Here is the paper and presentation I delivered to the ATSE nuclear conference in Sydney last week. 

The feedback I received on the presentation was overwhelmingly positive, and the model I outlined was referred to repeatedly throughout the rest of the conference. 

Enjoy! Please share!

Paper: How can community support for the nuclear option be achieved

Presentation: ATSE 2013 v3

Update 30 July: As it happens, on this occasion I wrote my presentation in full, so you can read along to the slides if you wish. I kept pretty closely to this script.

Script: ATSE script


  1. I of course agree with what you write, but concerning your point 1 about acknowledging limitations. I cannot help thinking that this is exactly what renewables only people do not do and there is neverthless public support at least until limitations become obvious in real life.

    1. Well observed, but the public support is far from unequivocal.

      I would argue that if they did so (aknowledged limitations), they would find much stronger support for sensible and still massive contributions for renewables, in the range of 20% or more that would help the industry secure lots more growth. As it is, I do think their position is being undermined by the over-reaching of some commentators and activists.

  2. Agreed, Jani-Petri. Solar and wind, aka renewables, have indeed achieved an image (aura) of being benign and thus worthy technologies, regardless of dollar cost.

    If this was the whole picture, then it might be reasonable to support the solar+wind options regardless of price, because of the intangibles. However, what has been addressed here, and what is so often overlooked is the fact that so-called intangibles are often very much tangible.

    Fatalities, real costs, water and land usage – these can be brushed aside. This article has brought them into focus in a nice way.

    The same could be said for the history of nuclear Vs the histories of solar PV, Solar thermal and of wind. It only takes a few minutes with Dr Google to find many photos of thousands (yes, thousands) of abandoned wind turbines, strung out along high value ridge lines. These represent failed hopes, lost fortunes and forgotten stories. Ditto solar thermal, both low and high temperature. As to whether or not the solar PV industry in Australia actually produces the energy it pretends to, it is impossible to say. I have yet to see statistically sound figures for the number of PV systems which are off line or underperforming. The marketing material refers only to the volume of sales.

    Electricity retailers do not, in the main, measure energy produced from PV, neither is government subsidy paid on this basis. The subsidies are paid on the basis of sales, even if the systems fail the next day or are never turned on!

    Thanks, Ben, for this discussion of the safety aspects of nuclear power, plus a few side discussions.

    I await a similarly focussed evaluation of the real world, actual energy output from renewables, so that comparisons can proceed on the basis of real energy produced, not hypothetical potential energy production.

  3. Yes, this overselling is the reason why I feel they are effectively after blowing short term bubbles without serious long term plan. I have had discussions with supposedly RES only people (with some level of technical competence) who talk about using gas for the time being and hoping for some long term miracle. When I point out that this is inconsistent with long term decarbonization they just hand wave and say that they share my concern about decarbonization. I believe this is something you have noted as well.

    1. As it happens Andrew I came up through the Sandman method in my first consulting job, even met him and saw him deliver to groups on a couple of occasions.

      His recent session on the Atomic Show was fantastic in my opinion. I did indeed try to work some of this in, and I have been trying to apply these lessons more again myself.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      1. Thanks Ben! I thought I recognized the ‘Sandman touch’. And thanks for posting the text of your talk as well. You may have noticed that referred people to thiss post in a comment I made on the Atomic Insights post Importance of nuclear energy to modern society. I’m going to update that to reflect your update. Thanks again!

        1. Ooops again – I forgot to ask. Did anyone record audio of your presentation, or a video? I think all of these things need to be widely circulated.

        2. All – the reason I was asking about recordings is that I thought a video of the talk would be a good idea. I grabbed the slides and the text, and without telling Ben, I made a video using my (Canadian) voice for the narration. Ben has seen the video, approved it, and shared it with many of his online nuclear friends. The video is at:
          How Can Community Support for the Nuclear Option Be Achieved? – Ben Heard
          Enjoy! Please share it with all of your ‘nuclear friends’ and embed it in posts and comments. I know that Ben’s been busy but I was so hoping that he’d post it here as well. (Nudge, nudge!)
          Seriously, I think the presentation needs wide circulation. The method will work for whatever community you want to influence. IMO we need to start getting the nuclear option into the minds of the business community, for the very real business benefits of nuclear energy.

  4. For some reason people can immediately recognise unsound ideas like using seawater to grow bananas in the desert. However they go blank over the idea of replacing coal with wind and solar. Sure why not they think. Perhaps some ideas are so far removed from our experience they are hard to grasp. Or maybe they are too lazy to think it through … Fukushima 20,000 people killed forget nuclear. Each person will need some kind of epiphany to force them to think harder. With my SA relatives the line I’m using is future jobs for young people when the car assembly lines, naval boat building and steel mills have left town.

    1. Epiphanies are helpful, they happen sometimes, but not often in my experience, It’s usually more gradual than that. My best success has always come from occupying the middle ground as I argue in the paper and giving people plenty of space to vent their opinions. Then, if you are still standing and pretty calm, they will get around to asking a genuine question, Dialogue can then begin.

      Writing this paper has been really good for me, as it has been a solid reminder that my role is not to preach to the converted, but to offer something attractive and believable to those who are concerned about climate and our environment and want to explore nuclear without being jumped all over. I have made that mistake several times. It only alienates people.

      For some folks, the jobs argument is really compelling. In my experience with the environmentally concerned crowd, it is a very important add-on. For business and government it is of more central importance.

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