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.



  1. Ben, Looking forward to the follow up – very interesting that there is a conference on women’s points of view on nuclear issues.

  2. Many thanks for your post. I don’t know how to say this, but I will try. I hope that I will not sound smug or irrelevant, but this retired engineer has been very happy to read your blog and to see your very strong commitment and contribution to rational discourse on matters energy and, in particular, nuclear.

    It warms my heart to know that the argument for at least considering nuclear power on its merits is being so strongly made by someone who is not an engineer with credentials that date from the 1950’s, but one who has the energy and perspective of the here and now.

    All the best, Ben.

  3. Ben, you will be pleased to know that wife Eva (who you have met) was very impressed and strongly influenced by Senator Edwards speech. She has put up with my harping about nuclear for the last 5 years but Edwards has won her over. She now tells her girl friends about why we need nuclear power. This, in one of the Greenest places in Australia – Byron Bay – where she worries about letter bombs from the locals (just kidding on that one).

    Enjoy Japan. We look forward to your responses on the visit to the Daiichi power plant. Don’t forget to take your geiger counter with you 🙂

  4. Going to Daiichi? Helen Caldicott and Chris Busby send their condolences.

    Have fun and learn a lot!

  5. Well done, Ben, for all your legwork on the ground up till now, which has stirred up all the positive engagement, from the pollies as well!

    While you’re over in Japan, I was just wondering whether you could make some enquiries re the practicalies of getting a few litres of some of the highly purified, slightly tritiated, water which they have sitting around in large tanks near the Fukushima shore line, available for export. I would be very interested in holding a Fukushima Water Drinking Party here at home in the UK, invite a reporter, turn a head or two, and maybe open some minds.

    If that’s not possible, maybe I could cook up an equivalent-sievert beverage from mashed banana and ground brazil nut. Call it FED-water or something, for Fukushima Equivalent Dose.

    It would be nice to have an up-to-date assay of the water in the tanks, to see if the idea’s a goer or not. Does it still contain sea salt, for example?


    1. The water that has gone through the ALPS process is as clean as distilled water, only the tritium remains. From the ternary fission yield, the tritium content of the 3 cores at the time of the accident can be calculated as about 1e15Bq. In 500,000 tons of contaminated water this would give an average of 2MBq/l. However, givent the physical properties of H2 and H2O, I would think a large fraction of the tritium inventory was already released in the first few days of the accident (without causing any measurable problem).
      According to
      tepco are looking for tritium removal technology for waters with a content between 0.6 and 4.2MBq/l but they may be storing water with much smaller concentrations as well.

      As for the drinking party, count me in if you can get your hands on that stuff.
      The dose coefficient for H3 is 1.8e-11Sv/Bq, so a pint at 1MBq/l gives you around 10 microSv, about a day’s worth of normal natural background, distributed over a week.

      A pint of beer, on the other hand, probably gives you a day’s worth of natural alcohol exposure in a few hours.

    2. You would not believe the similarity of a discussion among the group. We think we could bottle and sell it. No, it goes through RO desalination and radionucleide removal, and then sits in tanks.

      The scale of this is staggering, I’m really seriously upset by the stupidity.

      It seems little more than penance.

  6. Apropos of decarbonising SA I note the 600 MW Ceres wind farm now thinks it is viable
    SA wind penetration could increase from 30% to 40%. Will this increase power prices? Yes since the RET subsidy alone is $40 per Mwh plus generation costs whereas Vic brown power can be imported for nearer $30. Will it decrease emissions? Based on wind integration studies in Ireland the US and elsewhere probably not. For mainly gas backup 30% seems to be a sweet spot and exceeding it will cause inefficient cycling. It could also put too much synchronous generation offline at unsafe levels.

    Ceres were talking about a hay burning generator for backup which creates a whole new set of problems. Oddly I think they will be 20 km from the proposed Hillside mine which will need 24/7 power. Both projects take good cropping land out of production.

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