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Nuclear energy: the debate Australia has to have

By anuevents - 23 July 2014 51

ABC 666’s Genevieve Jacobs will talk with three of the nation’s most compelling experts on an issue we cannot continue to ignore.

The world is hungry for low cost, low emissions energy, but in Australia nuclear energy is still off the agenda. Will other low emissions technology be enough? Why do we keep avoiding the nuclear power option? How dangerous is nuclear energy? How long before our entire region is powered by nuclear energy, leaving us as the odd one out?

These and other pressing issues will be addressed at the fifth STA Topical Science Forum. Make sure you don’t miss it.

Where: Theatre, lower ground floor, National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Canberra
When: Monday 28 July 1-2.30pm
Register: here.

Read the speaker biographies here.

This Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, in partnership with Science & Technology Australia and Research Training at The Australian National University.

What’s Your opinion?


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51 Responses to
Nuclear energy: the debate Australia has to have
1
John Moulis 4:58 pm
23 Jul 14
#

The question remains as it was asked in 1945 after Hiroshima, in 1976/77 during the nuclear debate, today and into the future: What do you do with the waste and how do you stop it being harmful? Until we have an answer to that question, the nuclear option should stay off the agenda.

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2
HiddenDragon 5:34 pm
23 Jul 14
#

Reported “clean-up” costs of tens of billions of pounds for UK reactors are terrifying, and suggestions that the same problems will not occur with the current generation of reactors seem too good to be true. Much better that we stick with what we’ve got for baseload until (how ever long that might take) there are reliable, affordable, renewable alternatives.

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3
justin heywood 6:58 pm
23 Jul 14
#

…”Why do we keep avoiding the nuclear option” asks the OP.

I’ll tell you why. Opposition to nuclear energy is an article of faith for the green left. For most it’s not based on a careful consideration of the science or a reasonable consideration of how it compares with existing power sources.

Anyone with a functioning brain can see that our coal and petroleum based power sources are rapidly wrecking the environment, and that workable existing alternatives (e.g. solar, wind) cannot fill the gap. But the most likely possible solution, nuclear energy, is not even seriously considered, mostly for political and ideological reasons.

The green/left would like us to believe that somehow, somewhere, a perfect solution to this problem exists – that 7 billion people can continue to live our lifestyle with no effect on the environment. We can’t of course, but that’s not their problem, for they never have to compromise.

For me, the alternatives are either to continue with existing technologies with a certainty of environmental disaster, or choose a nuclear alternative with some attendant risk but a reasonable possibility of using improved science to mitigate the dangers.

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4
chewy14 8:54 pm
23 Jul 14
#

justin heywood said :

…”Why do we keep avoiding the nuclear option” asks the OP.

I’ll tell you why. Opposition to nuclear energy is an article of faith for the green left. For most it’s not based on a careful consideration of the science or a reasonable consideration of how it compares with existing power sources.

Anyone with a functioning brain can see that our coal and petroleum based power sources are rapidly wrecking the environment, and that workable existing alternatives (e.g. solar, wind) cannot fill the gap. But the most likely possible solution, nuclear energy, is not even seriously considered, mostly for political and ideological reasons.

The green/left would like us to believe that somehow, somewhere, a perfect solution to this problem exists – that 7 billion people can continue to live our lifestyle with no effect on the environment. We can’t of course, but that’s not their problem, for they never have to compromise.

For me, the alternatives are either to continue with existing technologies with a certainty of environmental disaster, or choose a nuclear alternative with some attendant risk but a reasonable possibility of using improved science to mitigate the dangers.

Although I generally agree with your comment with regards to nuclear, if you want to make a political argument about it, I’m assuming you think a lot of people on the Right don’t have functioning brains? I believe there’s a few of them high up in our government.

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5
justin heywood 10:29 pm
23 Jul 14
#

chewy14 said :

Although I generally agree with your comment with regards to nuclear, if you want to make a political argument about it, I’m assuming you think a lot of people on the Right don’t have functioning brains? I believe there’s a few of them high up in our government.

Yes, though if it’s not a political issue, what is it? It’s certainly not a scientific one.

As to your second comment about the ‘brains of the Right’. Abbott is a Rhodes scholar. I don’t for a moment think he doubts the science of climate change. It’s political, and in my opinion shameful.

But is denying the problem because of politics any worse than opposing the only practical solution because of politics?

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6
dungfungus 10:32 pm
23 Jul 14
#

John Moulis said :

The question remains as it was asked in 1945 after Hiroshima, in 1976/77 during the nuclear debate, today and into the future: What do you do with the waste and how do you stop it being harmful? Until we have an answer to that question, the nuclear option should stay off the agenda.

Getting rid of the waste is a no brainer. Most of Australia is wasteland that is uninhabited. In reality it could be dropped from an aircraft and no one would stumble on it in a thousand years but it could be buried in very stable geological conditions a few feet down to make people feel OK.
I think Bob Hawke wanted to do something like this but it was so simple the bureaucrats couldn’t understand that sort of concept.
It’s a bit like hitting the flush button on the cistern in the bathroom – it’s out of site/out of mind but we know it is being taken care of and it isn’t harming the environment.

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7
Hosinator 12:12 am
24 Jul 14
#

HiddenDragon said :

Much better that we stick with what we’ve got for baseload until (how ever long that might take) there are reliable, affordable, renewable alternatives.

justin heywood said :

Anyone with a functioning brain can see that our coal and petroleum based power sources are rapidly wrecking the environment, and that workable existing alternatives (e.g. solar, wind) cannot fill the gap. But the most likely possible solution, nuclear energy, is not even seriously considered, mostly for political and ideological reasons.

The green/left would like us to believe that somehow, somewhere, a perfect solution to this problem exists – that 7 billion people can continue to live our lifestyle with no effect on the environment. We can’t of course, but that’s not their problem, for they never have to compromise.

Both these posts see power generation as being centralised. It doesn’t have to be. The future of power generation (and it’s already here, Germany is a good example) is decentralised power generation. Think solar panels but on a every residential, commercial building, schools, stadiums, toilet blocks, you name it, you can cover it in solar panels.

Long hauling power from hundreds of kilometres away is simply madness when you can generate it on your own roof and if you generate too much, share it with a neighbour.

By centralising power we only serve the power companies and their lobbyists. Legislative change in favour of decentralised power is not that difficult. Have a look at the city of Freiburg in Germany and what they have achieved. In comparison, Australia is living in the dark ages and will continue to do so if we don’t change our way of thinking and operating.

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8
Diggety 1:00 am
24 Jul 14
#

Those that have doubts regarding waste, decommissioning, safety, technology etc should definitely go to the debate.

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9
chewy14 7:36 am
24 Jul 14
#

justin heywood said :

chewy14 said :

Although I generally agree with your comment with regards to nuclear, if you want to make a political argument about it, I’m assuming you think a lot of people on the Right don’t have functioning brains? I believe there’s a few of them high up in our government.

Yes, though if it’s not a political issue, what is it? It’s certainly not a scientific one.

As to your second comment about the ‘brains of the Right’. Abbott is a Rhodes scholar. I don’t for a moment think he doubts the science of climate change. It’s political, and in my opinion shameful.

But is denying the problem because of politics any worse than opposing the only practical solution because of politics?

No, and it’s disgraceful that some people put politics before science. If the risks of nuclear technology can be managed and if the economics stack up, then why wouldn’t we use it.

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10
dungfungus 9:21 am
24 Jul 14
#

Diggety said :

Those that have doubts regarding waste, decommissioning, safety, technology etc should definitely go to the debate.

There doesn’t seem to be any problems with decommissioning a coal powered power station and the open cut coal mines that supply their fuel can be revegetated (it is a condition of the mining/extraction lease in fact).
I am not up to speed on nuclear power station decommissioning and if we are going to have a fair-dinkum debate we should also look at the problems of decommissioning wind and solar factories (let’s not use that fraudulent “farm” word anymore).

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11
pajs 10:26 am
24 Jul 14
#

I’d be happy to see nuclear power in Australia, so long as the industry paid for their own insurance and the costs of decomissioning, clean-up and waste disposal. The tax-payer should not be on the hook for these.

Aside from that, if they can find a nice coastal location to give them access to the water they need (powering their own sea water desal) and a sensible run to the grid, then let them rip.

The fundamental problem I see with nuclear in Australia is the cost, compared to alternative zero or low emission generation technologies. I can’t see it being financially viable unless propped up with massive subsidies and cost/risk shifts to government and the tax payer.

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12
HiddenDragon 11:40 am
24 Jul 14
#

Hosinator said :

HiddenDragon said :

Much better that we stick with what we’ve got for baseload until (how ever long that might take) there are reliable, affordable, renewable alternatives.

justin heywood said :

Anyone with a functioning brain can see that our coal and petroleum based power sources are rapidly wrecking the environment, and that workable existing alternatives (e.g. solar, wind) cannot fill the gap. But the most likely possible solution, nuclear energy, is not even seriously considered, mostly for political and ideological reasons.

The green/left would like us to believe that somehow, somewhere, a perfect solution to this problem exists – that 7 billion people can continue to live our lifestyle with no effect on the environment. We can’t of course, but that’s not their problem, for they never have to compromise.

Both these posts see power generation as being centralised. It doesn’t have to be. The future of power generation (and it’s already here, Germany is a good example) is decentralised power generation. Think solar panels but on a every residential, commercial building, schools, stadiums, toilet blocks, you name it, you can cover it in solar panels.

Long hauling power from hundreds of kilometres away is simply madness when you can generate it on your own roof and if you generate too much, share it with a neighbour.

By centralising power we only serve the power companies and their lobbyists. Legislative change in favour of decentralised power is not that difficult. Have a look at the city of Freiburg in Germany and what they have achieved. In comparison, Australia is living in the dark ages and will continue to do so if we don’t change our way of thinking and operating.

Are the Germans using solar for baseload as well? If so, how does it work?

Report this comment

13
dungfungus 12:27 pm
24 Jul 14
#

HiddenDragon said :

Hosinator said :

HiddenDragon said :

Much better that we stick with what we’ve got for baseload until (how ever long that might take) there are reliable, affordable, renewable alternatives.

justin heywood said :

Anyone with a functioning brain can see that our coal and petroleum based power sources are rapidly wrecking the environment, and that workable existing alternatives (e.g. solar, wind) cannot fill the gap. But the most likely possible solution, nuclear energy, is not even seriously considered, mostly for political and ideological reasons.

The green/left would like us to believe that somehow, somewhere, a perfect solution to this problem exists – that 7 billion people can continue to live our lifestyle with no effect on the environment. We can’t of course, but that’s not their problem, for they never have to compromise.

Both these posts see power generation as being centralised. It doesn’t have to be. The future of power generation (and it’s already here, Germany is a good example) is decentralised power generation. Think solar panels but on a every residential, commercial building, schools, stadiums, toilet blocks, you name it, you can cover it in solar panels.

Long hauling power from hundreds of kilometres away is simply madness when you can generate it on your own roof and if you generate too much, share it with a neighbour.

By centralising power we only serve the power companies and their lobbyists. Legislative change in favour of decentralised power is not that difficult. Have a look at the city of Freiburg in Germany and what they have achieved. In comparison, Australia is living in the dark ages and will continue to do so if we don’t change our way of thinking and operating.

Are the Germans using solar for baseload as well? If so, how does it work?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer.
As far as I know they buy electricity generated from nuclear power in France and coal in Poland when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

Report this comment

14
HiddenDragon 5:58 pm
24 Jul 14
#

dungfungus said :

HiddenDragon said :

Hosinator said :

HiddenDragon said :

Much better that we stick with what we’ve got for baseload until (how ever long that might take) there are reliable, affordable, renewable alternatives.

justin heywood said :

Anyone with a functioning brain can see that our coal and petroleum based power sources are rapidly wrecking the environment, and that workable existing alternatives (e.g. solar, wind) cannot fill the gap. But the most likely possible solution, nuclear energy, is not even seriously considered, mostly for political and ideological reasons.

The green/left would like us to believe that somehow, somewhere, a perfect solution to this problem exists – that 7 billion people can continue to live our lifestyle with no effect on the environment. We can’t of course, but that’s not their problem, for they never have to compromise.

Both these posts see power generation as being centralised. It doesn’t have to be. The future of power generation (and it’s already here, Germany is a good example) is decentralised power generation. Think solar panels but on a every residential, commercial building, schools, stadiums, toilet blocks, you name it, you can cover it in solar panels.

Long hauling power from hundreds of kilometres away is simply madness when you can generate it on your own roof and if you generate too much, share it with a neighbour.

By centralising power we only serve the power companies and their lobbyists. Legislative change in favour of decentralised power is not that difficult. Have a look at the city of Freiburg in Germany and what they have achieved. In comparison, Australia is living in the dark ages and will continue to do so if we don’t change our way of thinking and operating.

Are the Germans using solar for baseload as well? If so, how does it work?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer.
As far as I know they buy electricity generated from nuclear power in France and coal in Poland when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

I assumed it would be along those lines. The recent Four Corners, which was predictably pro-renewables (complete with cameo appearance by our Simon and his solar panels) suggested that molten salt is one of the few (if not the only) currently workable technologies for storing solar-generated energy and re-converting it back into electricity when the sun isn’t shining. It’s still fairly new and – as reported – rather expensive at this stage.

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15
OpenYourMind 6:15 pm
24 Jul 14
#

The 1950s called and it wants its “so cheap you can’t bill for it” energy back. This is 2014, Nuclear isn’t even in the race. In fact, it doesn’t even have a race entry. Nuclear is mind bogglingly expensive. It simply will not happen in Australia and people proposing it are simply wasting their breath.

Even if we were stupid enough to decide to build a plant and it somehow magically escaped rampant opposition and political bounce arounds, it would take an absolute minimum of 10 years to build and probably closer to 20. In that time frame, solar will be practically free and potentially battery storage will have improved by a factor of up to 10.

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