Climate Change Nuclear

Public advocacy on nuclear power and climate change

Guest Post by Rob Parker. Rob is a civil engineer with over 30 years experience in both design and engineering construction of dams, freeways, water treatment and general infrastructure. More recently, when confronted by the environmental impacts of our patterns of consumption and growth, he decided to look at ways to influence our political policies. Its turned out to be much harder than first thought. He was a candidate for the NSW Labour Party in the State seat of Goulburn before realising the massive difficulties in getting the ALP to address climate change in a meaningful way. Rob lives in the NSW village of Berrima and campaigns on rational ways to address climate change.

This post is looks at methods to get nuclear power accepted within Australia as the primary defence against climate change. I have read with interest and gained inspiration from many of the contributors to the Brave New Climate site. Peter Lang’s posts, in particular, are a mine of information which have helped me to sift the “greenwash” from the good stuff.

Over the past five years I have experienced many twists and turns in climate change campaigning in Australia. Many of us have gone through the hopes for renewable energy as a benign solution to this wicked problem and come out the other end into a more hardnosed reality. The problem in Australia is that our political operatives are locked into policies designed only to get them elected. These policies are completely ineffective and also prolong inaction. Many contributors to this site will be familiar with the patter.

The most hardnosed of the realists have come to the position that society will not act on climate change if it impacts upon their perceived economic welfare. They have formed the opinion that the only viable solution requires that nuclear power becomes cheaper than all other sources. When this happens the environment will be the beneficiary.

Faced with actually doing something the political operatives have tied the climate change debate up in a complex web of emissions trading schemes and public subsidies for ineffectual technologies. None of them harm the status quo but like many acts of futility the debate descends into two bald men fighting over a comb.

Hopes were raised this year when the Liberals announced that their new policy would be that of direct action. Unfortunately both Abbott and Hunt squibbed it. They could have built upon Howard’s policies which with the benefit of hindsight were far more promising than anything that Labor has come up with. As an ex active member of the ALP I now recognise that the Howard Government did vastly more on effective climate change policies than the Rudd or any Labor State Government.

It was after all the Howard government who:

• established the Australian Greenhouse office,

• got the nuclear power issue going with Gittus and then Switkowski,

• were central to the Asia Pacific Partnership which does good work on improving industrial energy efficiency,

• Undertook much of the design of an emissions trading scheme

• initiated programmes for domestic energy efficiency.

• Engaged with Indonesia on programmes to reduce deforestation

As we head towards a Federal election I propose ways in which the BNC contributors could share their ideas with the electorate. It would be a great shame if all the good work and passion spent was not more widely disseminated.

There is a very big group in the electorate who are sympathetic to nuclear power and know that most renewable solutions are “greenwash” but there is another sizeable group who is fearful. They waver depending upon the effectiveness and not necessarily the truthfulness of a presenter having caught a bad case of the Caldicotts. Barry Brook and I experienced this at Melbourne Town Hall earlier this year when emotive arguments for concentrated solar power in Spain trumped those for nuclear power. To convince the waverers it is essential to create a passionate narrative which we must take out into the community.

Not all action will be on a grand scale. Some are not comfortable on a soap box but are quite prepared to quietly lobby.

This list hope contains a variety of possibilities. It’s a starting point which contributors to BNC can expand upon:

• Write letters to your local newspaper. Local community newspapers are more thoroughly read than the major city papers and the journalists will readily print wise but edgy articles particularly if you do the work for them.

• “Beard the Lion in his den”. Go to Greenpeace meetings. Join your local climate change or environmental groups or even start one. It’s essential to make lobbying groups accountable and to do it in a friendly and discussive manner. It can be lonely but each time I’ve tried people come out to you if you look approachable. Last year at Wollongong’s Walk Against Warming I used the smiley faced atom “Nuclear Power – Yes Please” as a poster. It got discussion going, some heated and some perplexed.

• Join a political party. Members of our parties are amongst the most motivated and moral in our communities. Humble party members engage in thankless unpaid work because they believe in the processes that guide our communities and they crave ideas. Politicians of the two main parties are steadily isolating their members because of the internal contradictions of their policies and the tango between party machines and the media. The membership will give you a good hearing and may even champion your cause. Within the ALP I never failed to get a pro nuclear position endorsed at branch level.

• Visit your local politician and state the case for nuclear power and environmental protection, preferably with three or four likeminded souls and better still if you have the endorsement of a local group. Give them a simple document stating your position – nothing too complex and ask them to bring it to the attention of the relevant minister. That’s their job – they represent you. At times they will be provocative but present the message simply, firmly and courteously.

• Church groups can be effective. Many see a real contradiction with man’s treatment of God’s gift. I have observed groups within the Uniting, Anglican and Catholic communities developing strong pro environment positions.

Most of these actions involve going out and meeting new people and that’s not always easy. Many engineering and scientific types such as myself feel more comfortable with likeminded souls who help us refine our ideas. One such is James Hansen whose delivery at the Seymour Centre in Sydney was the best most heartfelt plea for action on climate change I have ever experienced. In his quiet, slow methodical unveiling of the storey he very sensitively linked observed science with an unfolding human tragedy. James is a profoundly good man and he laid it all out for a very appreciative audience.

Within Australia we are fortunate to have Barry Brook’s massive energy, ideas and public advocacy. He sets us a great example. I’d be interested to know what other BNC contributors think of following his example with increased public advocacy and the methods to achieve it.

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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.

231 replies on “Public advocacy on nuclear power and climate change”

I don’t disagee with much at all of the practical side of your advocacy Marion. Clearly, we do need to get out there and make the case for nuclear power as strongly as we can to the people who might listen to us, regardless of whether the kinds of structure in the macro-environment tjhat each of us would like are moving in the directions we’d prefer.

I do think though that we can (proverbially) walk and talk and chew gum (though personally I hate gum so I would pass on that) ;-)


Marion: Yes, nuclear can enable a solution without
the need to change behaviour. But I’m not as pessimistic
about behaviour change as some. I went to Switzerland
in 2003 and couldn’t believe how many people still
smoked. Australia has slashed its smoking rates in
ways people thought were impossible 40 years ago.
Likewise drink driving … which was
absolutely normal 40 years ago. It is still too
frequent, but the change has been huge. Marketting
works, it just costs money.
On the food front, there are isolated examples which
give a little hope that diets can change to allow
global reforestation. Cuba has dropped
its animal product consumption from 25% of calories to
just 10% (over 30 years) with a rise in life expectancy
to a level now higher than the US.
That’s a massive change. Australia
has dropped its sheep meat consumption from 37 kg/cap/yr to just 14 since 1970. Again a massive
change. Huge behaviour changes are
definitely both possible and plausible … with will
and funding.

Douglas: Yes, I do believe in ethical absolutes and
so do most people on the planet. e.g., See the work of
Marc Hauser. Very few people believe in torture at all
and even fewer see it as a spectator sport. Some
see it as occasionally justified … like war. But otherwise,
just plain wrong.


Thanks for you words of encouragement.

I didn’t mean to imply political discussion was unhelpful. Indeed, it’s good for readers of BNC to see there is a diversity of political positions within pro-nuclear advocacy, and to find contributors with whom they can identify. It’s just that this was a post on action and if we can’t prioritise action over theory on a thread such as this… I despair.

40 years?!


Marion – as Peter Lang says “very wise” and very pragmatic.
You wrote what I would have liked to say, if only I was as eloquent as you!
Unfortunately, my clumsy attempts served only to inflame passions, but your remarks have reminded us of our primary purpose and indicated the way we can all do our best (while retaining our ideals) to achieve our goal.


For BNC readers who are curious, by the way, “Marion Brook” is my sister… My wife (Sonomi Brook) is totally disuninterested in such forums (But at least she’s completely pro-nuclear! However, she said she found my book a little trying, as there was too many facts to memorise if she ever wanted to have a debate with anyone about the topic).


Ms Perps,

Off topic, but I must apologise for calling you ‘Mr Perps’ previously. That was an genuine mistake – I didn’t look back to check. Unfortunately I’ve misspelled names far too often. Again my apolgises.


The solution to reducing emissions from energy is relatively easy from a technical perspective. A major component of the solutions is to replace coal with nuclear (Gen III now and Gen IV as it becomes the better and more economic option).

There are two problems. One is cost and one is public resistance.

However, they are related. I suspect the vast majority are not going to be keen on nuclear power while it is more expensive than coal. There is a minority (IMO) that are prepared to pay significantly more for clean energy.

The solution is to be able to offer nuclear at a cost competitive with coal, and the cheaper the better.

To achieve this requires us to change public perception so we can reduce the cost of nuclear. That means removing the ridiculus impediments on nuclear.

As a minor side issue: I am not advocating ramping up the price of coal by some arbitrary, government imposed tax or ETS. We can include externalities by regulating tighter emissions standards, as we do for nearly all other emissions. It wouldn’t matter how far we ramped up the cost of coal, we’re not going to get nuclear until we tackle and remove the impediments to it. We’re just going to get more expensive electricity. This will do much more harm than good. I’ve said why previously.

So what we need to focus on (IMO) is getting rid of the impediments to low cost nuclear. That is where we should focus our attention. That is what must be the main aim of our education program.

To make the most rapid progress we need to turn Labor and a key environmental NGO to becoming an enthusiastic advocate of nuclear.

Next step is we want the government to budget for education facilities and research facilities in universities in each state. We really do need these education facilities to start getting academics and students to start thinking about the nuclear option. At present all they hear about is renewables.



Very good points.

Turning the ALP into an enthusiastic advocate would be the best bet, albeit a difficult one. I’m not sure which environmental NGO would contemplate changing their stance on nuclear (e.g. no environmental NGO ever lost significant support for being anti-nuclear as far as I’m aware). I know you’ve said before maybe ACF, but if you’ve ever seen speak or met the likes of David Noonan…well, I’d say not too likely.

I think when education facilities begin to start properly taking on board the nuclear option we will be well on the way. This is probably more important than NGO support at this stage. I’m a student and you’re dead right, most of what we hear about when someone utters the words “climate change” is renewables, more so in the social sciences than physical sciences. Problem here is, the social sciences tend to be where many of our public descision makers end up coming from.


Marion Brook

Thank you for commenting on my post.

Obviously I am not a political scientist interested in a merely academic approach to theoretical models. I am interested in an urgent response to the greatest challenges faced by humanity when it is close to being too late to respond.

I am certainly not clear on what an acceptable approach to governance would look like. All I know is that we our governments are making extremely flawed decisions that do not take the broader issues into account. I would like to see people re-inventing the kind of decision making we have. Two essentials are that it has to involve the community and it must have a long term view in terms of decades to centuries.

All of the options seem to be too slow, whether it be trying to inform the community enough to not be opposed to nuclear energy and lobby politicians, as you are proposing, trying to get people to abandon allegiance to political parties in favour of the greater good, or changing major structures.

I am trying to envisage a way that something could happen fast enough to make the change that is needed. I think there has to be a popular movement outside of the political process. Perhaps there needs to be a high profile person of perceptive vision who will capture the attention of people so that they believe they can make a difference. I guess I am talking about a vacuum in leadership. In Australia, Kevin Rudd’s opposition to nuclear power is his handicap in responding to the current impending crisis. Does anyone think it is likely that he make the switch from politician to statesman and stand up for the obvious need to replace coal and oil with nuclear? Is he going to stop deforestation in Tasmania? Will he oversee removal of cattle in parts of Australia that would revert to forest by this action alone?

Back to your comment at the start of your post. I received an email from asking me to write to write to leaders. This brought home the choice for the next election in Australia: The ALP is just green-washing with a carbon emissions system that was designed to fail and keep the coal industry on side, a coalition leader who does not believe in the threat of climate change, and the Greens who have a supporter base opposed to nuclear energy. Working within this framework seems pretty close to futile to me.

I have probably done all I can on this issue. I can only hope somebody will take the baton the next stage.

I would like to get back to focussing on protecting our local threatened plants and declining species of birds. In the community is basically uniformed and disinterested. Those of us involved in advocacy for biodiversity face the same problems of lack of involvement of the community and short-term decision making. The physics and logistics of nuclear power are not subjects that I feel equipped to promote.


Robert Lawrence – You make a very valid point about the need for high profile leadership in the pronuclear camp. God knows if a stripper and a clown can stop huge numbers of people from getting their kids vaccinated for no valid reason, surely the support of a few famous people should help the nuclear renaissance move forward at a faster pace.


Flipping bill mckibben would be worth a try. He’s anti nuke officially but has made comments that cut against the grain of this position. stewart brand cites such comments in his book.

I wrote 350 org a letter on this and never heard back. I’d be curious to know what conversations M has had with James Hansen. They got arrested together. They were in Bolivia together.

Flipping Mckibben would be big. His opposition to nuclear appears to be something other than principled–based on information (incorrect information, but…). In other words, at some level, he knows better.

This sort of thing is a real mystery to me. I can only suppose he figures he’d lose the movement, but I’m not so sure.


My letter to Mckibben: maybe someone else to give it a shot.

Dear Bill Mckibben:

I share your goal of reducing ghgs to 350 in a century’s time or before.

but I don’t agree with your stance on nuclear power. This is an important issue and needs airing.

Would you consider a longish published discussion with James Hansen, who disagrees with just about everything you say about nuclear power and conversely just about every optimistic claim you seem to make about alternatives like wind and solar? this could be productive, shedding light not just heat.

The pro nuke greens (see especially barry brook’s bravenewclimate blog) would take serious issue with your claims concerning terrorism, the waste problem, the subsidy issue etc. They think that only nuclear power (gen three and four) can really replace coal. I think their evidence is utterly convincing. I started out anti nuclear and anti capitallst. Now I’m anti anti nuclear and still anti capitalist. I started out thinking caldicott’s position was correct; now, I think her position is close to one big lie. Her book, nuclear power is not the answer, is one of the most error riddled books I’ve ever read. I’ve seen dogma from Greens which has actually shocked me, and I’m 53, and a long time teacher.

to give you one quick example, I read a project censored report from jeffrey st. cloud on the possibility of spent fuel pool fires at the shearon harris plant in North Carolina. I live 50 miles from SH.

the article claimed that the NRC saw a one in one hundred chance of such a fire which would have “chernobyl” like consequences (whatever exactly that means). By this time, I no longer took anything anti nuclear people said about npps at face value so I tracked down the report myself, written by NRC head Luis Reyes (I can send you all the info so you can see for yourself).

The report dismissed the worries about a spent fuel pool fire, indicating that there was a 2 in 10 million reactor years chance of such a fire, not one in one hundred (a stat which is not only off by several orders of magnitude but doesn’t even make any sense).

Unfortunately, such reporting is not an isolated instance(if you’re wondering how St. Clair got his numbers, I can reconstruct that for you if you like–he either was lying or is innumerate).

Most optimistic writing on renewables fails really to face up to the problems of intermittency and diffuse power of renewables: and fails to face up to scaled renewables ridiculous ecological footprint. all talk of decentralization just strikes me as “mere phrases” when you look at plans like Mark Jacobson’s (well critiqued at BNC). It seems you are big on the internet. How keep this going, getting bigger all the time, without any form of centralized power?

also: there are forms of nuclear power which actually fit a decentralized energy scheme, but without the intermittency/flucutation/diffuse power issues that plague renewables. Toshiba nuclear batteries.

And thorium reactors appear (they have a way to go before commercialization) much easier to scale down.

btw, greens like to talk about the loan guarantees to nuclear plants; but the doe issued loan guarantees of the same order of magnitude per nameplate kwh (saying nothing of capacity factor) to a solar thermal plant. No mention of this. It’s a damn double standard and it needs to stop.

I hope you read this. I didn’t write it to spout off. I have papers to grade.

Gregory Meyerson
Associate Professor Critical Theory


For the sake of tidiness Barry, your wife may well be totally uninterested in participating in nuclear power fora, but unless you have an actual or prospective pecuniary interest in this or similar fora, you should both be disinterested parties.

[/idle pedantry] (apologies … it’s a teacher thing)


so then am I to understand, Mr. Brook, that you are not disinterested?

I knew it all the while.

a shill for the nuclear industry. Someone phone Helen and Harvey.

(if you tell me to cease and desist I will know that I have failed in my attempt at levity)


Robert Lawrence

I can see I did misunderstand you. Your reply is charged with a frustration and sense of urgency I can only share.

I am trying to envisage a way that something could happen fast enough to make the change that is needed. I think there has to be a popular movement outside of the political process.

I’ll admit I’ve become battle worn and cynical about the possibility of any solid community wide action. I think we must reconcile ourselves to the likelihood that this will not happen. As far as I can see, it has always been, and will always be a small minority who fights and wins for the majority.

Perhaps you question whether a minority can sway the majority?

This question led me to think about successful movements in the past that managed to garner broad community support. How were they begun? What routes did they pursue to achieve their goals? What did community support look? How long did they maintain momentum (or how long did they have to)?

In Australia the biggest most successful campaign I can think of was the Franklin dam. This was begun by a small handful of nobodies. It grew to a vocal, active minority. I was just a young child at the time but I vividly remember the NO DAMS and SAVE THE FRANLIN slogans sprayed on the footpaths and walls of my suburb. Their campaign was not, to begin with, well funded yet it was strident, emotive and high profile. They made posters and stickers and spread them throughout the the cities. People showed their support with hand painted t-shirts. The issue, it seemed to me, was everywhere. In lieu of high numbers they recruited (as you suggest) high profile celebrities and lobbied individual, sympathetic politicians. They got it to a referendum and the famous NO DAMS vote (which is where the otherwise passive majority came in). It later went to the high court where the campaign was finally won.

In seven years they went from a small meeting in someones kitchen, to passive majority support, to federal support and a high court win involving lasting changes in legislation.

If they can do it, why can’t we?

The government is threatening our future and denying us the key tools with which we can save ourselves. Surely we can turn that into a credible campaign?


I take your point on the Franklin Marion, but in that case, it was a highly emotive issue in a positive sense. Moreover, the campaign had a solid core constituency to which it could appeal — ALP-Green-Left to which right-of-centre people could add their support.

Importantly, while there was some local opposition, there really wasn’t anyone significant outside the area with an emotional counter-stake.

That’s not the case with nuclear. Nuclear is an issue where there are people on both sides of politics and on a national scale with a strong emotional investment against it being taken up. The numbers are big enough to wedge either side because a 2PP swing of 5% typically determines government. A wedge of 10% is a landslide.

If you want either side to take it up, you have to make it no longer a negative wedge issue for either side. i.e. you have to stop significant numbers being emotionally invested against it, (or limit them to safe seats or people who are otherwise rusted on to their tribal party allegiance and can’t in practice split on it.)

That’s why, IMO, we need something like the IPCC of Energy Policy in this country — a body that would be able to soberly and professionally assess the scientific, technical and economic feasibility of various solutions — something like a larger version of Professor Mackay in the UK or the SCGI, only able to do public hearings where they review stuff and publish reports on maybe a quarterly basis.

Since the anti-nuclear pro-RE people are on the record as supporting peer-review and “the science” they could scarcely object and it would be hard for them to jump up and down and say it was all industry spin if the people on the body were independent.



If you want either side to take it up, you have to make it no longer a negative wedge issue for either side. i.e. you have to stop significant numbers being emotionally invested against it…

How do you imagine we could do that?

Or see this:

…we need something like the IPCC of Energy Policy in this country — a body that would be able to soberly and professionally assess the scientific, technical and economic feasibility of various solutions…


These are genuine questions.

BTW the message I took from the Franklin example was that all movements start small, the trick is to look big.


Of course it is true that one must try to look big, but one must have regard to the ways in which people’s attachments to their existing beliefs can be moved.

We need a voice for rational policy evaluation seen as authentic by most of the anti-nukes. Get that, and the hard core get wedged instead of your intended policy proponents.


The Franklin was a case of people protesting against something. I think people get more passionate when they are opposing a development rather than when they are advocating a development. Not always true but not a bad rule of thumb. Prohibitionists are noisey, their opposition usually more sober. It doesn’t matter if it’s nuclear, cigarettes, booze or guns being prohibited.

Those working at the moment to roll back gun restrictions in NSW (rightly in my view) are not doing it via street marches but dilligently behind the scenes. They did march in 1996 when the prohibitionists were active but it proved rather futile.

The same goes for rolling back alcohol prohibition in the US. It was (I believe) a much less noisy process than the original movement to introduce prohibition.

Freedom can be popular but banning, capping, regulating, controlling and opposing seem to be much more exciting causes.


Prohibitionists are noisy, their opposition usually more sober.

A nice irony in that turn of phrase, TerjeP.


I think people get more passionate when they are opposing a development rather than when they are advocating a development.

I’m not so sure Terje. Think of the campaign for votes for women, or of the Freedom Riders campaigning for civil rights for blacks in the US or of “womens liberationists” for abortion rights, equal pay etc.


The gun lobby is working the same way it always has. Visiting politicians with menace and misinformation … sometimes subtle which leaves the politician nervous or just standing and shouting at them. These are not methods anybody should be advocating and I’m sure TerjeP wasn’t, but that’s the reality of how the gun lobby operates. I’ve spent a couple of
decades dealing with these people and its often tough
to know when you are dealing with a bully who is basically
a coward or a psychopath. For a politician, particularly a new one, they are very unsettling.


I just LOVE to cap, ban and regulate.

But controlling?

Don’t get me started. I get weak in the knees.


There is misinformation on both sides of every major policy debate. I’m not going to argue the gun case here because I think it would take us off topic. However I do see some consistency in how prohibitions are established and removed. Prohibitionists generally think they have morality on their side and facts and reason are merely a second line of defence for them.


Pulling together some comments from this thread.

Robert Lawerence:

It is not enough for us as a minority group to lobby politicians. The whole community needs to get involved. Home by home, street by street and needs to be involved. Social media on the Internet need to be employed. But there needs to be some sort of central organisation. The vision, information and debate need to be brought together in some way.
I guess that the next step is some brainstorming to find ways to bring these together. I certainly do not have the answers, but if people are thinking about finding solutions then such problems can be solved.

Peter Lang:

To make the most rapid progress we need to turn Labor and a key environmental NGO to becoming an enthusiastic advocate of nuclear.

Fran Barlow:

It’s really simple we should say. Whatever solution we adopt should be able to replace Hazelwood in the grid. It’s the dirtiest coal plant in the world so it’s an obvious target for clean energy right? A solution that allows us to replace Hazelwood at acceptable cost will allow us to replace Muja and Playford B and progressively all the others. Until we can find a solution that can do that, talk of low carbon alternatives to coal is just hot air.

FWIW here’s my attempt at brainstorming.

We’ve got some great information on BNC what we don’t have is a popular education/activist page. I imagine something with some basic short answer FAQs ie Whats wrong with renewables anyway? Why do we need nuclear power? etc.
Some pro-nuclear education videos and pod casts or links to ie some of your nuclear debates Barry? Who’s Afraid of Nuclear Power? What is ionizing radiation? etc.
A “Get Involved” section where visitors can sign a petition (perhaps to replace Hazelwood with nuclear power), printout posters etc.

Your right Robert, it’s not enough to lobby politicians, we need to reach Joe average as well. Joe only has time to listen to simple messages – sound bites really – and then only from those he identifies with, or (quite reasonably) considers more knowledgeable in a particular area than he is. So if he’s left wing he’ll identify with other left wingers on the first count and probably listen to environmentalists on the second. Another important component of left wing advocacy is social justice. Rising electricity prices and centrally controlled smart grids are burgeoning issues for this group. So, we could add to our page a (growing?) list of environmentalists and “climate scientists” who support nuclear power as a response to climate change… and some simple messages, slogans really… ie for poster printouts and other “promotion” beyond this site. Some ideas:

Nuclear power: the power of equality.

Say Yes to Nuclear Power and No to Climate Change. (Hmmm, needs work)

Give nuclear power the green light (thanks Fran)

I would be prepared to help with this, anyone else?


What’s wrong with renewables anyway?

I think a better way of posing this question would be What’s so good about renewables? … then have a list of the things that renewables are thought to achieve … e.g. avoid fossil fuel use, avoid pollution, work out cheaper, not give profits to multinationals etc …

Then you simply show how practice doesn’t match the theory.

Flipside … What’s so bad about nuclear power?

We could get a little cute here.

1. It’s a threat to the coal and gas industry
2. It would lead to cheaper power, especially during the off-peak
3. It would mean less air and water pollution
4. It makes desalination cheaper …
5. It would eventually lead to a loss of jobs in coal mining
6. Fewer people woukld die in coal mining
7. Fewer people would die from breathing in coal-based particulates, meaning that there might be some underemployment in the health system
8. It would underpin the roll out of electric vehicles
9. It would make it possible to dispose of weapons grade nuclear material

and so forth … followed then by the objections:

but what about nuclear waste?. here we talk about comparing like with like — we focus on the ecological footprint per unit of power comparing the land and water usage of renewables with that of nuclear

what about proliferation?

Again we point out that waste can be made unweaponizable by converting it to fuel

I like the idea of an Energy Commission as Fran suggests — it would be something to which we could constantly refer that couldn’t be dismissed by antis.


Nuclear Power Advocacy:
How to shape the debate

The basic terrain over which the pro/anti nuclear power debate is being fought has certain characteristics which are changeless, no matter the particular phase the debate has currently reached. simply put:

1. The technical arguments all support nuclear power.

2. The anti-nuclear movement must engage in cation set tactics to avoid defeat by technical arguments. These are-

a. Cycling between bankrupt technical positions, eventually returning to the starting point and cycling through again to produce the illusion of an ongoing valid technical debate.

b. Abandoning technical issues altogether and attacking on emotive, social, political or personal grounds.

Veteran anti-nuclear activists such as Caldicott and Wasserman are experts at all phases of these tactics, especially before a home audience. To inflict a major defeat on the anti-nukes , the pro-nuke camp needs to refine it’s tactics and greatly elevate and expand it’s public efforts. To this end, I propose the following:

1. Solid, easy -to-understand technical descriptions of the various aspects of nuclear energy must be placed actively in the public domain.

2. The human aspects of nuclear power (especially the appalling long-term consequences of not adopting it) must be presented by the pro-nuke community.

3. Rather than as noble activists who disagree with certain technical aspects of nuclear power and who only want the best for all, anti-nukes must be unmasked as irrational irrational blackguards bent on perpetuating the dominance of fossil fuels and/or the abolition of industrial civilisation with the mass extermination of human population such a path would entail.

Ther is a strong current within the pro-nuclear community which supports a polite dialogue with the opposition on the grounds thatvthe are still strong potential supporters within the Green movement who would add to the pro-nuke calibre. This is probably true, but I maintain that there is a much larger group unorganised sympathisers in the general population who could be motivated to open support by the kind of leadership which calls a spade a spade , rather than chasing for the pot of gold at the end of the Green rainbow. The supporters we gain by the first strategy must be balanced against those lost or not fully mobilised by not initiating the second strategy.

It is my belief that we have to move to gain, more swiftly and completely by the second strategy than by the first. Indeed, I believe that implementing the 2nd strategy will lead us to victory among the rational greens as well.


Welcome back Finrod. We missed you:)
To Marion et al
Great ideas bouncing around here – I will be willing to help out in any way with a “Joe Average” approach either on BNC or with a Facebook page.
Josephine Average, that’s me – which is why my comments have dropped off recently – the technical aspects of NP discussed here, are too advanced for Joe and Josephine so, IMHO, we really do need to “dumb-it-down” to effect any mass conversion to the cause.


I maintain that there is a much larger group unorganised sympathisers in the general population who could be motivated to open support by the kind of leadership which calls a spade a spade

I agree. These would be the people I’d be aiming for.

Ewen, I like your approach. So for example:

Q. We need to act fast, renewables are the fastest response:
A. In ten years France replaced coal with nuclear and now have the lowest (?) per capita emissions in the EU. For the last 20 odd years Denmark has been aggressively perusing renewables. Renewables now supply between 5% and 20% of their electricity needs, they have been unable to shut down any coal power stations and have amongst the highest emissions per capita in the EU. Renewables are proving to be slow and ineffective. (Link to Danish Fairytales)

Gotta run now, but will think on this some more.


A facebook fan page for BNC probably makes more sence than a facebook group. Barry Brook deserves his own fan page. Movements need a figure head and Barry is better than any I can think of.


Ewen Laver,

You forgot to mention the most important one. Renewables do more environmental damage and produce higher emissions than nuclear.

On this matter, this has just been released.

Subsidizing CO2 Emissions via Windpower: The Ultimate Irony

In short, wind power causes more CO2 to be emitted than it saves when we get to more than about 3% wind power in the grid.


Hey Finrod:

I like what you write above. That means I need to stop worrying about Bill Mckibben etc. and focus on ordinary folk.

interestingly, my experience is that ordinary anti nuke feeling is in fact quite easy to overcome. Committed green movement anti nuke is much, much harder, incredibly frustrating and time consuming, and, as you suggest, not worth the trouble.

also, as you say, some of the big greens will be flipped, but perhaps most likely to be flipped thru pursuit of your second strategy instead of the first.


Good to have you back Finrod. I too agree with your observations and the program you are suggesting.

Nevertheless we still need to be more of a presence in the public debate – the greens still are better at getting their message out to the masses than we are. Certainly they have had more experience, and as you pointed out, are more practiced in agitprop rhetorical technique than we are.

Thus your point about underlining the long-term consequences of not adopting nuclear energy probably should be the central part of the message, with the technical aspects behind.


In short, wind power causes more CO2 to be emitted than it saves when we get to more than about 3% wind power in the grid.

How ironic. And yet we should not be that surprised. Clearly this work needs replicating and promoting. If validated then the public policy implications are profound. Does it hold true also for solar power?


DV82XL, I think it’s time we drove the public debate, and that means talking to whoever we can under whatever circumstances. What I basically proposed is the N92 strategy, and it’s eating me up that I’m stuck in hospital at the moment. I’d intended to finalise the N92 website after my grandmother’s funeral, but now my energies must go elsewhere. Ah well… I’ll get there in the end!


It wasn’t meant as a criticism Finrod, it was more of a suggestion that we don’t talk tech while the listener’s eyes glaze over, as I’m afraid many pro-nukes have a tendency to do.

That plus the fact that one of the consequences I have found that gets everyone’s attention is pointing out all the conveniences they will be expected to give up to meet the Green’s low power objectives. Things like dishwashers, and similar appliances, air-conditioning, powered garden equipment and so on make a real difference in people’s lives and they are the reason we have more free time. Energy conservation the way the Greens want it doesn’t mean turning off the lights when you are not in the room, or adjusting a thermostat a bit outside the ideal zone, it means deep life-changing cuts in energy usage, and going back to manual labour.

Rubbing peoples face in things like this helps focus attention marvellously – and then I bring up loosing their cars. The fact is that stiff energy conservation will strike the middle income brackets much harder that any other class, and that group needs to be made acutely aware of this.


Thanks Peter.

Maybe then, pursuing by rather topngue-in-cheek strategy above, we could add some more bad things about nuclear power.

It makes it less useful to spend money on wind turbines and solar farms or panels. That could mean that the people who have jobs producing and laying the extra concrete and steel and other materials needed for all those wind turbines and mirrors and panels would have to find work elsewhere. There would be fewer quarries and less run-off of mining waste into water tables.

We’ve been talking about replacing Hazelwood as a project and I think this remains a brilliant idea, but it got me thinking — what about another really iconic problem that right and left agree on?

I’m thinking of course of the Murray-Darling. If you take a look at a map of the NSW-QLD border it seems like the distance between the head waters near one of the sources of the Darling, the Dumaresq River near Mingoola via Tenterfield is only about 200Km or so from the coast near Ballina. Imagine if you could desalinate the water from the Pacific and pump it to the Dumaresq and ultimately allow it to flow into the Barwon and then via Colarenebri and Walgett to the Darling at Bourke. You can charge an appropriate cost for water all along the route, along with recycled water from the towns if they don’t want it and restore the drier areas of the National Parks that are all along that route. Eventually, even Adelaide gets it at the other end, taking the pressure of desal that far down.

You could only do this with the cheap marginal power and desal that nuclear power could provide and you have an engineering project to remind people of the Snowy River scheme — only this time, we’re restoring a river system rather than obliterating it. We’re doing the Australian dream of watering the dry heart and doing food security. And we would be doing it on near zero emissions.

An iconic project like that would be very popular, I’d say.


Ewen (assuming you’re serious) desalinated water is orders of magnitude too expensive for agriculture and environmental flows. If I recall reverse osmosis requires about 3.6 kwhe per kilolitre of water and flash desalination about 25 kwh thermal, ie needs ‘free’ waste heat. Real world prices (ie outside Saudi Arabia) for desalinated water start at about $3 per kL. I believe irrigators of high tonnage crops like rice don’t want to pay more than a few cents per kL for their primary allocation.

Outback farming will have other problems like expensive fuel and fertiliser. Logic suggests farming in the suburbs using sewage water and recycled nutrients but the cornucopians will find that hard to swallow, literally.


“Outback farming will have other problems like expensive fuel and fertiliser. Logic suggests farming in the suburbs using sewage water and recycled nutrients but the cornucopians will find that hard to swallow, literally.”

I like the idea of vertical farming powered by nukes, but I don’t know enough to assert that it is practical.


I seem to recall some debate on what the cost per Kl of flash desal was John Newlands. Surely the marginal cost of waste heat from a nuclear plant would not be all that high.

Right now, Perth is quoting $1.40 per Kl IIRC for desal and that is RO. I’m perfectly relaxed with high water use farming not going ahead as I’d like the Darling restored.

My point is that if you could get the water to the towns in the Northern Tablelands and justify the project as Murray Darling restoration then the total water you could deposit into the system would be very substantial over time when you add in the recycled stuff.


I like the way this discussion is heading. We seem to be converging on how to progress. Good posts by Ewen Laver:
and subsequent posts by DV82XL, Finrod, Marion Brook, Ms Perps, greg meyerson (hope I haven’t missed any).

Marion, the figures to fill in the blanks in your post are here:

France is the best and Denmark the worst – 10 times worse than France!!


Ewen Laver and John Newlands, IMO you are drifting off-focus. This thread has been moving towards an agreement. I hope we don’t lose it now.


I think water is the key to constant loading of NP, say when gas is used up or too expensive for peaking power. Excess output not needed for the grid could go on
1) desalination
2) pumped hydro
3) water splitting for industrial hydrogen.

Within limits each of these products can be stored or used some distance from the NPP.


My high school physics teacher wanted me to become a nuclear engineer as he said the NPPs would generate power that was “too cheap to meter”.

Even at age 17 I knew this was crazy talk so I went into electro-optics which has created inter-continental video phone calls that are “too cheap to meter”

I suspect that if my physics teacher had predicted what has actually happened in telecommunications I would have reacted by becoming a nuclear engineer.


“too cheap to meter” was uttered by one Lewis Strauss then chairman of the AEC, in reference to fusion not fission. At any rate he got the job because he was a consummate lickspittle, being little more than an ex-travelling shoe salesman that suckholed his way into high places.

He had no idea what he was talking about.


Gallopingcamel is an anti-AGW troll. I daresay his only purpose in wading into the nuclear power issue is to attempt to oppose it for his FF masters. We have a good high-level strategic discussion going on here, and do not require his input.


Finrod – I’m not exactly onboard with the AGW emergency and my livelyhood is funded from fossil fuels. That doesn’t make my interest in nuclear power less than genuine. I don’t think nuclear advocates can be too choosy about who they allow into their club. Careful what you wish for.


I’ve begun a list of supporters. Most are on the left. Can anyone add some from the right who are not known AGW deniers?

Nuclear power has broad bipartisan support

Supporters of nuclear power come from all walks of life and from across the political spectrum. They including environmentalists, climate scientists, union leaders, politicians and business leaders. By way of example, here is a list of prominent identities who have come support nuclear power as our surest response to climate change.

Barry Brook, Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, University of Adelaide, AUS
Tim Flannery, zoologist, conservationist and author of The Weathermakers, AUS
Paul Howes, Australian workers union
Bob Carr – Former NSW Labor Premier
Peter Cosgrove – Former Chief of the Defence Force
Stephen Tindale, Former Director of Greenpeace UK
Chris Goodall, UK Green Party member
Mark Lynas, Environment editor New Statesman (and UK Green Party member?),
George Monbiot (?), Jouralist for the The Guardian
Stewart Brand, editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, USA
James Hansen, Head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, popularly know as the grandfather of climate science.


“Finrod – I’m not exactly onboard with the AGW emergency and my livelyhood is funded from fossil fuels. That doesn’t make my interest in nuclear power less than genuine. I don’t think nuclear advocates can be too choosy about who they allow into their club. Careful what you wish for.”

I understand you TereP, but this particular jackass has form.


Excelent. Thanks for that link Peter.

Re “what’s so good about renewables” I’m going with:

Renewables are fast – Denmark v’s France example

Renewables are affordable – Anyone know how much we’ve spent thus far on wind/solar?

Renewables are safe – Dangerously inadequate response to climate change. Our blind faith in renewables is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.

This is just so you know I’m still working on it. I really want to get this page happening.


You tend to shoot from the hip while jumping to conclusions. My “Fossil Fuel” masters are the same as yours. We love the freedom that owning motor cars brings. I gladly cough up my precious dollars to the wicked FF industry every time I fill up my car; I bet that you do too!

Likewise you could not be more wrong about my position on AGW. You react irrationally when I challenge the proposition that mankind has the ability to significantly influence climate.

I was involved in inertial confinement fusion research but now see greater promise in LFTRs and sub-critical nuclear reactors. I would be happy to participate in a “high level strategic discussion” with you if you can stop the purile name calling.


I think BNC has moved well away from trying to judge people’s preconceptions or predilections. Let’s all stick to rational, evidence-based discussion and try not to make personal or political judgments about fellow commenters.



IMO, one of the problems in taking people along with us to consider nuclear power is its apparent standing as “a geeky idea”. Unlike coal plants or wind turbines — which almost everyone gets conceptually — large numbers of people don’t get how a nuclear plant produces power. And as soon as you start explaining the subtleties between an LWR and a “breeder” or various NPP many people start feeling just a bit more stupid. Once it becomes more opaque and magic-like it’s fart easier to believe negative reports about NPP.

At best, for some, it’s like saying Linux is better than Microsoft. Maybe it is but you can’t explain why and there is a vague sense of risk that you could be left unable to do simple things is you switch over.

That’s why I think part of what we do should be about explaining specific challenges for which the energy from nuclear would be very useful. Instead of wondering whether nuclear power is a good idea, you invite people to reflect on what we could accomplish if we had nuclear power plants.

Wouldn’t it be good to replace the dirtiest power plant in the world with the cleanest? Wouldn’t it be great if we could restore the Murray Darling River system and the riparian ecology beside it?

Maybe we could have a section where people discuss the uses to which we could advantageously apply the technology. We could maybe entitle it:

Of course, there’s always the nuclear option …


Apology accepted. My interest in sub critical nuclear reactors started with the prototype that Charlie Bowman built out of black pine and graphite on his farm in Virginia. The black pine with its high water content is good at reflecting thermal neutrons. The graphite that Charlie uses has especially low neutron capture that is useful in conjunction with spallation neutron sources.

We tested the reactor as far as we could before sending it on to Los Alamos National Laboratory. Subsequently, the project found its way to Virginia Tech:

Click to access 091007_chang_virginia_tech.pdf

As you will see from L.N. Chang’s brief presentation, the reactor may have a role in reprocessing higher Actinides if the cost of neutrons falls sufficiently. The SNS (Spallation Neutron Source) at Oak Ridge has been a major advance in the economics of neutron production.


OK gallopingcamel, I have some questions, but I’ve just been given a bunch of painkillers by the nurse, so I’ll wait before I ask them. My mental processes are a bit hazy just now.


gallopingcamel: I don’t expect to convince people who haven’t tried it … but I think freedom is enhanced when you aren’t dependent on petrol. And pure pleasure is an 80km cycle through the Adelaide Hills.



You’ve got some great ideas flowing. This is very encouraging.

What we need to do from here is flesh them out a bit. To do this I would suggest a narrowing of focus. Choose just one (or one small part) of your ideas and follow it through to completion. I’m not talking about a 1000 word main post here, just a simple outline, say 200 words or less, with some “eye opening” facts or figures and links to more fulsome information. So for example:

Of course, there’s always the nuclear option …

Q. Wouldn’t it be good to replace the dirtiest power plant in the world with the cleanest?

A. (why do we need nuclear to do that?) I’d suggest pointing out Germany’s new coal builds and thus failure to replace a single coal plant with renewables. Link to Tom Blees piece on Germany and Peter Langs Hazlewood post.


John Morgan

I’m looking for a comment of yours which was (I think) in response to Peter Lalor. It was a wonderfully concise run down of the ecological consequences of inadequately mitigated climate change because of an unwillingness to except nuclear power. You ended by asking him what his “no nuclear”solution would be. I thought it was on open thread 3 or 4 but can’t seem to find it. Do you remember?


Marion, I recall I’ve made similar points a number of times to various correspondents here. I think I put it best in this response to John Tons.

I also responded in a similar vein here to Salient Green.

Thanks for recalling this, its nice to know someone was paying attention.


Geoff Russell,
I used to love my bicycle but arthritis has taken the fun out of it even though I consume large amounts of fish oil (there was a recent thread on Omega 3/ Omega 6 fatty acids).

The best I can do these days is to scoot around in my electric car open to the breeze! Enjoy the bicycle while you still can.

Good luck with the painkillers. There is no rush as Sub-Critical reactors are progressing slower than ever since the departure of Pete Domenici from the US senate.


In terms of public advocacy on climate change, a strategy that comes to mind relates to the next El Nino event. I understand that these occur on average every five years. The last event in was the 2007-2008. It would be good if the scientists in this field were to make some predictions on the possible severity of the next event if as this could be the worst event in terms of temperature extremes, droughts and hurricanes. We could start warning people of it now and draw attention to the predictions when it happens. This next event could be the most strategic in making people aware of what is happening in terms of climate change.

(In line with what I have said previously, I would prefer that that agenda for governance was set by long-term importance rather than by stunts that attract attention, but that is the political situation we are in.)


Peter Lang/ Ewen et al

Re the video link – what a great job the young girl did!

My thoughts (and Marion’s) are that we initially get together a FAQ page for BNC (I’ve checked that it is OK with the blog owner). This could also include links to the less technical of Barry’s posts, and to his talks, media articles etc. Also we could link to video (such as the one Peter listed) throughout the net (I am a retired reference librarian so I could do the searches). It would be good to produce our own YouTube series – Nuclear Crock of the Week (as Climate Crock of the Week)- tackling a different question/worry each time but I don’t have the skills for that – Does anyone else have the inclination/skills?

We could also have an growing list of prominent nuclear supporters and a button to click if the reader supports nuclear power after reading the FAQ etc. No “Yes” – “No” buttons as we would likely be swamped by anti-nuke bots, once the word was out. Marion and I are getting together to try and nut out something more concrete which Barry has agreed to post for your input, comments etc. This could be really worthwhile and productive – once we had the page set up on BNC we could look at doing the same for the social networking sites.

What do you all think?


I think that if you want to reach the masses you need to be on facebook and YouTube. Especially the latter if you can be somewhat entertaining in your approach (ie not too dry).


John Morgan

Yes, the Jonn Tons response was the one I was thinking of. Both were powerful posts though. Thank you.


Barry Brook ought to be a presenter at TED. I think he has the talent and material to do a good TED talk. And TED talks often go viral.


Ms Perps and Marion,

I think your ideas are excellent. I will do what I can to help.

TerjeP, I agree, TED talks do go viral, especially if they are exciting and factual like Hans Gossling’s (spelling?). Do you remember him talking like a sports commentator about China and USA (or some other county) racing up the chart (improving GDP and Health) like a car race between Volvo and Saab (or similar)? I could see Barry doing something like that to explain why we need nuclear and renewables won’t do the job. I can picture the renewables like a car running out of petrol, or an electric car’s battery running flat because it wasn’t fed by the windmills. And picture Gen III as a father figures and Gen IV as a son. The father educating the son when young then they work together for most of their life and then the son supports the father as he gets old and eventually dies. There’s lots could be done with the TED idea – getting the facts across in a way that will be remembered by the viewers.


Hans is awesome selling the gapminder data. However if Barry was to do a TED talk he would have to find his own style. Trying to be somebody else isn’t a good look. However it does need to be interesting. And the time limit on these things is tight. 20 minutes I believe.


The way I see it Marion, whatever we propose taliking about should at least be iconic and ideally existential if it is to get a bandwagon going.

Putting aside the existential fear of our long unprotected northern borders, with which nuclear doesn’t help us, the biggest existential question this country has is the big dry heart. Australians never got over the fact that ther was no “great inland sea” — that at our heart was a wasteland. (I’m not saying it is a wasteland — this is the common perception — implicit even in The Greens‘ zero rating of land in the desert for renewable projects).

Thus, watering the interior — especially the Murray Darling/MIA — is something that would be seen as nation-building . If nuclear can do that, then a lot of people will think it a fabulous thing. It won’t be a geek idea, — it will be the realisation of a dream — a green interior.


Putting aside the existential fear of our long unprotected northern borders, with which nuclear doesn’t help us,…

Oh I don’t know. A few hundred tactical nukes would make anyone think twice about an invasion,,,


Ewen, I think your ideas are great. Write them up and send them to Barry we’ll include them in the post.

Peter, thanks for your encouragement. I’d appreciate your help with this:

Some sweeping statements for contributors to counter (or add to)

Renewables are failing us

They are not replacing coal and gas. – Despite valiant attempts by several countries non-hydro renewables have not managed to replace a single fossil fuel power station world wide.

They are reinforcing the building of new fossil fuel plants, especially gas, as “back-up”.

They are not reducing emissions. The countries in the EU with the highest renewable penetration all fall within the top 50% of CO2 emitters the countries with the highest nuclear power penetration all fall in the bottom half.

For no good cause…

The disadvantaged in our society are already hurting from rising electricity prices… for no good cause.

(Heard this on the news the other night) Peak electricity prices in Australia are forecast to rise from 8c per kWh to 42c perKWh within the next X years hitting middle income earners… for no good cause.

Centrally controlled smart meters are removing consumer autonomy and disavantaging some of our most vuneralble citizens… for no good cause

I’m spending the day with daughter, be back on line tonight.


“Oh I don’t know. A few hundred tactical nukes would make anyone think twice about an invasion,,,”

Of course, we already effectively have that via our alliance with the USA.


And also, DV8 the threat is not merely from a formal invasion but from informal arrivals …

Marion. I will work on putting something together along the lines I suggested. I will aim it at around 200 words.


I accept that DV8 but this is a bit like someone making a joke on a plane about having a bomb in his shoe. People tend to see the ugly side first. This joke puts your finger on the most serious objection people on both sides of the divide hold about nuclear power — in this case starting an arms race with Indonesia.

Back on topic …

When I’m composing something I like to think of my audience and what they need to hear about. As I see my audience, it would be composed mainly of people sympathetic to a green perspective — people who would see protecting the environment as falling on a line between the iconic and existential — and putting them together with people who think of watering the interior as intrinsically good. These latter would include a large number of people on the right. Especially on the right, it doesn’t get any more authentically Australian than being on the land and “from the bush”. The Murray Darling is the setting for much of Australian lore. Crossing the Blue Mountains to “discover” the interior in 1813 was the first step towards being something other than a penal colony. Put together the people whose eyes well up when reciting Banjo Patterson with those who want to protect riparian environments and you have a pretty large group of people who won’t care what the project costs and who, thinking of the Snowy River scheme, won’t like being unfavourably compared with those who made that happen. And one suspects that the people of Adelaide would be damned happy too. My pitch might go something like this:

We all know that the Murray Darling is dying and with it much of what is integral to this country’s history and ecology. Anthropogenic climate change will snuff it out forever long before the governments of the world will do what it takes to stabilise climate and return temperatures to where they were when it was at its most healthy. Thinking globally is admirable, but just not quick enough. We need to ask ourselves: what can we do locally to preserve the Murray Darling ecosystem for future generations while the governments of the world are dithering. How much do we want to save it?

Fortunately, the problem is quite a simple one, at least in engineering terms. Due mainly to climate change and the associated drought conditions, nowhere near enough water is flowing into the streams feeding the river system. If we can move water to the headwaters of the river, then we can duplicate the flows that normal rainfall would have produced.

Where can we get this water? The most obvious source that doesn’t steal from aquifers — effectively robbing Peter to pay Paul — is the ocean. Just 200 km or so from the head waters of the Dumaresq River, near Ballina lies the Pacific Ocean.

Desalinating and moving water is an energy-intensive operation and if we had to do this using conventional thermal power sources, the GHGs associated with this would be very high. If we tried doing this with renewables the cost would be huge per kilolitre of water produced and moved.

Fortunately, there is a far better and cheaper option — nuclear power. Nuclear power plants are most efficient when they run at their capacity continually. Because of the enormous energy in nuclear fuel compared with coal during the evenings when demand for power declines there is little point in slowing the plant to save money. The marginal cost of the power is tiny. If the heat within a nuclear power plant were used to desalinate water, and the electrical output used to operate pumps to deliver it to the Dumaresq River 200Km away, then the Pacific Ocean would be supplying the Darling River and all of the communities along the path between Ballina and Adelaide all of it at a CO2-intensity perhaps 1-5% of that of coal.

We could be the generation that saves the Murray Darling and the National Parks along its route from a slow and painful death, and which makes it viable for people to live outside the major cities in large numbers. This could be this generation’s Snowy River Scheme. We would be guaranteeing this country’s food security and the survival of our greatest river system and its ecology.

Do we have the courage and the will to do this?


“This joke puts your finger on the most serious objection people on both sides of the divide hold about nuclear power — in this case starting an arms race with Indonesia.”

Are you serious???


Ian Lowe raised this in his section of the Why vs Why book, but I never even bothered to respond to it in my rejoinder as I took it to be one of the more hysterical and incredible aspects of his argument. Following the reducto ad absurdum line, should we (Australia) be motivated to acquire a bomb when Indonesia starts to deploy nuclear power reactors, as they’ve stated is their intention? See also:


I guess many of you have already seen this – but for those who haven’t…….

Love your idea Ewan – I feel “Saving the Murray with nuclear power” could generate heaps of media coverage
an appeal to people from all sides of politics not just the Greens.


Yes I am serious Finrod. People on both sides of the politcal divide are bothered by Indonesia getting nuclear power precisely because they are frightened in general at Indonesia. Much of Australia’s regional foreign policy is based around maintaining good relations with them and Austalian going nuclear is discussed in this context.

Our interlocutor BilB was the most recent to raise this scare.


I see I must remain engaged in this debate, even after a major victory which sees the N92 agenda being recognised as the common sense approach. Apparently eventually recognising common sense and being able to initially apply it are still two different things.

SE Asia will sooner or later go nuclear, and our abstinence will not delay this. We should go nuclear ASAP, and spurious “arms race” scare stories from anti-nukes are just that. Why in the world are you giving this issue any credence at all?


Marion and Ms Perps,

Here is a quick contribution for the FAQ. It’s intended as a draft for others to pull apart, build on. or discard. Obvioulsy it would need links to sources to support the statements.

Why Nuclear?

Why do we need nuclear power? Won’t Renewables provide our needs?


Renewables are very expensive and cannot meet our needs all the time

Is nuclear energy safe?


Nuclear is about the safest of all the electricity generation technologies.

Nuclear is 10 to 100 times safer than coal electricity generation.

This has been demonstrated by 55 years of nuclear electricity generation.

New nuclear power stations are even safer – much safer.

What about the waste?

It is not waste. It is ‘once-used-nuclear-fuel’. We’ve used about 1% to 10% of the energy so far. We will use the rest of the energy in the future.

Used fuel is stored safely in containers like this: .This is all the ‘once-used-nuclear-fuel’ from 31 years of power generation from a now decommissioned power station.

The amount of used fuel is miniscule compared with the waste from fossil fuel power stations, much of which far more toxic and lasts forever.

What about nuclear weapons proliferation?

The military will do what the military will do. They make their own weapons if they feel they need to. Civil nuclear power is not a precursor to nuclear weapons.

Is there enough uranium?


There is enough uranium to provide all the world’s energy indefinitely

Does nuclear emit more CO2 than renewables


Nuclear emits far less CO2 than any other electricity generation technology, or mix of technologies, that can meet our demand for electricity.

Wind power emits roughly the same as nuclear if we ignore the emissions from the back up generators. When we include the them, wind power emits about the same as efficient gas generation.

Is nuclear energy expensive?

Yes and No.

It is expensive when regulatory environment makes it so (such as in USA, Canada and Europe).

However, it can be the least cost electricity where there is a ‘level playing field’ for all types of electricity generation.


Thanks Peter for your time and effort. Just the sort of direct answers needed for the FAQ – we can find some links I’m sure. After Marion and I have worked together this Thursday(using the input so far) we will get up a post which can be commented on, added to etc by BNC contributors before we ask Barry to put it on BNC as the FAQ page. More comments guys, please:)


Note that for the first time, the neocon (in case of doubt) Lowy Institute in Sydney recently polled citizens of the Rupert Murdochracy in 2010 on their attitude to nuclear weapons, among other things (Murdochracy: term used by John Pilger)

Why Lowy included this nuclear question in their annual poll in 2010 is not clear, nor does the PDF poll report say why, if you take a look.

84% polled were against AU getting nuclear weapons; that figure fell to a bit over 50% once the questioner asked what they would want to do if some other nearby country acquired them.

There is a podcast of a Lowy panel “discussing” the poll results. This spin exercise included the neocon Bush Family adherent and paid scribbler Miranda Devine, and neocon John Howard’s ex-chief of staff. However, the figure of 84% was not discussed at all, nor was the question about nukes itself. Possibly the Lowy neocons had been hoping for a lower figure to seize on.

A Sky News bimbo-hack attended this “discussion” and as you may hear, posed what passes for a question. Sky is 38% owned by News Int. i.e. Murdoch, a good friend of Netanyahu among others, so she was merely “doing her job”.

BNC lurkers working for DFAT or other AU services might well say that the first step to to rolling out civilian NPPs in the Murdochracy would be to strike fear of Indon. acquiring nukes into the populace, which is however easier said than done, even though the other propaganda stalwarts, viz. Lust, Greed and Hate are difficult to operationalise in this case.

As Israeli-Australian property magnate Lowy is worth AUD 6.3 bn at last report, there may be some deep pockets for any attempt to spin Indon acquisition of NPPs as aggression requiring more fabric on the US nuclear umbrella.


OK Ewen, you see where the “Oh no! A nuclear Indonesia!” issue leads us… it leads to Peter Lalor making a convenient link between civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Best we dismiss this for the spurious nonsense it is.

We could gain quite a bit by cooperating with Indonesia in civilian nuclear power… maybe a deal could be arranged over the next few years…


Weapons proliferation is such a non-issue in the nuclear power debate, and so easily countered it is barely worth mentioning. I particularly like Peters treatment:

What about nuclear weapons proliferation?
The military will do what the military will do. They make their own weapons if they feel they need to. Civil nuclear power is not a precursor to nuclear weapons.


I was not giving it credence Finrod. I was merely giving DV8 a heads up on how such jokes play when handed to the dissembling enemies of nuclear power.

Of course we should assist Indonesia to acquire nuclear power, not the least reason being that it would make eschewing nuclear power here look even sillier.


Ewen, I ran your idea past a couple of people today. I watched their mouths drop open and eyes light up as the possibilities of abundant affordable power began to sink in. Worth a main post perhaps?


@Laver, M Brook, Finrod, Lang etc:

“proliferation is a non-issue in the nuclear power debate”

Dream on. It beggars belief that BNC nerds seem to exist in a parallel universe to that of the Iran-N Korea-Burma Angst which is drummed up by NPT signatories and their press organs. But then no security analyst from DFAT or Int. Crisis Group ever writes on BNC to enlighten you about power politics.

Ever considered that US and helpful Aussie Diggers in Central Asia also means control of Kazakh uranium vis-a-vis China with its NPP programme, by the way, and not just control of natgas and oil in the region?

Just because a bomb is difficult to build even once one has enriched what is needed to 90% and over, a development that is readily apparent, this does not mean that the NPT powers cannot spin proliferation fears to preserve their privileged status. And that is what you are up against if you want NPPs.

And any time any Pakistani talks of the Indian NPP programme, he uses the word “safeguards”, ie he is (apparently genuinely) bothered about enrichment. If you don´t believe it, check out the Lowy Institute vodcast of early 2010 involving senior men from India, AU, USA, China and Pakistan during a Sydney panel discussion.

And is not the proliferation-weak modus operandi of the IFR supposed to be a USP, unique selling point of the IFR? It still was when I read Blees’ book at end-2009.

By the way, what an interesting, (ie comprehensively and neoliberally bankrupt) concept of democratic control via elected parliamentarians is implied in P Lang’s and M Brooks’ statement: “the military do what the military will do.”
Still, it fits Lang’s neocon politics hand in glove.


Thanks Marion

Here are some questions (in no particular order) I’d like to obtain more clarity on before writing a more substantial piece:

1. What would be the highest elevation on the most suitable route between Ballina and the source of the Dumaresq River?
2. How far is it in practice from Ballina to the source?
3. What capacity pipes and pumps would we need to do the job of stocking the river?
4. Roughly what would it cost to install this and how long should it take?
5. How much thermal capacity would we need to do the desal required and if this is what we were aiming to do, what changes to the design of the nuclear plant would be implied?
6. What actual or potential commercial usages for water would exist along the most likely route?

Looks like I have some homework …


Actually, given that another source of the Darling is the Severn River near Lyra and Sundown in QLD, it might be better to make this to dump point.

By road, Lyra is only 222km. The route to the Dumaresq and the Severn both take in the major towns, Lismore and Casino, but the Severn is 55km closer. A more direct route through some state forests would shorten this still further (perhaps trimming 25 or 30 km off the route), though this might be less politically acceptable.

It seems the highest elevations on the straightest route are 1000m though much of it is >600m.


Peter Lalor
I have one thing to say to you re weapons proliferation:
It has worked for the last 65 years and I see no reason it won’t continue to work. Even dictators aren’t silly enough to guarantee their own physical destruction- they are cowards – much better to send thousands of their young people to be slaughtered in a conventional war.


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