Scott Ludlam’s viral video

Guest Post by Geoff Russell.

Scott Ludlam is a Western Australian Senator with a last minute reprieve after losing his seat at the last Federal election. Ludlam will get a second change when WA has a fresh Senate election next month after the now infamous electoral office bungle which saw some 1,400 ballot papers lost. This makes him a very lucky boy.

A few days ago Ludlam rose to an empty parliamentary chamber in the nation’s capital and delivered a speech that has gone as close to viral as serious politics ever goes. When I say “empty”, I’m just rounding down from the one person present. But when I say “viral”, I don’t need to round up because his you tube clip is at 461,698 views and rising … with thumbs up dominating the thumbs down.

It’s a great speech and I share Ludlam’s contempt for our compassionless Government. But one small section sticks out as being just plain ill-informed. Unfortunately many Greens take their beliefs as a package deal and don’t respond well to criticism of particular components, but that’s the thing about the real world, it’s full of exceptions to rules and cases where general principles need to be put aside in favour of actually thinking through the problem. Energy production is one such area and Scott would do well to follow is own advice and dump his anti-nuclear slogans. They don’t work as policy.

Consider the way Ludlam lumps gas fracking in with the nuclear electricity industry without understanding that the two are inversely related, meaning that the reason we have fracking is because nuclear power got blocked by the anti-nuclear movement. If the nuclear roll out of the 1970s had continued, there’d be little or no gas fracking today.

It’s not complicated, you just need a little history.

Gas fracking and the whole grab back of unconventional oil technologies (shale oil, tar sands, coal-to-oil conversion, etc) have exploded during the past couple of decades on the back of the US struggle for energy independence. Natural gas production in the US fell during the decade from 1973 to 1983 and then it began to rise. Thirty years on, and it’s at an all time peak. Consider the dates. That decade of gas decline was when the US was building it nuclear fleet. And the minute that fleet roll out got scuppered by the anti-nuclear movement … gas production was back in business. Prior to the nuclear roll out of the 70s, the US burned bucket loads of oil for electricity. The nuclear roll out stopped that and it never restarted because oil got priced out of that market. But when the nuclear builds were stymied, and conventional oil supplies became more expensive to find, then unconventional oils got their chance. Australia mirrors these events except that we never had nuclear.

By rejecting both gas and nuclear as a package, Ludlam is throwing the baby out with the fracking bath water.

And what does he want in it’s place?

Quote … “infinite flows of renewable energy”,.

This from someone who claims to value “education, innovation and equality” in addition to biodiversity and (presumably) minimising the destruction to the natural environment.

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BNC 2.0

2013 was a quiet year for the Brave New Climate website.

After a number of years of heavy blogging from 2008 to 2011 (averaging about 150 posts per year), I guess I’d run out of steam by 2012, and that lack of activity just got worse in 2013. Although my Twitter feed (@bravenewclimate) remained vibrant, the blog itself got only a drip feed of occasional guest posts (though of high quality, I would argue!), and saw increasingly long intervals between updates.

I also switched over the the BNC Discussion Forum and closed comments here, which was a mixed success at best.

For 2014, I’ve hit the reset button.

The blog visuals have been given a fresh coat of paint (new, clean, simplified theme), most of the old links, images and organizational structure have been thrown in the bin, and various pages have been updated or removed. (The old post/comment content is all still in the archives and searchable, so nothing important has disappeared).

More importantly, my approach to blogging will be revitalised, with the aim of re-building (and, over time, expanding) the once-flourishing BNC community:

  • I will write more regularly, but typically in shorter, punchier, single-topic posts.
  • The scope of topics covered will be extended, particularly around technology solutions to global change, forecasting (futurist), and space exploration.
  • Commenting on the blog posts will re-open (but remain moderated, with participants expected to following the commenting rules).
  • The external discussion forum will remain active and integrated with the blog, for when you want to create your own topics that are not related to my blog posts.
  • Guest posts will continue to be hosted, if they are related to the theme of the blog and fit with its style and function.

Spread the word (see social media links at the foot of this post). BNC is back, and will be better than ever!

‘Pandora’s Promise’ documentary movie in Australia

For my Australian readers, October 2013 is THE month for green energy. It’s at last time to book your tickets to see Pandora’s Promise!

You can get further details at the Antidote Films/Cinema Ventures website, here.

I’ve been involved with the movie, in various small ways, for the last few years — I guess ever since the core ideas for it really started crystalising in (Academy-Award® nominated Director) Robert Stone’s mind around the time of a dinner party and discussion at Tom Blees’ house back in 2010. I provided some advice (along with many others) during production and promotion, and recently got a chance to help Robert out during the St Petersburg (Russia) première back in June. As proof of my aid, I even got a signed version of the above poster from Robert, which is now proudly up on my office door! So the movie definitely has the BNC Stamp of Authenticity. This is the real deal. The movie that all aspiring ‘Promethean environmentalists’ (even if you don’t know you are one yet) NEED to see.

Some more details:

HERE is a PDF brochure that you can download and distribute.

Please attend. Bring your family and friends.  You really owe it to yourself to see this deeply thought-provoking and highly entertaining movie.

You also owe it to the pro-nuclear environmentalist community in Australia to make damned sure that every screening across the country is jam-packed with enthusiastic people who create an atmosphere throbbing with admirable neo-green fervour! Indeed, I think that if we are ever going to get an effective social movement mobilised in this country around the critical issue of  ALLOWING clean, zero-carbon nuclear energy to compete and flourish in Australia, we need to show that people care. And we need to educate them. Watching this movie is a terrific step along that road.

Tickets are available to purchase online below, or at the door. They include a complimentary drink and entry to the screening and exclusive Q&A with Robert Stone and others:

Melbourne: 8/10/13 Classic Cinema, Elsternwick. Buy tickets.
Adelaide: 9/10/13 Mercury Cinema, Morphett St. Buy tickets.
Perth: 10/10/13 Luna Palace Cinemas, Nedlands. Buy tickets.
Hobart*: 10/10/13 10th State Cinema, Elizabeth St. Buy tickets.
Canberra: 11/10/13 The Arc Cinema, McCoy Circuit. Buy tickets.
Sydney: 12/10/13 Hoyts, Moore Park. Buy tickets.
Sydney: 13/10/13 Hoyts, Moore Park. Buy tickets.
Brisbane: 14/10/13 Bemac Cinema, Kangaroo Point. Buy tickets.

* Robert Stone will not be attending Hobart screening


Got a Comment?

To leave your comment and read other reactions, please go to the dedicated Discussion Thread on the BNC Forums:

Willacy’s Fukushima

Guest Post by Geoff Russell. Geoff is a computer programmer, vegan, environmentalist, and more generally, a ‘by-the-numbers’ polymath. For a list of all of his posts on BNC, click here. He also has collections here and here.

The following article was sent to ABC’s “Drum” website about a month ago. They rejected it. I have asked why, but they refuse to give a reason. I would have thought that when a journalist so publicly associated with the ABC as Mark Willacy, makes serious factual errors in a book, that the ABC would publish a reasoned critique. Apparently not. 

ABC journalist Mark Willacy recently launched a book: “Fukushima: Japan’s tsunami and the inside story of the nuclear meltdowns”. The ABC is giving the book plenty of exposure and gave Willacy time off to write it.

Back in March this year I wrote an article on poll results exposing deep nuclear ignorance in Australia. Only 10 percent of Australians understood clearly that a nuclear explosion was impossible in a nuclear reactor. The other 90 percent occupied various positions along a spectrum between certainty of the facts and being equally certain that the impossible was possible.

Willacy doesn’t just believe that the impossible is possible, but that it’s already happened. His book reveals similar knowledge deficits not only in the Japanese public, but in many of those who oversaw Japan’s Fukushima meltdown response, including nuclear industry workers.

Willacy states clearly (p.128) that the Chernobyl reactor underwent a nuclear explosion in 1986. Not true or even possible. Power reactor fuel is simply wrong stuff. It’s as different from bomb material as potting soil is from gun powder. And even if you loaded a reactor with bomb grade enriched uranium, there’s no detonation mechanism. Designing and building the latter is one the hardest design jobs in building a nuclear bomb.

Confusion about categories of explosions may seem a small thing, but we’ll see that it extends to a more general ignorance about the nature and scale of radiation risks.

Explosion types, no small matter

Here’s a couple of pictures illustrating the difference between what Willacy claimed happened at Chernobyl and what actually happened … a steam explosion. The image on the left is of a nuclear explosion (the World War II Hiroshima bombing) which flattened about 700 hectares of buildings and killed about 60,000 people with its blast heat and pressure waves. An additional similar number died in the following weeks from various injuries, including radiation received from the blast. The image on the right is the aftermath of the Chernobyl explosion … a steam explosion which blew the top off the reactor, killed two workers and mangled a building. But, as you can see, it didn’t even have enough power to knock over a tower a few metres away from the blast.

Hiroshima: nuclear explosion

Hiroshima: nuclear explosion

Chernobyl: steam explosion

Chernobyl: steam explosion

The above two images are at very different scales, but the difference is clear…

A steam explosion, together with a larger radiation release could definitely have happened at Fukushima if workers at the plant hadn’t succeeded in releasing steam (including radioactive material) from the reactors. This was definitely worth avoiding, but it could never have been a nuclear explosion. Nor could it have possibly killed any workers in the anti-seismic command bunker hundreds of meters away. The worker death fears described by Willacy were clearly very real to them, but they weren’t at any risk of death other than when out of the bunker and close to the reactor. As at Chernobyl and at the recent fertiliser explosion at West near Waco in the US, it’s usually the firefighters taking the big risks. The West explosion left a 93-foot crater and killed 14 people, mostly the firies … this was a much, much bigger bang than Chernobyl. The 1947 Texas fertiliser explosion was a very much bigger bang again, it levelled 1,000 buildings, killed 581 people and even knocked a couple of planes out of the sky.

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MIT Climate CoLab update – the result?

This is an update to this recent BNC post: MIT competition update – 3 days left, votes needed!


Guest Post by Ron Gester M.D. The Treasurer of SCGI, Ron is a retired emergency physician and geologist, who is a passionate about solving the climate change problem.

Voting at the MIT Climate CoLab competition after my post last week became quite intense. I know several people who tracked the voting carefully and got quite involved in the excitement of the “race.” Some of us were writing people we had not written in years and people we knew were not supportive of nuclear energy. Some were making personal phone calls while others were sending tweets. The response was overwhelming and beyond our expectations.

We saw votes come from around the globe. We heard back from people who were learning about the potential for 4th generation nuclear power for the first time. We received emails from long time advocates as well as new arrivals who had initiated their own campaigns. The timing of our surge in votes suggests that many followers of BNC jumped into the challenge.

The conclusion is gratifying; when the options for combating climate change are put to a public vote, there is strong support for the inclusion of nuclear energy.

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