The Australia Institute doesn’t really do “review”.

From the initial submission to the Royal Commission, to the pre-emptive attack on the work from Senator Edward’s office and now to the response to the tentative findings, there is not a reviewer with any knowledge of the nuclear sector in sight.

In two out of the three documents we have a sole author with no track-record I can locate in nuclear, one who is not even listed on the website as a member of staff. When I asked that individual whether anyone reviewed his attack on the work of Senator Edwards he said:

I didn’t have formal reviewers. I got some friends to read it to make sure it was readable. There was no input about technical or other detail.

Oh, I did chat to Dave Richardson about net present value calculations. The bulk of his response was laughter.

…and once again, how is this relevant? Why do you keep discussing trivialities? Who cares who saw the paper? Who cares what the picture is?

He remarked further:

I’m not relying on any appeal to authority. It stands or falls on its merit. Who reviewed it is irrelevant. I could have given Satan and advanced copy for comment, and it would make not the slightest difference what the report actually says.

So, they don’t get it. Review is not an appeal to authority, it’s a vital quality check, particularly when writing outside your speciality  (which is a dubious thing to do anyway). In the event that Satan was well-informed about nuclear economics and had some feedback, I should hope it would make some difference in the final report. That’s the point of review.

In the most recent document with the punny title “Digging for Answers” the name Rod Campbell has been added. That’s prudent as I had pointed out that the “Director of Research” seems to be absent from all the research. According to him, he’s modest. I strongly suspect he literally had next to nothing to do with it.

Rod tweet

It’s not that targeting an organisation is a goal of mine, however TAI is clearly seeking to create as much noise as possible on the back of shoddy work with no quality control in an issue of state, national and global importance in which they have no specific expertise. That matters.

In the most recent document, The Australia Institute finds themselves needing to address the work of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission. Much of the issues raised are identical to those they brought up pre-emptively against the Edwards proposal. In other words, much of the Edwards proposal was substantially reinforced by the work of the Royal Commission and in several respects (larger facility, higher prices available) a raise on the assumptions we used.

I have been asked to take a look over it . Here is “Digging for Answers” with my sticky notes attached. Feel free to share this resource. The lack of criticism in much of the media shows it has become far too easy for “think tanks” to play a role in the public discourse without needing to work as hard as anyone else.

Download and save from this link to read the notes TAI Sticky notes


  1. What I haven’t quite understood is the misunderstanding The Australia Institute and Conservation SA have managed to pull off with this entire process.

    They’ve literally prejudiced the Royal Commission before it began officially, ignorant to the fact that findings are based on evidence presented to the Royal Commission, and then completely missed the point that all the consultants reports are very general in nature.

    They even had a public hearing and comment period to provide input to what questions Jacobs etc. should take into consideration. Where was The Australia Institute when that was progressing, they had an opportunity.

    All the arguments they put forward are framed from a strawman (e.g. “SA taxpayers have to pay”, ignoring what is actually said in the tentative findings and Jacobs MCM report) then proceed to give statements which have no supporting context or evidence to back up their claims.

    They talk about terrorism risk to spent canisters and say we should not proceed because of this (at forum), and yet do not describe their rational on how they determined that the terrorism risk is high enough to discourage storing spent fuel. How does a terrorist get into a spent fuel canister? How do they get past the 24/7 security? How do they then get away with material?

    That is the main issue, the lack of evidence describing in detail the rational to back up their claims.

    “The Australia Institute – Narratives that matter”

      1. On an Android tablet I didn’t see them with the PDF reader that the Chrome browser calls upon (and I guess contains), but did with Xodo. So one possible solution is to try different ones of the many available PDF readers (the tablet says it has accumulated five) until one is fouhd that works.

  2. “It should be noted that Jacobs themselves have a vested interest in expanding the nuclear industry globally. They consult extensively to the industry on construction of new plants, maintenance and operation of existing plants as well as waste disposal and decommissioning.”

    Should it?

    This looks like the public consultation equivalent of shouting “industry shill!” then pressing Block.

    1. So taking their logic I shouldn’t go see a plumber for advice on a plumbing problem because they have a vested interest rather an independent DIY person who hasn’t had any formal plumbing qualifications.


  3. In the mindset of the people that oppose nuclear energy, anyone with any expertise in the topic is permanently tarred with “vested interest.”

    Therefore, when they write anything on the topic, they do not seek review from an authority that might actually have accurate knowledge, because, of course, that knowledge had to have been gained while in the industry. Even academic study makes one suspect because they obviously approached knowledge accumulation without the foundational understanding that nuclear is bad, bad, bad.

    Sometimes I just have to dash off short, unresourced observations. Somebody might actually be a tiny bit amused. 🙂

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