Stale Narratives Need Not Apply

We’ve already had the nuclear debate: why do it again?

The Olympic Dam copper mine in South Australia. By a factor of nearly 50, weightwise.

Since you ask – because we haven’t, actually. This is called begging the question.

Thousands of tonnes of spent fuel rods and radioactive waste are held near nuclear power stations and weapons facilities around the world, with no agreement on long-term storage.

Yet if we dare listen to experienced operators of nuclear power plants, concern over “waste” is completely overblown. It is stored securely, and nobody’s ever been hurt by it.


All the waste from 110 000 000 000 kWh worth of electricity.

As for proliferation, it has been an important issue managed through international cooperation for decades, so it’s well past time for us to discuss it with considerably more sophistication, such as here-in.

The opinion piece continues:

South Australia leads the mainland states in its harnessing of solar and wind energy. Together they supplied more than one-third of the state’s electricity for the whole of last year and all of the state’s power for one working day in September.

Noting the muggy stillness of the evening of February 10th, I happened to check the state-by-state NEM output:

Queensland and New South Wales were burning their dispatchable black coal;


Victoria was doing its baseload proxy with dispatchable brown coal;

And perhaps just as the above sentences were being typed, South Australia’s wind capacity was largely failing to meet the nightly peak in demand, which had to be filled by gas combustion.



And depleted but dispatchable Tasmanian hydro.

Victorian and Tasmanian wind output certainly wasn’t negligible, which indicates a beneficial geographical diversity in the resource. But the fact remains, even if SA wind were greatly expanded as proposed, negligible supply will fail to meet demand on afternoons like February 10th, 2015. It still wouldn’t save hydro capacity, and it would still necessitate the combustion of fossil fuels.

Does it make me “anti-renewables” if I highlight a period of negligible supply in response to this article? Alex Trembath’s piece on technology tribalism examines this question with diligent reference to the climate change challenge:

Tribalism is the biggest problem with clean energy debates today. Support for one technology is often automatically interpreted as opposition to another, and attempts to grapple with any technology’s challenges are dismissed as trolling. Getting past this unproductive tribalism will require civil and honest engagements on the promises and perils of different technological pathways.

The difference is that I focus on what SA wind power positively achieves to mitigate emissions, rather than being some end in itself. I honestly hope for more windy September days – but hope isn’t a plan. The Conversation article carefully avoids any mention of climate change. Are nuclear opponents now downplaying the messages of climate experts, just as they always have for nuclear science experts? This similar party-line opinion piece seems to paint climate change as an excuse used by nuclear advocates. I stress opinion, and I can’t put it clearer than from this 2012 article (with over thirty thousand shares, for what its worth):

The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.

The government’s own focus on carbon reduction should be applauded and we can expect the demonstrated and quite necessary abatement potential of nuclear energy to be a prominent consideration in the Royal Commission – at least for those who actually welcome the process.

No, the debate deserves to be elevated beyond entrenched opposition and rhetorical questions. For further reading, I cannot more highly recommend Luke Weston’s brutal follow up here. There will be a lot of genuine questions for the feet-draggers.



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