Change in the air for Australia?

So yesterday I stumbled on this article from the SMH, which is talking about Australia’s new Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel. Recently annoucned, Dr. Finkel will be moving into the position in 2016. The main point of this article is a couple of statements made by Dr. Finkel regarding Australia’s use of coal, and the need to move towards a carbon-free energy system.

His position seems to be that that we should transition to entirely renewable energy, but that nuclear should ‘absolutely be considered’. Both parts of these comments are very good to hear, not only is there now a voice that will push seriously for renewable energy, it is also a pragmatic voice that is OK with using nuclear power as an interim, low-carbon, constant supply energy source.

At this point it is really quite shocking that Australia hasn’t moved towards using nuclear energy. Of all the countries in the world, we are perhaps one of the best suited for nuclear energy: we have an incredible amount of empty land, that is currently going unused, far away from any people and any risk of accidental health effects (which is also a good place to store any waste); we are right in the middle of a tectonic plate and as such do not suffer from frequent earthquakes that can damage nuclear reactors (I’m looking at you Japan); and we have 31% of the world’s uranium, an incredibly valuable resource that we currently make no use of.

It is becoming a little frustrating to live in Australia at the moment, around the world we see huge developments and steps forward towards combating climate change, from China’s push to build nuclear reactors, to the recent announcement of the world’s largest solar array being built in Morocco. Something has got to give soon, but we are already too late.

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Major players in the nuclear debate: World Nuclear Association

As I discussed in my previous post on the pro-nuclear movement, it is very hard to pin down who they are. I want to attempt, in my ‘major players’ discussion to create a balanced representation of who is important in this debate. The trouble is, unlike the anti-nuclear movement, there are no organisation that actively campaign for nuclear power, in the way that Greenpeace campaigns against it. There are many corporations, no doubt, that actively lobby for the use of nuclear power in many countries (probably most countries), but there are none with the same profile of Greenpeace that have the same activist leanings. This can be attributed to the fact that most developed nations have already got nuclear programs in place. So then, what is the job of NGOs that want to campaign for nuclear power?

Well, for the most part, it seems just to be advocacy. Although I briefly touched on them in a previous post, I am going to talk about the World Nuclear association (WNA), as they seem to be an equivalent body to Greenpeace, from the other side of the debate.

The WNA is an industry body that claims to have four main goals:

  1. Coordinating industry cooperation
  2. Representing the nuclear industry on the ‘world stage’
  3. Providing reliable information on nuclear power
  4. Providing leadership building and educational activities

For the second goal, the WNA associates closely with regulatory bodies, and makes and effort to represent the nuclear industry in the United Nations, especially on topics related to sustainable development and climate change.

It seems to me though, the area the public arm of the WNA is mostly focused on their third goal: providing reliable information. In their ‘Mission’ section, they elaborate on this to talk about how they are the world’s ‘most accessed’ source of information on nuclear power.

The WNA also has a good charter of ethics, which (I think) goes a long way to giving them a more respectable image than would be associated with other nuclear-based corporations. They aim to promote the safe, sustainable and peaceful use of nuclear power.

The only major problem I had was finding more information about it. Obviously, there is a lot on their own website, but there is little to be found outside of that. That may be because they are inoffensive as an organisation, and there just isn’t anything to find, or that they’re just very good at managing their search engine optimisation.

Say something controversial.