Thinking Critically About Sustainable Energy (TCASE) is a series of posts I’ve built up over the last year on BNC (and continue to add to). This has also branched off into a live seminar series (described in detail in this post), hosted by the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus), and has proven to be very popular (a packed house each session). So far, we’ve covered new technologies in fossil fuels (including carbon capture and storage), established renewables (e.g. wind, solar), frontier renewables (e.g. engineered geothermal, marine), and, last week, nuclear. In the next session we will cover ‘demand side management and energy storage’ (event #5 on 3 Nov, with guests Craig Oakeshott from AEMO and Glenn Platt from CSIRO), and to cap off the series, energy futures: alternative 2050 visions (event #6 on 8 Dec, with guests Ziggy Switkowski from ANSTO and Peter Seligman from Uni Melbourne). Book your seats for the last two events!
That was just a reminder, however. The main purpose of this post was to highlight the content of TCASE Seminar #4: Interactive discussions about the future of nuclear power, held last Wednesday 8 Oct 2010 at the RiAus. The moderator for this session was Prof Gus Nathan, Director of the Centre for Energy Technology (CET). There were two speakers, Dr Kim Talus from University College London’s School of Energy and Resources, and me (Barry Brook, from University of Adelaide and also a member of the CET). I have to say, I think it was the most enjoyable and worthwhile public event I’ve been engaged with over the last few years. All three speakers/panelists really clicked, the questions and answers (conducted in the style of the gentle art of interrogation) flowed naturally, and the audience was also genuinely engaged.
Now I know people tend to be reluctant to watch videos etc. online, rather than in attendance, but I’d really urge you to take the time and watch this event. It’s something I’m very proud of (and I don’t say this lightly). Moreover, I think it — between my cover talk and the subsequent Q&A sessions — covers most of the major bases of my thinking on nuclear energy as a sustainable energy source and a key solution in the effort to mitigate our current fossil fuel dependence.
In sum there were 3 parts to the event. (click on the images below to download the associated .MOV files).
First, Gus, Kim and I all provide a to-camera introduction to our talks (about 2 minutes each), and then Gus kicks it off with a short context setter (.MP3 audio here):
Next, Kim Talus provides a short talk (13 min long), entitled “Australia’s Nuclear Debate: An International View” (download PPT file here as a PDF). After Kim’s presentation, Gus and I ask Kim some probing questions for about another 12 min (we cover economics, political impediments, what Finland is doing [Kim is Finnish], etc.).
Finally, I give a 17 min talk, “Inexhaustible Fission Energy“. Again, this is followed by a detailed Q&A session amongst the three panelists, which lasts for another 19 min. We cover issues of risk management, international developments and domestic decision making, motivations for opposition to nuclear energy as a climate change solution, and so on.
This panel-driven Q&A sessions were followed up with about 20 min of Q&A with the audience, but I currently don’t have access to the video/audio for this — if I get it, I’ll also post it here. Perhaps those BNC commenters who attended on the night can report on what they thought was important from that final part of the evening.
I hope you find these videos worthwhile. I earnestly believe that we need more public debate on critical 21st century issues like sustainable energy, climate change, good governance etc., but they need to be conducted in formats like this in the future. Nothing beats thoughtful Q&A via ‘gentle interrogation’, as opposed to disconnected polemics that often characterise public ‘debates’. I trust you agree — and if not, tell me why not!