Dear subscribers and supporters of Decarbonise SA,

This letter was mailed to Mitch Williams and to The Advertiser on 9th August with 54 co-signatories. That’s a fantastic effort. For anyone who did not get the opportunity to co-sign, your comments are still welcomed below.  

Dear Mr Williams,

I am writing to express my support for the consideration of nuclear power for electricity generation in South Australia. I congratulate you for your clear expression of support for this.

Our electricity generation sector will require very substantial investment in the near future to replace aging and highly polluting baseload power stations.

With lifespans of 40-60 years, such investments are made once every two generations. When we decide what to build, we cannot think about the next five years; we must think about the next 50.

We have to get it right. We can only get it right by being open to all options.

The assumption that South Australia will transition from coal to natural gas must be challenged. Natural gas power stations that live for 50 years are not a transition- they are a commitment. Is that the commitment South Australians want to make? It would lock in further power price rises from the massive growth in global demand for gas, and the soon to be introduced carbon price. New natural gas generation will produce a range of toxic pollution, and over 400g of CO2-e per kWh of electricity, for the next 50 years.

In 2011, with all we now know about the urgency of climate change, that is simply 400g too many. South Australia needs to draw a line: Any new baseload power generation must be zero carbon.  Therefore South Australia must explore all zero-carbon options for baseload power.

Nuclear power provides around 15% of electricity generation in 31 countries in the world today. Many more nations in our region will soon deploy nuclear for the first time. It is zero-carbon generation and emits none of the harmful, toxic air pollution of fossil fuels.

It is the safest major generation source in the world, and provides electricity at a competitive price. With minimal fuel requirements, and no exposure at all to carbon pricing, investment in nuclear power will lock in low and stable generation prices for South Australia. Near-term developments in 4th Generation nuclear power will enable all long-lived nuclear waste to be consumed as fuel, providing abundant and sustainable energy.

These benefits are simply too great to be overlooked or ignored because it may be a tough sell to South Australians. I commend you for your public position and look forward to contributing to a discussion that South Australia has to have.

Yours sincerely

Ben Heard

Founder- Decarbonise SA

Director- ThinkClimate Consulting

26 comments

  1. I wish it wasn’t so, but it seems that no-one on the left who professes a concern over climate change actually wants to take the bull by the horns and replace our old, dirty, carbon intensive power stations with zero emissions alternatives. Sure, they claim action with clean coal “readiness”, efficiency upgrades to coal and wind farms that are “backed-up” 80% of the time by fossil fuels – all while emissions continue to rise – but a real, zero emissions replacement, just doesn’t appear to be on the radar for either the Greens or Labour.

    I’m a left wing, climate change activist, but if the SA Deputy Opposition Leader Mitch Williams is prepared to take real action on climate change and support nuclear power as an essential, zero carbon, base-load technology, then, on this one at least, I’m behind him. I’d love to see a similar public statement of support from a politician here in VIC.

    1. I would love to be writing a letter congratulating both parties for taking a bi-partisan approach to opening the discussion on nuclear power, but at present that is not happening. Maybe soon. As you say, Williams deserves to know that people support what he has done.

  2. South Australians can be proud of the fact that they are supplying much of the world’s nuclear power stations with a non-carbon energy source. Wouldn’t it be great if they could use some of that energy themselves and be the first state in Australia to decarbonise their electricity supply!

    You can add my name as a supporter of Mitch Williams pro-nuclear position.

  3. Within the timeframe of constructing the first Australian nuclear power plant, there will probably also be the option of small modular reactors, These might well be an excellent ft for the requirements of South Australia and (with the right pricing incentive) provide much of the demand-following power requirement.

    See my separate e-mail co-signing the letter.

  4. Oh yes; and congratulations to Mitch Williams, if and when he visits your site. It is good to hear a politician paying attention to the evidence of what is really needed to make a difference to our world. South Australian can set an example for rational and reality-based governance to the rest of the world if the debate can stay focussed on the facts.

  5. Dear Mr Williams,

    Thank you for your boldness in campaigning for a place for nuclear generation in SA.

    Please be encouraged that a positive outcome will have benefits well outside your home patch, but especially in the wider Australasian region. The so-far unbroken link “nuclear = evil+ungreen” will at last get a decisive crack in it.

    As an expatriate Kiwi, and engineer who also cares about our children’s future, I would applaud such a move.

    I also note that decarbonising SA can also be a model for decarbonising NZ. The 1.4GW Huntly coal/gas-fired power station between Hamilton and Auckland is NZ’s largest, and most of its plant will be needing refurbishment or outright replacement in the near future. Coal-to-nuclear moves in SA will raise a powerful case for similar action in NZ.

    Apart from the real longer-term economic benefits of a stable supply and price of electricity, safe modern nuclear reactors are just the cleanest, lowest-CO2 way to go. For these reasons they should be getting the support of every open-minded person from across the political spectrum.

    There must surely also be ALP and even Green politicos who might respond to a friendly overture from yourself on this question. It would be just so refreshing if non-partisan support could develop for nuclear power, instead of the destructive bash-and-smear we’ve seen too much of lately.

    With my wholehearted support,

    Simon Dalley, BE(Elect), CEng
    Didcot, UK.

  6. Add my name to the petition. I was born in Adelaide and often visited Eyre Pensinsula. My current location is Fentonbury, Tasmania where I receive a steady stream of SA visitors. I can think of three ex-Adelaide people now residing in Tasmania who share my pro-nuclear views. However as casual acquaintances I feel it is not appropriate for me to browbeat them about petitions.

    I am concerned about siding with a particular political party. I think the door must be left open for all parties to support nuclear power in South Australia. A perception that the LNP are exclusively carrying the torch for nuclear may cause the ALP and Greens to dig their heels in. Perhaps the petition could be conveyed in modified form to the other parties, even Federal independents like Xenophon.

    My other generic concern is piecemeal measures that could complicate matters later on. For example I believe locating the desalination plant for Olympic Dam at Whyalla is a mistake. Like the United Arab Emirates I think SA should combine desalination with 3rd generation nuclear electricity production at another site on open coastline. I also think that or a related site should allow for uranium enrichment. The option must also be kept open for later 4th generation nuclear power and fuel reprocessing. Thus any one facet of the nuclear fuel cycle should consider possible joint economies down the track.

    It’s early days yet. I believe the case for SA going nuclear will become overwhelming as climate and fossil fuel problems loom larger.

    1. Thanks John. As per my response to Marion Brook above, I would love to be writing something congratualting all parties, but I can’t.

      I believe this is the right approach. Hopefully that provies to be the case. However I may make a small change to the letter to emphasise an opinion that openness to nuclear should not be a partisan issue.

  7. Mitch Williams said of nuclear power, “It is the only technology we have in the world to deliver what we’re all looking for.” And he’s right. There will be no movement on climate change while the low carbon energy solutions on offer require Australians to abandon energy intensive industry or make difficult lifestyle changes. The only way out of the impasse is to fast track nuclear power, and in the process develop valuable new fuel cycle industries to the benefit of the state and the nation.

  8. Mitch – great to see someone taking the initiative to make a real, viable difference to the power situation. Simply from an energy security and diversity perspective, the fact that Australia doesn’t have existing nuclear power plants is troubling. Combine that with current concerns regarding our emissions and it becomes imperative to see this rectified in the near term.

    I’m from Tasmania and will be pushing for the same outcomes down here. To my surprise, I have found a high level of acceptance in the community for the idea of having nuclear power, here. Especially in Tasmania, there is a degree of disquiet that we are no longer a CO2 free state; the potential to return to that through the use of nuclear energy is a positive.

    Yours sincerely,

    Christopher Polis

  9. Mitch, well done. Nuclear power in SA offers solutions to many serious problems and will have great benefits for this state. It’s a pity that even discussing this issue by our political leaders has been avoided for so long. I think it is slowly becoming evident to everyone that the negative perceptions of this industry have no basis in fact.

  10. South Australia could potentially be the richest state in Australia by value adding the vast uranium stocks it has by building 2 or 3 nuclear power stations large enough to supply all the other states and keep the money coming into the state instead of just taking the royalties from mining it.

  11. (I am pleased to add this letter on behalf of Peter and Bev Morgan)

    Hi Ben
    We would like to add our names to the open letter to the Opposition energy spokesman in South Australia, who has stated his support for nuclear power as part of the energy mix.

    Our view is that the threat of climate change does not give us the luxury of not going nuclear, and we believe that the fears of nuclear – which we used to share – are in fact not as serious as we thought they were. While we support the use of re-newables as part of the mix, we are very concerned about the impact at the landscape level both visually and environmentally.

    From all the information that is coming through from many sources, particularly DecarboniseSA and Brave New Climate, we consider that nuclear power has the strongest claims for safety and economics while reducing the human footprint on the planet.

    We congratulate you and Professor Barry Brook for what you are doing, and Mr Mitch Williams for his stand. And hope that many more people in the various governments in Australia will follow him.

    Yours faithfully

    Peter and Bev Morgan
    GRAFTON
    NSW

  12. (I am pleased to add this message from Alan Edwards, Director of Systemica Consulting in Victoria)

    Mr Williams,

    I support your call to consider nuclear energy for SA’s future electricity generation. I have learned that “new nuclear” is not like “old nuclear” (which I opposed) in that there is compelling proof-of-concept from the Argonne Labs in the USA that integral fast reactor technology:

    • Is 99 times more efficient than existing reactor technologies
    • Is able to burn the waste from existing reactors and nuclear missile warheads
    • Is therefore capable of providing several hundred, if not a thousand, years of energy without depleting uranium reserves
    • Produces far less waste volume which requires only 300 years of containment rather than tens of thousands of years
    • Uses a closed fuel cycle which is dramatically more secure and which does not produce weapons-grade material

    This technology should be further developed to commercial scale. It represents a paradigm shift in nuclear energy generation with levels of economy, efficiency, waste hazard reduction and proliferation hazard reduction which even hardened opponents should welcome.

    And the benefits of virtually zero CO2 emissions make it a compelling cleantech alternative.

    Regards,
    Alan Edwards
    Director

    Systemica Consulting Partners Pty Ltd | Shaping Business Futures

  13. (I am pleased to add this letter of support from Joseph Heffernan)

    Dear Mr. Williams,

    I support the letter prepared by Ben Beard of Decarbonise SA supporting your consideration for nuclear power in Australia. I am not Australian no do I live in Australia. I would urge Australia to embrace nuclear power for a number of reasons. The main reason is that I believe that nuclear energy is the lowest cost low carbon form of electricity generation. I am confident in the safety of nuclear power compared to other forms of energy production. Australia is a significant producer and user of coal and the illness and deaths associated with this are substantial.

    If Australia begins to consider nuclear power I would suggest that you should consider the current large scale plants such as Areva’s EPR or the Westinghouse AP1000 and newer Small Modular Reactors such as the Babcock and Wilcox Mpower reactor. For the first deployment of nuclear power in Australia a Small Modular Reactor may offer some advantages. These advantages are reduced capital cost, simpler containment structures, and faster build times.

    One further reason for Australia to consider nuclear power is to extract more value from the uranium production that already occurs. It is my understanding that currently Australia undertakes no enrichment nor fuel fabrication. However, I would expect that Australia has a large comparative advantage in the production of nuclear fuels.

    In summary if Australia were to begin nuclear power production they would go some way to reducing the carbon emissions, they would get low carbon electricity at a good price that is not subject to significant changes, they would get a source of energy that is 90% to 95% available compared to 30% to 50% for most renewable energy, they could extract more value from their current production of uranium.

    Thank you for taking the time to consider these comments.

    Joe Heffernan
    70 Caledonia Crescent
    Gourock
    PA19 1XW
    SCOTLAND

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