When Wright is Wrong- Article from Climate Spectator

Now, I have been guilty of the odd pun in article titles in the past (thanks to George Pell and Jim Green) but on this occasion, I swear it wasn’t me!!! Climate Spectator did it.

I was put out by a piece that ran on Climate Spectator this week authored by Matthew Wright of Beyond Zero Emissions. It was poorly researched and ill reasoned, and to my astonishment ran on a climate change site with not the least consideration of the issue of greeenhouse gas emissions. Once again, BZE seem to actively confound the issue of solving climate change with the issue of stopping nuclear power. They believe, it would appear, that they must undermine nuclear on every occasion in order to get anywhere with their plans.

I’m constantly annoyed by things I read, but this time I dropped an email to Tristan Edis and he agreed to publish a response provided it got to him before the momentum was lost. Here is the result, which also now has the benefit of some relevant charts and images.

For reasons unknown, comments have been closed on my article and comment on Wright’s have been deleted altogether. Discussions can be taken up here should anyone wish

It is a longstanding tactic of anti-nuclear ideologues to paint the nuclear industry as a technologically stagnant, declining dinosaur with no future, for the simple reason that no one likes to back a loser. It’s a great way of keeping Australians from bothering to look more closely. The article by Matthew Wright (The end of nuclear, May 8) continues this tradition.

Actual data works against Wright’s contention

Environmentalism in the mud: responding to Jim Green’s attack on Barry Brook

“This has got to stop, and it stops when people start taking a stand… The schism in environmentalism over nuclear power is now well underway. It is sad that the other side seem to have decided in their righteousness that they are allowed to play dirty and go after individuals, using the same cherry-picking abuse of science that is all to familiar in climate change denial.”

I was saddened this week to be forwarded a hatchet job on my friend and collaborator, Professor Barry Brook, authored by Jim Green of Friends of the Earth (FoE). Saddened, but not surprised. FoE has form in this department, having deployed these guerrilla tactics before against James Lovelock when he became inconveniently persuasive on the subject of nuclear power. It would seem that it is now Barry’s turn.

Jim Green, Australia's anti-nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth

I have come to know Barry very well over the last 12 months. I know him well enough to know that he is both the last person who would ask for defending, and the most deserving of defence. So I offer this response to Green’s work. I really, dearly hope it will be read outside my circle of existing readers and supporters. I have some important things to say.

Fukushima’s long-lived outrage is no nuclear accident

What is the risk from a nuclear power plant melt-down?

If you reach for the well known formula of Risk being the product of Likelihood and Consequence…then you are missing something big. That formula is going to give you some idea of hazard, as in the  potential harm that can be estimated by science.  Risk needs to capture so much more. You need to work out the hazard, then add the outrage.

Outrage is the overall negative human response to an event.  How angry are people? How afraid? How upset? How emotionally charged? How suddenly and unusually ready to blockade, write letters, make signs etc? How prepared to change behaviour, take precautions (make no mistake, outrage has its place)?

The major outcomes of Fukushima have little to do with hazard and everything to do with outrage. Consider:

How close did Japan really get to a widespread #nuclear disaster? Cross post from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger

As we approach the first anniversary of the Sendai quake and tsunami, I am steeling myself for the inevitable blanket commentary of a nuclear disaster that never was, while we roundly forget about the genuinely horrific human tragedy of that event with some 20,000 lives lost in 7 minutes of terrifying natural calamity.

It has already begun, with a the release of a report that focusses on the very worst case scenario possible that never actually happened. In a low blow, this report went to media first before experts, leading to unmitigated headlines lifted straight from the report with little critical examination.

So I’m very grateful to my friends Ted and Michael for being early in the response, asking us to think very hard about the stories we choose to tell ourselves. The original article is published here, which is also the best place to leave a comment. Please read on.

Posted Thursday, March 1, 2012, at 4:55 PM ET

With an eye to the first anniversary of the tsunami that killed 20,000 people and caused a partial meltdown at the Fukushima power plant in Japan, a recently formed nongovernmental organization called Rebuild Japan released a report earlier this week on the nuclear incident to alarming media coverage.

Japan Weighed Evacuating Tokyo in Nuclear Crisis,” screamed the New York Times headline, above an article by Martin Fackler that claimed, “Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.”

The larger crisis was a worst-case scenario imagined by Japanese government officials dealing with the situation. If workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were evacuated, Fackler writes, some worried “[t]his would have allowed the plant to spiral out of control, releasing even larger amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere that would in turn force the evacuation of other nearby nuclear plants, causing further meltdowns.”

Fackler quotes former newspaper editor and founder of Rebuild Japan Yoichi Funabashi as saying, “We barely avoided the worst-case scenario, though the public didn’t know it at the time.”

To say that Japan “barely avoided” what another top official called a “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns and the evacuation of Tokyo is to make an extraordinary claim.

10 questions for Richard Broinowski

Tonight I attended a presentation by Richard Broinowski, who was promoting his book to be released this year on the Fukushima nuclear power incident and its implications for Japan. It is as yet untitled. He is looking for suggestions. I have one or two…

Come question time, I did not know where to begin. People like this know as well as climate deniers that when they have the floor, they will always be able to propagate more FUD than fact, and no Q and A effort will ever catch them up.

That’s probably where I went wrong.

Fukushima- minute by minute

“I’m not playing pretend about how I felt reading this report. It was, at times, confronting for someone asking Australians to give consideration to nuclear.”

A very important document came to light this week. It’s the Special Report on the Nuclear Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station published by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. It provides an incredibly detailed account of the events that transpired before, during and after the terrible dual natural disasters of the Sendai quake and tsunami(s) that crippled the Daiichi plant.

While I have not managed to read every word, what I have covered I found riveting and challenging . From my position of a nuclear proponent, it did nothing to dull my rational support for the rapid deployment of nuclear power as an essential climate change solution. However there is no denying this report makes for some pretty amazing reading regarding the challenges that were faced and largely overcome in some really horrible circumstances to bring the plant back under control. To that end, I see that the report will serve equally well those who like to play on fear as those who wish to appeal to rationality, because it honestly provides ample support for both!

Of Leaders, Liars and Leaves

A few interesting things have come across my desk this week which I would like to highlight in brief for their relevance to the DSA mission.


The B&W mPower Small Modular Reactor, which I have previously profiled in the Decarbonise SA Energy Plan, took a nifty step forward with a signed letter of intent with Tennessee Valley Authority to build six of these reactors. You can read more about it here.


Over coming years we should see more and more certain information about this design emerge; I’ll be watching out for it. I think this design does an excellent job of addressing the concerns of many about nuclear power, but as promised dear subscribers, it will be far from the only option I will be highlighting for SA.


On the subject of concerns about nuclear power, the scale of TEPCO and Japanese government incompetance and negligence was writ large this week with the revelation that the tsunami plan for the Fukushima plant was 1-page, estimated a maximum wave height of less than 6m (the tsunami was 15m) and grossly underestimated the size of the potential quake. No complex analysis required from me here, this is simply disgraceful.

Guest Post from Fukushima Province: The Issue of Trust

It’s with pleasure that I introduce the first ever guest post to Decarbonise SA by my good friend, Nic Bartlett.

Nic is an old mate of mine from undergraduate university days. A fellow South Australian by upbringing, Nic has been a resident of Fukushima Province in Japan for the past several years. He teaches in English at a secondary school and pursues a serious training regimen in the sport of kendo, in which he has attained the level of Australian Champion, and has competed at the World Championships. So if you dislike his post enough to physically attack him, first be sure that he is not carrying a stick of any kind.

Following the quake (which he was genuinely fortunate to survive) and tsunami, Nic and a cohort of Australian’s hop scotched their way across a damaged nation and finally back to Australia, to the waiting arms of concerned friends and family. At the time, I had a growing profile as a commentator on matters nuclear, and through the medium of Facebook Nic challenged me with the most pertinent of questions: Would I take myself and my family back?

On the subject of Fukushima

It is not the purpose of this site to undertake the detailed analysis of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear accident. That is being done more than adequately elsewhere.

However I would not want anyone to think that Decarbonise SA is trying to ignore it. Reality is our friend around here; it serves our mission not one bit to ignore or obscure the facts of this event. The more people talk about it, and the more that talk is informed and constructive the better. 

To that end, I have provided links to three articles I have had published in relation to this event.

The first, Think climate when judging nuclear power, was a guest post on Brave New Climate during the height of the crisis. It was well received and broadly distributed, and was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald. Here I was focusing on trying to have people retain an open mind, and contextualise the incident.

The second, What happened? What next? was published as the lead article for the Tech State on-line magazine. Here I am moving into considering the implications of halting nuclear power on the back of this event.

Third, Life after Fukushima: the future of nuclear power in East Asia, is something of a variant on the second post, but here I am beginning to explore the lessons that need to be taken from the event, with particular focus on the importance of nuclear power in East Asia.

I hope these articles will help to clarify my approach to this event, and how I feel it should impact our decision-making in energy.

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