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SA government: spruiking nuclear power « Previous | |Next »
March 26, 2011

Reports are emerging that parts of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were so damaged and contaminated that it would be even harder to bring the plant under control soon; that the reactor vessel of the No. 3 unit may have been damaged; and that Japanese officials have begun encouraging people to evacuate a larger band of territory around the complex.

Some Right factional ministers in the Rann Government in South Australia have emerged as cheerleaders for the nuclear industry in Australia. Thus Tom Koutsantonis, South Australia's Minister for Minerals Resources and Development, recently argued to the Paydirt Uranium conference, that it is now necessary to step up to the plate and argue for nuclear power in Australia.

Valdmanuranium.jpg

Koutsantonis, who sees himself as a progressive figure, attacked the hysteria around the effects of radiation, given the safety of nuclear reactors in Japan. There were no deaths from radiation, he said, unlike the thousands of deaths from the earthquake and the tsunami. South Australia, in his view, should be enriching uranium within 10-30 years and its storage in South Australia.

This is the nuclear industry's spin: it is good newsstory. Despite the events in Japan, nuclear is a safe, affordable and “clean” energy source that does not spew harmful carbons into the environment or rely on foreign producers.

Often the enframing of the issue of whether Australia should have nuclear power is in terms of nuclear power, or it’s climate change. Many of those who defend nuclear power accept this frame, and do so without arguing for why the debate should be enframed this way, given the emergence of renewable energy industry (solar, wind geothermal)into the energy mix.

A classic example is Kevin Foley, the ex -Treasurer of SA, who quickly came out and backed Koutsantonis' call for uranium enrichment and advocated domestic nuclear power: mine it, enrich it, store the by-product, produce energy, and store the waste. South Australian governments have a long history of spruiking for a nuclear power plant in SA (Port Augusta, SA has been mentioned in the past).

Now the Labor' Right's justification for Australia going nuclear is that it is the only realistic way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They reckon it is inevitable, and presumably, they want the commonwealth to subsidize it's construction and the costs of waste management and storage. BP Billiton sure ain't going to build an uranium-enrichment-industry-in-SA on its own. The Labor Right say it will even create new jobs! Oh, and they add when pressed, that the liability of nuclear power plants would need to be limited should a catastrophe like the one in Japan happen here in Australia.

The best that can be said of this event is that the SA Labor Party is now officially divided, and that many Labor politicians on the Right have supported, and continue to support, the nuclear industry.

It's a strange time to let the cat out of the bag that the SA Government is behind the push to spruik nuclear power in South Australia, since reports from Japan indicate that there are now abnormal levels of radiation in milk, some vegetables, tap water, sea water and sea food. You would think that they'd be less hairy chested and show more concern for the plight of the Japanese people especially the workers inside the plant who are sacrificing themselves.

My own view is that the nuclear industry is a snake-oil culture of habitual misrepresentation, pervasive wishful thinking, deep denial, and occasional outright deception. For more than 50 years, it has habitually lied about risks and costs while covering up every violation and failure it could. We have seen this once again around the Fukushima disaster.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:20 PM | | Comments (15)
Comments

Comments

Re the subsidy bit.

It's a scenario we all know well: private corporations take away profits when things go well, and taxpayers assume responsibility when shit happens.

"My own view is that the nuclear industry is a snake-oil culture of habitual misrepresentation, pervasive wishful thinking, deep denial, and occasional outright deception. For more than 50 years, it has habitually lied about risks and costs while covering up every violation and failure it could."


Yep.
Nice summary.

Its been ignored by the media and nuke spruikers that this is not the first time tectonic activity has caused radiation leaks in Japan.
Similarly other accidents, sorry 'incidents', have been ignored such as the recent Swedish example where leaking went on for 3 years before it was discovered.

One day, maybe, perhaps possibly, someone will discover a safe way of storing nuclear waste for the requisite millenia.
Until then, cos it hasn't happened yet, the whole industry should be mothballed.

fred,
it won't be mothballed. The state is behind it in the UK, France, US and Japan. Despite the spruiking by the SA Government, economics will probably prevent the industry from developer in Australia.

If Koutsantonis is anywhere as cavalier with nuke safety as he is with road safety, I'd move immediately from any location where a nuke is installed under his aegis, pronto!

This is the nuclear industry's spin is good news: despite the events in Japan, nuclear is a safe, affordable and “clean” energy source that does not spew harmful carbons into the environment or rely on foreign producers. It’s nuclear power, or it’s climate change.

Given that I have nothing whatever to do with the nuclear industry, in what conceivable way is my linked post the nuclear industry's spin?

I am an independent academic and thinker on sustainable energy who cannot see a pathway to decarbonisation without the large-scale use of nuclear energy. To take that conclusion, and wrap it up in an inference of 'industry spin', is frankly offensive. A number of people have done that to me in the past few weeks, and it should stop.

I have never taken 1 cent from the nuclear or uranium industries, and never will. I value my independence.

Barry,
my sincerest apologies.

I did not intend that the post would say, or imply, that you were a spruiker for the nuclear industry--the post was meant to point the finger at just Koutsantonis and Foley and the SA Government--to point to how their rhetoric does not rest on arguments and to highlight how callous they are.

I have read you blog and under no circumstances would I say that you were a spruiker. I accept that you are an independent academic and thinker on sustainable energy who cannot see a pathway to decarbonisation without the large-scale use of nuclear energy. I even find your arguments of sufficient strength or plausibility that they need to be engaged with.

I concur that the core issue is to provide base power without relying on coal fired power stations and that this creates a problem for renewable energy, as it is currently constituted. However, I am not as convinced as you that the politics and economics in Australia would allow nuclear power to be the answer to the baseload problem.

What I should have said in the paragraph of the post that linked to your excellent weblog is that the issue of whether Australia should have a nuclear power is being framed in terms of 'It’s nuclear power or it’s climate change', and given you as example of someone who defines the issue in terms of this frame.

However, in re-reading the post from your perspective I can see how you would plausibly interpret it the way you did--its inference was that you were a spruiker for the nuclear industry My apologies. I will change the post. I was slack.

If you are still unhappy with the rewritten post let me know and I will rework it again.

Why not just write some thing praising nukes?

Paul,
I'm opposed to nuclear power in its current technological form. Barry Brook is talking in terms of a new technological form.

I do think that the question of baseload power to replace coal -fired power stations is a problem that needs to be addressed. So what options do we have? Can these options deliver what is needed?

I do find Brook's 'Its nuclear power, or it’s climate change' too starkly dualistic. He says you can have fossil fuels, or two alternatives: nuclear power and hydroelectricity. Well no, as you can have a mix of other energies --eg., solar, wind, geothermal.

Brook says:

What of the solar and wind dream? I sure hope they work out, and can provide a lot more energy for us in the future. But history is not on their side. No country has displaced its fossil fuel fleet in the past by using these energy sources, for a number of practical engineering and economic reasons. One has to be an extreme optimist to imagine that this reality – this lesson of history – is going to miraculously change in the coming decades.

We are only at the start of an infant renewable industry in Australia. The investment money is not being put into research and implementation in Australia. Why? Politics. The states are too locked into coal.

It looks as if the overall radiation readings at the plant are high and increasing. This suggests a leak from the reactor’s fuel rods — from either the suppression chamber under the rods or various piping — or even a breach in the pressure vessel that houses the rods. This looks to be the No 2 reactor. It raises the possibility of large amounts of radiation finding their way into the environment.

Two of the plant's six reactors are considered safe, having achieved "cool shutdown", but the remaining four have yet to be brought under control.

Thanks Gary, much appreciated. I guess my skin is a little thin right now after having it abraded so regularly over these last two weeks!

Barry,
good oh.

public debate on hot public topics in Australia focuses on (partisan) politics not the policy issues. These get ignored. Its one of the central complaints against the Canberra Press Galley.

The radioactive core in reactor 2 at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor below, experts say.

This raises fears of a major release of radiation at the site.They are detecting water outside the containment area that is highly radioactive and it can only have come from the reactor core.

Perhaps they are under the impression that the Brine (waste product) from the Desalination Plants could be used to cool a Reactor Core.

What the SA Government ministers don't point to is that both the Japanese Government and Tokyo Electric were warned of the possibility of the events happening but they did nothing about it to protect the Fukishima nuclear plant.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/29/japan-lost-race-save-nuclear-reactor

"The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor, experts say, raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site."