This week, the Conservation Council of South Australia released a report purporting to provide a road map for 100 % renewable energy in South Australia, achievable in the next 15 years. Here is the summary (version 15 June 8.36 pm).
This version of the report is also available here.
As far as the key message goes I’m both interested and nonplussed. As a relatively small part of a vastly larger grid, I find this a barely-relevant pursuit; possibly feasible with sufficient expense and government fiat. As recently published in Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, we said:
In electricity terms, South Australia is not, in normal circumstances, an island. The
current and future success of integrating variable renewable energy in South Australia
hinges on the reliability provided by the rest of the NEM network. In that context,
pursuing high penetrations of variable renewables in South Australia, as an end itself,
becomes a parochial pursuit more so than a meaningful contribution to decarbonising the National Electricity Market.
I will leave it to my energy-literate readers to offer further critique on this plan.
However this summary report did not limit itself to a positive renewable story for South Australia. It dedicated some space to attacking nuclear energy technologies. I was stunned by the reference to Optus. See the image below, taken from page 10 of the summary report.
A mistake is not beyond anyone, including me. The Conservation Council is perfectly entitled to make mistakes and it’s not my intention to poke fun.
However, these are serious matters and CCSA is prosecuting these arguments in a serious way. Given a full paragraph of unrelated material made print, I feel entitled to ask: how carefully was this material reviewed for anything prior to publication?
If the Conservation Council of South Australia is publishing nuclear “myth-busting” with reference to Optus, I posit that no one within the organisation is reviewing the veracity or robustness of the “nuclear energy myths” themselves. This may well be because, quite reasonably, no one within the organisation is sufficiently knowledgable to pick a fact from a furphy on these issues.
Take, for example, the last “myth” on this image: “NUCLEAR WEAPONS CANNOT BE MADE FROM THE INTEGRAL FAST REACTOR”.
The headline is an entirely correct statement. Nuclear weapons cannot be made from the integral fast reactor.
I had to deal with this, on the spot, in front of about 60 people yesterday, with Dr Mark Diesendorf, lead author of this work for the Conservation Council, telling an audience that the IFR increased proliferation risk. Yet the text above clearly states that, no matter what, a chemical reprocessing facility, which is nothing whatsoever to do with an IFR, is required to do any meaningful separation of plutonium. So if you don’t build a chemical reprocessing facility… what then? Are we to suppose that material from an IFR hot-cell in South Australia is first processed, then diverted, sent away on a ship to France to a facility that already exists and operates to undertake this process and the world is somehow more dangerous because of the IFR? Given that an IFR is designed around the permanent elimination of long-lived nuclear materials, the whole thing is patently absurd fearmongering.
As I said in panel yesterday, the South Australian community needs to reach a consensus position on nuclear. For that they need basically agreed information on the table for consideration.
So I am glad of the Royal Commission, because it will be hard to move to serious and intelligent discussions when far-reaching NGOs issue publications on contentious topics without seeking adequate review.
South Australia deserves better. Fortunately, there is plenty of time left for CCSA to take a more responsible approach, and there are plenty of people who would be willing to help.