The nuclear thread we had to have

Well, the battle-lines are now drawn. Labor’s widely expected decision to scrap the “no new mines” policy scraped through the national conference. However, the reaction of state governments is variable, with Western Australia promising to not allow mines, while South Australia and the Northern Territory looking forward to expansion. Labor remains resolutely opposed to nuclear power domestically, however.

Meanwhile, the conservatives have announced their plans on the topic. The key section of the plan is below the fold

The strategy will involve a number of actions that can be taken immediately, including:

– removing unnecessary constraints impeding the expansion of uranium mining, such as overlapping and cumbersome regulations relating to the mining and transport of uranium ore;

– making a firm commitment to Australia’s participation in the Generation IV advanced nuclear reactor research programme.

My Government will also develop four major work plans mapping out a way forward for:

(i) an appropriate nuclear energy regulatory regime – including those to govern any future potential nuclear energy facilities in Australia;

(ii) skills and technical training to address any identified gaps and needs to support a possible expanded nuclear energy industry;

(iii) enhanced research and development; and

(iv) communication strategies so that all Australians and other stakeholders can clearly understand what needs to be done and why.

Relevant Ministers and their Departments are to commence this work immediately and to report to Cabinet by around September this year;

The work plans are to be implemented in 2008.

The Government’s next step will be to repeal Commonwealth legislation prohibiting nuclear activities, including the relevant provisions of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This will be addressed soon.

There’s lots of material here for a number of posts, but consider this one an open nuclear thread. Amongst other things, some identification of what topics commenters are most interested in, in relation to nuclear energy, would help shape future discussion.

On the politics of the issue, as I was asking over at Blogocracy:
Could anyone, anywhere identify me a voter who is more likely to vote for the coalition because it supports domestic nuclear energy?

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Posted in environment, Federal Elections, Nuclear, politics
53 comments on “The nuclear thread we had to have
  1. David Rubie says:

    The Liberal party policy is nothing more than a called bluff. Howard feels he has to follow it through (conviction politician bollocks). There will be a substantial number of voters who know nuclear can ever only be part of the solution – his called bluff will end up being another nail in the coffin of his failed administration.

  2. philip travers says:

    Well if that person or those number of persons exist there will be a formulae use of name change via the deed poll ,because the registered voter would have to have a very strange name,i.e.,as follows Kolishunnelsupaortadom Estik Nukepowya.Sounds like Russian to me.

  3. Ron says:

    “who is more likely to vote for the coalition because it supports domestic nuclear energy”

    Or vote for an opposition because it now supports offshore nuclear energy.

    Isn’t there a whiff of hypocrisy on the ALP’s stance on this now? (I agree the three mines policy was silly – three or thirteen: what’s the difference?)

  4. Ilsa, Phantom Agent says:

    Could anyone, anywhere identify me a voter who is more likely to vote for the coalition because it supports domestic nuclear energy?

    Well Robert, as with Mao’s GLF, it seems to me that people are just crying out for nuclear reactors in every backyard.

    I don’t think for a moment that the punters, concerned as many are about global warming, will think of nuclear power generation and scream “Hell, yeah!”.

    Essentially the Crodent’s announcement was a policy restatement that grabbed two days headlines (well done) and was a lame attempt to wedge Labor over uranium mining.

    I don’t know that the wedge will work so well. If there’s one thing Australians understand it’s digging stuff up and flogging it to mugs overseas, but really we’d rather not have that here thanks very much (cf: Sir Les Patterson).

    Don’t think there’s any question that nuclear will be part of the mix, but as for Johnny waving the magic-wand yet again? Nah. Don’t think so.

  5. suz says:

    Could anyone, anywhere identify me a voter who is more likely to vote for the coalition because it supports domestic nuclear energy?

    My guess: an ill-informed ‘aspirational’ who vaguely knows there’s an environmental problem but doesn’t want to have to make any changes or pay much attention and is happy to believe that Howard’s nuclear option is a quick fix. [Emphasis on the word “ill-informed”.]

    There are bound to be some of this kind of person, but they’re probably already voting for him anyway.

  6. joe2 says:

    Old coconut is losing his touch on the wedgie. Wouldn’t you love to be the advertising company given the brief to attack the Liberals on domestic nuclear power stations?

    You would have a ball. You could have Howards battlers wetting their pants at the thought of a plant next door.

    A quick flash of Hugh Morgan and Ron Walker, then Homer , guider of the meltdown. Mc mansion prices plummet in ‘headlines’ and the ‘three eyed fish’………… an election winning advertising campaign.

  7. dk.au says:

    There’s lots of material here for a number of posts

    Indeed. Good to dive into the archives first, though. We’ve had lots of excellent commentary from a number of contributors on the issue here at LP.

    The problems with the framing of nuclear power in Australia are many. Foremost, is the historically naive insistence to decide ‘in principle’ on nuclear power before siting. Cases of waste management and plant siting in Sweden, the UK, and the US tell us that this is a waste of valuable deliberative time. Other problems include the biases in the public-sector financing, the dream of ‘inherently safe’ nuclear plants and the ongoing dangers of proliferation.

    As for the three mines policy, I don’t see how exporting more uranium impels us to use nuclear power. Many risks of power generation and waste storage are quite localised.

  8. Brian says:

    The Generation IV reactor has the following goals:

    to improve nuclear safety, improve proliferation resistance, minimize waste and natural resource utilization, and to decrease the cost to build and run such plants.

    This would definitely be worth pursuing in the interests of the planet, I think, but I don’t know whether it is worth our while to commit any effort.

    MacFarlane yesterday was looking at a time frame of having the first plant operational by 2020. Even if this is accepted as part of the strategy we should be well into reducing emissions by other means before 2020. If we rely on the ‘delayed action’ option more savage cuts annually will be needed from then on und arguably a more severe 2050 target. This is almost certainly more expensive than the ‘early action’ option.

    I think Labor is already attacking Howard in roughly these terms.

  9. Ilsa, Phantom Agent says:

    My guess: an ill-informed ‘aspirational’ who vaguely knows there’s an environmental problem but doesn’t want to have to make any changes or pay much attention and is happy to believe that Howard’s nuclear option is a quick fix.

    Well no doubt that’s what’s showing up in the focus-groups on both sides – ‘yes, we’d rather the whole problem just went away and just let us get on with our lives’ (and wouldn’t we?).

    But when you’ve got organs like the Terror running this sort of stuff on the front page http://www.news.com.au/sundaytelegraph/story/0,,21585348-5001021,00.html (and sorry, there was another on Friday but can’t find link), the dear old bloke would have to recognise there’s a bit of scepticism out there.

    What? He’s going to tell the Riverina that nuclear will fix their irrigation problems?

  10. Ron says:

    “I don’t see how exporting more uranium impels us to use nuclear power”

    No, it doesn’t, but it’s possible Australia will become the world’s largest exporter of uranium. Aren’t there some responsibilities attached to this?

  11. Phil says:

    Of course the answer is very few.

    And once again folks will see through Rattys little wedge party, these things won’t come online for some time (if at all) and most folks know it. Unfortunately we’ll be burning coal for a long time yet…..and of course no real money is being spent on alternatives in the policy statements coming from the two parties.

    As to the one that interests me Robert, it’s this.

    skills and technical training to address any identified gaps and needs to support a possible expanded nuclear energy industry

    Where are we gonna get the engineers and technicians? With more mining on the cards just about everyone in Oz will be employed in digging the stuff out of the ground…..which probably means the nuclear industry will be left in the hands of a Mr Burns and a Mr Homer Simpson….or maybe we’ll just fly them in from China in a free trade deal involving uranium exports/experts.

  12. BilB says:

    Howard has now dropped his little nuclear bomb. He had to do that so that on the off-chance that he survives the next election he can say that he has a nuclear mandate. Standard Howard tactics, from here till the election he will ramp up his bad mouthed rhetoric to distract from his real agenda of flogging everything that isn’t bolted down (not that bolts stop the profit pirates), to feed his fantasy of being a good economic manager.

    The only possibly beneficial ‘good environment’ policy that Howard has put forward was the light bulb initiative. And that was a cheap shot because as people will notice it costs the public every thing and the government nil. Even the solar panel $4000 dollars for PV is lame because as you have correctly pointed out they are horrendously expensive for little power gain, to the point that few people will take advantage of it. More cynically the people who will profit are people building horrendously large houses that require environmmental content to meet building code requirements. ie richer people who don’t really need the help, but take it anyway.

    I am far too distressed by the ‘in your face’ stupidity of the whole government environmental platform to attempt to make any sense of this new afront.

  13. Ilsa, Phantom Agent says:

    Where are we gonna get the engineers and technicians? With more mining on the cards just about everyone in Oz will be employed in digging the stuff out of the ground…..which probably means the nuclear industry will be left in the hands of a Mr Burns and a Mr Homer Simpson….or maybe we’ll just fly them in from China in a free trade deal involving uranium exports/experts.

    Geez, Phil, that’s way too smart. We’ll wait for Tuesday’s polls (hmm, let me think, ‘Rudd Honeymoon Over Again’?), but I think JHo could be onto something with the Simpsons Solution.

    And apropos to an earlier thread, where TF are those smart tech-savvy Howard-haters types pumping out viral marketing on Youtube like this brilliant effort from the US? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU-fw_NQUVk&mode=related&search=

  14. John Greenfield says:

    Robert Merckel

    I am bemused by your description of the Coalition’s policy as being typical of “conservatives.” Surely the fact that thh Labor Left is Stuck on Stupid by fighting battles from the 1960s and 1970s makes them the “conservatives?” 😉

  15. professor rat says:

    Hey get with the program!

    One reactor for Mom, one for Dad and one for the government.

    Its the nuclear family stupid.

  16. blacklight says:

    VICTORIAN Liberal Leader Ted Baillieu said today there was no need for nuclear power in Victoria despite Prime Minister John Howard’s call for a national debate.

    Mr Baillieu spoke outside the Victorian Liberal state council today where he said the state’s future low-emission energy needs could be met with “clean coalâ€? technology, and not nuclear power.

    “I think the Prime Minister is right that we have to explore each and every alternative available, but when it comes to Victoria I don’t see that it is necessary,â€? Mr Baillieu said.

    so the NIMBY fest begins

  17. Ilsa, Phantom Agent says:

    so the NIMBY fest begins

    And you live where, blacklight? Got the backyard nuclear plant ready to go, have you?

  18. Spiros says:

    I would like the TAB to frame a market on which Liberal leader will be the first to say that it would be acceptable to build a nuclear power reactor in their state.

  19. hannah says:

    From Robert’s link
    Mike Rann:
    “The Labor Party’s policy now looks forward rather than looking back – we have 60 companies that have exploration licences in South Australia for uranium,” he said.”

    I think he has it backwards with resepect to the use of “we”.
    The 60 companies would be saying “We have a tame state Labor government and now ‘we’ also have a tame Federal policy.”
    Tails and dogs.

  20. Mick Strummer says:

    The whole nuclear thing – along with “clean coal” – is just designed to make Howard look like he is doing something about the problem/s that most voters think he needs to address. Trouble is that Howard has spent the previous 11 years denying the existence of any problem, thus rendering somewhat irrelevant anything he might say about technological solutions to global warming and climate change. I myself don’t believe that Howard is serious about nuclear power for Australia anyway. He is only saying it – nuclear power is the way of the future – in order to try and wedge Rudd and the Labor party into one of those internal party debates that makes them look weak and divided. Fortunately it won’t work. Australians, no matter how eager they might be to embrace the idea of digging up and refining the filty radioactive stuff (for jobs and profit), are none too keen on the idea of either a reactor or a waste repository, let alone a mine, anywhere close – say 1000km or so – to where they live. This don’t matter much for mines. They are all in the back of beyond anyway. But NIMBYism ensures that a nuclear powered Australia just ain’t gonna happen….
    Cheers…. 😉

  21. Peterc says:

    Howard said he would love to live next to a reactor. If he wins again, this means building one close or next to Kirribilli. . . and The Lodge . . .

    Unfortunately, several people I have spoken to in casual conversion seem to have formed a view (from Government propaganda over the last 12 months) that nuclear energy is clean and is a good option to address climate change. I really didn’t expect this reaction (no pun intended). Hopefully the message can be got across that nuclear is not needed and is just another polluting, dangerous and non-renewable energy source that won’t have a major impact on addressing either immediate or long term concerns about climate change.

    Howard appears not have succeed in wedging the ALP, but we now have them committing to expanded uranium mining and exports.

    I wonder what the Australian public really wants. How about a referendum to give us the chance to vote on something so important. Ah, but that would be a bit too democratic I think.

    PS: There is no such thing as “clean coal”. The term is an oxymoron. The best coal can ever be is “grubby”. There are no proposals to get coal burning power stations down to zero CO2 emissions. I now say “grubby coal” rather than accept or use the industry PR term of “clean coal”.

  22. david tiley says:

    Hey. if we have nuclear power, we could have TEH BOMB!

    Would you trust the ALP with that?

    Actually, with Latham, not so much…

  23. St Margaret says:

    What strikes me as odd is the way Howard constantly reiterates that he doesn’t want to go the way of ‘old Europe’ on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This is one big unqualified reason he gives as to why we do not sign the Kyoto protocol. But then on the other hand, countries from old Europe like France get 80% of their power from nooculear energy. So nooculear power stations are dotted all over Europe and Howard wants to do exactly that in Australia.

    One thing that was abjectly missing in Howard’s interview with Laurie Oakes is any affirmation that Australia has such great potential for renewable energy production such as solar, wind and geothermal. He keeps repeating that nooculear and clean coal are the only two alternatives we have in Australia that can provide baseload power according to information from the best scientists in the country. Yet other scientists argue that this just isn’t true.

    I’m confused as I’m sure a lot of other punters will be come the next election and maybe in the absence of better information they will come to believe Howard and vote for him again. I would like the Australian way to bypass nooculear and go straight onto developing renewable energy production but now wonder if we really do have to build these monolithically toxic and primitive nooculear power stations and rely on the geosequestration fairy. Is Howard acting in the tradition of the Nazi statesman Goebbels and telling a great lie often, or what? Can anyone shine a light into the abyss for me?

  24. St Margaret says:

    Robert Merkel, why does my comment keep disappearing? I spent ages on it, posted it twice and it’s gone again. I know it wasn’t brilliant, but I kept as far as possible to the family G-rated tone of this blog and tried to be nice, or is it that my post has some nasty little virus?

  25. BilB says:

    St Margaret,

    Don’t be confused because you are absolutely correct. Australia has sufficient Solar potential to supply all of the worlds electricity as at 2050 sixty times over if you covered the country with solar collectors at todays efficiencies. There is no place, no need for nuclear power in Australia.

    What you have to do is take your concerns and talk to every body you meet about these issues. Ask people where they stand on environmental issues, what are their concerns, what is their position on nuclear power? This is a pivotal point in history. For your childrens sake for your extended family, for other peoples children act on your convictions. By so doing you will help other people feel more comfortable about having an opinion and help them feel better about expressing their feelings at the ballot box, not along party hack lines but as an individual with something to important to say.

  26. Ron says:

    I like this bit from a letter in today’s SMH:

    Now that the ALP has voted to mine uranium, I am wondering if it would save on advertising costs to combine ALP and Liberal party advertising leading up to the election?

  27. swio says:

    I agree that Howard’s bluff has been called and he has ended up giving himself a wedgie. He has spent so long arguing that global warming is not a big issue that

    a) the electorate has already decided he is not serious about global warming which makes his nuclear policy appear to be all about politics
    b) he cannot credibly argue that global warming is serious enough to require a solution as drastic as nuclear power

    I almost cannot believe the Howard conciously decided it wants nuclear power as an election policy.

    On the substance of the policy the real killer is this point.

    (ii) skills and technical training to address any identified gaps and needs to support a possible expanded nuclear energy industry;

    At full steam ahead it will be a generation before we have the necessary skills base to even build a national nuclear power network. With an already existing skills shortage who is going to spend four years at uni to get a job in an industry that does not yet exist (and may never do)? Imagine the enormous amount medium skilled workers and sub-contractor experience that will need to be developed. The phrase “any identified gaps” [in training] is beyond understatement.

  28. David Tiley: not necessarily.

    To make a bomb from used reactor fuel, you need to reprocess it. Reprocessing reactor fuel is not trivial, and the characteristics of used power reactor fuel are very much less than ideal for the task (to get slightly technical, the isotope ratio of the resulting plutonium is all wrong). Spent fuel rods are extremely radioactive, and so require very large automated machinery to move, and are fairly easily monitored.

    If we wanted to use our reactor to make bomb-grade plutonium, the very frequent refuelling would stand out like dog’s testicles.

    The way to build a bomb on the quiet is with uranium enrichment, like the Iranians are doing. You also use the same technology to make reactor fuel. An Australian company, Silex Systems, has developed what may be the world’s best enrichment technology, and signed a commercialization agreement with GE. I’d bet money that a photocopy of the plans were kept on file, put behind glass somewhere in a top-secret room in the defence department, to be pulled out if ever necessary…

  29. Billb, st margaret: but the question is whether all that solar radiation can be cheaply extracted.

    Given that it hasn’t been in the past, I’m not prepared to assume that it will be in the future.

  30. wilful says:

    I don’t mind nukes in Australia, just as long as they’re treated economically fairly, provided no more economic support than renewables.

    Nukes actually are very very safe, having caused far less direct deaths than coal-fired stations. 50s era soviet tech isn’t a fair test, and how many people died due to three mile island? And if we can dig the stuff up we can put it back into the ground – nowhere in the world is better suited than Australia, and I think we could make an absolute motza from the world community, charge virtually what we wanted, to put the stuff back into some the oldest and most boring rocks around. I reckon it would be a wonderful industry, allow us to freeload off the irrational fears of overseas voters for a long time.

    But nuke power stations are hideously expensive, slow to build, only just carbon neutral and I don’t want my tax dollars wasted on a partial solution to climate change when a more cost effective mix of renewable energy sources are so close to commercial reality.

  31. Rebekka says:

    And if we can dig the stuff up we can put it back into the ground – nowhere in the world is better suited than Australia

    Sure, but can we be sure that it will still be safe underground for the next 700 million years? Hmmm?

  32. Rebekka: that’s hyperbole. See this graph. Within a few hundred years it’s barely more radioactive than what you started with. Within 10,000 it’s less so.

    Tutankhamen’s tomb would probably have been perfectly adequate as a store for high-level nuclear waste, given its ability to protect its contents for 3,000 years.

  33. wilful says:

    Given that we’ve got rocks that have done absolutely nothing for a longer period than that, and given that the hot stuff only needs to kept down there for 100 000 years or so, yeah I reckon that’s very easy to do. Even the Wilderness Society can’t find anything scandalous to say about geological storage in Australia.

  34. the dude says:

    Labor is talking mining, Libs are talking power generation, nobody is talking enrichment.

    This would have been a better wedge for Howard. “Why does Labor want to export unenriched uranium, when we can value-add/create jobs by doing a spot of enriching here.

    Nuclear power generation may not be economical or socially accepted in Australia, but that isn’t to say that enrichment isn’t.

    BTW, the worlds largest uranium mine (in canada), was subject to severe flooding last year. It is out of production and many sugest it may never come back into production. Hence the uranium price has doubled and will continue to rise. My point is, Europe is reliant on nuclear to meet its Kyoto targets, if nuclear becomes too expensive due to high uranium prices, more fossil fuels will be burnt. Hence Australia needs to come to the party.

  35. Brian says:

    St Margeret, re your query about comments The usual advice if they don’t appear is to email LP.

    That doesn’t mean that it will get fixed immediately as we don’t have an administrator 24/7.

    It’s normally the case that the software recognises your comment as spam or flings it into moderation. This can happen because you used a particular word that might seem innocent, OR the comment has three or more links, OR for unknown reasons. It’s pretty stupid, unfortunately.

    In practice what happens is that one of us will fish it out. The software ‘learns’ from this, so hopefully it will in your case too.

  36. Adrien says:

    Nukes actually are very very safe, having caused far less direct deaths than coal-fired stations.

    But the waste stays dangerous for how long? I wonder if we’re leaving a toxic time bomb for our descendants. I also wonder just how viable renewables are. It seems to me that the government (and the opposition) have just decided to go nuclear despite the fact that so many of don’t wanna.
    >
    Did someone say bedtime for politicians and mining concerns? Did someone say free market, what’s that?

  37. carbonsink says:

    Could anyone, anywhere identify me a voter who is more likely to vote for the coalition because it supports domestic nuclear energy

    I’m fascinated by the politics of Howard’s nukes everywhere strategy. It seems to me he is only going to win votes from people who are educated about the cost and baseload issues with renewables, and are sufficiently concerned about global warming that they’d be happy to risk nuclear power stations and nuclear waste dumps in Australia.

    Does anyone know anyone like that?

    I reckon the political centre (the people I assume Howard is trying to appeal to) are concerned enough about global warming that they’d like to see the government do “something” about it, but I doubt that something is nukes in their backyard. I suspect most people have pretty superficial understanding of power generation issues, and in their minds why would we build nukes when would could use solar, wind and geothermal.

    George Megalogenis got it right (again) on Insiders when he said it will be “open slatherâ€? on a scare campaign now. IMO, this is a political gift for the ALP that a drovers dog couldn’t get wrong.

  38. carbonsink says:

    Peterc wrote:

    Unfortunately, several people I have spoken to in casual conversion seem to have formed a view (from Government propaganda over the last 12 months) that nuclear energy is clean and is a good option to address climate change. I really didn’t expect this reaction

    Really?!?

    How would you characterise these people? Conservatives that would have voted for Howard anyway? Swinging voters? Educated professionals who have concluded renewables won’t be able to replace fossil fuels and/or will be too expensive?

    PS: There is no such thing as “clean coalâ€?. The term is an oxymoron.

    Oooh goody, another opportunity to post my CCS is completely nutty rant…

    To give you an idea of the scale of the “clean coal” problem: the world emits 16 cubic kilometres of CO2 per day* from burning coal.

    You reckon we’re gonna capture that, compress it, liquefy it, pipe it to some hole in the ground hundreds of kilometres away hope its stays there for eternity? Clean coal makes nuclear waste disposal look easy.

    * 10,500,000,000 tonnes of CO2 * 556m3 = 5,838,000,000,000m3 = 5,838km3 per year or 15.99km3 per day

    Global CO2 emissions from the consumption of coal (2004) = ~10.5 GT
    Volume of one ton CO2 at 25C and one atmosphere pressure = 556m3

  39. Brian says:

    Labor has commissioned Ross Garnaut to do Rudd’s Stern report exercise.

    Garnaut is to report by mid-2008.

    So Rudd again is showng himself who will act as though he was in government. The states are to provide “data, expertise and funding”. Anna Bligh points out that the state treasurers asked Costello to do it and he refused.

    I heard Rudd saying that the baseline was going to be the cost of doing nothing.

    All sounds good to me.

  40. wilful says:

    It seems to me he is only going to win votes from people who are educated about the cost and baseload issues with renewables, and are sufficiently concerned about global warming that they’d be happy to risk nuclear power stations and nuclear waste dumps in Australia.

    Does anyone know anyone like that?

    Yes, that’s me. I don’t think renewables are likely to make up more than 20% of the mix anytime soon, and they will cost a bit more. I also think the actual risk of power stations and waste dumps are, compared to other risks we manage every day of our lives, trivially small.

    But nukes are going to cost more than renewables, and a lot more than energy conservation measures. That’s why I think they’re totally crazy.

    Just put a carbon price in, be rational, that’ll sort it all out.

    Oh but I was never ever voting for the Libs anyway.

  41. St Margaret says:

    Wilful: ‘And if we can dig the stuff up we can put it back into the ground – nowhere in the world is better suited than Australia, and I think we could make an absolute motza from the world community, charge virtually what we wanted, to put the stuff back into some the oldest and most boring rocks around.’

    The rocks might be sound, but what about the containers? Can you imagine any manufacturers guaranteeing that the security of containers holding nuclear waste is guaranteed for at least 25,000 years? I’m saying no thanks to nuclear waste dumping, thank you, period!

  42. wilful says:

    Yes I think appropriate containers can be manufactured, or designed to not be necessary, and this stuff is at least 500 metres underground, safely separated and not in a million years (excuse the pun) going to go boom or do anything at all really, unless they change the laws of physics on us.

    The only possible issue would be a change in groundwater due to seismic activity, and the groundwater taking the nasty stuff somewhere. I fail to see how this remote eventuality is worse than leaving the crap out in the open in rusting steel containers all around the world however.

    If Greens really cared about thinking globally, they’d agree that the least risky and safest spot that existing waste (much of which was sold by Australi) could be put was in our dead heart.

  43. St Margaret says:

    Wilful: ‘If Greens really cared about thinking globally, they’d agree that the least risky and safest spot that existing waste (much of which was sold by Australi) could be put was in our dead heart.’

    You’re not seriously taking up that silly old bugger Bob Hawke’s suggestion that we become a commercial dumping ground for global nuclear energy waste? Look there are very good reasons why that idea was immediately scotched and one of them is to my mind is what a terrible legacy to bequeath to our descendants. They would have to take up the responsibility of looking after the nuclear waste for the next 25,000 years plus. We haven’t even had a civilisation for a even a quarter of that time. How socially irresponsible can you get?

    Short of sending the stuff into outer space (which could pose problems if even one of the ships exploded on launching), why don’t we just make things much simpler for ourselves and develop renewable energy industries? Bugger the capitalist system of supply and demand.

  44. wilful says:

    Yes I am seriously talking it up, whether or not Bob Hawke is a silly old bugger.

    The alternative for this waste is?

    Seriously, what else are we to do with it? Wish it away?

    As for the capitalist system of supply and demand, it’s been around a very very long time and I suspect it’s got a lot of life left in it.

  45. jo says:

    John Howard is Atom Man
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atom_Man_vs._Superman

    With Rio Tinto discovering Kryptonite http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jadarite it’s all starting to make sense….(But is K-Rudd – Clark Kent?)

    Philosophically, the idea of having distributed power generation like solar panels on everyone’s roof feeding back into the grid, is a total anathema to someone like John Howard.

    Much more preferable to have Montgomery Burns or Energy Australia controlling the power generation network – & how exactly can you gouge profits when all your customers are also your suppliers… I suspect alot of customers will also just leave the grid completely when self sufficient, all in all, not a business model most moguls would want to take home to mother.

  46. John Greenfield says:

    Actually storing nuclear waste could be an excellent industry for many of our more developmentally-challanged nations. Perhaps the Palestinian Authority might like to discuss a deal? Get bob brown to broker it. I’m sure Tanya and Albo would willingly serve tea and scones.

  47. jo: somebody has to make and install those solar panels. I don’t think it’d bother John Howard too much. After all, he much prefers cars to public transport, to take an analogy from another industry.

  48. Ed says:

    Will Australia see nuclear power plants on its soil within the next few decades? I seriously doubt it. The hypocrisy and irony that abound at the moment would be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

    I don’t believe the Liberals are sincere in their nuclear interest. Considering the statements being made by the Howard government in light of only a few governmental reports – it’s difficult to interpret it as anything other than a political wedge. At the same time, when viewed from a demonstrated technical capabilities perspective, Labour’s claims to implement massive emissions reductions appear similarly impossible without nuclear.

    Furthermore, who are we to point to emissions from China and India using country to country comparisons with Australia? This makes absolutely no sense. Why should their combined 2.2 billion or so people not be entitled to the same prosperity, the same consumption, the same emissions as Australia, the USA or Europe on a per-capita basis? Do we really believe a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach is going to be taken seriously? Is this international leadership at its best? I certainly hope not. In fact I believe Australia can do better.

    But if my take is correct and hypocrisy wins over logic, hard decisions and tangible action, we’ll have no nuclear and no significant per-capita emissions reductions; which brings me to the irony – Australia seems to be first in the queue of developed countries headed for some serious blows from climate change – many of which are believed to be in progress already.

  49. melaleuca says:

    Australia has plenty mine shafts that are over one mile deep. I don’t see how storing nuclear waste one mile under the surface of the earth could present a health risk to future generations.

    Australia has naturally high and potentially life-threatening radioactivity in various places, for example Paralana Springs in South Australia http://www.science.uts.edu.au/news/2004/paralana.html

    If the radioactive contamination at Paralana Springs was man-made, hairy-headed hippies and old-maids would march in their thousands if the Government failed to clean up the mess, yet Paralana Springs is a tourist attraction. Go figure!

    Australia shouldn’t have nuclear power for economic reasons rather than environmental and health reasons.

  50. John Greenfield says:

    Ed

    I completely agree with you. My take is that Howard has not moved on climate change for 3 reasons:

    1. As the Ace to wedge Labor when the time came. That time is now. And the “n” word is a good wedge for Labor. Though I think Howard over-estimated the political goals he could kick on this.

    2. Coal is our biggest exporter, so challenging/threatening that has uncertain and potentially explosive political implications. Best to keep away as long as it is feasibly possible. Never forget that Howard is reactionary.

    3. No political upside in joining the EU’s cynical economic jihad against the US.

  51. Big Jack says:

    Do we need Nuclear Powers Stations?

    Well perhaps we do. If we all clown around and don’t look at the big picture we deserve a Nuke Power Plant right in our front yards(not the backyards like the alternatives) and that is what we will get because the best place to build them is near the city and by the sea or river. Sounds like the most expensive real estate in Australia to me, and how long will it be there? Well for ever because you can never live where a decommissioned Nuke Power Stations was which is sad considering that Nuclear Fuel will only last two hundred years.

    Well that is just a by the way thing the real problem with Nuclear Power Stations is this.
    Have you ever noticed what the first target of war is? Ask Israel when they bombed Lebanon or America when they bomber Iraq and Yugoslavia. Ask the Germans or British in WW1 and WW2. They will tell you it is the power stations.

    If you cripple power stations with conventional bombs you shut down most of the industries immediately, hence target number one.

    Now if there have always been wars, well there may always be wars and if the first target is power stations For God Sake don’t build a nuclear one. Why develop nuclear weapons when all you have to do is bomb a Nuclear Power Station with a conventional bomb to create a Chernobyl and if we have 12 well we could have 12 Chernobyl’s.

    So you ask me, does anyone need nuclear power stations?
    Is there a county on Earth that is immune to war or terrorism?
    If you find one then we may consider the pros and cons.

  52. There really is no need for nuclear power plants in Australia because there is a simple mature technology available that can deliver huge amounts of clean energy without any of the headaches of nuclear power.

    I refer to ‘concentrating solar power’ (CSP), the technique of concentrating sunlight using mirrors to create heat, and then using the heat to raise steam and drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station. It is possible to store solar heat in melted salt or other substance so that electricity generation may continue through the night or on cloudy days. This technology has been generating electricity successfully in California since 1985 and half a million Californians currently get their electricity from this source. CSP plants are now being planned or built in many parts of the world.

    CSP works best in hot deserts and, of course, these are not always nearby! But with transmission losses at only about 3% per 1000 km, it is entirely feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity throughout Australia from the Australian desert using highly-efficient ‘HVDC’ transmission lines. A small portion of the Australian desert would be sufficient to meet all of the country’s needs for electricity.

    Waste heat from electricity generation in a CSP plant can be used to create fresh water by desalination of sea water: a very useful by-product in arid regions.

    In the ‘TRANS-CSP’ report commissioned by the German government, it is estimated that CSP electricity, imported from North Africa and the Middle East, could become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission. A large-scale HVDC transmission grid has also been proposed by Airtricity as a means of optimising the use of wind power throughout Europe.

    Further information about CSP may be found at http://www.trec.net.au , http://www.trec-uk.org.uk and http://www.trecers.net . Copies of the TRANS-CSP report may be downloaded from http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/reports.htm . The many problems associated with nuclear power are summarised at http://www.mng.org.uk/green_house/no_nukes.htm .

  53. Robert, funnily enough we have a thread on precisely that topic just here, also discussing the energy storage options.

    The question is not whether we need any particular power generation technology or not. The question is whether allowing nuclear can lower the cost of reducing emissions, and whether the downsides outweigh that lower cost.

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