This year has been a unique year in Australian politics with elections held both nationally and in our nation’s biggest state, New South Wales.
Elections are the ultimate battle of ideas. The big issues become “referendums” and even the smallest one can give a local MP sleepless nights.
This year, both elections were named by many analysts as “polls on energy and emissions policy”.
Perhaps as no surprise to many, the real solution that seems to tick every box was hardly raised at all.
That solution is, of course, nuclear power.
It’s guaranteed baseload energy with zero emissions, no fossil fuels and probably the cheapest cost to the average Australian household. So why wasn’t nuclear a “referendum” issue at either of these elections?
Because political parties from all sides (with some minor exceptions, such as Mark Latham), believe it is just too politically risky to talk about.
The combined impacts of the Cold War and disasters such as Chernobyl back in the mid-1980s essentially shut down any debate or discussion in this country — and those willing to raise the prospect of anything nuclear in Australia have been shouted down ever since.
In other words, the vast majority of us are not aware of the technological changes the industry has gone through for the past 45 years.
Consider, just for a second, the change in technology your telephone has gone through in 45 years. How about your car, your television or your home computer?
Nuclear energy has undergone the same changes but the lack of debate means we just don’t know about it.
Last year, I attended and spoke at a global seminar in the US on the next generation of nuclear energy systems — Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). These are not the reactors your grandparents grew up with, nor Mr Burns’ nuclear plant on The Simpsons.
They are smaller in size than conventional reactors and can be placed in remote areas without the need to feed directly to the grid.
SMRs are constructed in a factory environment and delivered to site for final assembly.
Given their size and efficiency, their waste is minimal (new advancements in technology continues to address the waste issue) and compared to reactors of bygone eras, they are becoming very affordable.
There is another reason we need to discuss these issues.
While Australia’s future energy issues continue to go round in circles, the world is moving forward.
If we don’t have the conversation we will be left behind. As I write this piece, a further 50 nuclear reactors are being built globally (450 reactors currently operate in 31 counties) including in Finland, France, the UK, China and Canada.
The United Kingdom began its conversation regarding the benefits of nuclear energy more than 10 years ago. It has led to an informed public that understands the benefits of this unique solution.
Now is the right time for Australia to begin a mature and fact-filled conversation on the benefits of nuclear energy.
Simply, let’s debunk the myths and clear the air.