energy generation. Fine. Not a problem. But he also has a vested interest in this issue. He is pushing something that will ultimately benefit BHP-Billiton's bottom line. They want more investment…

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  14. John Newlands

    tree changer

    BHP Billiton who are not short of a quid could test the waters by putting in for a mini nuke to power their Olympic Dam mine, coincidentally the world's biggest uranium deposit. The original pan since mothballed was for a 250 MW gas fired power station onsite. Desalinated water was to be pumped from Whyalla over 300 km away. Combine the two functions (power and water) at a site on open coastline.

    BHPB's pioneering effort would set the scene for bigger baseload nukes closer to the cities. Several models of these mini nukes or SMRs = small modular reactors are under the development the biggest hurdle being the slow approval process in the US.

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  15. John Barker
    John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

    First, I must express my concern that TC has given over its esteemed medium to a vested commercial interest. Is this a sign of things to come? TC is about "academic rigour and journalistic flair", not "commercial flare". What or who comes next?

    Having said that, I will look at only one issue- the 55,000 jobs claim. I note that the article referenced is by a couple of consultants, but the findings, as such, are credible. But any activity will provide employment and, overall, about the same ratio…

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Barker

      To be fair to TC, Mr Simons has a directorship at UCL's International Energy Policy Institute.

      What disappoints me about Mr Simon's lack of understanding of climate science, ie he's the same as any bog-average economist.

      He blithely bandies about discussion of 2, 4 and 6 deg C "targets", without actually understanding that even a 1.5 deg C global average temperature rise is sufficient to drive widespread thawing of Siberian permafost and (eventually) several metres of sea level rise.

      He seems to not acknowledge that our only feasible climate "target" isn't a temperature target, it's 100% cessation of the cause of warming ie fossil fuel use - if he did, he'd be getting BHP Billiton out of coal, oil and gas ASAP.

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    2. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Arthur

      Very good point David - If Mr Simons really did have any concern about climate change he would first be urging the country to take significant action now.

      And if climate change was a concern to him then he would also accept the Climate Change Commission's conclusion that 80% of the world's coal needs to stay in the ground.

      Perhaps the discussion of nuclear is mainly meant to distract us from discussing short term actions and the need to keep most coal in the ground?

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    3. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to David Arthur

      David- I acknowledge that he has an academic Chair, but the quality of the article- as you have illustrated- is substandard for TC. It reads like a speech at the opening of a uranium mining conference.

      At the risk of irritating many TC-ers, I'd point to this article as an example of my concern for academe in general- sponsored research is intrinsically compromised. That is not to say that its publications have deliberate falsehoods- peer review minimises that. It is not what is said, or written- it is what is not said and the context in which it is said- it is "omission" and "juxtaposition", not "commission". "Juxtaposition", or context, includes delaying publication by agreement.

      Much of my career was spent successfully encouraging academic-commercial interaction. It certainly has its place, but it should be viewed through a very skeptical prism- particularly when the topic is central to the sponsor's commercial interest.

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    4. David Travers

      Chief Executive and Head of Department at University College London

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      I have noted with interest the discussion following Professor Stefaan Simons' piece on Thursday. Three important facts:
      1. This piece was NOT sponsored by BHP Billiton, in fact we did not even discuss the piece with the company before it appeared in The Conversation.
      2. BHP Billiton does not 'sponsor' research at UCL Australia. It funds a chair, PhD scholarships (which UCL awards on academic merit) and provides funding for research - how this is allocated is entirely up to UCL.
      3. Professor…

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  16. Fred Smith

    Electrical Engineer

    Nuclear power is always one of those topics that gets people talking. Usually the conversation is dominated by the emotional response, but it is good to see a lot of well thought out responses present here.

    There are a lot of different potential technologies in the energy generation mix. All have thier positive and negative sides which need to be compared to work out the right way forward. Indeed there is a place for just about everything.

    PV Solar - Minimal running costs for grid connected…

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    1. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to Fred Smith

      Fusion has been 20+ years away ever since they first started working on it.

      I'm not saying that research should stop, just pointing out that fusion is a very tough nut to crack (unless you are a sun or a bomb).

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  17. Gordon Angus Mackinlay

    Clinical Psychologist

    I must confess that I am a great believer in nuclear power supply, this being dramatically reinforced by a visit to France a couple of years ago and offered the opportunity to visit part of their system.

    My middle son runs a physics research Lab in Vancouver, he part of one of the groups of Canadian scientists/engineers/medical practitioners who visited Japan examining the "nuclear disaster".

    He subsequently stating to me that the amount of radiation was of a far lesser dosage than that which…

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Gordon Angus Mackinlay

      With all due respect, Mr McKinlay, I have put up NO misinformation about the Traveston Crossing project in Qld; you mention "brine" in connection with what I write about Traveston, which goes to your cluelessness about the amount of salt in fresh water.

      That said, at least we are agreed that power plants do not necessarily NEED fresh (potable) water; as I clearly stated in my comment, they can quite successfully use seawater (ie salty) for cooling.

      Now, if they use seawater for cooling, they…

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  18. Alex Cannara

    logged in via LinkedIn

    There was realization of the need for nuclear power to eliminate combustion's emissions & waste decades ago, even by a President: http://tinyurl.com/6xgpkfa

    Unfortunately, later US administrations diverted proper funding for politics, the Cold War weaponry, and just ignorance (see Nixon about 8 minutes into http://tinyurl.com/73p7ler

    The French, however, succeeded famously and have eliminated more emissions power than any other country (see p7 & p21 on: http://tinyurl.com/kkmyhze

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  19. Gordon Angus Mackinlay

    Clinical Psychologist

    FOR SOME REASON the fourth paragraph in my original is missing a line, it should read :
    "I had the pleasure (and it was a pleasure) to have a tour of the working US Navy research midget nuclear submarine NR-1 in 1995, when it being used in the Aegean to deep dive the sunken liner the Brittannic, sister ship of the Titanic. This vessel was in service for many years, had a punishing work programme and used a reactor that by todays standards is totally obsolete. Yet it never had the slightest problem." Yours, Mackinlay

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  20. Ivan Quail

    maverick

    The Tides of the Kimberly can generate at least 6 times (300Gw) more electricity than we currently generate in the whole of Australia. Installed National generating capacity is about 54Gwatts.

    Too far away you think. A 6G/watt (6,000Mw) bulk HVDC power line can transmit the power to Sydney for a cost of 1c per Kw hr. It is cheaper to build and operate a bulk HVDC transmission line than a natural gas pipeline which carries the same amount of usable energy.

    However, to achieve this there…

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  21. Paul Cm

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Stefaan asks "is it time for nuclear energy for Australia?"

    My personal response is 'yes', and I'm happy he has followed up the title question with: "...it really depends on what our objectives are for Australia’s energy sector."

    If Australia is serious about decarbonising our energy sector while placing the nation on a competitive footing for the 21st century, we better start including fission energy.

    10 - 25GW capacity is doable in the timeframe suggested, and also allows renewable energy to continue to penetrate the grid with an even larger share.

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  22. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    Let’s be clear, nuclear energy may be a low carbon technology but it has never been “clean.” Nuclear proponents are inspired with a sense of exceptionalism and believe they have a divine right to discharge radioactive waste to the atmosphere and oceans. In the 21st century, dumping hazardous waste outside a plant’s boundary is an eco-crime, a tragedy of the commons and a crime against the future.

    Some 28,500 containers of radioactive waste are languishing in the English Channel and there they…

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    1. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      To put your post in some perspective the "58 trillion (5.8*10^13) Becquerels" is equivalent to about one hundred billionth of the radiation produced by the Hiroshima A-bomb (8* 10^24 Bq) or about 100 million times the radiation produced within your body (4K Bq / Kg .per person).

      Its a very big number, but measuring something very very small.

      Similarly, all the worlds Nuclear waste could easily be accommodated in a tiny patch of Western Australia hundreds of mile from any population base where any impact on humanity would be un measurable.

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    2. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      "un measurable" ?
      As a result of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons the background radiation on the planet has been increased by 10%. As a result the rate of genetic mutation and incidence of cancer, leukaemia, atherosclerosis and other genetic diseases has increased by at least 10% and our healthcare costs have increased accordingly. The taxpayer foots the bill not those who (in their ignorance) are responsible for the permanent 10% increase in background radiation on the planet. Chernobyl…

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    3. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      What happens when the containers Shirley has referred to start leaking?

      How will waste get to NW WA?
      Who will pay for it's long term guarding and storage maintenance?

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    4. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Ivan,
      The sooner we get those containers to NW Australia the less likelihood that they will start leaking near a population centre.

      When they do start leaking the total level of total amount of radioactivity is very small regardless of whether it happens in Australia or the UK. The leak is not likely to rise much above background radiation.

      Polluter pays for storage but it would be a trivial amount compared with the overall value of tghe electricity produced.

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    5. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      David, seemingly you dismiss the potential for bioaccumulation of radionuclides in marine species from aquatic transport pathways. It is scientifically reasonable to suggest that the more becquerel, the more harmful the radiation, though there are different types of radiation (alpha, beta and gamma radiation), each with its own adverse health effect.

      Further the wide scale marine pollution of the mendacious “emissions free” nuclear industry is inadvertently revealed in a paper published in the…

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    6. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Ivan,
      There were around 500 atmospheric nuclear tests. The largest in 1961, released 5000 times the radiation of the Hiroshima bomb or 25 times the amount released at Chernobyl.

      No one would suggest that we want to resume any nuclear tests however the comparison between this one bomb and Shirleys containers is equivalent to comparing the age of the universe with the time it takes you to read this.

      Placing all the world's current nuclear waste in a disused open cut mine in WA would have no measurable impact on the nearest town. If the high level nuclear waste is captured in something like Synroc which captures the radioactive materials there is little chance of the radiation leaching out into nearby rocks, let alone the wider environment. As for the likelihood of animals eating the lumps of Synroc that is implausible.

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    7. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      Despite the fact that the 58 trillion Bq you refer to is only a tiny amount compared to the amount of radiation released by any one of the 2000 nuclear bombs exploded since 1945, I strongly support the long term storage of waste in an appropriate facility.

      WA for a number of reasons is a an ideal location for such a repository, given its remoteness and dryness. Both Sir Ernest and Dr Sabines suggestions were perfectly valid even if Sir Ernest's solution would have proved…

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    8. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      Yes David, the stark evidence of significant radiation-associated cancers have plagued Japanese bomb survivors for over sixty years. Radiation-associated cancers continue to be diagnosed for most sites in Japanese survivors, including gastric, oral cavity, oesophagus, colon, liver, lung, non-melanoma skin, breast, ovary, bladder, nervous system and thyroid.

      Ditto for nuclear workers in the united states who, as from 2001, have been compensated to the tune of >$8 billion for radiation cancers…

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    9. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      If the rent is due do you really think countries who find themselves in financial difficulties such as (currently)Greece Italy, Spain, Ireland Japan etc. are going to pay the rent before they cut healthcare, education, age pensions, police and other basic services?

      300,000 displaced people in Japan have lost their land,businesses,
      homes and livlihoods. When compensation was mentioned Tepco said they could not pay and would have to go bankrupt. The Prime minister then said the government would have to nationalise them.

      I fully understand the attraction of this industry to big business. It is a fabulous business to be in. The owners and operators get the benefits and the profits and the Government and taxpayers get the losses and the liabilities. Fantastic!

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    10. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      As I pointed out earlier the radiation released by the Hiroshima bomb was one hundred billion times more than is contained in the 25000 containers you referred to in your original comment.

      Radiation exists all around us. It is important to identify thresholds for concern and these are set very low.

      However making alarmist claims simply because some radiation exists somewhere is dishonest and unscientific.

      If Sellafield contains a storage pond containing the size of half…

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    11. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Ivan,
      You wouldn't charge them rent you would charge them a single up front fee, so payment wouldn't be a problem.

      In Fukashima, 156,000 people are displaced because of the exclusion zone and have not been able to rebuild after the earthquake and Tsunami that devastated the area. Their homes business and livelihoods were destroyed by the earthquake not the radiation from the nuclear plants.

      The current level of radiation in the area according to a recent British TV report is approximately equivalent to background levels. The exclusion zone is 20Km. There are thousands of kilometers of Australian coast where an exclusion zone of 20 kilometers would not impact any population centres, again demonstrating why Australian is ideally positioned to use nuclear power to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

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    12. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      You are addressing a member of a pioneering mining family who arrived on the Goldfields in 1897 and you are writing rubbish. You have no idea of BHP's proposed expansion and rehabilitation of the Olympic Dam project. BHP advises that radiation levels after rehabilitation will be in addition to background levels ( I do have the report).

      Rather than blathering away, please provide links to substantiate the nonsense you publish which is offensive even to the most gullible. Perhaps you should debate your bombs elsewhere - they are not relevant on this thread though they are inextricably linked to civilian nuclear power.

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    13. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      "A trivial amount" to maintain and guard this stuff for how many thousand years? What a legacy to leave our descendants

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    14. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      I don't doubt that the radiation levels in the tailings will be significantly higher than background levels. What I said is that there will be a lot less radiation in the area because the objective of miners will be to remove as much of the radioactive materials as possible. IE one of the objectives of the mine is to mine Uranium.

      As you are from a mining family you would be fully aware that miners don't leave more of the product they are mining than was there when they…

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    15. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Indeed Ian and if the 35-km-long, steeply dipping Mashers Fault which passes through the middle of the Olympic Dam ore body (a fault length which implies an earthquake of maximum about 7) ever blows, it certainly will be “bombs away.”

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    16. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      Thank you for your condescending Gish Gallop and loony tunes. And no the tailings will not be returned to whence they came. The tailings contains 70 – 80% of the radioactivity from OD’s operations and the TSF wall has the potential to reach 35 metres high with the proposed extensions.

      BHP will not be removing most of the radiation as you so foolishly suggest. The TSF will remain above ground in perpetuity, leaking a steady state of 3.8 million litres a day during the life of the operation…

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    17. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      You are the one who keeps bring up bombs as if the level of radiation in a bomb is in some way relevant to the level of radiation in mine tailings. As I previously stated a single bomb produces more than 100 billion times more radiation than all the 25000 containers in the English Channel that you originally mentioned. Why then do you keep bringing up the effect of bombs when we are talking about a vastly lower level of radiation from Nuclear power plants.

      According to the Olympic…

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    18. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Thanks Shirley for your significant and very informative contribution to this conversation. Much appreciated
      Ivan Quail

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  23. David Rennie

    IT Contractor

    The fossil fuel industry must surely be laughing all the way to the bank as the extreme environmentalists attack the only current cost effective way of significantly reducing CO2 emissions.

    The Nuclear industry remains the cheapest , and safest way of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and if we had any sense we would be aiming to replace all our coal fired power stations and petrol driven cars with nuclear generated electricity by 2050.

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    1. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      "cheapest and safest" The cheapest electricity available any where in Euorope is from the La Rance Tidal power station in France. It is cheaper and safer than their nuclear power sources.
      I am sorry you did not read my post above on Tidal power from the Kimberly's.

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    2. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      With a tidal range of 8m there are only a few places in the world where such a scheme will work. Therefore this type of plant is never going to be more than a marginal contributor to global electricity generation.

      The reality is that we have currently have the means to safely store the very small amounts of nuclear waste generated by Nuclear power stations, however the extreme environmentalists will never accept any solution to the so-called 'waste' problem because to do so would…

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    3. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to David Rennie

      "Nuclear power will probably not be the long term solution to our energy needs"

      You can't claim that. There is vastly more energy in accessible Uranium than in coal.

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    4. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      There are at least 15 tidal energy sites in the Kimberly with 10M plus tides (upto 12.5M)

      I am sorry you did not get to read the last 2 paragraphs of my post on tidal energy. The Kimberly tides can generate at least six times more electricity than we currently generate in the whole of Australia!

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    5. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris,
      Burning fossil fuels to generate energy makes as much sense as burning $ bills. Fossil fuels have so many no fuel uses in our society.

      Similarly, nuclear fuels might be better used generating power for inter stellar space flight and other future ventures.

      The sun provides us with significant amounts of renewable energy. Converting to a global network powered by renewables will however be a long process and not the solution to Global Warming this century. That was my point. Even if nuclear power ran out at the end of this century, that would remove 100 years of CO2 emissions, which would give us a chance not to suffer the consequences of AGW.

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    6. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Ivan,
      The La Rance Tidal power station in France produces 1/8000th of Frances' electricity as compared to 60% coming from Nuclear Energy. Australia has a large area with significant tidal ranges , however how many sites are capable of being economically usable.

      Tidal may have some place in the world's future energy mix, but let's at least investigate the economics of one before we commit the country to one marginal technology.

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    7. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to David Rennie

      "Burning fossil fuels to generate energy"

      Where did I say that?

      "nuclear fuels might be better used generating power for inter stellar space flight and other future ventures."

      It would have to be an AWFUL lot of interstellar space flight before we would come anywhere near running out of nuclear fuel on earth.

      "Even if nuclear power ran out at the end of this century"

      Of course, it wouldn't run out for many millions of years, if not billions.

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    8. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris,
      You didn't say it I did.

      I was just making the point that these fuels have better uses than just throwing them away on generating energy.

      I believe we will EVENTUALLY generate all the planets energy requirements needs from renewables however I don't know how long it will take, What I do know is it won't happen this century, If we don't solve the problem of AGW this century, it will be too late, so we need nuclear now, or sooner.

      One of the arguments made against nuclear energy is that it will run out this century. You and I do not agree with that assessment. However my point is, it doesn't matter if it does, we need it now to halt AGW.

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    9. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      "marginal technology"
      Hydro power started the industrial revolution and was indeed used by the Romans. Snowy river mountains scheme since 1975.
      La Rance has been operating since 1966. Tidal is tried and tested and ready to go.
      The hot rock proponents claim that geothermal could supply 20,000 times more than we currently generate. Needs more R&D

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    10. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Ivan,
      I don't care what technology you use provided you don't use fossil fuels. This debate is not about whether particular technologies are feasible, it is about delivering cost effective electricity to the people who need it.

      The French built La Rance more than 45 years ago. They haven't built much since and the site is still the second biggest tidal power station in the world. For me that is a marginal technology.

      Extreme environmentalists object to the use of Nuclear Power on what appear to be unscientific grounds exaggerating the costs and health effects of radiation. The only point of this discussion is to identify whether there is any scientific or economic basis for not using nuclear power.

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    11. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      One reason the French have not built more Tidal plants is that they don’t have any green field Tidal sites and nowhere near enough sites altogether to generate the bulk of their electricity needs never mind six times more than they need.

      I am pleased to see that you recognise the great value of UHV DC power transmission as this overcomes the long standing Australian problem of the tyranny of distance. I would much prefer us to be selling clean green Aluminium to the world rather than transmitting HV DC power to neighbouring countries. It would create far more jobs for Australians.
      BTW La Rance produces the cheapest power in Europe!

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    12. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      "scientific or economic basis"
      The nuclear industry has had 60 years of operation and a litany of leaks, accidents, cover-ups and they have hidden behind the official secrets act and have caused great suffering to hundreds of thousands of people including children. They are masters at compensation avoidance and have damaged the environment and many life forms across the globe forever.
      It seems to me and many others that the nuclear proponents want us to agree to exchange Co2 emissions, global…

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    13. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      As I said there are limited sites where Tidal Power would work.

      I'm not aware of the economics of the La Rance power station however at the current 'production' price it does not produce enough power to recoup the capital cost of its construction 45 years ago.

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    14. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      I thought you said you dont care where the power comes from!
      I have been researching Tidal Power on and off since 1990.
      I am sorry that you did not grasp the difference between 300,000 Mw form Tidal vs 54,000 Mw current installed capacity in the whole of Australia. ie 6 times more.

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    15. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Ivan,
      I don't care where the energy comes from provided it doesn't come from fossil fuels. However I am concerned that the technologies used are not unreasonably expensive. Some tidal power stations in favourable locations may be cheaper than nuclear however that doesn't mean they all are.

      According to reports on the recently approved Derby Tidal power station "The cost of tidal energy is speculative, but is probably at $250-$300/MWh, or more – which would not be much of a discount from diesel."

      http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/40mw-tidal-energy-plant-approved-for-wa-15470

      So it remains to be seen whether the cost is comparable with the cost from Nuclear.

      A theoretical capacity of 300 Gw is not the same as an economically achievable 300Gw. On a global scale the technology can at best only ever be marginal, so the discussion about how the world addresses the need to reduce emissions must include the option to use nuclear.

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  24. Ken Fabian

    Mr

    End climate science denial and climate policy obstructionism within mainstream politics and nuclear might get some real political backing - it would help large scale renewables too!

    There will not be any nuclear in Australia as long as the Conservative Right refuses to face the climate problem with eyes open and head on.

    Without strong bi-partisan commitment from mainstream politics nuclear won't even get onto the table for genuine consideration in Australia. When the conservative Right ditches…

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    1. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      The conservatives real concern about climate change policy is the cost of electricity. The solutions proposed by the Greens using expensive renewable energy are the real bone of contention. If the Greens switched their position on nuclear, acknowledging that the situation is really approaching crisis point, it would totally change the dynamic of the debate.

      If Abbott loses the election which is now a possibility, the conservative position would almost certainly change to the luke warm, no…

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    2. Ken Fabian

      Mr

      In reply to David Rennie

      David - I think it's an baseless assumption that, in the absence of Green opposition to nuclear that the LNP will drop it's stated absolute support for the fossil fuel sector and tackle climate change aggressively using nuclear. They have never seriously backed nuclear and - since they refuse to accept the climate problem and coal is cheaper than nuclear - they still don't.

      The climate denial and policy obstruction that runs through conservative politics impedes nuclear in numerous ways. It prevents…

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    3. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      My view that the LNP would change its' policy was based on the position "If Abbott loses the election" .I can't see any likelihood of change otherwise. If they win the election we'll have no action until the Arctic Ice melts , at least.

      However the Greens changing their policies would be a game-changer.

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    4. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Rennie

      The Greens changing their position would be a massive game changer - for the future of the Greens.

      Most Greens supporters are fairly independent thinkers, and rather than following the Greens on this policy change they would dump them. The Greens going pro-nuclear wouldn't win them many new voters but it would loose them many.

      And it wouldn't make much difference to the debate. Most who think climate change is crap won't support nuclear because we have lots of cheap coal.

      And most who want strong action on climate change will remain anti-nuclear no matter what the Greens party decides.

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    5. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to David Rennie

      David, the Greens have always been vehemently against nuclear and, as others have said already, they would lose massive support if they even dreamed of changing that policy. Besides why would they when renewables are available right now and many of them at far lower cost and risk than nuclear.

      Opposite claims are made that renewables won't be able to supply base load or even a significant portion of energy needs. That may be so but until we put real effort into rolling out renewables we will never be sure. Even if that effort failed we could easily revert back to fossil fuels in desperation.

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    6. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian,

      You'll have to tell one day about those renewables that are cheaper than nuclear, I haven't been able to find any evidence of their existence. Normally these claims amount to something along the lines of 'after you've written off the capital cost' they produce cheaper power if you don't write off the capital cost of nuclear. Show me a business plan, that isn't based on government subsidies and I'll be happy to discuss it with you.

      From an environmental perspective we have…

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    7. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael,
      I agree that there is no chance that the Greens will chance their policy. However there are a lot of people concerned about AGW that acknowledge the benefits of using nuclear to solve the problem.

      Wanting strong action on climate change is not restricted to a the anti nuclear movement. I suspect there are as many people who would accept nuclear as a solution to climate change as there are anti nuclear activists. And if the Greens restricted their arguments to scientifically accurate information, rather than scare mongering, there would be a lot more.

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    8. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      Horse feathers. The Greens nuclear policy has had and will have zero influence on State or Commonwealth policies on nuclear energy. The Australian public, of all political persuasions, will decide whether nuclear reactors are built in this nation - dictators and pernicious pseudo-science shills – butt out.

      In December 2006, the pro-nuclear Howard Government released its 288 page volume on “Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy.” The Howard-led Coalition went to the November 2007…

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    9. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "rather than following the Greens on this policy change they would dump them"

      So the problem is that the party is just a reflection of their supporters and the supporters' attitude is the problem.

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    10. Ken Fabian

      Mr

      In reply to David Rennie

      From what I can read here, pro-nukers won’t or can’t concede that the LNP’s opposition to action on climate has any bearing on acceptance of nuclear in Australia. All focus on the strength of opposition to nuclear and none at all on the weakness of support. I suspect tribalism, not rationalism as the main reason.

      Why, when the likelihood of The Greens becoming pro-nuclear is next to impossible and the LNP accepting global warming is inevitable (significant numbers already convinced), the focus…

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    11. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to David Rennie

      David,

      You have to take into account ALL costs when making comparisons between nuclear and renewables. Some of these costs are hard to quantify of course such as the risk of meltdowns, enhanced risk of nuclear weapons proliferation and use and so on.

      If you want an assessment of nuclear vs other options for energy production I suggest you google Mark Z Jacobson, a professor at Stanford. He has given some very interesting talks you can watch.

      I am not comparing nuclear with fossil fuels, both of which are highly risky means of obtaining our energy requirements. Both are bad. It's an argument about nuclear vs renewables.

      And contrary to your assertion about the Green position on nuclear being "illogically unscientific", I would say its is extremely logical to consider all aspects of nuclear energy and the other alternatives to it when forming a view.

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    12. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley
      You give the Green's position as thought leader on this issue insufficient credit. Their control of the balance of power in the Senate gives them a major practical influence as well.

      If the Green's change their position everyone else has to reconsider theirs. First off, the Greens have to be convinced it is necessary, even if a necessary evil. That in itself would change tghe debate. Once that shift was made the other parties would have to reconsider and I have no doubt that legislation could be changed to accommodate the change

      Of course the Greens can go on banging their heads against a brick wall and celebrating Pyrrhic victories like the carbon tax.

      Howard was voted out for lots of reasons, I doubt if his position on nuclear power had any influence in his demise.

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    13. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian,
      Jacobsen's position is challenged by the IPCC and the Yale University study
      (see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources)
      Jacobsen claims the CO2 emissions from Nuclear are very close to those from Gas, the other resources put them in the same range as wind and solar.

      On Jacobsen's wikipedia page it states "Jacobson has found that carbonaceous fuel soot emissions (which lead to respiratory illness, heart disease and asthma) have resulted…

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    14. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to David Rennie

      Of course it is always possible the ALP and the LNP will coalesce as they have often done to bring about any policies they like regardless of how good they may be for this country and the world at large. Their foreign policies, their refugee policies, their labour policies, privatization policies and environmental policies really differ only slightly.

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    15. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to David Rennie

      I've said before and I'll say again this has been an argument about nuclear vs fossil fuels. Also whether CO2 emissions from nuclear is closer to gas or renewable is pretty irrelevant when the total picture is looked at.

      What exactly is the IPCC challenging on Jacobson's position? Are they claiming nuclear is more cost competitive (ignoring risks) than renewables. Are they recommending that mitigation efforts should favour the use of new nuclear vs renewables?

      I am well aware eminent scientists…

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    16. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian,
      China can build a nuclear power station in 4-5 years. The rest of the time in the west is spent fighting the disinformation produced by the anti nuclear lobby.

      The IPCC and the Yale report challenges Jacobsen's claim that nuclear emits CO2 at the same rate as natural gas rather than wind and solar. They are not examining cost in this report as far as I am aware. They are saying that the CO2 emissions from solar, nucleqar and wind are all in the noerder of 50 times lower than from…

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    17. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Unfortunately this is true, Tweedledum and Tweedledummer is the correct term with both parties striving for the title of Tweedledummer.

      Privatization of course is a useful and effective policy that is under used. Business is better at running a business, but we need government to ensure that business is run for the benefit of society not solely for the benefit of shareholders.

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    18. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      Ken,
      The difference is that the Greens, and I suspect all their supporters are actually concerned about the environment. The LNP is just trying to create a vote wining agenda using disinformation and dishonesty.

      Therefore if the Greens recognized that they must ditch their anti nuclear position for the good of the environment then that would have a profound effect on the debate.

      The climate denier lobby is a looney fringe of the LNP, I do not believe it will survive an Abbott defeat in the upcoming election. Turnbull I suspect, would be very willing to develop nuclear power and sell it off to investors, which is why Nuclear can be developed in Australia for a trivial amount compared to renewables. The entire program could be funded by private enterprise with no government funds required.

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    19. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      "You have to take into account ALL costs when making comparisons between nuclear and renewables."

      Since when do governments ban something because it's more expensive?

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    20. Ken Fabian

      Mr

      In reply to David Rennie

      David, it sounds like you and other pro-nukers are looking to The Greens to save the nuclear solution. Luck with that.

      I'm afraid the pro-nukers here have only managed to convince me they lack important qualities - like good judgment in their choice of friends and allies. Too many can't or won't accept the reality of the climate problem but it seems like those those do are unwilling to distance themselves from the loony climate denier fringe. Afraid of losing the support of the core voter base…

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    21. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      Ken,
      So are you proposing that we stay with the current position that no-one makes any concessions and nothing gets done.

      I am not expecting the Greens to save nuclear, I am encouraging them to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by changing their scientifically unsustainable position against nuclear.

      Both the Green's and the deniers take the same position on denying the science they don't like.
      But honestly, both groups are blinded by their own beliefs and we are unlikely…

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    22. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Rennie

      David - What justification have you for the statement that the Green's policies are "economically unsustainable"?

      And if you care about action on climate change, why are you not making a fuss about Labor's plan to have our 2020 domestic emissions excluding land clearing be 43% above our 1990 emissions?

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    23. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael,

      An accurate assessment of the total cost, including the capital investment, per KWh delivered, for solar, nuclear, wind or tidal would show nuclear as significantly cheaper than the others. I have been unable to find, and have not been shown, any evidence to contradict that position.

      Happy to see evidence to the contrary. Feel free to provide references that include the construction and operational costs.

      What we need are clear figures indicating the cost of building and…

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    24. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Rennie

      I'm not discussing the cost of nuclear because politically it will not happen.

      And I don't believe those promoting nuclear have any concern for the environment because if they did they would be lobbying for strong action now and not distracting us about what might or might not happen in many years time.

      And if climate change is off topic then lets forget nuclear and just stay with coal.

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    25. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael,
      The reason the Greens wont compare costs is because it makes nuclear appear realistic compared to the others.

      Commencing the development of a nuclear industry now would allow us to significantly reduce our emissions by 2050, that is strong action, and it is strong action that doesn't require exorbitant costs. Not only would we have a long term strategy but we would be developing skills and technologies that could be transferred across the globe.

      The topic is nuclear power as a potential solution to CO2 emissions.
      Land clearing, like population is a completely different aspect of climate change.

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    26. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Rennie

      I'm not the Greens. I speak for just me.

      The reason I won't discuss costs is that this is a waste of time when I don't think that nuclear is either necessary nor a politically feasible solution.

      Reducing our emissions significantly by 2050 is far too late. If you were concerned about climate change you would be discussing what we need to do now, what we need to do before nuclear could come online.

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    27. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "I don't believe those promoting nuclear have any concern for the environment because if they did they would be lobbying for strong action now"

      There are a few for whom that does not apply but in most cases, those who bring up the subject of nuclear energy are just applying a test to those who stress the importance of reducing CO2 emissions to demonstrate their scientific knowledge or otherwise.

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    28. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      @ David Rennie: “My view is that the fossil fuel industry just loves the way the Greens effectively veto the nuclear industry, killing off their main economic competition.”

      What a load of double-talking gibble-gabble.

      A vote for nuclear is a vote for the world’s largest arms dealer who has control of the Beverley and Four Mile uranium mines in South Australia:

      http://www.smh.com.au/environment/secretive-arms-tycoon-behind-new-uranium-mine-20090715-dllw.html

      A vote for nuclear is a…

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    29. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael,

      Reducing our emissions significantly by 2050 is far better than the plans we currently have in place.

      What we need to do is start building nuclear now, then we could easily complete 25 Gw of nuclear by 2050 and have the capacity to eliminate the rest of our fossil fuel use shortly after.

      Nuclear power stations CAN be constructed in 4-5 years if the obstructive behavior of the anti-nuclear activists is removed from the process. So for a fraction of the cost we can achieve the…

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    30. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Rennie

      David - World hunger could be eliminated tomorrow it all the major powers just diverted a small percentage of their military budgets to purchasing and distributing the food to those in need.

      But of course this is just fantasy.

      That Australia could start building nuclear power plants quickly is just as much a fantasy.

      Also your timing misses the reality of the threat from climate change. The way we are going then in 15 years we have emitted enough carbon for a 2 degree warming.

      In Melbourne the frequence of our train service in non-peak times is about the same as it was in 1929. Yet the debate is whether or not to build yet another billion dollar road.

      I read recently that some climate models are predicting 4 degree warming by 2070. Banning fossil fuel cars in 2040 is the sort of talk that ensures that we don't do much until then - and this is what leads us to significant warming.

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    31. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      There is a whole lot of the fossil fuel who don't have access to nuclear resources and the Greens are certainly protecting them from competition from nuclear.

      As to your opinions on BHP and RIO Tinto, they are a side issue to the debate and should be dealt with in the same way as any abuse of workers. The fact that you dislike these companies is not a scientifically justifiable reason for opposing Nuclear.

      You're seriously descending into the realms of conspiracy theory now.

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    32. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Rennie

      Rennie,

      Surely you are the delusional one because you think the Green's have power.

      Have a look at the Green's policies and which of these is going to happen - pretty much none.

      Have a look at all the things that Labor and Liberal have done that the Green's don't like - and you will see that many major things happen that the Greens oppose.

      And you are completely ignorant about the Greens in that you fail to recognise that the Greens are a democratic party where the members determine policy and the members elect candidates. So if you want the Greens to become pro-nuclear then this means the majority of its members have to become pro-nuclear first.

      And if you look at the very long list of Australian management and government failure it is easy to show that Australia could not do nuclear on time, on budget, or safely.

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    33. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael,
      There is zero chance of limiting emissions to less than 2 degrees of warming. Nuclear power provides the best chance of keeping the rise to 4 degrees.

      We can't start building nuclear power plants quickly until we recognize the need for them, but lots of other countries are and will. If nuclear power plants are so costly and the time frame is sooo long why do you need to prevent them being built at all; because the Greens are committed to the use of renewable energy, not to the reduction…

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    34. Ken Fabian

      Mr

      In reply to David Rennie

      David, I think you have a few valid points but, again, I think you - like many others - attribute too much influence to The Greens. It's the absence of credible policy from the mainstream that inflates public perceptions of their power. Aided by the seriously bad and irresponsible decision of the LNP to frame climate as a non-issue that would not even matter to voters if the greenies would just shut up and go away.

      The LNP's climate obstructionism has been and remains much more damaging to…

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    35. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      "in 15 years we have emitted enough carbon for a 2 degree warming"

      By coincidence 15 years is how long it would take to build and bring into production a nuclear power station IF everyone involved wanted it to happen. Of course, we've known about the problem of CO2 emissions for quite a few years now.

      Of course, this is all academic since the tablets were brought down from the mount declaring nuclear energy illegal.

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    36. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      Of the 35 major Australian coal mines listed at Wikipedia, at least 23 are owned by companies with nuclear interests. The compelling evidence reveals that the morally bankrupt nuclear industry is interested only in profit as it spews CO2 across the nation from its coal mines:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_in_Australia

      The total coal mined by non-nuclear coal mining companies, pales into insignificance as the coal/nuclear behemoth perpetuates its ecocidal, widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment, people and the planet.

      Your maniacal obsession with the Greens is a red herring. You are a Trojan horse for the fossil fuel industry, an ill-informed nuclear shill and a hypocrite.

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    37. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      I do find that people who have to resort to personal abuse to make their point generally don't have much of a point to make.
      I happen to be one of the 20% of green voters who support nuclear power. We do that because we are concerned about the effects of fossil fuels and see nuclear as a potential strategy to reduce emissions.

      We need a strategy to reduce CO2 emissions to reduce AGW.

      Unless you can make a case that Nuclear is a comparable danger to AGW then nuclear can be a strategy to reduce emissions.

      The emissions from nuclear are comparable with those from renewables over the lifecycle.
      The costs of nuclear are less than the costs of renewables for the foreseeable future.
      On balance the health risks from nuclear power stations are comparable with renewables.

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    38. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      Right now the best thing we can all do at the moment is make sure the LNP does not win the election on Sept 7th. Their hardline position dates back to Abbot's ascendancy on the back of a small right wing rump of the party. If Abbott loses the election he will be dumped and Turnbull will bring some practical intelligence to the debate.

      I oppose the LNP's position by no longer working or voting for them and actively supporting candidates who want action on Climate Change regardless of whether…

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    39. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael,
      The Greens can't do anything on their own, but they can prevent things happening. They did manage to achieve a carbon tax, because Julia recognised it was better than nothing and prefered action to inaction.

      While the Greens have the balance of power, if they adopt a position they only need the support of one of the two major parties to get results. Without the Greens both major parties have to agree and we haven't seen much of that lately.

      As to the internal structures of the Greens, democratic organizations are capable of changing their position. I am not in favour of dictatorial behaviour at any level. A significant minority of Greens supporters already support nuclear energy and an even larger minority of Australians.

      The objective of the debate is to get facts on the table, rather than the disinformation coming from the anti nuclear lobby.

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    40. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      Ken,
      The LNP is currently dominated by people who are ignorant of the fact the AGW is occurring. Even to admit the need for a solution is an affront to their ignorance.

      The Greens and Labour at least recognize the problem and are prepared to do something about it. Accepting a solution that they have previously rejected is a much smaller step than convincing the LNP that;
      1. Climate Change is not crap
      2. Nuclear is a part of the solution
      3. There is some chance of getting anywhere politically…

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    41. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Rennie

      David - Once again I say that the Green's members determine policy and which candidates get put up for election.

      If Christine Milne suddenly agreed with you then the Greens would not have changed their mind - and Christine would probably be on her way out.

      Note that I'm not saying anything about the right or wrong of her changing her mind. I'm talking about the reality of how the Greens party works.

      And note that the danger of AGW is recognised by the Greens, and thus they know that what is most important is the short term actions we must do over the next 15 years. Only once we have our short term actions in place does how to get to zero emissions become the main issue. And a good case can be made that we can get to zero emissions without nuclear.

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    42. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Writer (ex telecommunications engineer)

      In reply to David Rennie

      Talk about spin - if it was up to Gillard there would be no tax now.

      Then there were extensive negotiations as Gillard weakened the tax.

      Note that under Labor the plan is to increase our domestic emissions by 43% from 1990 levels in 2020 excluding land clearing. Labor are leading the western world in taking us to 4 degree warming or more.

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    43. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      MIchael,
      It's not spin, Julia is famously on record as saying That "there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead" and less famously on record as continuing with "but I will act on climate change".

      Regardless of the merits of the two policies, she couldn't introduce an ETS without the support of either the Liberals or the Greens.

      She could however, introduce a carbon tax which she chose to do rather than refusing to compromise as both the LNP and the Greens did. She had to make a choice between action and inaction and she chose action. But now that policy can only be maintained if he Greens maintain the balance of power.

      Don't tell me the Green's don't have the power!!!.

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    44. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

      Michael.
      No one is objecting to the democratic organisation of the Greens. However their leaders have influence. Short term action is important and changing their policy is a short term action.

      Working out the consequences may take longer.

      The fact that the Greens have been conned by the anti- nuclear movement into adopting an anti- environment policy is an issue that can and should be be addressed. In the short term, and the long term, the resources we can put into combating climate change are limited. We need to use those resources in a cost effect manner.

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    45. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      David, 90% of your nuclear nonsense has morphed into showbiz. Of the 85 hits for one David Rennie, three links have been provided – 2 from Wikipedia and one from nuclear pusher, WNA.

      Speaking of costs, US Department of Energy estimates that the cost of the Hanford nuclear clean-up alone, at $114.8 billion. Post-clean-up will continue through 2090.

      The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) advises that “the taxpayer can expect to fund £56 billion of the total £58,858 million in the…

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    46. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      It is ridiculous to compare the cost of cleaning up weapons research sites and decommissioning nuclear power plants. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_decommissioning.
      Typically with a nuclear power plant the cost of decommissioning is built into the cost of the electricity, so it is the current consumers not future generations that pay.

      I have never suggested that wind or solar can not produce electricity, however the expected capacity and the actual capacity do not always…

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    47. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      Your allegation that I am incorrectly conflating weapon sites with nuclear energy is false and misleading. The weapons’ sites to which I alluded (Sellafield and Hanford) also fed the civilian electrical grid and plutonium production for atomic weapons.

      Weapons and civilian nuclear power remain inextricably linked. The west's disgraceful DU bombing of Iraq and the Balkans and the subsequent cancers and congenital malformations in civilians lay testament to that.

      http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/629

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    48. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley
      Yes I do remember "Too cheap to meter" and the Nuclear industry has been cutting corners and shifting responsibility for their mess to the Tax payer ever since.

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    49. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Touché Ivan. Spot on. And let's not forget that the Watts Bar civilian nuclear reactor's "peaceful atoms" in the US supplies defence with tritium for their nuclear warheads.

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    50. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley,
      The Wikipedia article makes it quite clear that the decommissioning cost of nuclear power plants is nowhere near the tens of billions you claimed by implying that the costs were equivalent to the clean up from the weapons sites.

      The quotes you provide also make it clear that it is the intention of the regulators that the decommissioning costs will be built into the current cost of electricity, not left for future generations as you claimed.

      Furthermore the total shortfalls…

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    51. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      Another load of old cobblers from a troll who prefers folklore to the facts on an industry that has contaminated the commons worldwide, destroyed civilizations and sent whole nations to despair. The Wikipedia link, which David Rennie provided, reveals that of the 29 western and eastern European reactors partly or wholly decommissioned, some 21 reactors show a “?” for dismantling costs. The link also states that:

      “The current estimate by the United Kingdom's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority…

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    52. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Rennie

      @ David Rennie: “Two thirds of the cost you quote for decommissioning in the UK are for decommisioining (sic) the Sellafield weapons site.”

      I daresay it will cost double that. Sellafield has 200 nuclear facilities and supplied civilian nuclear power for 47 years until the Calder Hall reactor shut down in 2003. The last of three additional nuclear reactors closed in 1981. Sellafield has been reprocessing nuclear fuel for nuclear power generation since the 60s. Your glaring omission to this fact…

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  25. Ian Rudd
    Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

    Reasons why nuclear power should not be an option for Australia.

    They are in no particular order: -

    Cost
    Health and safety
    Environment
    Resource scarcity
    Time
    Alternatives forgone
    Corporate power
    Heightened conflict potential
    Public opposition

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  26. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    David Rennie tries hard to chloroform readers but facts have a habit of popping up when Dr Fanciful gets going.

    Fact is that nine reactors have been listed as “under construction” for more than 20 years. The U.S. Watts Bar-2 project in Tennessee started construction in December 1972 and is now scheduled to be connected to the grid in 2015. Cringe.

    Long-term construction projects include three Russian units, two Mochovce units in Slovakia, and two Khmelnitski units in Ukraine. The construction…

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    1. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Currently there are 60 Nuclear power plants under construction.

      http://world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Plans-For-New-Reactors-Worldwide/#.UfkM_W0dcrc

      That's a 15% increase over the current number of operational reactors. China has plans to build 100 nucleqr power stations by the end of this decade and to obtain 16% of their power from nuclear by the end of the 2020's. Australia at that stage will still be arguing about whether Climate Change is Crap. However you…

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    2. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      David Rennie "as if radiation in itself is a problem"

      Pu239 has a half-life of 24,000 years. As little as 2.83 micrograms 0.00000283g (smaller than a speck of dust) injected under the skin of mice has caused cancer. It is the lung which is most vulnerable to plutonium similar to asbestos.

      Fish living in contaminated water can concentrate certain elements (radioactive or otherwise) 1000 times. This will be very good for the world’s fisheries because if nobody wants to eat fish they will recover…

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    3. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Ian,
      The toxicity of Pu-239n has been calculated as equivalent to nerve gas. 1 gram of Pu239 contains sufficient radioactivity to kill around 4000 people if ingested. Thats 0.00025 gm. That's why we we need to store it safely. Butr that is not an insoluble problem because the amount of waste is very small.

      The largest atmospheric bomb test in 1961 released 5000 times as much radioactivity as the Hiroshima bomb and there were 500 atmospheric tests in all as well as another 1500 underground tests.

      If atmospheric radiation release was as big a problem as you make out we should have seen severe from these tests.

      As you point out the background radiation, is now just 18% higher after all these tests. The background radiation varies greatly but is not considered a danger to the population. An increase of just 18% is equally innocuous but that doesn't make the decision to stop atmospheric testing a good one.

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    4. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to David Rennie

      David "equally innocuous"
      Thanks for your reply . I now understand where the gap is in your knowledge.
      Radiation is the main driving force of evolution of species. If radiation kills a cell there is no problem as the body will get rid of it. However if radiation damages a chromosome as in cuts off an arm or a leg then the cell will replicate with the damage repeated and you have a cell which no longer performs the function it was designed for and it becomes a parasite serving no useful function…

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    5. David Rennie

      IT Contractor

      In reply to Ivan Quail

      Ivan,
      Interesting theory of evolution you have there but I don't think it is supported by any science.
      The effect of low level radiation is a contentious issue. One side of the debate claims that at low levels the body will repair itself. The other side of the debate says there is not enough evidence to support that claim and uses a linear model.

      Both sides of the debate agree that there is no evidence for an increase in cancer from low levels of radiation because the natural levels of cancer are so high that they prevent any weak signal from low level radiation showing through.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis

      Neither of us is in a position to make a definitive statement on the extent of cancer caused by low level radiation however the fact that there is no evidence for its occurrence implies that the effect is very small if it exists at all.

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  27. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    What nukers don't want you to know.

    US: Death rattles of the atom. Howdy drunks, druggies and felons:

    July 2013:

    30/7: A supervisor at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey failed a random fitness for duty test, confirming positive for alcohol.

    24/7: Indian Point supervisor arrested for deliberately falsifying critical safety records

    24/7: Former Los Alamos physicist pleads guilty to charges of attempting to sell nuclear secrets for profit

    3/7: Wrongful death…

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  28. Lisa Hodgson

    Director

    If we only had two choices, climate change or nuclear power, I'd rather take my chances with climate change. http://intellihub.com/2013/08/01/you-wont-believe-whats-going-on-at-fukushima-right-now/
    Re the cost of nuclear power, rarely do we see a complete costing, including the costs of mining, enriching, transporting uranium as well as the health costs associated with that. We also rarely see the costs of decommissioning inbuilt into the cost per kwh.
    And then there's peak uranium . . . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_uranium

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      "I'd rather take my chances with climate change."

      Crazy.

      "And then there's peak uranium . . . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_uranium";:

      "However, the current reserves of uranium have the potential to provide power for humanity for billions of years, until the death of our sun,"

      I don't think there's much point in reading any further.

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    2. Ivan Quail

      maverick

      In reply to Lisa Hodgson

      Lisa, See my earlier post on the Tides of the Kimberley which can supply six times more power than we currently generate in the whole of Australia.

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