Draft Australian energy review fails to convince nuclear critics (I am shocked, shocked, I tell you)
Monsters and Critics published an article on November 25, 2006 titled Draft nuclear report fails to convince. I am not surprised. There are plenty of critics of nuclear power that have invested too much of their careers in opposition to the technology – the chance of them changing their mind is essentially nil. It does not matter what facts are introduced or how much “education” pro-nuclear activists perform.
Here is an example of the attitudes that we face in some arguments:
“While ever I’m premier, there will not be nuclear power stations in New South Wales,” said Morris Iemma, premier of Australia’s most populous state leading the criticism of the taskforce’s findings. “We have legislation in place that bans them, and we’re not changing that at all,” he said to ABC national radio.
As I have pointed out on a number of occasions (do a search of this blog for “smoking gun”) there are strong economic reasons why the coal industry and its supporters will continue fighting nuclear power – its success reduces the demand for their product and increases the possibility that the environmental standards associated with burning coal will be tightened. Pay careful attention to quotes like the following and try to read between the lines.
Dr Mark Diesendorf, Director of the Sustainability Centre at the University of New South Wales, called the inquiry’s report “biased” and contended that renewable energy would be able to provide clean, baseload power to Australian consumers by 2050.
“The study that my colleagues and I did show that we could have half of our electricity produced from renewable sources by the same period of time, without nuclear power, without even so-called ‘clean coal’,” said Dr Diesendorf to The World Today radio program.
“…setting up this whole thing as a debate between coal and nuclear is a really false premise. With energy efficiency and renewable energy, we could halve our greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and we could go on from there.
Like several other Australian states, New South Wales has a large and profitable coal mining industry. According to a March 2003 report on the NSW Department of Primary Industries Minerals web site the coal industry employes more than 10,000 people, brings in more than $4.8 Billion in export revenue, and supplies more than 90% of the electricity in the state.
It is no surprise at all for a director of a center at a state supported university to have a somewhat biased view of such a major industry, and it is no surprise at all that Dr. Diesendorf does not openly state that he is a fossil fuel supporter. It is much more acceptable for him to call his center a “Sustainability Centre” and to advocate energy efficiency. (There is an interesting list of clients of the Sustainability Centre at the University of New South Wales posted at Clients & Collaborators)
I initially interpreted Dr. Diesendorf’s statement as implicit support for the status quo of nearly complete dependence on coal – wind and solar power are diversions that CANNOT possibly supply reliable, abundant power that meets consumer demands.
However, after reading more about NSW and the work of the Sustainability Centre, it might also be possible to interpret the stated position as one that favors increased production and use of natural gas to displace some of the coal burning – it is somewhat cleaner and it is produced and distributed by a number of the clients and collaborators of the Centre.
It is also much more lucrative for the purveyors of natural gas if it does not have to compete against emissions free nuclear power plants operating on low cost, indigenously produced uranium fuel. Since NSW has laws in place that prohibit uranium mining and even exploration, its businesses could not compete as potential suppliers for those plants.
The unreliability of wind would probably make the slowly responding coal power plants less than optimal for backing them up while faster responding gas fired plants can respond faster to the wind going away.
It could well be that the plan of the fossil fuel industry is to have coal baseload with gas backing up the wind that is used to keep nuclear from getting rid of the fossil fuel industry.
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