Climate Change head says nuclear demand not going away anytime soon –

first_imgA pro-nuclear advocate says the serious problems faced by the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant has not killed one member of the public, but has generated a new basis on which much wider debate in Australia and overseas can now take place. Addressing a specially arranged Japan nuclear issues session this afternoon on the first day of the Paydirt 2011 Uranium Conference in Adelaide, Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, University of Adelaide, Professor Barry Brook, said although Fukushima has emerged as a serious Level 5 accident on the international nuclear event scale, it was wrong to call it an ‘accident’ as it was in all effect, an act of God.“While an accident attributed to failures in technology is a different matter, this incident will have the effect of spurring a whole range of discussions in Australia and worldwide,” Professor Brook said. “Ultimately, that is a good thing. The more people make the effort to educate themselves, the better understanding there will be on modern day nuclear technology, the new Generation 3+ and Generation 4 nuclear power plants, and how they link in with climate change mitigation and replacement of fossil fuels.“Anyone who thinks critically about the future of energy supply will inevitably draw the conclusion that nuclear power will be a significant part of our future energy portfolio. This will apply not just in surging economies with huge un-met power demands, such as India and China, but in those countries that need to replace their reliance on carbon-intensive fossil fuels like coal and gas. This includes Australia, unavoidably, as we have a more than 90% reliance on fossil fuels to generate power.”Brook told the crowded auditorium that while the safety of nuclear power is under the spotlight, it had to be remembered that the plants under impact in Japan were the very original Mark 1 commercial plants designed in the 1960s. They were built between 1971 and 1978.“The plants being built today are Generation 3, with the advantage of 40 years of additional technological development, and the next ones are Generation 4. Fukushima represented the very first one of its reactor types to be hit by an earthquake – yet it has managed to contain all of its nuclear fuel. Yes, there have been small radiation releases that do not pose public health risks, but the overall containment has meant it has not gone into full meltdown.“It has not exploded, the whole plant has not dissolved, as mass media would have you believe, into a molten mass – as even back in the 1960s, these plants were built under robust design principles. What we had was a 10-m tsunami that wiped out the multi-back up systems.”Brook said the new breed of reactors that are currently being built in Korea, China, Europe and the US had already taken these problems into account in their passive and engineered design systems. For example, cooling power systems were fully protected and in an emergency, could cool themselves over five days independent of external sources.“The underlying demand for nuclear energy is not going away and countries facing surging power demands will not ultimately be changing their minds about expanding or implementing a nuclear energy cycle. That bodes well for the future of the uranium and nuclear sectors – and for mitigating climate change.”Australian politicians and the national nuclear industry are “joined at the hip” for the moment following the ramifications of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, according to prominent pro-uranium lobbyist, Greg Rudd, who also addressed the first day of the conference. And no politician in their own right is going to champion nuclear power in Australia in this current election cycle – despite the obvious environmental advantages in doing so.“Before the Japan earthquake, I was going to give a breakdown of the various agendas of political players in Australia in relation to the nuclear industry,” said Rudd. “Now of course the reset button has been pressed,” he said. “The blackboard has not so much been wiped clean, but momentarily flipped to send messages to constituent publics all over the world that Japan is a wake-up call.“It will not be business as usual in the nuclear sector, safety must come first and everyone needs to do some hard analysis before we moved forward. In time, the fear of a global meltdown will dim and logic of using nuclear energy as part of the cleaner mix will reassert itself.”But that won’t be happening any time soon, Rudd said. His view is that no democratic government will be wanting to go to the next election in these politically turbulent times on an unequivocal pro-nuclear platform. “There’s an old saying in politics – ‘when in doubt, do nothing’. Time will heal,” Rudd said. “In a couple of years, common sense will begin to return.“I am by no means saying that the nuclear power industry is perfect, but I am saying that over time with human ingenuity and best practice, we can make it as humanely perfect as possible knowing that no endeavour in life is risk-free. Or we can dumb it down – dig more coal out of the ground because its bulk commodity easy, send it to China and India so no children in those places will ever see blue sky by 2050, and pretend somehow that Mother Nature isn’t going to kick our butt down the track with a series of environmental disasters, for not heeding her wake-up calls.”Rudd said one of the most impressive marketing “miracles” he had seen over recent times was the ability of the coal industry to introduce and legitimise the term “clean coal”. And gas is “good” because it is only half as “bad” as coal, Rudd said. “Nuclear has no emissions so that must be ‘too good’ to be true,” he said. “The real issue is not that people don’t believe in zero emissions from nuclear power, they do.“But what the majority of voters do not believe in is the human ability to not make a mistake through greed, incompetence or miscalculation. It is not that people aren’t backing nuclear power, they’re just not backing humanity’s ability to deliver clean nuclear power in a long-term, safe way.”last_img

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