ALS Topic 56 -  Climate Change and Energy Choices - Nuclear ...?

Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, ALS 56
Saturday, March 14 2020 11 am to 1:30 PM (end time flexible)

Venue: The Rose - 31 East Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000 (Upstairs. Maximum 12 people. Please buy a drink or something. We are 'renting' the chairs in this small business)

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.

Focus Questions


1. Is climate change a significant risk, or an opportunity? For whom?

2. What is some of the evidence that climate change has been heavily influenced by human activity?

3. Since the late 19th Century, human energy needs have risen exponentially. The quick fix for those energy demands has been carbon based fossil fuels (coal, gas, petroleum). What are some of the health and environmental costs of using fossil fuels?

4. In some places renewable energy resources like solar, wind, geothermal and hydro can make a large contribution to national energy needs. Can such energy sources satisfy Australia's energy needs? What about large economies like the US and China?

5. Nuclear fission reactors to generate electricity are another scalable 'fix' for energy needs. Some countries like South Korea and Japan, or even France (80% nuclear) would struggle to survive without nuclear power. However, light water reactors - the dominant present design - carry catastrophic risks (although the record has been good). What are some of the risks and other downsides of light water reactors? [You are strongly advised to read the Tennenbaum articles or other sources to grasp differences in reactor design. Without such understanding discussion is difficult].

6. Some researchers (e.g. Tennenbaum) have argued that in countries with high energy needs, renewable sources can make a useful contribution. They say however that the contribution from renewables cannot come anywhere near meeting base load power demands, either in quantity or stability. If this is true, what real options do major energy users face?

7. In nuclear fission research, it was understood early that various options existed for power generation. Light water reactor design was not adopted because of its efficiency. It was adopted because light water reactors lead to fuel enrichment, and governments (in spite of public denials) wanted the option of developing weapons grade material from the reactors. This was in spite of known risks. Once major investments are made it becomes difficult to discard a technology. What kind of crises might drive governments to re-evaluate alternate nuclear technologies and opt for low risk alternatives?

8. What do you know about these technologies? (.. please do a little reading : see the links in the comments section)

9, By raw government statistics, Australia is the world's largest coal exporter and coal is the largest source of wealth from exports. Who actually gets the money from Australian coal exports? How much goes into government revenue? How much employment does the coal industry provide as a proportion of Australia's total workforce? Why are these questions important?

10. What level of energy independence does Australia have at the moment? How will this level of independence (or dependence ) shift over the next generation? What will the consequences be for our prosperity?


Extra Reading, Comments and Links

Jonathan Tennenbaum (26 January 2020) "Carbon dioxide’s scourge: advanced nuclear power - Renewable wind, solar, hydro and biofuels cannot fill the gap" [ Part 1 of a series] Asian Times @
Jonathan Tennenbaum (29 January 2020) "Germany’s overdose of renewable energy - Anti-nuclear hysteria is destroying the environment" [ Part 2 of a series] Asian Times @
Jonathan Tennenbaum (31 January 2020) "Nuclear energy to the rescue: France got it right - Environmentalists’ anti-nuclear crusade bears responsibility for our dependence on coal and gas power plants" [ Part 3 of a series] Asian Times @

Jonathan Tennenbaum (2 February 2020) "Why we need to switch to newer reactor designs - Advanced designs in various development stages promise to remedy the drawbacks of conventional nuclear energy" [ Part 4 of a series] Asian Times @ /

Jonathan Tennenbaum (4 February 2020) "Molten salt and traveling wave nuclear reactors - Two advanced nuclear power reactor designs that can solve a multitude of problems" [ Part 5 of a series] Asian Times @
Jonathan Tennenbaum (7 February 2020) "Tomorrow’s nuclear reactors: small but beautiful - Pebble-bed reactors and small modular reactors round out the list of favorites" [ Part 6 of a series] Asian Times @
Hilmar Schmundt (30 February 2020) "Lovelock - How to manage climate change? With nuclear power and artificial intelligence", Spiegel Newsmagazine @

Sherryn Groch (14 February 2020) "Space mirrors, fake volcanoes: the radical plans to fix the climate" Brisbane Times @
Richard Luscombe (18 February 2020) "Amazon's Jeff Bezos pledges $10bn to save Earth's environment" The Guardian @ [Quote: "“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share. This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs – any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world. We can save Earth. It’s going to take a collective effort from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals.”

Lisa Cox (18 February 2020) "Researchers claim solar efficiency breakthrough for flexible 'skin' - Engineers at the University of Queensland say technology could be used to power small devices, such as a phone, within two years." The Guardian @

Adam Morton (23 February 2020) "Smoke screen: how Australia's biggest polluters have been free to increase emissions - The Coalition’s safeguards mechanism was meant to stop rises in industrial emissions cancelling out cuts paid for by taxpayers – but it’s a colossal failure". The Guardian @
Katharine Murphy (27 February 2020) "Australia’s electricity market must be 100% renewables by 2035 to achieve net zero by 2050 - study". The Guardian @
Matt Martino, Christina Arampatzi (27 February 2020) "Who are the 75 Australian 'scientists and professionals' who say there is no climate emergency?" RMIT-ABC Fact Check @
Katharine Murphy and Adam Morton (28 Feb 2020) "Angus Taylor to announce shift in climate investment away from wind and solar - Hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, lithium and advanced livestock feed supplements to be at heart of Coalition’s technology roadmap". The Guardian @ 


Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar

Index of past discussion topics & questions:

Convenor : Thor May Personal website (legacy)
Articles  (.. about 147 articles by Thor)


Climate Change and Energy Choices - Nuclear ...?  (c) Thor May 2020 return to Ddiscussion