Australian news, and some related international items

D’oh! David Littleproud’s nuclear comments insult our intelligence

D’oh! David Littleproud’s nuclear comments insult our intelligence Mia Pepper. CCWA Nuclear Free campaign coordinator.  

New federal Nationals leader David Littleproud made headlines this month when he suggested Australians’ collective aversion to nuclear power could be explained by its portrayal in The Simpsons.

“There’s this perception that’s been put around nuclear … etched into folklore from cartoons,” he said.

Perhaps Mr Littleproud would like to calm Australian nerves over rogue coyotes with boxes of TNT or bears swiping picnic baskets from unsuspecting members of the public.

Mr Littleproud’s comments were described as “bizarre” in the media. While he did also attribute nuclear’s image problem to concerns over Chernobyl and Fukushima, it is his comparison to Springfield’s crumbling and dangerous nuclear plant that drew the most ire.

To suggest Australians get their information on subjects like nuclear power from cartoons is to insult our collective intelligence. It might be more plausible to say – as Mr Littleproud did – that opinions have been formed around films and TV series like 2019’s Chernobyl.

However, if we were to follow that trail of thought to its natural conclusion, the only response to Mr Littleproud’s comments is, so what? Film and television comedy and drama enable exploration of many serious, complex topics without being mistaken for news or documentaries – though the creators of the Chernobyl miniseries did receive acclaim for their attention to detail, exhaustive research and stringent adherence to history.

The problem with Mr Littleproud’s points of reference – with the exception of The Simpsons, which is only a cutting parody of real-life incompetency in the nuclear energy industry – is that they are based in fact. Chernobyl and Fukushima really happened and really were as bad as their various dramatisations suggest – it could hardly be otherwise. Perhaps Mr. Littleproud would have been happier if, at the critical moment of the Reactor 4 meltdown, one of the Chernobyl workers had turned to another and declared, “not to worry, I’ll get this cleaned up in no time”?

Behind every dramatic interpretation of a nuclear disaster or depiction of incompetence in nuclear energy and uranium mining is a litany of real-life incidents that has created an enduring global movement against nuclear power. There have been more than 200 recorded nuclear accidents and events worldwide and with nuclear power plants vulnerable to threats exacerbated by climate change, similar incidents are a very real possibility. Climate-related shutdowns have been reported in France, Germany, California and Texas, leading the now-retired nuclear engineer David Lochbaum to state: “You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.”

Ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more than 300 organisations from 40 countries signed a joint declaration against nuclear power. Among them were 49 separate bodies from Australia, including unions, faith groups, environment and conservation bodies, Indigenous groups and health sector organisations representing millions of Australians.

Nuclear has been consistently proven deeply unpopular, ruinously expensive and too slow to implement to provide a serious solution to energy and decarbonisation needs.

By the time the legislation has passed, facilities have been built and workforces trained, 30 to 40 years will have passed along with the window of opportunity to prevent irreversible climate damage. Professor John Quiggin, an Australian laureate fellow in economics at the University of Queensland, has said the idea of producing nuclear power in Australia before 2040 is absurd.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency told a 2019 Senate inquiry into nuclear power that “Australia could not take much less than 15 years from the time a decision is taken to move in this direction; it is not unlikely that it would take longer.”

Even if it were possible to implement nuclear faster, the costs involved in delivering the energy into Australian homes and businesses would be utterly impractical, given the alternatives. In 2016, the South Australian Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle found “it would not be commercially viable to develop a nuclear power plant in South Australia beyond 2030.” In 2019, the Senate inquiry acknowledged “Over the past decade, levelised cost estimates for utility-scale solar dropped by 88 per cent, wind by 69 per cent, while nuclear increased by 23 per cent.”

Only this week, the new federal Minister for Energy Chris Bowen told the media that nuclear power is “the most expensive form of energy” – especially so given the current cost of living crisis.

Furthermore, every review into nuclear over the past two decades has acknowledged there is no bipartisan support for nuclear and strong public opposition. Doctor Ziggy Switkowski made this clear in his comments to the 2019 Senate inquiry, saying “there is no social licence at this time.”


June 20, 2022 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: