A column discussing climate change and nuclear energy.


pragmatism |ˈpraɡmətɪz(ə)m| noun [ mass noun ]

an approach that evaluates theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.

Put simply, whatever works.

Today, there is a lack of pragmatism when it comes to discussing solutions to abate emissions from electricity production. Debate has lost its focus and devolved into technology tribalism with an idea that one solution can do it all.

With this year breaking records and all of the trends heading ever higher, is this debate responsible if both solutions abate emissions?

Moreover, the solution to our problems isn’t waiting for the discovery of new technology or the overhaul of existing infrastructure. All the material, tools and expertise we need to move forward are in our possession today.

A pragmatic approach bases decisions on solving a problem. Our biggest problem is the future of our habitable planet needing us, amongst other things, to decarbonise our electricity production as fast as we can.

It was with the combination of focus, confidence and optimism that got the human race to the moon in under a decade. Against all the odds, with technology and resources that today look paltry, we achieved what was the impossible. With this same spirit we can come into the next decade having achieved what also sounds impossible.

Whilst the problem facing us today large, we are fully capable of finding a solution to start making an impact. But we must not let idle debate get in the way.

Nuclear is not, and never will be, the adversary of renewables. One harnesses the nuclear forces of our universe and the other harnesses the forces of nature on our planet, together they are stronger and more effective. Alone they are doomed to fail — we all fail.

Coming into this new millennium we got a picture of what our modern civilisation was doing to our planet. Since then we have started making change but we are capable of more. It is with this optimism and motivation that we should take bolder steps with a pragmatic ideology. To achieve a goal that is hard but not impossible.

If we don’t, we will have to explain to future generations, with all that we know and could do, why we didn’t do enough.

Photo by Frédéric Paulussen on Unsplash
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CFMEU: 'Nuclear Power Will Kill the Coal Industry'

During the 2007 election campaign, that would elect Kevin Rudd, there was a discussion about nuclear power in Australia.

On July 30th, CFMEU mining division boss, now National President, Tony Maher gave an interview on Meet The Press program where he said:

The real threat to coal miners’ job security and power workers’ job security is 25 nuclear reactors in Australia.

On November 19, 2007 the CFMEU placed the following advertisement in the Courier Mail at the bottom of page 21:

Courier Mail, 19 November 2007, page 21

This is the real threat to coal power plants, from those who want to support them the most. Tony Maher continued:

That’s the harsh reality. A solar farm down the road is not going to close down a coal-fired power station. But 25 nuclear reactors will.

A bold statement but not surprising coming from the union representing coal workers. Their position is that they are not worried about solar, alone, disrupting coal power generation. Together, renewables with nuclear would be a threat to the future of coal power.

It could explain why the CFMEU is willing to donate to the party that opposes coal, but supports solar:

Donation data sourced from the Australian Electoral Commission.

With another federal election coming soon, we should all pay close attention to the details of decarbonisation policies. Are they supporting vested interests, ideologies of times past or pragmatic action?

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InDaily: The world is waiting →

Matt Clemow, general manager of the Committee for Adelaide talking to Tom Richardson at InDaily about their recent trip through Europe:

They want to develop a global coalition for the safe storage of waste… I think that’s been very clear in every meeting we’ve had

Dry Cask Storage South Australia has many favourable characteristics for the long-term storage of nuclear material. With some of the oldest and most stable geology in the world, we are well situated to offer a solution.

A new, world-class service with the best regulations and latest technology to manage the material safer than where it could have been previously.

The potential revenue could resolve some of the problems facing the state today:

  • New employment covering many sectors
  • Local manufacturing (steel, aluminium)
  • Funding for the arts
  • Funding for environmental projects
  • Funding for schools and TAFE
  • Upgrading infrastructure (more electric trains)

More than that, this is South Australia taking a global problem where many nations need a long-term solution. Where we can become the world leaders in this industry to drive innovation and build expertise further than possible before. ANSTO already has Australia on the world stage thanks to developments like Synroc — a “safe, secure matrix for the immobilisation and final disposal of radioactive waste.”

We, in South Australia, don’t get a lot of opportunities like this.

Today we approach a fork in the road. I hope that we go down the right path…

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Unintended Consiquences


Japan’s greenhouse-gas emissions rose to the second-highest on record in the year ended March 2014, revised government figures showed on Tuesday, reflecting a rise in coal-fired power after the indefinite closure of nuclear power plants.

Since the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Japan has relied heavily on imported fuels for electricity production to fill the gap left after suspending operation of all their nuclear power plants.

Chart of Japans net energy generation

The gap of 280TWh of electricity production was filled up entirely by coal and gas power plants. The Australian Department for Industry notes that since 2011 thermal power generation in Japan increased 61% from 2011 to December 2015. Coal exports from Australia to Japan increased 5% in 2015.

Since the shutdown in 2011, there has been an increased movement by anti-nuclear environmentalists to delay or stop the restart of the nuclear power plants. With the alternative of burning coal and gas into the foreseeable future, is that an acceptable choice to make as an environmentalist?

Moreover, the ripple effects for Japan’s new reliance on coal could be leading to the further development of coal ports near the Great Barrier Reef where dredging could interfere with the struggling ecosystem.

A tough dilemma for an anti-nuclear environmentalist.

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