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.