Thanks for having me EA, see you soon Japan

Here’s a bit of a catch-up blog as I wait to fly to Sydney airport where I will meet Barry Brook and fly to Japan. More on that later.

Early this week it was my pleasure to be the guest of the Electric Energy Society of Australia, a division of Engineers Australia, at a special event for their members in Melbourne, Electric Energy Security and the Role of Nuclear Energy in Australia.

My fellow panellists included my now old friends Mr Martin Thomas AM and Dr Tony Irwin of SMR Nuclear Australia. New acquaintances were Mr Neil Greet and Ms Gaye Francis.

Neil, an engineer of defence background now focussed on national energy security, spoke of the need to take a holistic point of view of the nature of energy security. Gaye, a risk engineers, spoke of her personal and professional experiences in the Finnish community that is home the Olkiluoto power stations and now the Onkala waste repository and just how and why this community has come to embrace such a strong connection with nuclear.

We were privileged to have and opening address from Senator Sean Edwards, who then remained for questions.

The event was completely full with around 100 in attendance. I have great appreciation for Engineers Australia. This organisation has taken an increasing interest in this matter over the last few years, from smaller state-based events, to a session at the 2014 national conference and now this special session in Melbourne. I am delighted to see one of our major professions determine that their members ought be informed and active in these discussions. This is an invaluable broadening of the nuclear conversation in Australia and, as I said in closing, I ask them to please have an opinion on nuclear. Such essential professionals should not be on the sidelines of national policy discussions on our energy future.

The presence and participation of Senator Edwards added to the seriousness with which discussions were entered into. The Senator again spoke glowingly of the opportunity that has been afforded via the South Australian Labor government in the form of this Royal Commission. He reiterated that a “bi-partisan sentiment” exists, for the first time ever, for these discussions and investigations. I have seen many senior politicians open events and then leave. Not many stay for all presentations and then actively participate in Q&A. The impact of the sincere leadership that is on display from Senator Edwards is palpable.

So, my thanks to EESA and EA for hosting me at such an excellent event. I look forward to sharing video of the presentations in due course.

As I mentioned in opening I will shortly be boarding for my first ever visit to Japan. I, along with Aussies Barry Brook and Tom Wigley, will be the guest of The Breakthrough Institute, IEE Japan, International Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. We will be joining a global group for an International Nuclear Energy Symposium.

The trip will include a visit to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, meetings with Japanese Government officials and media engagements. I am especially looking forward to a full-day conference exclusively examining women’s interface with nuclear technology. The symposium theme is “Discussions on Nuclear Energy from the Female Point of View ― Why is it necessary? Why is it safe enough? Why is it irreplaceable?”

We seem to be experiencing one of those global-collective penny-drop moments, where everyone involved in nuclear is suddenly saying “Hey… women… we should really look at that…”.

We really should. As my wife Dr Gemma Munro from Inkling Women recently observed, “The nuclear industry is led, in the main, by white middle-aged men. Discussions about nuclear are dominated by white middle-aged men fighting about who’s right”.

Urgh… I know she’s right. The way so much of the nuclear energy discussion is conducted leaves many women cold. Yet we know from independent survey data that it is women we still need to reach if we want strong social licence for an embrace of nuclear technologies.

Maybe… we should ask women what they think? And maybe… take proactive steps to enable greater female leadership, messaging and communication about nuclear? Because maybe… that would work and then we would get what we want? We could stop the fighting and get on with the winning?

So to say I am thrilled with this symposium agenda is an understatement, not least because I am not involved, I just get to listen to some of the world’s best. I have a suitcase full of AV and plan to get lots of photos, audio and video to share. It’s the least I can to do repay my hosts.

In closing, watashi no hobokurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu, and I look forward to sharing the experience.

 

Cancel Paris, Tesla released a battery

When Tesla made their little product announcement last week it caught me in a moment of ebb rather than flow. I had just handed over some work, done a presentation, had some important meetings… It was Friday and I had no interest being first out of the blocks with analysis. All I could muster was a bit of crystal-balling Twitter sarcasm:

I promptly received a warning in return:

Then, in a moment of life-imitates-sarcasm, Mark Cojuangco proved that he was the prescient one, not me.

This article contains what will probably stand as the most intellectually feeble, thus outright dangerous, bit of hyperbolic overstatement about climate change solutions I will ever read:

Assuming the Tesla system comes anywhere near meeting its announced specifications, and noting that electric cars are also on the market from Tesla and others, we now have just about everything we need for a technological fix for climate change, based on a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency, at a cost that’s a small fraction of global income (and hence a small fraction of national income for any country).

John, pardon my language, but you must be fucking joking.

Quiggin delivered on my own intended absurdity: “Down tools folks. Pending a bit of market tweaking, we are now on the downhill run to climate stability and energy prosperity for all. Cancel Paris, Elon Musk announced a battery”.

This is more than irritating, it’s dangerous. It’s repeating the pattern of decades past, that an imminent technology breakthrough will wipe out fossil fuels like sunlight on so many vampires. He didn’t merely underplay but outright avoided any examination of complexity. He didn’t even consider the product itself!

This is not what we need. We need hardworking pragmatists who will do the work in helping global society to understand and benefit from technological innovation, across the board, in order to tackle challenges that are gnarlier than any handful of technological breakthroughs can possibly “solve”.

That’s not how Quiggin saw it.


Happy about Tesla? Unhappy about Tesla? What kind of false dichotomy is that? I was happy when my son took home a ribbon from sports day. I’m not interested in happy-clapping technology announcements. I want to understand how they might all hang together into the biggest, deepest, fastest and most effective response to climate change. That means variously criticising nuclear announcements, criticising solar projects, criticising renewable naysayers, and proposing policies that might lead to effective integration and deployment of all useful energy technologies.

So, what do I think will be the impact of the Tesla product? Let’s look at the product alongside Australian household electricity consumption for a start.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us that in 2012 Australian households were using around 125 kWh per week. The Tesla unit will store up to 10 kWh, or about 60 % of the consumption of one single day of use at the Australian average daily consumption.

It is immediately apparent that this battery-plus-panels offering is not the product that is going to take Australians off-grid in droves.

Consider that a great deal of daily consumption occurs overnight even in the long days of summer, especially the very hot nights where air-conditioning will run overnight. In the shorter days of winter plenty of daily consumption is morning and evening lighting and heating where no production will be occurring from rooftop solar, not to mention possibly some overnight heating. Several consecutive days of low solar insolation are simply a given in winter. So, a typically sized household system would not be able to both meet daytime demand and keep that battery full for dark times in a whole variety of conditions and circumstances.

Consider then that we all want electric vehicles charging from our home. That’s more load. Consider that lots of Australians space-heat with gas and heat water with gas. We want to electrify that with clean sources. That’s more load. Pushing in the other direction is general improvement in efficiency of appliances and lighting and insulation improvements in older houses that put downward pressure on load. But to be frank, if those efficiency improvements help household demand even remain static as we electrify the other services, I would regard that as very impressive. To achieve all of this while going off-grid with combinations of solar and batteries would require over-sizing of systems to levels that are completely unrealistic and unaffordable.

So it’s not a matter of liking or disliking the product. It’s just patently clear that this is not the dawn of the off-grid revolution in Australia. It’s not that product (yet?). So what product is it?

At the end of 2014 I wrote:

(We must) Vary our emphasis on solar PV away from electricity supply and toward network management, especially management of peak demand.  The coming of cost effective home energy storage should be emphatically embraced as a potential network service. Consumers should be encouraged to take up small amounts of storage and remain grid connected into the future. An appropriate financial reward should be provided for residents to use and sell their solar power late in the day in response to peak times rather than as –and-when it is generated. This will hold down network costs for each and every consumer, instead of raising them as solar PV does now. The “death spiral” of retail electricity will be averted.

Depending, critically, on how nimble and intelligent our electricity retailers and distribution operators are in response to this product, I believe it could be the solid beginning of this product: smart solar network management. That would be something I absolutely welcome.

Achieving high penetration of embedded solar PV has real challenges, particularly relating to the potential for local over-voltage events in feeders that were never designed to accommodate them. I’m not inventing a problem here; it’s real, it’s recognised, and a lot of literature is dedicated to how these challenges might be overcome. Here’s a summary of some of my recent draft research:

A 2011 review of solar integration in seven nations representing 70 % of the global market share revealed the extent of the challenges (Braun et al. 2012). In nations with higher penetrations such as Germany, voltage overloading is leading to expensive grid-reinforcement requirements and the implementation of a technical code governing voltage rise criteria, active power control and reactive power control (Braun et al. 2012). Photo-voltaic integration in Germany to 2020 is expected to cost €21-27 billion (E-bridge consulting cited in Braun et al. 2012). These costs might be mitigated in the future by the introduction of inverters with active and reactive power control. However of the > 17 GW of photovoltaics installed, more than 90 % do not have these capabilities (Braun et al. 2012). Such inverters are commonly applied at 30 KW and above, and not in the residential range of 1-5 kW, with no apparent technology trend in that direction.

In Belgium, recent strong photovoltaic growth has meant distributed photovoltaic systems “regularly experience disconnection due to overvoltage…in several cases expensive grid reinforcement is required in order to avoid congestion of cables or transformers” (Braun et al. 2012).

Solutions are needed to reduce the overvoltage and other network challenges caused by embedded photovoltaic systems if increasing penetrations are to be accommodated while stable systems and compliance with regulations is maintained (Alam, Muttaqi & Sutanto 2012; Lewis 2011; Samadi 2014). Suggested remedies include intelligent operation of distributed energy storage (i.e., batteries) (Alam, Muttaqi & Sutanto 2012; Samadi 2014), grid reinforcement (Samadi 2014); active power curtailment (i.e., preventing export from the photovoltaics to the feeder, representing a loss of income to the photovoltaics owner) (Samadi 2014), and active and reactive power control from the photovoltaic unit itself, demanding more advanced inverters (Braun et al. 2012; Condon 2011; Samadi 2014). The potential remedies are summarised by Constantin, Lazar and Kjær (2012):

Overall, it has been found that applying standard voltage control techniques in the LV networks helps to increase the PV penetration by approximately 30% from 1.5 kW to 2.0 kW per residence. For higher PV penetration levels, additional solutions must be applied: more complex voltage control schemes, increased self-consumption, storage solutions or active power curtailment.

So, if things go well, I think in Australia the impact of this product could be a grab-bag of mutually reinforcing trends in consumer behaviour and market regulation:

  • Increasing the number of home solar systems, with consequent falls in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Increasing the average size of home solar systems with consequent falls in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Offering distributors a possible solution to the network challenges of increasing PV penetration
  • Pushing retailers and distributors into more intelligent pricing models for households that reward peak-demand management
  • Downward pressure on peak demand leading to appreciable cost-control in operating the distribution network
  • Potentially weighting water and space-heating decisions back towards electricity and away from gas

But it isn’t the end of baseload or centralised generation into transmission networks. It isn’t, then, the end of coal. Hence, isn’t the end of the need for nuclear and wind (funny, actually, how no one seems to suggest this innovation has negated the role of wind turbines connected to the transmission network).

Let’s be clear-headed about what the real potential of this innovation is so that we can work with the relevant stakeholders to make those benefits materialise as soon as possible. Unthinking hyperbole just serves to muddy the water and leads to false hope, false starts and bad policy development. This is a job for analysts*, not cheerleaders.

Alam, MJE, Muttaqi, KM, Sutanto, D, Elder, L & Baitch, A 2012, Performance Analysis of Distribution Networks under High Penetration of Solar PV, CIGRE (International Council on Large Electric Systems), Paris, France.

Alam, MJE, Muttaqi, KM & Sutanto, D 2012, ‘Distributed energy storage for mitigation of voltage-rise impact caused by rooftop solar PV’, IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting, pp. 1-8.

Braun, M, Stetz, T, Bründlinger, R, Mayr, C, Ogimoto, K, Hatta, H, Kobayashi, H, Kroposki, B, Mather, B, Coddington, M, Lynn, K, Graditi, G, Woyte, A & MacGill, I 2012, ‘Is the distribution grid ready to accept large-scale photovoltaic deployment? State of the art, progress, and future prospects’, Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications, vol. 20, no. 6, pp. 681-697.

Condon, D 2011, Grid Connected Solar PV and Reactive Power in a Low Voltage Distribution Network, Ergon Energy, Queensland.

Constantin, A, Lazar, RD & Kjær, DSB Voltage control in low voltage networks by Photovoltaic Inverters: Case-study Bornholm, Danfoss Solar Inverters, Graasten, Denmark.

Samadi, A 2014, ‘Large Scale Solar Power Integration in Distribution Grids: PV Modelling, Voltage Support and Aggregation Studies’, Electrical Engineering, Doctoral thesis, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

*I strongly recommend this piece of analysis of the Tesla product announcement

New video: What might the Royal Commission mean for nuclear in South Australia?

A few weeks ago I spoke at an event for SACOME along with Ian Hoare-Lacey (WNA) and Dr Tim Stone, visiting Professor from University College London. I gave my overview with regard to where in the nuclear fuel cycle, and why, there may be opportunities for South Australia.

I look forward to expanding, with greater confidence, on some of the themes raised in this presentation as the year progresses and further work is completed. My presentation is below, followed by Ian’s and Tim’s and then our joint Q&A.

The Ecomodernist Manifesto: The view from a lapsed sustainability professional

A couple of years ago I was called in to deliver a unit called Sustainable Development: Concepts and Applications for the Master of Sustainability at the University of Adelaide. Being late notice (the semester had already commenced) I took some necessary liberties with preparing content that suited me. I asked myself: “If this is the core unit of a sustainability Masters, what do I believe these students absolutely must think about?”.

Population. Trade Reform. Land Reform. Urbanisation. Biodiversity Preservation. Energy. Water. My conviction was that speaking to all these issues intelligently and with evidence, in the context of a ‘10 billion humans’ world, was a prerequisite to presuming to work in sustainability in the 21st Century.

I loved it. Near as I could tell, the students did too. Some of the tutorial presentations were simply outstanding and the international nature of the student body was an asset to everyone’s learning.

Though I could not have named it at the time, I delivered a semester of Ecomodernism, as captured in a staggering manifesto published last week. The manifesto is a tour-de-force of thought leadership at a crucial juncture for humanity. For this sustainability professional it presents a meaningful framework within which to act and I gladly endorse it.

ecomodern

Continue reading

Federal Labor backs Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission

In this Sky AM interview with Mark Butler, federal Labor Member for Port Adelaide, we see that the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission has been backed by Federal Labor. If this is the “right process” enacted by a Government from the same party, a “proper enquiry” headed by an “eminent South Australian”, and this is the view of party leader Bill Shorten, it will be nigh-on impossible for Federal Labor to reject supportive findings taken to a national level at a later time. We now have bi-partisan support at a state and federal government level for the coming enquiry. That’s twelve months of evidence-based investigation free from political conflict. With the

Fact Check: Antinuclear Australia blog post

In the blog post Senator Sean Edwards spruiks for the South Australian nuclear lobby the following statement is made in relation to integral fast reactors:

They “deliver abundant energy without any mining”. Hey – he doesn’t count the mining required for the conventional reactors to produce the wastes to put into the reprocessing reactors that he is touting!

That material has already been mined, in some case decades ago. It is stored above ground at dozens of locations around the world. Nearly all of that material can be used again for energy in the advanced reactors Senator Edwards has referred to. Lots of energy. Perhaps the author thinks the material can only be used once in an IFR and needs a completely fresh feed of material every time from old reactors? I’m not sure what the author thinks, however that is not the case.

Via the recycling process, when a fuel core has completed a cycle, the fuel is cleaned up and re-formed into new fuel for another cycle, with a small amount of “make-up” material added to take the place of the one tonne of material per gigawatt per year that is removed as true waste. As Senator Edwards recently pointed out, the equivalent energy production from brown coal emits 8.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. That one tonne of material has a far shorter half-life of around 30 years. That, combined with the tiny amount, makes it suitable for temporary storage followed by much simpler disposal.

I would expect a site like this to be relatively familiar with this material, as it has been the cornerstone of opposition to nuclear power for decades. Integral fast reactors present a solution to that problem.

Over time, we might reasonably expect (hope) these type of reactors to become the norm and displace the reactors using the once-through fuel cycle. Instead of mining fuel, we might collectively meet out clean energy needs with the material we already have available and we could do that for many hundreds of years, removing the need for energy mining

I am sure the anti-nuclear community in Australia will become more familiar with this technology as the year proceeds. I am confident many will be prepared to draw a line in the ideological sand and get behind a solution that makes sense on so many levels.

“We must act and we must act now”. Speech from Senator Sean Edwards

If you don’t weary of politics from time to time, in my opinion you aren’t paying attention.

We all cry out for “leadership”. Rarely do we get it.

So I am excited to publish this speech from South Australian Senator Sean Edwards, delivered last night (7 April 2014) to the Sydney Institute. This, for me, is leadership.

As is evident from this speech, the office of Senator Edwards has taken full ownership of the nuclear issue, particularly and specifically the potential application of the Integral Fast Reactor. I am deeply impressed at the non-partisan character of the speech vis-à-vis the Labor Party. The direct criticism of the Australian Greens on this matter is, in my opinion, long overdue and welcome.

I have spent several years in “push” mode on the issue of nuclear energy in Australia. It is quite a remarkable thing to now find events being pulled along by a politician who has taken a committed stake in the issue. He speaks sincerely to the economic future of my home state, and sees the gains to be made in matters of environmental and human health and well-being.

It’s just a fact that no matter how effectively I and others like me work to have influence on such matters, we need our political class to get things moving. So the onset of this Royal Commission from the Labor government of Jay Weatherill and the rapid follow-through from Liberal Senator Edwards is a game-changing development.

Enjoy this speech and please, take time to give some feedback to the office of Senator Sean Edwards. If you support him, he deserves to know.

senator.edwards@aph.gov.au 

SENATOR SEAN EDWARDS

The Nuclear Opportunity

The Sydney Institute, 7 April 2015

In Australia the nuclear debate has generally occurred on three fronts. They are the scientific, economic and political dimensions.

Discussion of Australia’s place in the nuclear industry has been in hibernation since the Switskowski report of a decade or so ago when a change in government stopped progress in its tracks. However the South Australian Government’s Royal Commission into the nuclear fuel cycle, announced in February this year, has raised the prospect of this already nuclear-nation of ours capitalising on an expanded embrace of the nuclear opportunity.

I reiterate that point, ladies and gentlemen: we are very much a nuclear nation already, given we stand here tonight not 40 kilometres from the very fine OPAL research reactor at Lucas Heights.

This evening I will speak about the nuclear opportunity; what it offers Australia economically and what hurdles must yet be overcome in order for us to realise it.

I am a Senator for South Australia in the Federal Parliament and so I broach this topic from the perspective that it provides a platform that would rescue my state from its economic doldrums.

That’s how significant an opportunity this is; the economics are truly transformative.

I’ll spend half an hour or so addressing these matters and I look forward very much to discussing them with you afterwards.

* * *

The science
Let us start with the science, which is inherently an argument about safety.

Ladies and gentlemen, the science is settled. In fact it’s so settled that the scientific case behind the merits of nuclear technology barely need defending anymore in a serious forum like this one. But I will take the opportunity to debunk a few of the more stubborn myths anyhow.

The evidence over six decades is that nuclear power is among the very safest means of generating electricity. It’s certainly safer than coal and you can even argue it’s safer than wind; enough people die falling off of windmills each year to make this a statistical truth!

In the 15,000 cumulative year history of nuclear power in 33 countries, there have been just three major incidents at commercial nuclear reactors and at only one of those did nuclear fallout physically harm members of the public.

That incident occurred at Chernobyl in 1986, a facility completely without containment and subject to what I think we can reasonably call world’s worst practice. The death toll there stands at less than 70.

Suffice to say, the former USSR will never be an example to Australian regulatory authorities.

You may not know that the Three Mile Island facility in the US continues to operate to this day, less one damaged reactor which was deemed uneconomical to repair after the incident there in 1979.

That leaves Fukushuma, where radiation release hasn’t caused a single death. In fact what Fukushuma proved is that even when an earthquake, a tsunami and human error conspire against it, a nuclear power plant struggles to do physical harm while coal kills thousands every year.

Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that nuclear power saves lives. Thousands of them if we consider workers who are alive today because they spend their days at nuclear plants and not amongst the coal industry, which kills thousands of workers annually.

Nuclear technology saves millions of lives if we consider the impact of reduced air pollution on the planet.

Former NASA climate scientist Professor James Hansen says nuclear power has prevented 1.8 million deaths. He said it could save 7 million more on this basis in the next four decades.

If the historical safety record of the nuclear industry isn’t confidence inspiring enough, then consider the future.

The main measure of reactor safety is “Core Damage Frequency”. This represents the likelihood of an accident that would damage the reactor core by indicating the number of years that a reactor would remain statistically accident-free. It’s like the “days since last safety incident” sign in a warehouse or factory.

Today the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires reactor designs to meet a 1 in 10,000 year Core Damage Frequency standard.

But US reactors commonly meet a 1 in 100,000 year Core Damage Frequency standard and the best modern reactors already achieve a 1 in 1 million year standard.

Reactors likely to be built in the future will achieve close to a 1 in 10 million year standard.

Ladies and gentlemen, per kilowatt hour there is no safer form of base load power than nuclear power.

The economics
The economic dimension of the nuclear opportunity is more compelling now than it’s ever been. I’ll offer you a case study.

In his book Prescription for the Planet, environmentalist Tom Blees writes about the potential of Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs).

These are nuclear power stations capable of running on what old nuclear plants have left behind. Conventional nuclear power can use around 0.6 per cent of the energy contained in mined uranium, wasting more than 99 per cent of the resource. IFRs can use almost all of the remainder. There is already enough so-called “waste” on earth to meet the world’s energy needs for many hundreds of years.

IFRs are so efficient they can be supplied with a lifetime inventory of fuel and raw material at commissioning. From then on, they progressively make their own new fuel from what was once regarded as waste, producing plentiful electricity all the while.

The recycling process removes the tiny amount of true waste for disposal, and that waste has a half-life of tens rather than tens of thousands of years. For example, getting base load electricity for a year from 1,000 megawatts of IFR produces around just one tonne of shorter lived waste.

To get that much energy from Victorian brown coal produces around 8.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, with an atmospheric life of around a thousand years.

Throughout the past two or so years I’ve been developing a business case for a South Australian intervention into the global spent nuclear fuel recycling industry. The global stockpile of spent uranium stands at around 240,000 tonnes and in simple economic terms it represents a whole lot of demand for which there is presently limited supply.

That’s because the nuclear powered nations, which in many cases are importing our uranium, are thereafter encumbered by it and their problem is growing by 12,000 tonnes each year.

As Blees explains, the latest generation of nuclear facilities, the generation four technology such as GE’s PRISM IFR, can take that spent fuel and do much more with it. While we reduce the waste burden by volume by a factor of twenty times or more compared to the uranium they started off with – a service for which we can charge very good sums of money – the real beauty of this model is the power is generated as a by-product of that process.

This is power we can use in the manner that nuclear powered economies traditionally do – by supplying domestic customers and industry with cheap energy.

So consider these nation states, encumbered with their pre gen-IV technology and their ever increasing burden of spent fuel. Consider that some of them are legally, politically or technically restricted from reprocessing it themselves even if they wished to.

Consequently what we have is an economic equation with a great deal of pent up demand. South Australia, in the context of the Royal Commission, has the opportunity to position itself on the supply side of that equation.

To give you a sense of the scale of that demand, one prospective client state I have been in discussions with, which is in the position of being unable to reprocess their own spent uranium for geopolitical reasons, has such an appetite for a solution they have indicated an in-principle willingness to meet our capital costs, were facilities to be built in Australia to cater for them.

That means nil start-up costs and lucrative fees from a global market thereafter. You’ll forgive me for providing no more detail about those discussions at this point, except to say they have been elevated to ministerial level.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, offering a stake in an industry worth billions annually and which, as a by-product, produces abundant cheap energy.

Ladies and gentlemen, while the fees might be significant, it’s the implication of cheap energy on our economy that I believe is the centrepiece of this model.

In that respect, there is a range of possibilities starting with cheap power, scaling up to free power for all. That is, if a decision were made to take a stake in this industry of sufficient scope and scale, that industry could generate enough power to supply each and every domestic and business customer in the state of South Australia with all of their power needs met at no cost above that of the poles and wires.

I invite you to imagine the competitive pressures this would place on other clients supplying our National Electricity Market.

You might also imagine the economic impact of abundant cheap power on employment, on consumer spending, on disposable income, on business investment and on State Domestic Product.

Many of those Arab states with abundant energy reserves today don’t need to imagine this at all.

Nor do we.

This is the implementation of a quasi-special economic zone by stealth.

In a former life I was a businessman and those instincts die hard. This is a business opportunity that passes every scrutiny I’ve subjected it to for the past two years.

The politics
Ladies and gentlemen, we know the science is sound – this is a safe and reliable technology to the satisfaction of expert intellect many ranks above mine.

I’ve also laid out to you what is a once in a life time business opportunity, an economic case with clients actually willing to meet our financial barrier to entry and pay service fees thereafter, as we all the while produce electricity nearly too cheap to meter with a transformative effect on our economy.

Science and economics are not the challenges here. It’s politics where the fight lies.

If there’s one party in Australian politics morally and philosophically compelled to support advanced nuclear energy it’s the Greens.

The Greens insist they want the best for our environment but in opposing nuclear power, it’s the Greens who are standing in its way.

That they so actively oppose it is an act supreme hypocrisy.

Try as they might, they simply can’t meaningfully do so on environmental grounds.

Nuclear reactors produce no emissions that contribute to global warming, acid rain or smog. In fact, the life-cycle emissions of nuclear energy rank alongside those of renewables but unlike renewables, nuclear energy can actually provide base load power. The lifetime emissions from an IFR, with all the fuel already mined, will make this easily the lowest-emission energy source available to humanity.

Renewable energy sources today require substantial tax payer subsidy. But they might one day provide reliable baseload power source. However informed estimates say that’s 40 years away and even the most strident advocates must acknowledge the need for an interim measure, if you call forty years ‘interim’. And our most rigorous scientists tell us the scaling challenge of renewables may remain insurmountable.

Consider, the two largest “renewable” energy sources globally, by far, are hydroelectricity and biomass. The first sacrifices valleys, forests and watersheds on the altar of renewable energy. While Australia has no further capacity to exploit, the same cannot be said of South America and Africa, where the planned and proposed hydro developments are frightening in scale for anyone who wants to preserve our wild spaces.

Biomass is a fancy word for the polluting practice of burning plants. Those plants need to be grown and harvested, collected or chopped down. They may brand it renewable, but above niche uses it’s anything but sustainable.

Large scale solar-energy is also greedy for land. The largest in the world, 392 megawatts in the Mojave Desert, took over 3,500 acres of wilderness land. In the process, an endangered species, the desert tortoise, had to be relocated in large numbers. Can you imagine that being permitted for a nuclear plant? Well, you don’t have to worry. The IFR would produce three times the electricity, more reliably, on about 1/100th the land, and that land can be just about wherever you want it to be, rather than in prime wilderness.

So the anti-nuclear campaigners’ argument moves swiftly onto safety. But as I’ve argued, assessed against the historical record, nuclear energy is as safe as wind power and far safer than coal.

“But what about Fukushima?” they plead, where as we noted, to this day radiation release has not resulted in a single death.

That brings us to the question of managing waste, which is where nuclear opponents reliably go next. We’ve already discussed the impact IFR technology will have on spent nuclear fuel management, however let’s get this completely clear and on the record: this technology represents the solution to what the Greens have told us, for decades, is the problem. Yet they cannot draw a line and support even this leading technology.

No wonder the Greens generally aren’t inclined to subject themselves to a proper debate on this matter. They prefer to stack panels and orchestrate anti-nuclear love-ins, as per the one conducted in Adelaide on April Fools’ Day.

The Greens stacked that event, omitting to include even a single voice for the affirmative which allowed them to peddle all manner of fabrications to their audience unchallenged.

Now I may not have been invited to this Greens love-in but it’s entirely possible I have an insight into what was and wasn’t said at that meeting (along with six pages of detailed notes).

I can confirm it was an ideological echo chamber full of misinformation, groupthink and political theatre which is a neat example of how the Greens will campaign against the nuclear Royal Commission.

Now I say “theatre”, because in the theatre there are scripts, there are lines and there are rehearsals, right?

During the fifteen minute Q&A session, the MC, Greens’ MLC Mark Parnell, just happened to know every one of the questioners by name.

Theirs was a Simpson’s inspired version of the nuclear industry, complete with Homer asleep at his desk at the power plant, spilling coffee on his control panel, triggering a full-scale nuclear emergency.

In fact I’m advised there were so many references to the Simpsons it does give rise to wondering about the Greens’ constituency. But I am not being harsh on environmentalists. One of my top consultant advisors on this very project is one of them by heart.

Anyway, if the Greens are so confident that the facts are on their side why lock out anyone who might disagree? Why won’t they organise a debate of expert opinion and appropriate rebuttal?

And why not trust the Royal Commission process? They call for Royal Commissions all the time when it suits them.

The Greens have asked for Royal Commissions into offshore detention, onshore detention, church abuse, abuse of the disabled, the Commonwealth Bank, Manus Island, our intelligence services’ efforts before the Bali bombings, the Tasmanian forestry industry, the 2004 Palm Island riot, the Reserve Bank of Australia, domestic violence, the Iraq War and the Shen Neng 1 incident in 2010.

But they don’t trust a Royal Commission into the nuclear issue?

I believe that’s because deep down, they know that objectively the facts are not on their side.

Something else occurred in recent days highlighting the selectiveness of the Greens and also how untenable their position on nuclear power really has become.

During the most recent sitting of Parliament Senator Milne saw cause to move a motion congratulating US President Barack Obama for his recent Executive Order requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution from US Federal Government activities.

That motion applauded the US for its suite of renewable energy projects, productivity improvements, raised vehicle efficiency standards and increased ethanol use across the US Federal Government. That sounds fair enough.

But the Greens conveniently left out five very important words that also appeared on that same Executive Order:

‘Small modular nuclear reactor technologies’.

Ladies and gentlemen, US Government climate change policy, which the Greens formally and enthusiastically commended in the Senate, openly relies on nuclear power.

Professor Hansen who I referred to earlier has seen the light. When he (and others of similar stature) implore anti-nuclear environmental organisations to revise their position, it’s clear that environmental science has diverged sharply from Greens-style anti-nuclear activism.

However, elsewhere this activism is not without its successes. Germany not so long ago succumbed to political pressure and began the closure of its seventeen operating nuclear reactors. It will close all of them by 2022 and that move alone will produce 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide before the shutdown is complete. The Germans are now buying nuclear power from the French, by the way.

While polling last year indicated 68% of South Australian respondents either favoured or felt neutral in respect to nuclear power, empty vessels do make the loudest noise and the Greens have had a lot of practice.

While we’re in possession of a compelling argument that is simply beyond them, political theatre is not constrained by facts, argument and reason. The Greens know this.

The good news is that by virtue of the South Australian Labor Government’s Royal Commission, for the first time ever, there is a bipartisan sentiment attached to an impartial, evidence-based consideration of the nuclear issue.

Conclusion
There you have it.

The science is beyond serious rebuttal.

The business case is strong and a highly profitable one at that.

But if it’s so good, I hear you ask me, why aren’t others lining up to beat us to it?

What’s restricting other players in this space at least for now is the inherent conservativism of the nuclear industry. It’s slow moving and it’s cautious. For countries to move from older reactors to Gen-4 technology takes time. When you are firmly committed to the physical, legal and regulatory infrastructure of the current generation of technology, the cost of change is high, and the appetite for innovation is low.

Having a clean slate to start with as Australia does will help but should a decision be made to embark upon a programme to develop a nuclear industry of the nature I have outlined, it will take time to develop a regulatory framework, to carry out all necessary studies, to pass relevant legislation and to construct the necessary facilities: no less than five years, I would say.

Energy is at the heart of modern society and efficient energy is at the centre of a prosperous economy. Consumers and business alike stand to prosper and both need to express their views to the Royal Commission if this is a course they want to see us take.

The Prime Minister has announced the Government’s support for the Royal Commission, calling it a “gale of common sense”.

“If it’s right to mine it, why can’t it be right to use it?,” the PM rightfully asked.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve seen the latest science, I’ve questioned the experts and I’ve consulted internationally. This industry has a very strong future and I firmly believe South Australia should be a part of it, and so I will be proposing as much to the South Australian Royal Commission.

The recycling of spent fuel is a substantial commercial opportunity. But that pales in comparison to the wider economic benefit of power almost too cheap to meter.

This is the economic game changer South Australia needs. The path ahead could reap great economic rewards. We must act and we must act now, and so I urge you all to support me in this important venture.