Tomorrow, Adelaide will host a national day of action to protest any progress in potential further involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle in South Australia. The event is planned and coordinated by anti-nuclear groups from across the nation despite the fact that:

  1. The Citizen’s Jury process has only completed one of the three weekend meetings
  2. The Stakeholder Reference Group advising the jury process includes representation from these organisations
  3. The Citizen’s Jury will hear directly from representatives of several anti-nuclear organisations in the small expert witness list selected by the jurors themselves

Apparently, this level of involvement and representation is not enough. They will also gather and protest in the middle of a process in which they are deeply involved. There seems scant actual respect for the process itself.

We know why anti-nuclear groups are so terrified of this proposal. If South Australia/Australia were to provide a responsible service in used fuel management with international oversight, it would make it much easier for other nations to choose nuclear fission in their energy mix.

Why are they so concerned? We keep being told that nuclear is dying, that renewables are taking over, look at this investment level, look at these batteries. Despite being steeped in this literature and working on these matters full-time, according to my critics I seem to be constantly one media release behind on the technology breakthrough that will completely tip the energy balance to renewables.

This is basically complete rubbish. What is really happening is that we live in a world that is and continues to be dominated by fossil fuels. For evidence, consider Indonesia.

Earlier this year Indonesia released their energy investment plan from 2016 to 2025. I have reproduced the key table below. Allocated means a share of new production already allocated to private investors.

Generation Source Allocated (MW) Unallocated (MW) Total (MW) Percentage of total
Coal 25,125 1,714 26,839 43%
Gas (combined cycle) 6,780 9,310 16,090 26%
Geothermal 5,060 690 5,750 9%
Hydro 6,787 2,029 8,816 14%
Solar 0 2,900 2,900 5%
Other 1,922 0 1,922 3%
Total 45,674 16,643 62,317 100%

It’s 2016. They have all the options in front of them, and their electricity plan for the next 10 years is 43% coal and 69% fossil fuelled in total, in this huge, fast growing, poor nation on our doorstep. The 2.9 GW of new solar is something to cheer about, but not less than 26 GW of new coal is to come on line in the next 10 years.

This is not a blog discussion. This is not my opinion v yours. This is not the latest announcement from Elon Musk. This is the investment plan for Indonesia and PWC tells us loud and clear that coal fired power plants are to remain dominant.

A life of poverty for some Indonesians means living under a bridge. Image from Michael Shellenberger

So, if you were concerned about climate change, would it be a good thing or a bad thing to make it easier for Indonesia and dozens of nations like it to tilt their investment toward nuclear technology? While doing nothing, absolutely nothing, that need tilt investment away from renewable technology?

Australia will be lining up to help meet the growing coal demand from Indonesia, India and elsewhere. Many of the same faces and organisations you will see shouting down nuclear in Adelaide tomorrow will be asking you to protest and blockade Australian coal mine expansion and coal port expansion in Sydney and Melbourne the day after.

We are seriously running out of time for Australia’s “environmentalists” to wake up, grow up and join the damn dots.


  1. Well said Ben. In the last 40 years or so, every time organisations such as these celebrated the closure or non development of a nuclear power plant it was invariably coal that took its place. What a “victory” for the environment. They have a lot to answer for our current predicament. We do live in hope that they will “wake up & grow up” but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for their epiphany.

  2. If the greenies in Australia are similar to the antinuclear movement in the US; A substantial percentage of them are incapable of rational thought or discourse on the subject. Its a religious conviction, not subject to rational analysis; a nuclear weapon is bad and all advocates of anything nuclear are baby murdering war mongers. Some of those people actually believe that a nuclear power reactor is capable of exploding like a bomb

  3. I thought the Indos were looking at floating reactor supplied by Russia plus hosting the development of one of the MSR variants. They also drain pristine swamps, set lingering smoky fires to the vegetation then plant oil palms. I note they have some wet volcanic geothermal yet it was just five or so years ago that dry geothermal was supposed to provide 25% of our baseload. That came to nothing, a fact that seems lost on battery enthusiasts.

    However I think Indonesia is outdone in the hypocrisy stakes by our state of Queensland. They are pushing for development of the huge new Galilee Basin coal field as a ‘project of national importance’. The emissions thingy is covered since Qld say they will go from 7% renewables to 50% by 2030. Back in SA I wonder how things will go when they shut down Hazelwood, Liddell etc which are the lifelines for SA power supply. My suggestion to the protesters is to get Galilee Basin stopped which is the clear and present danger not nuclear.

  4. The IEA’s 2015 Special Report on South East Asia is worth reading. Indonesia’s energy plan looks very much in line with what the IEA has been saying for a number of years, For SE Asia:

    * Total primary energy demand up 80% from 2013 to 2040

    * Fossil fuels go from 74% of total primary energy demand in 2013 to 78% in 2040

    * Coal is the big winner with coal consumption more than tripling

    * Oil and renewables are the losers with bioenergy going from 21% to 13%

    * “other” renewables go from 4% to 6% and hydro stagnates at 2%

    Click to access weo2015_southeastasia.pdf

    The problem with the anti-nuclear crowd is that they live in a carefully constructed closed intellectual ghetto. They will not acknowledge that these scenarios look likely to play out on the basis of current evidence. They will dismiss the evidence as the work of the coal lobby or the demon of the day. They cannot bring themselves to seriously ask the blindingly obvious question of why governments and policy makers in South East Asia are choosing this path in direct contradiction to their religiously held beliefs that solar and wind are both cheaper and practical at very large scale. It demands a special sort of mindset and one that is basically anti-science – when the evidence conflicts with beliefs, the beliefs win.

  5. The Greens, anti nukes etc don’t bother with research, have a complete disregard for logic and are generally not willing to engage in sensible, civil discussion. They have always been thus all around the world. Their anti nuclear stance has effectively forced developing countries to turn to coal [Indonesia a case in point], thereby contributing more than anyone to the apparent CO2 problem most of the world believes we are facing. They have been an absolute menace to the world’s desire for an emissions- free source of electricity. They should hang their heads in shame.

  6. Terry I agree. I’ve long felt precisely that. But what I do struggle with is why being a Green or a self-professed environmentalist means, for so many of them, that quiet reflective analysis of the facts is impossible. Churchill once said that the ability to change one’s mind shows that one has a mind to change. Help! Is there a psychologist in the house?

    1. It’s far from impossible and I am proof. Which is another reason, along with basic decency, that we need to be as nice as we can as often as we can. This post is an example as the firmest I get in my language, and it understands that some people in the scene will never listen to me. But many will.

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