Saturday, 28 February 2009

Lowe's appointment - a bad thing?

A friend recently forwarded a link to Andrew Bolt's blog on Prof. Ian Lowe's appointment to the ARPANSA Safety Advisory Council as the "representative of the public interest".

Very interesting. But why?

Bolt and many others [via comments] have expressed concerns from disappointment to downright conspiracy accusations. But I don't necessarily think this is a bad development; challenging, but not bad.

Nearly two years ago, I drafted a post on Prof. Lowe titled Running some numbers. In the post I allowed myself to go 'prompt technical' - grabbing [seemingly] every credible reference and number available to cast an objective light on the professor's claims. I stand by that post and - nearly two years later - Australia's reliance on renewables remains totally inadequate to address our emission reduction targets.

Moving on

As I've posted in the past; if Australia is to embrace nuclear power, it will only happen with the support of a broad political base. The most direct path to that end is through the engagement of those with opposing views. It does little good for nuclear advocates [for or against] to discuss their arguments in the echo chambers of closed communities.

So Prof. Lowe's appointment may be a challenge in the short term; but could prove to be a tremendous opportunity. It may take more work than otherwise expected to convince Prof. Lowe on any given proposal, but if you consider this effort as an investment in building Prof. Lowe's confidence, the potential dividends could be well worth the effort further down the track.

I'd like to give the guy a chance; objectively appeal to his intelligence and sense of reason, provide him the data, patiently explain the technical bases, and let him come to his own terms with what has been presented.

You can not 'spin' physics. I am not worried.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

High-profile pro-nuclear converts

From the UK; yesterday's Independent contained a report detailing a 'kind of like religious conversion' of four high profile environmentalists who now support nuclear power.

The four are:

  • Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace;
  • Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency;
  • Mark Lynas, author of the Royal Society’s science book of the year, and
  • Chris Goodall, a Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate.

Tindale ran Greenpeace from 2000-2005. “It was kind of like a religious conversion. Being anti-nuclear was an essential part of being an environmentalist for a long time but now that I’m talking to a number of environmentalists about this, it’s actually quite widespread this view that nuclear power is not ideal but it’s better than climate change,” he added.

"Renewable sources of energy, such as wind, wave and solar power, are still necessary in the fight against global warming, but achieving low-carbon electricity generation is far more difficult without nuclear power", Lord Smith said.

“The thing that initially pushed me was seeing how long and difficult the road to going to 100 per cent renewable economy would be, and realising that if we really are serious about tackling global warming it the next decade or two then we certainly need to consider a new generation of nuclear power stations.”

“In retrospect, [anti-nuclear activism] will come to be seen as an enormous mistake for which the earth’s climate is now paying the price. To give an example, the environmentalists stopped a nuclear plant in Austria from being switched on, a colossal waste of money, and instead [Austria] built two coal plants.”

In a separate report, Goodall sums it up well. "This country’s current and past emissions are far more than our share of the world population. Unless we reduce our carbon pollution urgently, we will be in breach of our moral, as well as EU and UN, obligations." He adds, "Every option is strongly opposed: the public seems to be anti-wind, anti-coal, anti-waste-to-energy, anti-tidal-barrage, anti-fuel-duty and anti-nuclear. We can’t be anti-everything, and time is running out. Large projects take many years to construct."

Finally, Goodall concludes, "Germany provides a useful cautionary tale. Despite huge subsidies for solar panels, photovoltaics have not yet replaced one per cent of fossil fuel electricity generation. Indeed, because Germany – under pressure from well-meaning environmentalists – is phasing out nuclear power, it is inexorably turning back towards dirty coal: 30 new coal plants are planned, including four burning lignite (brown coal), the dirtiest fuel of all."

Plenty of parallels with Australia in this article. Relatively high per-capita emissions, the need to increase generation infrastructure to satisfy current and future demand, and the need for civil and objective public discussion to name a few.