I’m delighted to reproduce an Op Ed written by my good friend Assoc. Prof. Haydon Manning, who is head of the Department of Politics and Public Policy at Flinders University in Adelaide. Haydon teaches Australian and environmental politics and is sufficiently influential (controversial) that he’s been bestowed the great honour of having a Friends of the Earth page dedicated to his writings! This piece was written for the SA Mines and Energy journal; you can read the original here.
(Note: It might seem like I’m outsourcing everything on BNC in 2010, but there’ll be plenty of new blog entries from me over the next few months. I’ve just been rather busy putting the finishing touches to my new book… and other miniutae like writing new grant applications and papers. Oh, and be sure to look out in the 22 January issue of Science — I have a new Perspective piece on the extinction of the Australian megafauna)
In the late 1970s, I marched through Adelaide streets shouting: “Uranium, leave it in the ground.” Teaching environmental politics over the last ten or so years saw me prepare lectures weighing up the pros and cons of the nuclear fuel cycle. The evidence slowly convince a nuclear skeptic of the errors of his ways.
Recently, I accepted an invitation from the WA Chamber of Mines and Energy to speak at a public forum in Kalgoorlie. I argued that the good citizens of WA ought to be proud once uranium oxide starts to pass through their township as they will join what I call “the main game” on the carbon emission reduction front.
In an effort to convey this point I often draw attention to the remarkable energy punch embedded in a drum of uranium oxide. One drum, once processed and fabricated into nuclear fuel rods, will generate the same amount of electricity as approximately 6,000 tonnes of coal. In a nutshell, about 5 drums of yellowcake equates to the electricity generating capacity of your average coal freighter!
Take this a step further and look ahead a couple of decades. A drum uranium oxide supplying a so-called 4th generation nuclear reactor would, according to data supplied to me by Adelaide University’s Professor Barry Brook, equate to about 1 million tonnes of coal burning foregone. If you like, that’s something like a briefcase of yellowcake compared to a ship of coal – now that truly evokes hope for a mid-century clean energy future.
In this State we appreciate that our uranium mining story is one of world’s best practice with regard to occupational health and safety and the transport of uranium oxide. Three decades without a ‘radiation scare’ sees the majority of South Australians well aware that there is nothing to fear from uranium mining, milling and transportation. This is clearly evident with opinion polls indicating that South Australians are more at ease with the industry than poll respondents in other states.