Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Garrett and Wong splash water on Macfarlane's nuclear spark

It may not quite be a debate, but the two sides are talking about nuclear at the same time.

As I posted yesterday, Ian Macfarlane has joined an increasing number of Australian leaders in calling for a rational discussion of nuclear's power's role in any credible emissions reduction [and economy salvaging] energy technology deployment strategy.

A brief recap of the past six months or so
From Australia's political right, MacFarlane was quickly joined by Nelson.
"Our view is that there needs to be consideration in Australia given to the development of a nuclear power industry."
Also on the right are Julie Bishop and let's not forget the National's vote in support of nuclear technologies back in June. Rounding out Coalition support, the WA opposition urged discussion and consideration of nuclear power back in February.

Looking left, the very first outspoken pro-nuke on my radar following the election was Paul Howes in early February this year. Howes was later joined by Carr as well as Commonwealth Bank chairman John Schube [who also chairs the Great Barrier Reef Foundation]. This was followed of course by Bob Hawke last month.

In the centre we have the Australian coal industry, Marcarthur CEO] Nicole Hollows, forecasting a Nuclear Australia in 10 years. There's also a plea to consider the technology from WA's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Meanwhile, they are circling the wagons in Canberra - all three of them. Consider what Garrett had to say:
"The last election showed that Australians are absolutely of one mind about not having 25 nuclear power plants dotted around their suburbs and in and around their cities.''
Really? I thought the last election was about the ratification of Kyoto, Australia's thirst for action over excuses and our passionate desire for decisive leadership to cut Australian emissions and cut them relatively fast. I thought is was also about WorkChoices, education and health care. Did some people vote solely on the potential of a Nuclear Australia? Possibly, but Garrett seems to be getting a bit emotive on the subject.

Elsewhere, Garrett's replaying his favourite song and dance - the back-flip accusation. Again? It seems the Labor strategy is pretty clear. Have Garrett play the attack dog with respect to nuclear, while Wong strives to focus on an undefinable strategy based principally on renewables. But, by all means keep them as separate as possible.

Sadly and predictably; Penny Wong says:
"Are they really saying that they have a plan for 25 nuclear reactors in Australia? Where are they going to put them?''

"Australia has an abundance of renewable energy sources. We have a lot of solar, we have a lot of wind, we have geothermal resources."
[Ah, beg your pardon Ms. Wong, don't forget the recent announcement of yet another coal station required to satisfy increasing demand. I should also note that per the OECD International Energy Agency, fossil fuel based electricity generation in Australia from January to May 2008 INCREASED 5% from the previous year. This happened despite a 4.8% increase in hydro based generation and a 35% increase in electricity generation from all other renewables. - Thanks to Luke for this. Here is objective data that while renewables are good, they simply do not pack the punch required to keep even with increasing demand let alone facilitate credible reductions.]

I say 'sadly' due to the unproductive [and very political] duplicity in Wong's mini-soundbites. Of the numerous reports, studies and plans issued of late by the current government, none scratch the surface with respect to quantifiable technology deployment necessary to achieve even significant [let alone adequate] emission reductions while preserving Australia's broader economic viability.

Our emissions are going up and they are stalling.

No Engineer with a functioning nuron would propose the location of a nuclear power plant within Australia's interior - there's simply no significant demand there, let alone very little water. Many of today's nuclear power plants are cooled using sea water. That leaves our [very large] coast. The plants are typically near, but obviously not 'in' large industrial or population areas. This is not a technically complicated issue.

The 'location' discussion is an irrelevant political diversion, designed only to invoke the politics of fear.

The recent news report mentions nuclear power's tendency to split both parties like a proverbial U-235 atom. It also includes a statement from Nelson that I have emphasised in this blog countless times:

Dr Nelson said a nuclear industry would get off the ground only if both the coalition and Labor backed it.

He offered to talk with the government about it.
Considering the recap above, it looks as if we are moving slowly closer to a consensus among and between the major political camps. I look forward to further discussions and hope all partys work to identify common ground. Whether it's jobs, industrial security, low cost energy, emissions mitigation, or reliability of supply; there seems to be considerable common interest with respect to nuclear power.

I remain confident our thought horoizon extends beyond the next election and hope to see some tangible action well before it.


  1. It seems the answer to meeting the power needs of the Olympic Dam expansion and coastal desalination plant may be to build a new coal fired power station. A proposal to build a coal-to-liquids and 560 MWe power station in a poor quality coal basin north of OD is based on the State's looming energy shortages. A strange turn of events if it ever materialises.

  2. I think Mr. Garrett is wrong about the last election. It is my experience that opposition parties don't win elections, governments lose them. The ALP won because a sufficient number of Australian voters were sick of the Howard Government and wanted a change. Hopefully, for Australia and planet Earth, the ALP will realize that it is absolutely essential to replace coal with nuclear sooner rather than later.

  3. Check out http://thoriumenergy.com.au/FedSubmission6.doc