The Greens’ Problem: part 2
Back in 2013, a regional survey on prefered energy sources included nuclear energy as an option because, you know, it’s an energy source. Did Mark Parnell have a preference about this? You bet he did.
Mr Parnell said nuclear power did not have to be pushed into a survey about alternative energy.
“Lumping nuclear energy in with low-carbon technologies is just wrong,’’ he said.
“By the time you’ve taken into account the carbon emissions in the energy used to mine and process the uranium, built the reactor, operated the reactor, decommission the reactor and then store and monitor the waste for hundreds of thousands of years, … you find that the whole of life carbon emissions really add up.
Greens leaders like this objection. It sounds technical and implies they’ve thought of something everyone else has missed. But comprehensive life cycle analysis takes mining, construction, operation, decommissioning and disposal into account for all technologies.
When South Australia undertook the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, Mark Parnell apparently didn’t submit this and other views for consideration. Following more than a year of analysis and review, that process presented the conclusions of the US National Renewable Energy Labs life cycle assessments as indicative of nuclear energy’s low-carbon status.
“What the survey should have asked is, ‘Do you want a nuclear waste dump in your neighbourhood that will remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years?’
This very question is being rationally and supportively discussed in the Kimba community regarding the national repository for domestic radioactive waste from research and medicine. Prior to the short-listing of this region in the current opt-in process, a Northern Territory cattleman, happy to volunteer his land for consideration, shared his supportive views on ABC radio. And when it comes to the management of the used fuel from reactors — after it has mitigated vast amounts of greenhouse gases — other South Australian political leaders appear far more willing to engage with the scientific and engineering state-of-the-art.
“Or, ‘How would you feel about hundreds of square kilometres of your district being rendered uninhabitable after a nuclear accident as happened at Fukushima in Japan?’”
Yes, that’s right. He said that. Fukushima prefecture, which will give you a lower dose of radiation than the flight there, was supposed to be an uninhabitable wasteland after the nuclear accident which Greens leaders seemed to anticipate so fervently. Not only will the population be fine, and safe to return, but recent work by actual Japanese researchers suggest that costly cleanup efforts have provided little additional benefit in parts of the prefecture. While it’s fantasy to expect Greens leaders to celebrate this better-than-imagined outcome, refusing to acknowledge the dramatically limited impacts is part of a narrative that is still holding back the economic and cultural recovery of this significant portion of Japan. As observed by a young medical student studying at a hospital in the prefecture:
Talking about knowledge is difficult. Our own feelings and opinions can become what we know. Observations become what we know. The media can be said to be a source for knowledge. Science is a method of knowing.
But what happens when our knowledge does not reflect the reality of a situation? This brings me to the second biggest thing I have learned since coming to Fukushima: the damage of misinformation. Or in other words, how the ideas that I previously held and continue to see in others can be dangerous.
I never saw the actual results of misinformation until I moved to Fukushima. Now, I see them everywhere.
Greens leaders and other anti-nuclear campaigners went all-in on the Fukushima accident, generally without even the level of knowledge to tell a reactor from a refinery (though the latter obviously makes for a scarier illustration of their opinions).
As my friend Ben Heard and I observed last year, after Mark Parnell vexatiously tried to intervene in the South Australian consultation process:
Anti-nuclear stakeholders… hold themselves to only one, simple rule — “No Nuclear” — and all other principles appear expendable.
All other principles, all respectability and consistency, and all regard for the livelihoods of far off regions in other countries which are otherwise only useful for scaring people off of thinking about nuclear energy.