Misinformation about nuclear power

Dr Ziggy Switkowski: "The concerns that people have about nuclear power tend to be around the management of long-lived radioactive waste.  The use of water, for example, there's a NIMBY phenomenon about not in my backyard because the concern is that living adjacent to a nuclear power station puts you at heightened risk.  Now the reality is if you take an economy like France which is powered almost entirely, 75% of the electricity is nuclear powered and has been over many decades, you can demonstrate that networks of reactors can be safely managed and lead you to having a competitive advantage on the back of low cost energy.  The storage of long-lived radioactive bi-products is not a technical problem, it's a social problem.  The technology of consolidating nuclear waste and storing it for long periods of time, hundreds, thousands of years, is from an engineering point of view, fairly straightforward.  The difficulty is in getting community buy-in and government buy-in in terms of where the locations of those repositories should be.  And even in the most recent drama around Fukushima, the problem there firstly was in the context of an extraordinary tsunami of a magnitude that hadn’t been experienced for a very, very long period of time.  And the deficiencies of the nuclear network were not in the technology of reactors, it was in the location of the reactors in a tectonically active zone.  Something that in Australia you wouldn’t have.  So the issue, what I've found as I've travelled around the country talking about a nuclear power and alternatives is that because we do not have an existing nuclear infrastructure we don't have a society that is well informed about things nuclear.  And as a result you have a whole range of strongly held opinions but they're not informed.  Give you another, an insight into the way it's unfolding in Australia.  You find in Australia that the opinions are divided in that men as a group are very pro nuclear.  Happy with the technology, accept the appeal of that form of electricity generation.  Women as a group are generally against nuclear power and their concerns are around the radiation exposure and the possible harm to their families.  And they're quite deeply held views and in the case of the concerns around nuclear power that can be explained but it takes time and I think in the absence of any sort of history of nuclear power in Australia it's going to take us some years to persuade people as to the answers to their questions."

Categories: Activism, Energy Concerns, Global Markets
Author: Dr Ziggy Switkowski
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