Skip to main content

Getting Right Side Up Down Under

624 Watching Australia come to grips with nuclear energy is like watching Mr. Hyde fighting not to become Dr. Jekyll - the struggle is intense but perhaps not wise. Let Ziggy Switkowski  (and doesn't that seem like a name right out of Laverne and Shirley!),  chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, explain it to you:

MALCOLM Turnbull [leader of the Liberals, currently the political opposition] is correct in emphasising the need for bipartisan support if the nuclear journey is to proceed. The question is, why has it been so hard to build bipartisan support? There may be three reasons not to support nuclear power for Australia:

* You don't believe in climate change or the need for a sustainable economy, so business as usual is fine.

* You don't believe a small economy such as Australia's, with its 1.4 per cent contribution to global emissions, can make a difference, so why bother with clean energy?

* Your planning horizon stops at 2020; the first nuclear reactors would appear later than that in Australia.

That second point is sort of amusing. In Neville Shute's novel On the Beach, Australians didn't cause the war that destroyed the Earth, but the deadly fallout was heading their way anyhow. The terms are somewhat reversed now, with nuclear energy a kind of savior for a problem Australians haven't caused. Switkowski lays out many of the pro-nuclear energy arguments we've seen many times on this site and makes some recommendations:

Our policy architects suggest there is no future scenario that will require nuclear power in Australia but:

* Deep greenhouse gas emission reductions will almost certainly prove beyond the capability of existing technologies and renewable energy platforms to deliver in the time allowed. The inclusion of nuclear power will be critical to our success.

* Our lights will start to go out as investment in clean baseload energy generation stalls in an uncertain regulatory environment and the nuclear alternative is not validated.

* In a carbon-constrained future, nuclear-powered economies will exploit their cost advantages for clean energy in competing with Australian products newly burdened by embedded carbon costs.

We're not sure cap-and-trade will put Australia in quite so dismal a position, but we take the point. The whole article does not have a lot that pro-nuclear energy folks haven't fully internalized, but take a read to see all this laid out for the increasingly ambivalent Australians.

If you want to keep up, here's the blog for you: Nuclear Australia. Also done at Blogger, it looks almost exactly like Nuclear Notes.

Mr. Switkowski himself.

Comments

Matthew66 said…
Dr. Zygmunt Switkowski is a respected Australian business leader and nuclear physicist. I think he is quite right when he points out that Australian products will, ultimately, have to be priced higher for their carbon content. While it hasn't happened yet, I am pretty sure that the European Community, and perhaps even the USA, will ultimately impose a carbon tax on all goods imported from countries that burn coal to generate electricity. It is a logical conclusion to the carbon debate, and you can bet that the powerful French trade unions will heartily support such a tax, considering that French manufactured goods will likely not be subject to such a tax.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…