Nuclear? Yes, way!

Caption: You can’t run a time machine with a wind turbine, Marty!

In 1978, economist Paul Samuelson quoted John Maynard Keynes as saying, ?When my information changes, I change my mind?. Small minds resist changing their opinions, in the face of all evidence. One conventional wisdom that has proved enormously resistant to change is the value of nuclear energy. Quote:

While Australia has been a leader in renewable energy technologies, the country is being left behind in the advanced nuclear revolution gathering pace elsewhere.

Australia?s prohibitions on nuclear technologies are out of touch with novel nuclear designs such as small modular reactors and microreactors ? factory-fabricated, sealed reactors usually under 20 megawatts of power, about 2 per cent the size of a conventional nuclear plant. End of quote.

Australian punk rock musician and long-time public radio announcer, Bohdan X, discovered just how resistant small minds are to change?when he talked on-air about the potential benefit of nuclear energy for the environment. Leaving the studio, he found that his car windows had been smashed by outraged listeners. Quote:

[But] it?s not as if the potential for nuclear power in Australia isn?t there.

Every year Australia exports more than 400 shipping containers of uranium, enough to generate all of its own electricity with zero emissions.

But instead of producing electricity at home, Australian uranium is used to produce vast amounts of clean energy in the US, the EU, South Korea, China and elsewhere?Instead of using that imported oil, Australia could be powering a much larger fleet of [electric vehicles] with domestically fuelled electricity from coal, uranium, and renewables.

Small and microreactors also could power regional transportation hubs, providing clean electricity for light rail systems and charging for EV fleets. End of quote.

Nuclear energy has operated safely in countries like France for decades. Australia has had a nuclear reactor working quietly away in the suburbs of Sydney for 60 years, without incident. Quote:

It seems strange that one nuclear reactor is allowed to produce medical isotopes in the southwestern suburbs of Sydney, but a potentially even smaller reactor is prohibited from generating emissions-free electricity at a remote industrial or mining operation.

It?s time for politicians to re-evaluate whether this prohibition properly reflects the risks and benefits of nuclear power. End of quote.

Australia?s geography and demography also make these ?microreactors? a sensible option. Quote:

for a country that has a large mining industries scattered in remote locations?nuclear microreactors could be shipped by truck or barge to a location, buried in the ground and matched to local power demand.

These microreactors require less equipment and maintenance to ensure safety than existing plants, and they can run without refuelling for years or decades at a time.

Microreactors could provide reliable electricity that is much cleaner and cheaper than today?s alternative fuels. End of quote.

Unfortunately, the mindset behind environmentalism generally, and climate change activism specifically, strongly tends to religious-like dogma than rationality. The roots of the modern green movement lie in the anti-nuclear protest movements of the 60s and 70s. Their foundational myth was anti-nuclear, and they have proved as resistant to change as the most fundamentalist religion.

Besides, there?s all that sweet, sweet government money at play. Quote:

Innovation in nuclear energy is happening rapidly. Yet policy in support of low-carbon energy is biased towards renewables only.

Renewable portfolio standards are a mechanism used in the US to subsidise renewable energy. They operate by applying a regulatory mandate to energy suppliers to increase production of energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass and other alternatives to fossil and nuclear electric generation. End of quote.

I?ll admit that as a teenager, I cut my political teeth at anti-nuclear rallies in the late 70s. ?Nuclear? No way!? badges festooned my school jumper.

But, you have to grow up, eventually. That means abandoning the ignorant certainties of adolescence and opening your mind to new information. If the information changes: change your mind. Otherwise, remain stuck in costly ideological infantilism. Quote:

As hundreds of companies are rapidly innovating across the world?s nuclear industry, Australia is losing its position as an energy leader. And by prohibiting one of the world?s largest sources of carbon-free energy, Australia is making its climate and clean air targets even harder to meet.

Moving to a modern, efficient, and reliable energy system means keeping all options on the table, and forging future energy policies that encourage diversity and technology neutrality to make the transition efficient and equitable. End of quote.