Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The latest from Ziggy Switkowski

Dr. Ziggy Switkowski has written an article on a nuclear Australia in the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering's (ATSE) Focus Magazine.

It has also been re-posted at ScienceAlert.

It is a very objective piece that highlights both the specific advantages nuclear power technology offers Australia as well as the specific challenges faced here.

I encourage anyone interested in either nuclear power or Australia's approach to climate change mitigating technologies to read Dr. Switkowski's article.

Earlier in the month Dr. Switkowski went back-and-forth with Climate minister Penny Wong in this report.

Obviously, I believe Switkowski's arguments are valid, are put forward objectively and contain abundant facts and examples. But what impresses me most is his political courage. Australia could use a lot more of that.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Macfarlane to push for nuclear

Coalition resources minister Ian Macfarlane will push the opposition to advocate the use of nuclear power to help Australia achieve our emission reduction goals while maintaining a viable economy.

Macfarlane said the notion to proceed with an over reliance on the uncertain development of clean-coal without nuclear power was 'high risk and almost reckless'.

He also cited the significant time lag between an operable emissions trading scheme and even the optimistic projected schedule for clean-coal implementation. Deploying nuclear power facilities sooner rather than later could help reconcile the inconsistencies.

He expects to have a number of allies in the cause. Julie Bishop, should be an obvious supporter.

But to have a real chance, nuclear power must have bipartisan support. Despite considerable calls for nuclear from Australia's political left, those at the top are not bending to the pressure [at least not overtly].

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Garnaut submits final report

The final report may be found here.

I don't have much to add from previous posts on Targets and Trajectories, another here and again here.

Nuclear power is mentioned in a similar fashion as it was in the draft reports. Public opinion remains the principal hurdle and Garnaut includes it as a later, if not last, resort. I note the cost scenario in the report [Chapter 20] was only for the 550 ppm carbon-dioxide scenario and not the 450 ppm scenario. I would like to have seen the later as well.

The report includes recommendations regarding nuclear research - basically that Australia is not a global research leader in any nuclear power technology field and its resources would be better served elsewhere. Personally, I think we could develop some helpful waste mitigation, permanent isolation and storage technologies for deployment, but other countries are far in the led as the report points out.

The report goes 'all-in' for coal, gas and carbon capture; betting the proverbial farm on the development effort recently launched by Government's announcement of a $100 million carbon capture research initiative. The case made for this approach is an economic one: why wouldn't Australia pursue a solution which is also in its own best interest? The success of carbon capture development would bring with it, tremendous political and economic advantage within Australia and beyond. However, there is one warning that comes in the form of a firm recommendation:

Priority should be given to the resolution of whether a near-zero coal future is even feasible, either partially or in total. If it is not, then Australia needs to know as soon as possible, so that all who depend on the coal industry can begin the process of adjustment, and so that adequate and timely investments are made in other industries.

This gives an indication of the both the current state of carbon capture technology development as well as the liberty taken with respect to the resulting assumptions. In the end, it may not work at all. That risk may need some serious mitigating actions and attention.

If one examines the projected contributions of renewables, it appears that significant technology development assumptions have been made in this area as well. The projections are ambitious and will also require aggressive technology development and deployment.

My concern is when these assumptions come face to face with the more pragmatic world of engineering technology deployment - complete with budget constraints, schedule pressure and resource limitations - Australia will be looking at a very high emissions future.

Copy this path in a significant number of countries around the world [If Australia can bet the farm on carbon capture, why can't everyone else??]. If carbon capture fails to materialise, the world will need a fallback plan.

Coincidentally, I find I have some company. Ziggy Switkowski submitted this report, where he advocates the allocation of at least some resources to climate change adaptation.

This requires planning for extreme weather events and natural disasters, inadequate rainfall and water shortages, higher utility and food prices and insurance costs, drought-proofing, better health services for the vulnerable, and so on. And, of course, the responsible management of finite resources and fragile environments.

Solutions to these issues do not require international accords and are largely within our control and budgets. And their relevance is independent of the accuracy of climate forecasts or one's position in the climate change debate.