“Um, “look at all options that are on the table” ? Then it’s time to look under the table, or in the cupboard, or the carpark, or wherever we have left the technology that does the exact same job as coal but with zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

Research from Deloitte undertaken for Resources Minister Martin Ferguson suggests that  a carbon price will need to reach $40 per ton in order to drive a shift away from coal to gas, because gas is in so much demand in all sorts of markets. By the way, they are not talking about shifting to gas with carbon capture technology. They are talking about gas with climate collapse technology that still dumps large quantities of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. That’s right, $40 per ton for the privilege of using a less polluting fossil fuel that will still guarantee climate collapse. Christine Milne of the Greens assures us she will “look at all options that are on the table” including loan guarantees and plans to pay for the closure of the highest polluting brown coal fired stations in Victoria, presumably to be replaced with climate collapse technology gas.

Um, “look at all options that are on the table” ? Then it’s time to look under the table, or in the cupboard, or the carpark, or wherever we have left the technology that does the exact same job as coal but with zero greenhouse gas emissions. What is this technology? Well, it starts with n, provides 15% of the world’s electricity, and its global expansion is continuing with nary a hiccup following a recent very high profile accident.

Here’s another clue. The peer reviewed paper from Nicholson, Berger and Brook that appeared in the journal Energy earlier this year, identified the n-word technology as the fit-for-service, low carbon, baseload technology that could most quickly replace coal in response to a carbon price, with the least sensitivity to changes in that price, because it has the lowest emissions of all the technologies considered.

Still wondering? Here’s the final clue. If an Australian politician so much as says the n-word, there is a high chance that other Australian politicians will immediately demand the planned locations of the first 25 power stations to use the technology, so as to whip up fear and kill the conversation before it starts.

It’s nuclear power. It’s also time for Australia to get honest about energy and climate change.

10 comments

  1. here’s my prediction – Nuclear power wont get mentioned properly in Australia until we’ve had a few hard years of climate catastrophe, and people demand that our worst emitters are to be closed. Governments and industry will say “can’t be done”. People will say “not good enough”. A few slightly more far-sighted politicians will finally admit that well, actually, they don’t really think nuclear power is that bad after all and it can be afforded. A few more years of argy bargy with heat waves, droughts, etc and finally the majority will agree that yeah this scary thing isn’t as scary as we thought, and isn’t as bad as runaway climate change. Ten eyars after that we’ll get our first nuke, ten years after that we’ll have lots of them.

    Of course by that stage we’ll be at about 500 ppm and several tipping points will have been crossed, the arctic wont have any summer ice and Adelaide will be in permadrought.

    The role of this blog, this community is to merely try and bring forward those discussions by a few years at best, if we can, clip a few years off the inevitable emissions, and hopefully have an at least barely habitable planet for our grandkids.

  2. And there we have the inevitable parting of company. In the blue corner, Ben the optimist, in the red corner, Wil the pessimist.

    Still a fight worth having, don’t get me wrong. Otherwise, what do we tell our kids, apart from “pass the ammo”?

  3. The main problem with the nuclear debate is that you have two different arguments, from two different positions, arguing from two different perspectives. Pro-nuclear tend to be more technical and based around facts first (logic, reason, openness), and anti-nuclear tend to be ideological/thological and based on facts to fit (moral, emotive).

    We have one side arguing against nuclear in their own thological realm (ethics, morals etc.) and the other arguing in their own technical realm. Studies on peoples perception of risk (critical issue for Nucelar) highlight the impulsive, first reaction, emotive response dominates the rationalised, timely, logical response. Due to the emotive nature of the ideological debate the anti-nuclear side will always get that first response reaction, and the technical side pro-nuclear will have to wait their turn. Because the thecnical side of Nucelar can be rather technical in a engineering aspect it will always lose out to the emotive anti-nuclear response due to digestability of the technology.

    One of the main reasons why Nuclear got off so well in the 50s and 60s was the promise of a new hopeful future, new amazing technologies, and that emotive feeling of hope and goodness. Look at the 70s and 80s, and the negative emotive side won out. Fear trumped Fact.

    It seems to be a question of digestible education, emotive feeling, and trust in technocrats.

    Just something I’ve observed with the Nuclear debate.

    1. Good observation. It’s something the discipline of Risk Communication tries to address. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post where I will be offering a reason why anti-nuclear has been so successful in Australia and pro-nuclear has not. I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

  4. I was a member of the Greens for a while many years ago.As I had given up believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden even more years before that I didn’t last too long.

    That doesn’t mean that the 2 major parties are any better and that covers a wide field,not just energy and the dreaded N word.

    It’s hard to say what Martin Ferguson really thinks about nuclear electricity generation.He seems to wax cold to cool to luke warm on the subject.Part of the problem with being a minister in such a dysfunctional government as the present one is that you would have to watch your back all the time.

    Yes,gas is the answer to a maidens prayer at the moment.Fools,you see,are always fashionable.There is a lot of coal under QLD and NSW and extracting gas from these seams is a rapidly growing industry.The environmental problems caused by this industry are fearsome.They have also got well and truly on the wrong of a lot of farmers who are not keen on having their operations disrupted in a big way.They are also very concerned about pollution of ground water and the disposal of highly saline water extracted from the coal.

    Oh well,who needs food when you’ve got gas? Especially when most of it will be sold off overseas to pay for nest new line of fashionable trinkets.

  5. @Deckerman (Note: numbers and comments reflect my American origin. I just happen to have them at my fingertips – I know less about the Australian stats.)

    Interesting observation regarding passion and emotion versus technical arguments.

    That is why I think my contribution to the energy discussion is – if nothing else – different. I am a passionate atomic advocate with a degree in English – along with a pretty intensive nuclear operations background.

    There is nothing more magical to me than the fact that we have a technology that can already drive a 9,000 ton sealed submarine around the world for 15 years on a quantity of fuel that can fit under my office desk. If it is clean enough to power a submarine – it is a great response to the threat of climate change.

    As a relatively new grandfather, I hate it when the multinational hydrocarbon hucksters like ExxonMobil purchase advertising gushing about the new “100 year” fuel supply that they have discovered right under our feet in the form of shale gas. What the 30 second spot does not say is that the 100 years is really 91 years and that is only true if we extract every last burp and if we do not increase the rate at which we are using gas. Since my granddaughter is just 15 months old and since my grandmother lived to be 97, that seems like a depressingly small amount of fuel to get so excited about.

    The used nuclear fuel that we have already mined and have stored in the US at reactor sites and at enrichment facilities could power our complete energy needs for several hundred years if used in properly designed (already proven) reactors.

    Anyway – let’s hear it for passionate support and for pointing out that the opposition to nuclear energy just might be getting its funding from the fossil fuel suppliers that would hate to have their products replaced in the market.

  6. South Australia is pivotal to any nuclear power coming anytime largely because of its position within a new national power grid. Zero Carbon Australia propose such a grid in their $170 billion stationary power generation plan with their solar thermal farms in the interior and more coastal wind farms. We should encourage Canberra to invest in this grid so that once constructed it is there for a link up to nuclear power, once the beloved renewables of the Greens are deemed to be inadequate for the task.

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