More on nuclear

Rant alert: I was going to post this in response to a comment by Ashley on the previous post, but I felt it worth putting in the main flow.

What’s interesting about this is that we picked up the meme on the media radar about a month and a half ago – the odd mention here and there, but nothing significant. Then the US started talking about it. Now Carr.

There are people in the environmental movement that think that nuclear is an option in some circumstances, and believe that the side-effects and potential safety issues are minor compared to the threat of global warming.

This may be true, and that’s why I think a truly informed debate would be good. Problem, in my mind, is two-fold. 1) I don’t think we’ll get a truly informed debate. 2) There are solid alternatives available now (or that are very close to commercialisation) that with a comparitively small kick in terms of funding (possibly less than required for nuclear) would get into the mainstream supply.

The other thing I can’t help think about is that a recent report has identified that we have world-wide wind resources, that are of sufficient power with currently available technologies to supply the world’s current energy consumption more than 30 times over.

With this in mind, the strategy seems sooooooo fucking obvious that you focus on a mix of clean alternative energy sources and efficiency – with a mix of short- and long-term projects. This will take time – years in fact – but it’s a ground-shift that needs to happen in public, business and political thinking.

As the funding and mainstream acceptance of the alternative sources increases, the price will drop and efficiency (of output) will improve. By focusing at the same time on efficiency (using less through process and usage improvements), you reduce the requirement for new power capacity moving forward, therefore making alternative supply even more viable.

Nuclear power is proposed as an “instant” solution, which, of course, is politically expedient, particularly when Carr is under attack on infrastructure issues. The fact is it is not. Nuclear is at best a medium-term solution (meaning, within the next decade). That’s about the same amount of time as it would take to get clean renewables to the point they need to be.

So, if you’re going to invest in a solution with a long-term perspective, which would you choose? This is why balanced and informed debate is needed, but more importantly we need the political will to make it happen.

As an aside, there is a lot of talk about infrastructure in Sydney at the moment. What amazes me is that we are suffering from water shortages that are partly a result of poor environmental management, and yet the immediate knee-jerk response is that the environmental movement is getting in the way of progress in managing infrastructure.

However, the environmental movement will solidly get behind infrastructure projects that also take the environment into proper consideration. Renewable energy and thoughtful water management are key to the success of our infrastructure planning into the future. This is not an impediment – it is a requirement – if our city and state are to remain strong into the future.

It seems the same old mistakes, with worsening consequences, are being played over and over. Will we ever learn?

  • I work for an investment bank and we are working on a large 300 megawatt windfarm 10 miles Northwest of the UK coastline. It will make everyone involved some good $’s and will help the environment recover as it replaces gas/coal generated electricity that is depleting in the UK market. It’s commercially viable green energy that exists right now! Coal and nuclear energy is now a lazy politicians quick fix option. If you could look back on this day from the year 2050 with the benfit of a few more years of intellectual evolution you would think we were all nuts building nuclear power plants with all the other options available to us. Keep up the great blog Grant!

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