In this month’s SACOME journal, the published results of independent random polling of over 1,200 South Australians settles a hotly contested point: far more South Australians support uranium mining (55.0%) and the development of a nuclear power sector (48.0%) than oppose (25.5% and 32.6% respectively). The “strong support” for nuclear power (29%) outweighed the “strong opposition” (20%). In both cases just under 20% of South Australian’s are neutral on these issues.

Let’s hope this important finding provides the evidentiary circuit-breaker our politicians require. No longer can our political leaders retreat behind the obvious canard of public opinion being against nuclear power. When they do so, it is they who act contrary to public opinion. Our politicians can lead on this issue confident in the knowledge that nearly 50% of South Australians are right behind them, and 20% of South Australians are not opposed.

So, here’s a message to the political leadership in South Australia and Australia. In a week in which the IPCC hands down yet more concerning news on our climate change challenge, I contend that our political leaders have a duty to the public they serve, the offices they hold, the democracy they represent and the future they can shape to listen to their constituents on nuclear power. Listen to your voters, represented here in this survey. Listen to your business community, represented by Business SA. Listen to your pre-eminent scientific and technological minds, represented by ATSE. Listen to the call from a coalition of our leading climate scientists .

We get that politics is tough and we have done what you have told us we need to do. You can’t mistake our position. We have spoken, not quietly, but loudly. If you still can’t hear us, you may need to take your fingers out of your ears.

Congratulations SACOME for funding this independent polling, and on this excellent article authored by Dayne Eckermann. The issue also features a great column, Let’s talk nuclear, from my debate buddy Michael Angwin.

P.S. The most important finding, for me, in the above is the gender division. We must clearly improve at delivering our messaging to and for women, and seek the involvement of our many female experts at every opportunity. If that difference could be eliminated in favour of nuclear power, this would be a slam dunk.


  1. Australia could make good use of at least some nuclear energy. We also have good expertise to sell well managed nuclear fuels and systems to exploit nuclear energy and help dispose of the waste. Significant trading resources can be made available.

  2. A key metric could be those totally opposed to nuclear, some 32.6% in response to Q5 of the poll. The age dissection supports my idea of ‘green fogies’ ie baby boomers like Mike Rann and some of my relatives who still haven’t gotten over Moruroa Atoll bomb testing by the French. When mines minister Koutsantonis thought uranium enrichment would be a good form of value adding for SA he was quickly slapped down by premier Weatherill, who we note was only just re-elected recently. Weatherill may also have been mentored in his anti-nuclear views by Rann. Anyways Koutsantonis then said SA had plenty of gas which was $4 a GJ at the time with Torrens Island baseload station being Australia’s biggest gas user. The Japanese will pay $19 for Cooper Basin gas in the form of LNG via Qld starting 2015.

    Perhaps that 33% strongly opposed to nuclear will shrink when the gas price trebles, when wind power doesn’t help much with air conditioning in 46C heat and solar doesn’t help at night. There’s also the exodus of young people looking for jobs and the laid-off car and naval boat builders in a couple of years. Pt Stanvac desal could be working hard if this year is an El Nino so electricity, water and fresh food all go up in price. I’d redo the poll a year from now.

    1. About Mururoa : At work, we have a large size world map on the wall next to the coffee machine. Checking all those various small islands in the pacific, I suddenly wondered what the distance between Mururoa and Australia is.

      OK, I was a bit puzzled to find out that both Chile and Peru are nearer from Mururoa than Australia is. So I’m wondering, do you realize UK did it’s aerial nuclear testing *in* South Australia ?

      1. Former premier Mike Rann specifically mentioned Moruroa as formative influence on his political views. It was he who banned uranium mining at Arkaroola but apparently drilling for geothermal heat nearby is OK; see slide 1 on the renewable energy agency website
        SA is not a nuclear fuel cycle virgin since it already has uranium mining and has hosted A bomb tests by the Brits after WW2.

        At Maralinga inside the Woomera restricted zone a number of ground and balloon launched A bombs and dirty bombs were exploded. Ironically several potential new uranium mines like Carapateena have since been discovered inside the zone. Those hard rock mines will never go ahead due to lack of power and fresh water yet they could revive the sagging SA economy. The Brits also detonated A bombs off WA in the Montebello Islands with one crater now a safe refuge for the endangered leatherback turtle.

        1. Thanks for the answer but it’s still puzzling how an island almost 7000km away from Australia became that important for Australia, more than what happened inside Australia.

          1. I’m saying that Mike Rann could be the eminence grise or power behind the throne of SA Labor politics. Rann says he got his political start opposing French testing. If I recall the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior ship in NZ by the French military particularly inflamed him. See the second paragraph under Early life in
            Twenty years later he ended running a province with a quarter of the world’s uranium but I don’t think he ever quite got his head around nuclear power = bombs.

            BTW that was the hawksbill turtle not leatherback that uses an A-bomb crater off WA for nesting. Reason being humans stay away.

  3. riddle me this… every age group showed greater than 50% support, but total support was les than 50%. Doesn’t make sense.

    1. Clearly there’s been some mistake there.

      Also is anybody else rather unsurprised that the peak body representing the mining and energy industry funds a poll that happens to find support for nuclear? I know it’s “independent” but I’ve seen too many independent studies that give clearly biased results to not take this with a fair degree of skepticism.

      1. I can’t buy into that out of “scepticism”. The results are very consistent with a much larger polled number from the local newspaper recently (though this sample would have strongly self selected, and indeed the support indicated was higher than this random sample). Aside from that, follow the link provided by Irregular Commentator. The questions were provided by SACOME and you can review them. The polling was done by an independent company and the sample was random.

        It’s tough to fudge a question like “Please rate your level of support for nuclear power”, unless you substitute “support” for “opposition” perhaps.

        It’s also consistent with my anecdotal experience from years of dealing with the topic in SA including several debates and dozens of public presentations. For whatever that’s worth.

        1. Which is all well and good but it’s still clearly polling done by a vested interest and put out for the sake of promoting that vested interest. Even the very act of choosing whether or not to publicise such a poll is questionable. I mean if they found 60% opposition to nuclear the results never would’ve seen the light of day. The fact that this polling was clearly done with a specific purpose of promoting the idea of a nuclear industry immediately brings its independence into question. If you don’t agree with that just ask yourself the question: How often have you seen an industry group release polling detrimental to their vested interest? I’m not saying the numbers are automatically wrong but it should be met with a fair degree of scepticism.

          It’s also not the sort of numbers that are going to spark a frenzy of nuclear plant building. These numbers suggest it’s a polarising issue and it’d need to get to well above 50% approval before any politician with something to lose is really willing to take it on. Once you start getting into specifics and NIMBYism plays a role it’s likely that opposition to any actual proposal would be higher than what a general poll such as this indicates.

    2. I made an inquiry. A higher number female respondents than male (not shown in the details of the results), and (as one would expect) the bulk of the respondents being in the 18-34 and 35-50 age brackets, combined with the reported error of +/- 2.8% combines to explain the apparent discrepancy you identified. SACOME are happy to talk all queries via the contact details here

      I had nothing to do with the polling, however I feel confident this is a quirk, not an error.

  4. The men in suits think spending $40 bn on another batch of diesel subs will revive the SA economy and fill a defence need
    I have no idea whether we’ll need diesel subs in the 21st century but here’s some reasons to build NPP instead … reducing the need for gas fired base and intermediate load as the gas price escalates, future desalination, powering outback mines, exporting baseload power to the coal states, value adding to a local resource, preserving local workforce skills, keeping young people in the state and a replacement for the soon-to-be-defunct car industry. Oh yes and mitigating climate change. If these reasons aren’t good enough I dunno what is.

    1. You forgot refocussing and revolutionising the relevant faculties at the universities which will need to teach the physics, chemistry, engineering, safety, management…

      I know I would have done nuclear physics if it had been advertised back at the time!

  5. Have any of you commentators contacted your local MP to check his/her attitude to nuclear power for SA? If you haven’t, then it’s time you did. Minister for regions, Geoff Brock [lives in Port Pirie], is near the “nuclear”region for SA and ought to be amenable to the idea of a big new industry for our state. He’s in my sights. Perhaps you might like to have a go at him as well. Just a thought.

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