Greenie foot-shooting

Ironic: Their global warming hysteria is giving them something they REALLY hate

Fear of global warming has dramatically reversed Australians' attitude to nuclear energy, with more people supporting nuclear power for the first time. In the past four months, support for nuclear power has risen from just 35 per cent to 45 per cent, and opposition has fallen in the same time from 50 per cent to 40 per cent. But people are still overwhelming opposed to having a nuclear power plant in their backyard.

The Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, is the first survey showing more support for, than opposition to, nuclear power stations in Australia. Previous Newspoll surveys, in May and December last year, had the highest support at 38 per cent and lowest opposition at 50 per cent, with 40 per cent being "strongly opposed".

The key difference in the survey results stems from the question of trying to reduce greenhouse gases. John Howard has been campaigning for a nuclear debate in Australia and ordered a report on nuclear power on the basis of fighting global warming. The Prime Minister has constantly referred to nuclear power as "clean and green" and an option that has to be considered to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. From strong opposition to nuclear power, the balance of opinion has turned to being slightly in favour when linked with cutting greenhouse gas emissions....

Mr Howard has been running a campaign on the benefits of nuclear power in fighting greenhouse gas emissions, although Labor is opposed to nuclear energy. The Government commissioned a study into nuclear options for Australia by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski. Yesterday, Labor launched an extraordinary attack against the integrity of the businessman, claiming he had been put in charge of the nation's nuclear research organisation to campaign for nuclear power.

Opposition industry spokesman Kim Carr said Dr Switkowski could not be trusted as the new chair of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation because he had accepted an invitation to write a report on the prospects for nuclear power. "Once again, Mr Howard has put his own political interests ahead of the nation's, appointing a cheerleader for nuclear power as chair of the board for the nation's only research organisation devoted solely to nuclear science and technology," he said. "There is no doubt Dr Switkowski has qualifications in the area - in nuclear engineering and high-level management - and Labor does not call those into question. "However, Dr Switkowski has also earned his political stripes writing the recent report for the PM recommending that nuclear power is imposed on Australia." ...

Dr Switkowski's interim report found that nuclear energy would not be competitive against coal and gas power for at least a decade, but by the middle of the century the nation could feasibly host 25 nuclear power stations along the eastern seaboard.



1 comment:

  1. Anything with the word 'nuclear' in it has been used for fear mongering on both sides of the fence for so long it's not surprising that there is a certain amount of trepidation associated with it.

    My personal opinion is that nuclear power stations are the in the best interest for Australia simply from the point of maximising our resources. You can get a lot more MW/Hr out of a tonne of uranium than you can out of a tonne of coal. Given that both are finite resources it would make sense to use the former rather than the later.

    The problem comes down to perception and risk factor. Perception in the sense that a lot of people seem to have a problem determining the difference between nuclear weapons and nuclear stations. This leads to the belief that if a nuclear reactor fails it explodes like an atomic bomb. This is not the case in general and I'm pretty sure it has never happened.

    The risk is that a small mistake at a nuclear plant can have far more consequences than a small mistake at a coal fired station. The later could result in a boiler explosion, the former can result in radioactive dust being spread across a large area (see Chernobyl). Although a nuclear explosion is highly unlikely the radiation release when a reactor goes critical and shielding fails can irradiate other things such as dust and pollen which will then spread.

    Luckily in Australia we not only have plenty of uranium to use as fuel but we also have no shortage of open space to protect against such disasters. Our biggest problem would be the electricity distribution network (basically the longer the cable from the power station to the consumer the more power you lose - this makes the delivered power value much less than the generated power value - think of it as a bank fee on transactions, in this case the longer the distance the higher the fee).

    There would be a massive initial infrastructure cost involved to maintain nuclear stations at a safe distance from populated areas. Placing such stations along the eastern seaboard may be good from a short-term economical viewpoint but does increase the potential damage caused by a failure. Placing them around the western border of QLD or in NT and the eastern border of WA would make more sense. You then run into the water requirement problem though (nuclear stations, like their coal based counterparts, simply heat water and use the steam to drive a turbine which actually generates electricity).

    It is a complex problem - it would be nice to concentrate on the facts though and avoid the political/social/agenda driven arguments and analyse it on the facts alone.


    #1: I have worked for the QEC (which became AUSTA and the section I worked for became Stanwell - all of these were, and Stanwell still is, part of the Queensland electricity generation infrastructure) as a control systems engineer and software engineer.

    #2: My politics are far to the left of yours. I consider myself a centrist (or pragmatist depending on your point of view) but if we met up at a pub and had a conversation you'd probably walk away saying 'that bloody lefty'.

    #3: I have never worked at a nuclear station. My knowledge of their operation comes from high school and university physics classes as well as internet research.



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