30 Apr 2007, Comments Off on Ranncid


Author: Helen

Image from http://www.abc.net.au/eyre/stories/s508206.htm

I heard Fran Kelly interview SA premier Mike Rann on Radio National Breakfast a few days ago. Apparently Rann has totally gone over to the nuclear industry and is all enthused about his new interest. I haven’t been able to find a transcript, but a recent interview with him is here.

What with JHo being all enthusiastic about putting 25 or so reactors around Bennelong (yeah, right) and Krudd being all excited about digging much more of the stuff up, I’m a little depressed. Not because I am a hormonal hysteric who’s incapable of rational thought, but because of all the research I did when young (and things like the Fox Report into the Ranger and Jabiluka uranium mines, as well as the fallout from the Maralinga tests, were in the wind). A few things haven’t changed since then:

* The byproducts of the nuclear fuel cycle last for several millennia,
* We don’t have any permanent solution for its storage, so it must be actively managed,
*most “great civilisations” have lasted about two thousand years, max, except for a couple of Chinese dynasties, and we know what their OH & S record is like.
* Therefore, we are creating a huge problem which has to be managed for millenium after millenium, long after our grandchildren are dead (not prematurely, we hope), and after any energy benefit from the toxic waste has been used, and
*. Any major error will render large swathes of country uninhabitable, its food inedible and its water undrinkable for several centuries, if you’re lucky. As wind and water do not respect boundaries, this will have global impacts.

And so on. So I was even more depressed as I listened to Mike witter on.

But Mike will get his way, because he and Kruddy and JHo and the rest of them are so good at portraying themselves as the Hard men who think hard thoughts, and subtly discrediting their opponents. They do it with the little plutonium particle “emotion”, which they drop into their discourse like krypton, rendering the whole environment toxic. As in,

“Well, of course, Fran, nuclear energy is a very emotional issue.”

Bingo! Anyone who disagrees with you is now a hormonal hysteric incapable of rational thought. Whether emotion can have anything to do with which facts are correct and which are not is not a subject for discussion, nor is the idea that becoming emotional about the death of rivers, desertification, clearfell logging and nuclear contamination could be simply a reaction to cold, hard facts. No, real men don’t have emotions, and only real men can be true leaders, as we find out:

(from memory) “We’re the ones willing to make the tough decisions.”

Now whether he actually said tough or hard is moot, but you get the drift, as I did, as indeed I was meant to. But being the wrong-thinking type that I am, I thought this was a bit arse about.

Because in general, the people who want to adopt the nuclear fuel cycle seem to be the ones who are most fearful of adopting renewable energy technologies, and …horror!… using less energy! It’s all about trying to keep business as usual. Let’s not start manufacturing solar cells and windmills and things; digging stuff up and selling it is what we’re good at. That, and using lots and lots of fossil fuels ourselves.

You know, if a pollie suggested actually leaving the uranium in the ground, using less energy, finding a way to run the economy without depending on continuous growth, and doing a serious push with renewables, that would be a tough decision. I think it’s the Ranns and Rudds and Howards who are the fearful ones. ALP pollies are too much in love with the status quo. I wonder Peter Garrett can sleep at night.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

Comments (0)

  • shula says:

    I wonder about that, too.

  • Helen says:

    I think he does as well Shula.

  • Greg says:

    I wouldn’t say it’s about using “less” or more energy, but about using energy better.

    Nuclear doesn’t produce more or do it better. Clean(er) technologies aren’t up to scratch in meeting demand, but that’s just a matter of investment and imagination. Already, wind power, for example, has gone well beyond giant towers, being incorporated as small-scale building elements. There are innumerable other examples of power generation without fossil fuels or millenial waste.

    But no change will be made unless we can hit the industrial vested interests in the pocketbook hard enough for them to notice. It isn’t enough to ride mass transit, to use a bicycle instead of a car, to install solar water heaters, to recycle everything, but it’s a start. Turn off the lights if you’re not in the room, switch the power off at the wall, buy more locally-produced fresh food (& organic – most commerical fertilizer is petroleum-based, which is why it makes such good bombs), buy less crap (downloading music saves a lot of plastic), and save more (preferably investing in those ‘moral’ mutual funds). And don’t forget to write to newspapers and your MP’s and the Premier & PM, often and vigorously.

  • Great post. Garrett has sold out totally.

  • TimT says:

    I’m interested in this argument here, which I haven’t seen before.

    * We don’t have any permanent solution for its storage, so it must be actively managed,
    *most “great civilisations” have lasted about two thousand years, max, except for a couple of Chinese dynasties, and we know what their OH & S record is like.

    These are good points, and I especially like the long-term perspective of the second point. But the validity of the second point rather depends on the validity of the first one. We have several methods of dealing with nuclear waste, ranging from recycling, to storage, to breaking the waste up/dispersing it so its half-life reduces. In short, I believe we can deal with nuclear waste adequately.

  • Helen says:

    Dispersing it so its half-life reduces? As far as I know, the half-life of an isotope is a fixed period. It doesn’t change if the isotope is dispersed – and dispersal is the reverse of storage. Dispersal is what we don’t want – we need to keep it out of the environment!

    Which brings us to storage, and that’s the managed bit. And that hasn’t been solved technologically – in addition, the hideous social and historical ramifications are being ignored. Some of this stuff lasts 250,000 years at least, so Joe’s Self Storage isn’t going to be around then. We have to store it through changes of government and of civilsation.

    And who’s going to pay for it and suffer the consequences? This person and this person…and their grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren…

    That’s the best case scenario.

  • TimT says:

    I will have to double check about the dispersal method. The booklet I had on this is in Newcastle.

    You can store it in synroc, or in a geologically safe area. Both are doable, and I don’t see how either would present huge problems for management in the far future.

    I just think that nuclear power should be considered alongside the other options, and not dismissed because of nuclear waste. It’s not the only industry that produces waste, and its waste doesn’t even present unique problems. We’ll still have to pay for the decommissioning of old wind power and solar power generators as well, for example.

  • Helen says:

    I think that a lot of those assertions are simply incorrect, Tim. You’ll have to do some more reading on the nuclear fuel cycle. Old wind and solar generators, for instance, will not have to be isolated from the environment for 250,000 years. To say that synroc and safe geological storage are “doable” is a massive leap of faith. Neither have had their problems ironed out. We do not have a long-term solution. We’d be better off putting the money into renewable technology and becoming a world leader in research and development, and get a manufacturing industry again, instead of being a world leader in diggin’ up and burnin’ stuff.

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