back to article Oz has to go nuclear, says Adelaide U scientist

Prominent University of Adelaide climate scientist Professor Barry Brook says it’s inevitable that Australia will embrace nuclear energy in the battle against greenhouse gas emissions. The director of climate science at the university believes that by the end of the century, Australia will need at least 100 gigawatts of …


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  1. Morrie Wyatt

    The mighty atom.

    Thunderbirds are go!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Inevitable if you think about it.

    Renewable's are good but even Australia does not have sunny days every day and windy nights every night. Count up how many die horrible deaths due to Coal and Nuclear becomes an easy choice, apart from the ignorant hysteria against it. And yes, I would happily live near a Nuclear Power Station.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. RAMChYLD

      Re: Inevitable if you think about it.

      Well, if the power station is staffed by an incompetent army of Homer Simpson clones (i.e. Chernobyl), I'd be very afraid.

      Have you tried using that BBC Dimensions thing to see what happens if a Chernobyl style disaster happens in the middle of Alice Springs (the most isolated area in Australia)?

      Here, I'll pull it up for you:

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Inevitable if you think about it.

        Ah, Alice Springs isn't the most isolated spot in Australia. It's actually the only reasonably populated area for miles in any direction.

        A far better answer is to drop some reactors on the seabed. Good for cooling, close to populated areas reduces transmission losses, no air means no fallout and damned difficult to get to if you want to cause mischief. I believe the frogs sell some small-ish ones. 250MW or so IIRC.

        You get the twin benefits of cheap power and watching the hairshirt and sandle brigade choke on their muesli - thus (hopefully) culling the gene pool.

      2. Ian Yates


        Not all of the staff at Chernobyl were incompetent, just unlucky. The biggest problem was the poor design of the reactor, something that modern reactors have long solved (even the Fukishima Daiichi reactors were very old designs, having been commissioned before Chernobyl).

        I'm not saying that there will never be another reactor meltdown (humans are involved, of course), but the chances are diminishing with every reactor generation, and any that occur /should/ be far more contained.

        And don't forget that coal power stations are releasing significant levels of radioactive material, so it's not a case of one being "clean" compared to the other.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hysteria

          Well as long as the chances are diminishing I guess the sea has space for some more toxic junk, heck the Aussies might even be the ones who figure out what to do with the tons of dangerous by-products and their half life that exceeds written records of our society.

          1. Ian Yates

            Re: Hysteria

            Reprocessing and breeder reactors would considerably reduce the amount of waste, but it isn't "economical" compared to burying the stuff and digging up fresh uranium.

            Think about that sentence for a bit and then explain the logic in allowing companies/governments to completely hand-off a potentially massive problem to future generations just because they think it would cost too much to follow a partially proven research path that could potentially fully solve it.

      3. Justicesays

        Re: Inevitable if you think about it.

        Did you try what it looks like if the disaster happened at Chernobyl?

        I still seem to have both my heads so I guess I am ok.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Inevitable if you think about it.

      " even Australia does not have sunny days every day and windy nights every night"

      A well worn argument. You understand the concept of storage?

      1. Benjamin 4

        Re: Inevitable if you think about it. (AC 10:07 6th June)

        "A well worn argument. You understand the concept of storage?"

        You do understand the concept of efficiency and equipment cost don't you, and environmental cost during manufacturing?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In risk-advantage play-off, given all the public resentment to higher charges and typical greed amongst energy suppliers, I do not see there being any alternative to nuclear power. Renewable sources cannot supply what the people and companies need without increasing prices more than they are willing to tolerate.

  4. Robert Heffernan

    Build More Nukes

    I am a huge proponent of nuclear power. Australia could lead the way in safe, reliable, and cleaner reactor technology.

    We are in a position to take the lessons learned from 3-Mile island, Chernobyl, and even Fukushima to ensure our reactors are first class and as safe as can possibly be designed for. Not only that but with the reactor outlined in the article, we could have other countrys pay us to dispose of their nuclear stockpiles and use it to generate our own power.

    There will always be green hippy doom and gloom protesters opposed to it and even supporters will be wary if one was to be setup next door to them. The best place for them would be in remote isolated locations or even built underground for additional protection from natural disasters and extremists. You can't have a nuclear disaster if the reactor is already burried.

    1. Dagg

      Re: Build More Nukes

      One major problem COST! Nuclear is only economic when heavily subsidised by government for the bomb program. This reactor design is no good for bombs and will be extremely expensive to build and run. The last figures I have seen was this would be 10 times more expensive than several coal fired plants, and in Australia even more expensive than solar.

      1. streaky Silver badge

        Re: Build More Nukes

        "Nuclear is only economic when heavily subsidised by government for the bomb program"

        Is not actually true. Sort of depends how you're doing it but if you build it as a front for a weapons program (like the early UK reactors) or as a new frontier of science and engineering (like the UK AGR research reactors where we rather stupidly tried to build them all at once) the paper costs to the build projects can be incredible.

        The proper cost estimates to a next gen done right are much less scary, and we currently have France to thank on carrying the costs of that. Incidentally subsidy-less before tax on power France has the cheapest energy costs in the world, it's only the massive tax they apply to it after-the-fact that brings it in-line with the rest of the world.

        We just need to stop moderating/cooling reactors with water at any pressure is all.

        1. CraigW

          Re: Build More Nukes

          "We just need to stop moderating/cooling reactors with water at any pressure is all."

          I couldn't agree more. It's utter nonsense that we split the atom and use it to power a giant kettle. It's like something from the 1800s.

          Is anyone researching a better way to extract the energy than 'heat something and turn a wheel'?

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: better way to extract the energy

            The energy arrives in the form of heat, since the annihilation of a nucleus requires very small tweezers to perform in a more controlled fashion. So your choices are pretty much "what to heat up" and then "what work to make your heat engine perform".

            People have looked into piping plasma through some cunning array of magnets to generate electricity directly, but several decades of (admittedly low-level) research have failed to make that method any better than turning a wheel.

          2. streaky Silver badge

            Re: Build More Nukes (CraigW)

            There's loads of ways to do it, some are being built - some aren't but the future of fission reactors is mapped out all the way to commercial fusion so smart countries are good to go.

            Molten salt reactors seem to be the future and there are a few prototypes around. The likes of using molten lead in place of water have been proposed too. There are of course plenty of gas-cooled reactors around also which is technology we understand well without the steam explosion risk.

            A non-water reactor with a decent environmental shield and something to do with the waste (I'm a big fan of deep borehole disposal which removes some of the very-long-term problems with the huge geologic waste stores) will solve basically any *environmental* nuclear counter-arguments.

          3. G.R.L. Cowan, H2-to-B convert

            Re: Build More Nukes

            "Is anyone researching a better way to extract the energy than 'heat something and turn a wheel'?"

            Sadi Carnot researched that a long time ago.

      2. Robert Heffernan


        Once again, there is that magic word that seems to get brandished around all too often these days, "Cost".

        Who cares how much it bloody costs!!! I would much prefer to pay more for power and to truly have a clean non-polluting power supply that can provide enough capacity without having to rely on the varying output of wind, solar and tidal sources.

        As you said, It's economic when it's subsidised by government nuclear weapons programs. Just because Australia doesn't have a nuclear weapons program doesn't mean that nuclear weapons programs can't subsidise our power plants. "Hey United States, Hey Russia, Hey China, We see you got a lot of weapons grade nuclear material you want to dispose of safely, you pay us lots of money and we will dispose of it for you safely in our shiny new power plants! We will send you back some nice safe low-radiation spent material for you to dispose of. You pay all shipping of course"

        There are a few things that should be fully funded, irrespective of cost. Clean energy, health care, medical research, education, space exploration. It's the people waving price tags around slowing the progress of the human race!

        1. Cupboard

          Re: @Dagg

          tides do have the advantage of being entirely predictable, they happen twice a day, every day and in a staggered order around the country.

      3. Andrew Norton

        Re: Build More Nukes

        " Nuclear is only economic when heavily subsidised by government for the bomb program"

        A large proportion of the costs of nuclear plants is due to excessive safety demands put in place by NIMBY's that don't understand nuclear technology. When the threshold for "leak" is so low, that it will be set off by a packet of brazilnuts, or a bunch of bananas or two, then you've got problems in your risk assessment, that's driving up costs.

        I'll happily live near a nuke plant again (used to live near sellafield). Can't be worse than the <20 year old coal plant near me, which has now found to have given some local residents uranium poisoning. Don't remember ANY nuclear plant doing that, in fact....

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Build More Nukes

          >clean energy

          Although presumably Australia will still mine it's enormous coal reserves and sell them to China - so it's only locally green.

      4. itzman

        Re: Build More Nukes

        well its one third to one fifth the cost of 'intermittent renewables' when all the holistic costs are taken into account.

        But then so are gas and coal..

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing to see here.

    So a well known proponent of nuclear power has started with the assumption that nuclear power is inevitable. Concluded from that assumption that it is inevitable. Then gone on to assert that consequently we should stop thinking about the issue and get on with making it inevitable*. Be still my beating heart!

    *While suggesting for no apparent reason that BHP Billiton should be building them, in contravention of Australian Law. And suggesting that "...the way it can be done is to build small reactors you can bury underground, so they're very safe like that."

    1. John Pattenden

      Re: Nothing to see here.

      Why do you suggest BHP Billiton builds them? Nobody else did.

      Contravening what law? Don't you think that would be sorted out first?

      The main benefit of small and underground would be that they would be out of sight; after all BHP and friends have already dug lots of big holes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing to see here.

        I didn't suggest BHP Billiton build them. Professor Brook suggested it, that's why it was in quotes. I was ridiculing the idea. The quote is from follow up material covered by ABC news. I think it would be essential that the social, legal and economic barriers be sorted out first. Brook has constructed an entire future timeline for huge nuclear investment in Australia while completely glossing over these issues.

        As for legality, the ARPANS Act specifically prohibits nuclear power plants. There is also state specific legislation in Queensland and Tasmania prohibiting nuclear power. In South Australia the Premier has entered the debate, pointing out that Brook's position is against current policy, and not economically viable.

        Brook had an opportunity to get media attention for World Environment Day. He chose to waste it on this.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Nothing to see here.

          "As for legality, the ARPANS Act specifically prohibits nuclear power plants."

          A huge green snake bars the way!!

          It's a sad statement of our times that there never are laws prohibiting government employees from entering their buildings in the morning.

  6. Martlark

    '... protecting against a Fukushima-style catastrophe'

    What catastrophe? No-one seriously injured or even killed. More like a minor industrial accident than a Bhopal style catastrophe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: '... protecting against a Fukushima-style catastrophe'

      Think you got it confused with the small fier in a storage room in a small workshop near you.

      This was the one in Japan (funny, foreign country where nothing important or nasty ever happens, it's all minor), where rather large areas are still barely habitable and rather a lot of people are being moinitored for long term health damage for a long time, plus of course the complete loss of a signficant amount of the natin's power supply for rather longer than a few hours. You know, the one in a faraway land where the people all look different and speak a funny language, eat funny food and definitely are not significant enough to worrry about..

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: '... protecting against a Fukushima-style catastrophe'

        "You know, the one in a faraway land where the people all look different and speak a funny language, eat funny food and definitely are not significant enough to worrry about"

        Wow. Someone opines that Fukishima wasn't a major catastrophe compared to something like Bhopal, and you put words like that in their mouth? How weak does your position have to be that you resort to that sort of character assassination? Bhopal - a couple of thousand dead and health effects lasting decades after, receives a small fraction of the media coverage that Fukishima did - where barely a handful of people were even actually hospitalized due to radiation (a few workers first on the site got some radiation burns on their shins due to wading around in the water all day - they were kept in for observation over night). But yes, if anyone points out how Fukishima compares to a real disaster, you accuse them of racism and not caring about people in foreign countries.

        Classy, AC@10:40GMT. Really classy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: '... protecting against a Fukushima-style catastrophe'

      I did intend to write an eloquent explanation of how wrong you are in assuming because your PC desk isn't a wasteland that Japan got off with a "minor industrial accident".

      But the simple fact is you are an idiot. Several people were "seriously killed" many sustained injuries and even so soon after the event cancer rates in the younger generations are soaring. Food from around half of Japan is unsafe to eat and the water they used to stop it getting any worse was all pumped into the sea, a giant, interconnected aquatic mass, covering 2/3 of the earth and containing a significant portion of the food chain.

      If this is your idea of an industrial accident I DEMAND my tax be used to pay your unemployment benefits.

  7. JDX Gold badge

    Isn't Oz perfect for nuclear power, shove the plants in the heartland where nobody lives a thousand miles from anything?

    1. CraigW

      @JDX not enough water for cooling?

      1. hplasm Silver badge

        not enough water for cooling?

        Don't use water. It's bad.

  8. Steve Murphy

    Fukushima-style catastrophe


    How much land is inaccessible, how many people have been displaced and for how long?

    Oh, any how many people died because of the efforts diverted from the tsunami to dealing with a badly managed industry where safety came second to profit?

  9. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

    @Steve Murphy

    "Oh, any how many people died because of the efforts diverted from the tsunami to dealing with a badly managed industry where safety came second to profit?"

    I don't know.

    Do you? Actual real measureable deaths?

    Didn't think so.

    Ah it's a "Won't someone think of the children!" type argument.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not the UK?

    An extra bonus of the integral fast reactor is that you can use up your existing stock of nuclear waste. An interesting article on the IFR here:

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Steve Murphy

    How many people have died because they slipped on ice going out to fill a bucket with coal?

  12. Chad H.

    Seems like the perfect place

    Stick a nuclear out the middle of the "never-never" and the harm is minimised (to human life) if the thing goes boom.

    Only problem seems to be getting the water it needs... A giant Saltwater canal to the coast?

  13. MeRp


    Build enough Nuclear power plants to supply the world's base-line electric needs + 10%, along with ready-to-go plans for more to keep up with the massive increase in demand that will come with cheap energy. Please build them in my back yard. Everyone who wants to be employed can move here; the few who are concerned about more nuke plants can move away (we've already got one).

    Then everyone can stop debating about it and get on with the leap in progress that more energy could (and has) provided us.

    I guess I'm just a YIMBY.

  14. Glen Turner 666

    Reactor for a mine in the middle of nowhere, so NIMBY claims are wrong

    This isn't a NIMBY issue. The suggestion is to use nuclear to power an expanded Olympic Dam mine, some 500Km in the desert from Adelaide, the nearest city. The issues of "what if it goes wrong" are around staging a medical evacuation and emergency response across large distances.

    A major unaddressed issue is that mines have a definite life and are in the middle of nowhere -- the reactor can't be repurposed but will have to be decommissioned. The technology and the price for doing this are both underdeveloped.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reactor for a mine in the middle of nowhere, so NIMBY claims are wrong

      Not all mines have a defined lifetime. Olympic Dam is so big that there are at least 200 years of economically recoverable ore left, and they haven't even found the limits of the resource. It's a very safe bet that the mine will outlast any power plant.

  15. David Pollard

    ... says Adelaide U scientist

    Prof. Barry Brook has been saying this sort of thing for some while now. His website,, seems to me to be very good value.

  16. John Savard Silver badge

    Count Me In Too

    It is true that Australia is well placed to generate electricity from solar power, but since electricity is needed at night, I think that nuclear is far better than fossil fuels. They should be looking at trying to supply Japan's energy needs too, thus earning foreign exchange and avoiding earthquakes and tsunamis.

    1. Fibbles

      Re: Count Me In Too

      I'm all for nuclear but generating electricity 4000 miles away from where it'll be used just seems wasteful.

  17. SpiderPig

    There are alternatives to using Uranium

    You don't have to use Uranium as a nuclear fuel, Thorium can provide all the energy needs and more that Uranium can supply but without the nasties such as the waste being refined for weapons, the need for water to cool the reactor and possibly the biggest is the cost to build these reactors are massively cheaper than for uranium fuelled reactors.

    The last thing is, Australia has the world's largest supplies of Thorium.

    Want to know more? go here

  18. sueme2

    Australia is wet

    There is a thing called the "Great artesian basin" which contains fossil water. It is used for mundane things like drinking water for cows and sheep. There are other sources, but being big, they named that one "great" The only question is where will they build the nuke? Will it be in MY backyard? Oh dear noes. It has to be on the eastern side of the continent, but not on an east-west alignment of any town of note. I vote between Canberra and the coast. That is going to be right for feeding the big cities, and there are plenty of emergency services, and it is wet - to keep the water cooler people in a job.

    1. M Hurwood

      Re: Australia is wet

      "I vote between Canberra and the coast."

      Hard to know if you were being facetious or not...

      They *did* start building a Nuclear Power plant in 1969 or something at Jervis Bay, which is roughly east of Canberra. Foundations went down and everything. Then we (the nation) decided to go "no nukes" and the site was scapped.

  19. Bilby
    Thumb Up

    Coffee is served...

    ...Ahhh, the smell of freshly ground beans finally wafts across the nation. It has only been bleeding obvious that nuclear power is the best option in Australia for about half a century, so I doubt that it will take much more than another fifty years for our overlords in Canberra to wake up and catch a whiff of their impending lattes.

    Of course, nuclear isn't perfectly safe; there are around 0.04 deaths per TWh for this type of electricity generation. That figure does compare favourably to the 161 deaths/TWh worldwide for Coal fired generation though. Still, given that coal is only 4,000 times as deadly as nuclear, I can understand why people always mention safety as a concern when considering replacing coal with nuke power. Oh, wait, no I can't.

    Nuclear is significantly safer than solar and wind power - less risk of workers falling from heights - and even if we ignore the developing world's coal mining issues, there are still 15 deaths/TWh from coal power in the US of A (for example); so that is still 375 times the number of deaths from nukes, even when the nuke figure includes the piss-poor Russian death trap design used at Chernobyl.

    Build nuclear power in Australia now. It has been overdue for decades. Bring in some French engineers to help out, if necessary. We have the fuel; we have the technology; we really, really need to stop burning brown coal to power our toasters - it is stupid, polluting, dangerous and seriously out-dated.

    1. Graham Wilson

      @Bilby - - Re: Coffee is served...

      With the handle "Bilby" you're obviously Australian.

      Get it into your skull that sensible logic doesn't work in Australia. Well, anyway not since the 1960s at least.

      * Australian society is one of the most conservative and timid in the world. Unlike most of Europe, the country's never been invaded so it's incapable of thinking forward or from the viewpoint of true adversity.

      * There's no one in politics who remembers WWII or the Depression, there's no engineers or scientist either to speak of. Our parliaments are full of lawyers and accountants who by nature are the last people on the planet to take risks or get excited over anything except money.

      * Australian politics is not only mind-numbling boring but it's truly embarrassing for anyone that has to discuss the matter with someone from overseas.

      * Australian politicians are forever trying to impress--no, not their electorate but those from overseas. It's inferiority complex and self-aggrandisement on a scale unequaled anywhere else on the planet.

      * Since the War, Australian foreign policy has been set in Washington, before then it was set in London. We'd not have the guts, gumption or courage to change it. Thus, before the War if London stated a war we followed, since the war we followed the US to war -- WWI, Vietnam, etc. etc. (We like wars, we feel bigger--they help our inferiority complex.) Just think of the madness of it, once we actually traveled half way around the world and tried to invade Turkey all because we didn't want to be left out of the excitement!

      * Treaties -- we'll sign any treaty that puts us at a disadvantage, financially, trade-wise or security-wise. We can't help ourselves--we just can't resist the alcoholic cocktail party that's always part of treaty signings.

      * The Cultural Cringe is still alive and well -- "It has to be MUCH better if it's from overseas", especially, the US, Europe and Japan (and now China).

      * The moment someone does something bright in Australia either the Tall Poppy Syndrome takes effect and cuts it down or we'll sell it off to the first bidder--that illogical approach goes back almost to the convict days.

      * There's stuff-all manufacturing industry left. All of Australia's once highly skilled trades industries have been nuked by politicians who wouldn't know one end of a screw driver from another. And the population just dumbly looked on while whilst they did it.

      * All we now do in Australia are service industries and so-called mining. 'Mining' is propping the country up, stop that and we're truly kaput. So-called mining really isn't mining anyway. Mining also involves value adding such as refining ores which we don't do. So what really supports Australia is quarrying--digging holes in the ground and selling the contents. It seems, this is about the maximum level of our technical capabilities these days.

      * Investors in Australia are frightened of their own shadows. they're so risk-averse that they equivocate for months over royal-blue chip stock.

      * Australia's interest in science is zilch, zilch and zilch. Anything technical is frightening, dangerous, poisonous cancer-producing or polluting. The scale or order of the danger is set by the first person who whinges in fear (everyone else mindlessly follows).

      * Every and anything that's scary is banned in Australia--it's far easier than teaching people (a) science, (b) to take responsibility, (c) be careful etc. etc.

      That'll do, I've got to stop somewhere.

      Australia is truly an embarrassing and tragic joke. The sooner we stick up a for sale sign the better.

      Just forget your idealism.

  20. Goat Jam

    Burn the Heretic

    Burn him! Burn him!

    Sorry, just getting you prepared for the inevitable response this will draw from the knuckledraggers that make up the majority of the Australian population.

  21. mathew42

    Lung cancer alarm near coal-fired power stations

    Port Augusta has long generated a significant portion of Adelaide's power.

    I don't think anything needs to be added to this article, from which I quote the first 3 paragraphs.

    A new analysis of pollution data for the Port Augusta region contradicts reassurances from the South Australian Government that smoking can be blamed for high lung cancer rates.

    Residents of the region have long complained about health problems they link with two power stations, Playford and Northern, which burn highly-polluting brown coal.

    The lung cancer rates around Port Augusta are said by medical experts to be double the expected number.

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