One of the themes that I continue to pursue is the fact that the established energy industry has the means, motive and opportunity needed to be a silent partner in the anti-nuclear enterprise. When I bring up this topic at nuclear industry gatherings, I am often met with either silence or vocal disagreement. Many of my fellow engineering types cannot shake the illogical belief that the anti-nuclear movement is led by anti-technology leftists who want the world to be starved of necessary energy resources so that we can return to a simpler existence.
Unlike them, I know quite a few professional Environmentalists; many of them like their big screen TV’s, use computers many hours each day, and even drive SUVs or high powered sports cars. They travel by air, take cruises, and have vacation homes. In other words, many of them live a regular middle to upper middle class, high energy consumption US lifestyle.
Another ding that I get when I try to logically persuade my colleagues that oil, coal and gas interests may be the real powers behind anti-nuclear activities – either in providing the funds needed for overt protests or in hamstringing the industry with regulations or outright restrictions, they tell me that I need proof.
My protestations that circumstantial evidence should be sufficient do not hold enough weight with these technical types. They hear fossil industry people say apparently okay things about how nuclear energy is part of the mix or should be considered for future use and they believe that those people support nuclear endeavors. (I consider many of the statements made by industry leaders or their government supporters as falling into the category of “damning with faint praise.”)
I guess what they want me to do is to find fossil industry people out leading a visible battle against a specific project.
Occasionally, I do come across some evidence that gets close to that standard. My plan is to post that material on the blog with titles beginning with “Smoking gun”. As time goes on, you can find these nuggets grouped together using a simple blog search. I found one such nugget this morning in an article written by Jamie Freed titled Fuel for thought: nuke debate heats up published on Saturday, Jan 14, 2006 in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Here is a quote from the article:
On the other hand, for all of coal’s environmental ills, Australia’s cheap and plentiful supply of the fossil fuel will last the nation hundreds of years.
Coal is also the reason there is a ban on uranium mining in Queensland – its premier, Peter Beattie, believes exporting uranium would undermine its lucrative coal industry.
“There are countries which have to choose between sources for their power stations,” says Beattie’s spokesman, citing Italy as an example. “He [Beattie] is not going to encourage the nuclear industry.”
Notice: here is a government leader, the premier of Queensland, Australia stating through a spokesman that he would not encourage the nuclear industry because it might “undermine its lucrative coal industry.”
I like making money as well as the next guy, but I do not like the idea of governments choosing winners and losers without any analysis. Who says that coal is more lucrative than nuclear power? Where are the numbers and models that support that statement? I will grant that it definitely more lucrative for the people that own coal mines, but even the miners do not benefit that much from the work and most of their skills could translate quite nicely into the far more lucrative nuclear profession.
Right now, the highest paid engineers in the US are nuclear engineers, and even the technicians in the industry can find jobs that pay in the low six figures with a reasonable amount of overtime. In Australia, uranium mining is a very profitable enterprise, especially with current uranium prices.
Building and operating nuclear power plants could be far more profitable than continuing to dig coal out of the ground, carting it around the country in rail cars, burning some of it in power plants and selling some of it into competitive overseas markets. Only real analysis or even some real world testing would answer the question. With government supporters like Mr. Beattie, the coal industry will not have to test itself in a competition – they will just keep uranium off of the field of play.