Sunday, 15 March 2009

Scare tactics - effective, but shameful

Wayne Errington, a lecturer in political science and international relations at the ANU submitted this report to the Canberra Times about the role of 'Think Tanks' in Australian policy debate. In it, he explains how the Australian Institute used scare tactics to manipulate public opinion away from nuclear energy during the most recent federal election campaign.

Fear, the Australia Institute research fellow, recounts a very effective public intervention by his organisation when the Howard government was toying with the idea of nuclear power as a way of reducing greenhouse gases.

With the parliamentary opposition looking flat-footed, the Australia Institute quickly released a list of the federal electorates containing the locations most suitable for a nuclear reactor. This well-aimed missile killed political debate over nuclear energy stone dead as backbencher after government backbencher publicly assured constituents there would be no nuclear plant in their backyard.
I will interpret the 'well aimed missile' comment to imply that the AI custom developed that report specifically [and solely] to kill the nuclear debate at the time. Heaven forbid we engage the public in an informed, civil, objective discussion on the subject.

Has the AI ever claimed to be objective or unbias? Well, almost. From their website:
"The Australia Institute is an independent public policy research centre..."

"...the Institute reasserts the place of ethics in making public and private decisions."
I wouldn't consider a political "missile strike" built on a foundation of fear mongering exactly ethical.


  1. Well said - and for the record some coalition MPs didn't get drawn into such silliness!

  2. Nukes are safe. Just ask the Japanese right now.,0,4134525.story

  3. And what would they say?

    The reports I am aware of indicate that the containment vessel at a 40 year old reactor near the end of its design life maintained its integrity following the double-whammy of a record setting earthquake and tsunami.

    The reactor will not start up again, but I do not understand your point. The engineering features of the facility appear to be working despite the lack of electricity. Emergency management teams took the conservative steps to evacuate the local population in advance of the intentional pressure releases, minimizing the risk of accidental exposure.

    So, despite incredibly challenging conditions, the equipment, the staff and the support organizations appear to be doing a decent job preventing further risk to the public.

    The technology is certainly being tested, but no one ever said the plants could take a beating such as this and restart as though nothing happened. If the loss of life is prevented and the utility is able to safely recover the fuel during a long term recovery - that will be a tremendous victory for Nuclear Energy technology that existed 40 years ago.

    Extrapolating this performance to the designs of today - would make me feel quite willing to have a plant in my own backyard.