Emissions Nuclear

Follow Britain’s nuclear lead

Brook_FissionHere’s an Op Ed I had published in today’s Adelaide Advertiser newspaper. A supporting piece from the paper’s reporters is here.

For more on the British plans for new nuclear power, see here and here.


WHETHER you are primarily concerned about climate change, or energy security, the British Government’s choice to build 10 new large nuclear power stations by 2025 should come as welcome news.

Nuclear power is the only proven electricity generation technology that can simultaneously meet reliable baseload demand, anywhere, and yet emit no carbon dioxide when operating.

Along with hydropower from dams, it is the only clean energy technology that has been shown to be scalable. France, for instance, derives nearly 80 percent of its electricity from 59 nuclear plants.

Nuclear-powered France is the world’s biggest electricity exporter, has the cheapest power rates in Europe, and has the lowest carbon footprint per person.

On this basis, it is easy to understand the UK government’s decision to pursue nuclear power in a big way. A resolution, I might add, that has bipartisan political support. Australia, take heed.

Worldwide, in 2008 nuclear power avoided 2.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, compared to what would have been emitted if coal-fired stations had instead been used.

What of the economics of the UK plan? Like any large capital infrastructure project, it will be expensive.

Yet aside from concrete, steel and labour, much of the cost of new nuclear comes from regulatory risk.

The UK wisely plan to cut through this red tape by reducing planning permission times from seven to one year, and vetoing the right of local authorities to block construction.

They’ve clearly learned valuable lessons from history.

The UK is now paying dearly for their dash for gas, following the coal mine closures of the 1980s. Their once-abundant North Sea fields are rapidly depleting.

Again, Australia should take note of this warning. We must not go down the natural gas-for-coal substitution route. It would be long-term economic suicide.

Also, gas is a carbon-based fossil fuel, releasing 600kg of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour.

Unlike the situation for uranium power, the electricity price is strongly tied to the fuel price for gas. A spike in the gas price means big jumps in power prices.

Cheap uranium energy is a much more secure proposition. Gas is best reserved to meet occasional peak power demands, not baseload needs.

Lazy, recycled objections to the UK nuclear plan come from the usual suspects – Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

I’ve been forced to conclude that these so-called environmental organisations are not actually interested in climate change mitigation or clean energy supply.

Their founding principles are to oppose nuclear technology in all forms. They are immune to arguments based on logic or scientific evidence.

They ignore technological developments that solve the long-lived nuclear waste problem (it is burned as energy in fast spectrum reactors).

They can’t seem to accept the fact that there is enough uranium to provide the whole world with zero-carbon power for millions of years.

All they care about is being anti-nuclear.

Fortunately, the world is passing them by. Australia should too. It’s time to go nuclear green.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

130 replies on “Follow Britain’s nuclear lead”

Ok, this conversation has really gotten ridiculous.

“And what a wonderful opportunity the current global debate provides for ignorant dirty digging pro-nukes (who pretend to be “warmies”) to push their agenda whilst feigning concern for the environment!”

Webs and Weavers, who do you think you are making a comment like that? Talk about dishonest!

I study environmental science (study my arse off!), and work in conservation and land management, because I absolutely DO give a shit about the environment. Which is exactly the same reason I support nuclear energy, because the other options simply don’t cut it.

Virtually everyone here gives a shit, or why would we be having this conversation? No one here stands to benefit from nuclear energy in any way other than that it helps to ensure a safer future climate.

You’ve failed to address anyone’s questions or points properly, you’re rude, and your fundamentalist rhetoric only stands to make things much worse for the physical environment.

Most people are worth reasoning with, but I think in this instance it’s worth responding accordingly – that is, not at all. Henceforth.


“I said nothing about the decay series (not cycles) I only stated that implying as you did that longer half-life radioisotopes are more dangerous is in error.”

Hey that really says something about you, John Morgan.

And I was about to say that your bait and switch and red herrings were becoming extremely tiresome, however, I wasn’t aware of how splendid a liar you are – deliberately spreading misinformation, while astonishingly, imbued with an embodiment of arrogance.

At no time did I imply that Radium-226 was “more dangerous.” What I did say was that both radium-226 and radon-222 are officially Class 1 carcinogens. Class 1 is ranked as the most dangerous. Nevertheless you are living proof of the sordid manipulations practised by the nuclear industry.

And the rhetoric on regulatory procedures, in the links you supply is just that – rhetoric! How do I know that? My connection to government appointed committees on matters of hazardous waste and the stark realities have no bearing on the rubbish you peddle. A few of the stark realities include:

1. A rare prosecution involved twenty-eight workers who fell ill after drinking and showering in water contaminated with 400 times the legal limit of uranium at the Ranger uranium mine.

Symptoms included vomiting, headaches and skin rashes. A total of 159 workers were exposed to the contamination. In separate incidents, three works’ vehicles left the site contaminated with uranium ore. In 2007, the company was fined for breaches of regulatory procedure. Class actions are pending, I believe.

2. In it’s Environment Progress Report, WMC (now BHP Billiton) “admitted leaving a contaminated trial uranium mine (Yeelirrie) exposed to the public, with inadequate fencing and warning signs, for more than 10 years”. A spokesperson for WMC said an inspection revealed the problems and also admitted that the company could have known about the problem as early as 1992.

Western Mining said there were inadequate signs warning against swimming in a dam at the site, which was found to be about 30 times above World Health Organisation radiation safety standards and admitted that people used the dam for “recreational” purposes including swimming,. No prosecution occurred.

“And finally shame on you for playing the gender card.” Might I suggest you keep both hands on the keyboard John Morgan?

Matt Buckels – The latest estimate to pay for the long-term clean-up of Britain’s nuclear waste is £73 billion and would probably need to be revised upwards in the future. The UK’s nuclear industry is in an abysmal mess but the hubris from the deluded, power addicted nuke spinners prevails:

Last year the UK’s NDA paid nearly £3.8 million in bonuses to its 315 staff from “guaranteed” taxpayer-funded bonuses every year.

I would urge the Australian public to be aware and be afraid – very afraid!:


I don’t understand the reference to John Morgan, I am a French-Canadian living in Quebec Canada who’s name you probably couldn’t properly pronounce, but it is certainly nowhere near ‘John Morgan’

You have descended to mindless schoolyard ranting that is contributing nothing of value to the discussion, I am going to follow TeeKay’s suggestion and ignore your gibbering. This exchange is not worth anymore of my time,and I suspect no one else’s ether.


There’s a series of articles starting in Crikey today on “the nuclear option”.

For those unfamiliar with it, Crikey is a medium-sized, but remarkably influential, news/comment service in the form of a daily email and a website. The email service is paid, but many of the articles on the website are open access, including this one.

The first piece today by Bernard Keane (Crikey’s main political writer in Canberra) basically contends that nuclear is too slow:

Tomorrow’s piece will apparently contend that nuclear is too costly.


many of the articles on the website are open access, including this one

Sigh – it was open access when I posted that, but Crikey have now restricted it (i.e. you need a paid account or free trial to see the article).


This is interesting:

That position, observers say, marks a significant departure. “Because of global warming, most of the big groups have become less active on their nuclear campaign, and almost all of us are taking another look at our internal policies,” said Mike Childs, head of climate change issues for Friends of the Earth in Britain. “We’ve decided not to officially endorse it, in part because we feel the nuclear lobby is already strong enough. But we are also no longer focusing our energies on opposing it.”

It’s a shame FOE in Australia, led by Dr Jim Green, are not more pragmatic like this.


These hypocrites just sense a shift in the wind and worry that their position is getting out of sync with public opinion, and thus with their donor base. However it is incumbent on the pronuclear side to welcome them to the fold – we need all the support we can get.


Very interesting remark by Mike Childs. I hope, and expect, to see more of this.

dv82xl, they’re facing the death of the renewable dream, and going through the five stages of grief:

Denial No nukes! We’ll do it all with renewables
Anger (we’ve seen plenty of that here)
Bargaining If I use less power, have a distributed grid, and a mix of renewables, and smart appliances, then renewables will be enough
Depression ….
Acceptance Well, ok. But we won’t officially endorse it

Have fun identifying which stage your favourite commenters here are at.

Going nuke will rock their worldview, and thats going to take a while to work through their psyche. I just hope they get through it quickly.


@ the BBC ( Barry Brook’s Converted), Commissioners:

cursory examination of on-site NPP accidents causing NPPS to go offline, and including deaths due to cost-cutting on materials or intra-NPP assembly faults or inadequate NPP operator training, are quite numerous in the history of NPPs. As France is the poster child of this blog (“cheapest and cleanest power in the EU,” etc.), one can look at its NPP history, which is marked by state centralisation, if one takes the history of Areva :

In 2000, the French govt. supervisory body admitted that the 2 x 880MW PWRs at the 30-year old NPP at eathquake-prone Fessenheim a few km from the 200,000-strong city of Freiburg in Germany on prevailing south-westerly winds, were not secure in respect of cooling in case of an earthquake. Nearby Basel was eradicated by an earthquake in the Middle Ages.

It has transpired that the Fessenheim operator suppressed various safety documents over the years.

Refer also to Tom Blees’ opinion in his book of the dangerous collusion between private sector NPPs and their so-called supervisory body in the USA.

Summarising, the record inspires no confidence whatever in any mode of managing NPPs, private or public sector. Reasons include the profit motive (bad operator training, as in the case of the 2 operator deaths in Japan; low-quality parts); bad luck/Murphy’s Law (faulty assembly); bureaucratic careerism and turf-fighting.

Would a BBC commissioner care to outline how Aust. or SA NPPs would be administered to avoid the above? And is that commissioner looking forward to the police state, as predicted long ago by Robert Jungk, necessary to beat down and, as required, execute opposition to NPPs?

You see, all I have read so far is lame reference in this blog to “educating the public”: with Tasers or tonfa night sticks or something more futuristic such as a heat weapon or high-pitched acoustic device , provided the BBC commissioner in question has equity in it in the All Ords?

Or does the BBC believe that Gen III NPPs, which are what BB wants for SA, will as by magic avoid all of the above?

Given that the BBC seem on balance to have no insight into or interest in power structures in SA or anywhere else and smear opposition to them as “hairshirt greenie”, may I assume that the BBC will volunteer as auxiliary policemen?


It’s quite clear from this statement that ANSTO got hit by an anti-nuclear poll bot, just like the advertiser did.

ANSTO is interested in stimulating public debate and discussion about nuclear science and technology. In so doing, it recently began a web poll on whether nuclear power should be part of Australia's future energy mix.

As a result of a dramatic change in poll voting patterns over the weekend, a staff member, without authority, modified the poll by changing the "I am against it" answer to "It is one of the options" at around 7.30am today. This was an unauthorised change. ANSTO acknowledges that both making a change and changing the answer "I am against it" to "It is one of the options" was a serious error of judgement by the staff member. This gave misleading and incorrect results to web visitors and poll participants.

Following an approach by an online news service, the staff member then changed the answer to "No" in a bid to correct the situation.

When ANSTO management became aware of the situation, it took action to restore the poll to the original answer and also included "No" to ensure all voters in the intervening period would be included in the statistics.

As the CEO of ANSTO, I wish to apologise unreservedly to stakeholders and participants for this unauthorised intervention in the poll results. The poll is on the front page of the ANSTO website at

I’m utterly disgusted by the tactics anti-nuclear protesters will stoop to. They are every bit as bad as climate change deniers. Pathetic.


Barry, its profoundly disappointing to me that environmental groups who I have otherwise respected and supported for their values and achievements, in the case of nuclear power employing the dishonest manipulations of

– climate change denialists
– tobacco scientists
– creationists

and any number of fringe conspiracy movements or commercial lobbyists that start with their conclusion and cherry pick their way back into the research. They are cut from the same cloth.


It’s not surprising to find proponents of all things nuclear, resorting to yet another smear campaign.

“I’m utterly disgusted by the tactics anti-nuclear protesters will stoop to. They are every bit as bad as climate change deniers. Pathetic” proclaims Barry Brook.

“Here here!” indicates John D Morgan who reckons environmentalists have resorted to the tactics of “climate change denialists- tobacco scientists and creationists.”

Can Brooks and Morgan enlighten the reader? To whom do they refer and what tactics have these alleged environmentalists “stooped” to? Failure to substantiate these allegations will influence the public into believing that Brooks and Morgan are engaging in a disingenuous form of discourse

This example appears to be a prime illustration of mud-slinging which is effective in diverting attention away from the matter in question and onto the individual or opposing group rather than addressing the issue.

This thread demonstrates the subterfuge and denial which must be practised by an atomic industry which is committing intergenerational tyranny.

This type of diversion has been used for decades by crusty and cowardly old men who convert the nuclear scourge into war machines to intimidate their enemies and kill children.

Dr Adi Paterson, Chief Executive Officer of ANSTO has “unreservedly” apologised to the public on behalf of his employee who fraudulently manipulated poll results to favour nuclear energy. In no part of Dr Paterson’s written apology did he refer to a “poll bot.”

Who then, may I ask, speaks with forked tongue?


There is no one on this list that “defends all things nuclear”. Care to rephrase this? Can you make the connection between nuclear energy and Britian’s re-powering with nuclear weapons? This is EXACTLY the kind of *underhanded* convulsion others on this list are talking about. You, dude, proved it.



@Webs and Weavers

Helen, if you are laboring under the impression that any web-based poll on a contentious subject isn’t gamed by bots, you are far more out of touch with reality than I originally thought.

As for your demagoguery about, “…crusty and cowardly old men who convert the nuclear scourge into war machines to intimidate their enemies and kill children,” it stands an an open insult to the intelligence of all those that participate here, and demonstrates only that you hold us in contempt.


“Can Brooks and Morgan enlighten the reader?”

I would point to pretty much all of the citations you have provided in your ramblings upthread, and your interpretations thereof.


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