Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Australian of the Year; Tim Flannery (still) backs Nuclear

As requested in my post here; I was wondering why Tim Flannery was opposed to nuclear power. "Could he possibly think it's worse than climate change or fossil fuels?" I wondered. I was wishing for further information and now I've got it.

Turns out I was correct. He still supports nuclear as reported here at New Consumer and - I might add - to precisely the same extent that I have from the start.

To quote:

You talk about nuclear power in your book, saying one problem is it's slow to build. Do you think Gordon Brown's wrong to back it?

Do you know what I'd say to Gordon Brown if I could speak to him? I'd say if we look at this as a holistic problem, let's do the easy things first. Let's concentrate on energy efficiency, how much efficiency can you gain in the use of electricity in this country? I think there's enormous gains to be had. You might be able to halve your electricity use by focusing very strongly on efficiency, particularly it comes to retrofitting buildings, insulation and all that. So that's number one.

Number two, use local energy sources - the renewables. Wind, wave power, photovoltaics, combined heating and power, and then, if, after doing your utmost in those areas, you've still got a deficit in the amount of electricity you use, I'd then say if your choice is only between conventional coal-burning and nuclear power, I'd reluctantly support nuclear power.

My point here is when one takes the time to objectively consider the capabilities of other no/low carbon energy alternatives, realistic forecasts for increases in demand, etc.; Australia will find itself facing the very decision Tim poses above. I further believe that any reasonable consideration of that question and supporting facts will arrive at the same conclusion. It won't happen tomorrow, or in 5 years nor probably even 10; but Australia will adopt nuclear power if we are serious about achieving significant emissions reductions by 2050 (i.e. 42+ years on).

Ziggy Switkowski agrees,

[He]told Sky Business Sunday that a nuclear reactor on the eastern seaboard of Australia was inevitable.

"The first reactors are probably going to be found serving the major markets of the eastern seaboard," he said.

Good on for straight up reporting - or as they call it on their web-page... ethical.


  1. So, would Flannery support an immediate ban on building new coal-fired power stations? Will he oppose any that are proposed?

    Or will the old "nuclear takes too long to build" get-out come into play at that stage?

    Speaking cynically, "try everything else first" seems to be the new soft position opposing nuclear. How long are you going to "try" them for? When do you say: "Enough, build nuclear"?

    The reality is that all the other approaches have been tried, and they have their place in the battle against global warming, but nuclear has been tried too and is definitely also required.

  2. Hi Joffan & thanks for your thoughts.

    To me there is a difference between how Flannery's words were interpreted 'last time' and here. Eventual 'reluctant' support for nuclear acknowledges that 'no, in fact the other options may not get us there and building a nuclear infrastructure - NOW - is justified [e.g. setting up legal frameworks, developing human resources, changing laws, developing proper regulatory institutions, upgrading the electrical infrastructure to handle discrete/large additions to the grid, etc.]

    Happily, many of these developments are taking place within Australia already. None of them in any way commit us to any actual nuclear deployment. But it sets the stage for it later if/as required.

    We have so much to do before a plant is ordered, there just seems to be no justification to be talking about plant locations and design criteria right now. While the infrastructure developments mentioned above are working there way to full implementation, there will be time for the public to become fully aware of the objective truth about the technology so that when the groundwork is complete [and we find our emission reductions are falling WAY short of their targets] Australian nuclear deployment will come to fruition.

    I imagine this train of logic is somewhere in the neighbourhood of Switkowski's when he discusses the 'certainty' of a Nuclear Australia.