If you want people to toe the line, make them afraid. It’s worked a treat for the anti-economic progress crowd in their campaign against nuclear power. It’s the same insidious force that has millions of Australians constantly locked down, cowering under their quilts, thanks to the threat of a virus that’s on a par with the common cold for lethality in a country with first world and first-rate hospitals and healthcare.
Likewise with nuclear power. Long on emotion and short on evidence, the anti-nuke activist has been working up a frenzy of baseless fear for generations.
As Michael Shellenberger outlines in this interview with Chris Kenny, it’s time to engage our critical faculties and stop listening to those who would merrily deprive us all of safe, reliable and affordable nuclear power.
There are ‘fear campaigns’ over nuclear energy
Chris Kenny and Michael Shellenberger
28 June 2021
Environmental policy expert Michael Shellenberger is pushing for a focus on nuclear energy despite widespread “fearmongering” surrounding the topic.
Mr Shellenberger told Sky News the “organised fear campaigns” over nuclear energy have been seen “for 60 years”.
“These are campaigns that are aimed at making people afraid. They’ve been doing that for 60 years because of associations during with the Cold War,” he said.
“It is also the case that countries like Japan, South Korea, have built nuclear power plants because it does add to national security.”
He said nuclear power plants prove beneficial as they provide lower costs and are more reliable.
“In places that shut down in nuclear plants, we see electricity prices rise significantly, we see reliability go down to such an extent that we’re actually having blackouts in California.”
Chris Kenny: Nuclear energy is back on the agenda in this country. We’ve talked about it quite a bit on this program over the past year or so, and we’re going to continue to do so.
If people want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and just about every country in the world says it’s committed to that goal. Well, if you want to do that and still have reliable power, then nuclear is an obvious answer, but too many environmentalists object to nuclear, don’t they? Gives their game away.
Anyway, the reason the issue is being elevated in Australia is because some of the people who have been promoting nuclear power have suddenly been promoted themselves into positions of power and influence. Here is Barnaby Joyce, not long back on this program when he was a humble backbencher and former Nationals leader. If we were to talk to an expert about it tomorrow, about the possibility of nuclear energy actually filling that gap.
Barnaby Joyce: I’m all for that. Good stuff. Let’s do it.
Chris Kenny: Well, now Joyce is once more Nationals leader and deputy prime minister. And he’s not backing away from promoting a nuclear industry. In an interview with James Campbell and the News Corp Sunday papers, Joyce said he’d like to get nuclear power going. And he said, “That would be an incredible attribute for our nation.”
Joyce has also elevated former deputy Nationals leader, Senator Bridget McKenzie, back into cabinet. And she too has backed a nuclear industry for this country. I spoke about the path forward with renowned environmentalist, Michael Shellenberger. He’s a nuclear advocate and author of Apocalypse Never, Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us all. Michael Shellenberger joined me from the US earlier. And I started by asking him how a country like Australia could overcome partisan opposition to nuclear energy.
Michael Shellenberger: Well, I think the most important thing that public needs to know is that nuclear has a lot of Cold War associations, but we know from 60 years of operation, that it is the safest way to make reliable electricity. It’s also very important for countries’ energy independence for the reliable service of electricity as well low cost.
And it’s the way to avoid picking this or that project to get a skewed view, you can look at two countries right next to each other, France and Germany. France spends about half as much for electricity that produces one 10th of the air pollution and carbon emissions.
So, we see in places that shut down their nuclear plants, we see electricity prices rise significantly. We see reliability go down to such an extent that we’re actually having blackouts in California. We didn’t have enough nuclear power in Texas, and they suffered from very serious blackouts during a cold snap earlier this year. So, I think the case for nuclear is really on economic, national security and environmental grounds.
Chris Kenny: Yeah, so those arguments are very rational and in the end, the facts will win out. That is, as you say, more secure energy supplies. The cost benefits, and of course, reducing emissions. But when you have a partisan political divide over nuclear, there’s a lot of fear involved as well. How do you combat the scare campaigns that are directed against nuclear energy? And in particular, I suppose, the disposal of nuclear waste?
Michael Shellenberger: Well, I think the first step is to say what you just said, which is that these are organised fear campaigns. These are campaigns that are aimed at making people afraid. They’ve been doing that for 60 years because of associations during the Cold War with national weapons, the national shield. It’s a totally separate set of issues.
It is also the case that countries like Japan, South Korea have built nuclear power plants because it does add to national security. But fundamentally, we have been dealing with fear mongering for the last 60 years. It’s been motivated by people who want to make energy more expensive, who want to make it more scarce and less reliable.
This is the so-called environmentalist in the tradition of Malthus, the British thinker who wanted to make energy supplies scarcer. And from modern day Malthusians who want to see energy be expensive. So I think it’s important to point out that the motivations there, people are not being completely transparent or honest about their motivation.
Chris Kenny: I just though the point here is in Australia because we haven’t had a nuclear industry. One of the things that the opponents will point to is that countries like the United States and Japan that have had significant amounts of nuclear energy, have actually been mothballing some of it. Is the nuclear industry actually on the wane, rather than building up as a low emissions or zero emissions power source?
Michael Shellenberger: Yeah. I mean, there’s been a war on nuclear energy for 60 years. And we got about 20% of our electricity from nuclear in the United States. There have been efforts to shut down nuclear power plants before they should be shut down in the United States, as well as in Europe and other countries.
In the United States, we see what happens when you shut down a nuclear plant in New York, which is what happened earlier this year. It’s replaced almost entirely by fossil fuels. Carbon emissions go up, which just goes to prove that the people who oppose nuclear power are not concerned about climate change. Their fundamental concern is actually to make energy, scarce and expensive.
So I think it’s important to understand that context. That the war on nuclear was always motivated by really anti-prosperity, anti-development, anti-civilization concerns. And that’s been the reason that they’ve been opposed to nuclear power for so long.
Chris Kenny: Just to bring it back to Australia again, where of course, uranium is a major export, but there’s no domestic nuclear power industry. Because Australia is geologically and politically stable rather than create a fear campaign about nuclear waste, is there an economic opportunity for Australia?
Michael Shellenberger: Oh yeah. I mean, the funny thing is nuclear waste has never hurt anybody, never should hurt anybody. What we refer to when we talk about high level nuclear waste are just the used fuel rods. They’re just encased in steel and cement. The fears around them are just displacement. It’s just an irrational fear that comes from fears of nuclear weapons, has nothing whatsoever to do with these fuel rods.
All of the used nuclear waste in the United States can fit on a single football field, stacked 50 feet high. So if Australia can be paid to take other countries’ used fuel rods, that’s a huge bargain for Australia. It’s a no brainer. They don’t take up hardly any space at all. You are geologically stable. You’re part of the Western Alliance.
And so, I would think that Australia would be a very natural place to have a big nuclear build out. You’ve done so much solar, and you’ve seen that it’s caused an increase in electricity prices. It’s challenged the electricity grid in terms of its own resiliency. And how much more Chinese solar panels does Australia want to import? Why not have your workers engaged in a very high skill, high wage, high technology industry?
Australia is one of the last Western countries to resist building nuclear power plants. I think it’s high time that it happened. It seems like there’s been enough time between Fukushima and now over 10 years now, for some of the hysterical overreaction that occurred to that accident to calm down. We’ve got these great new plants. They have backup cooling systems. They are operating extremely well, very well designed. Nothing at all like the plants that have had trouble in the past. So, I think it’s a no brainer.
I also think it’s important for Australia’s national security. You’ve got a really menacing China there that keeps wanting to take over islands that belonged to Philippines and to Japan. We know that countries that have nuclear power are considered stronger. They’re just a more resilient country. They can provide their own power in multiple situations.
It provides an additional national security benefit. So I think that there’s a lot of reasons why Australians and others in that region would be looking to nuclear power right now.
Chris Kenny: Michael Shellenberger, thanks again for joining us. These are the debates that we’re starting to have in this country.
Michael Shellenberger: I’m so glad to hear it. It’s refreshing and it’s long overdue.
Chris Kenny: Fascinating stuff, isn’t it? We’ll keep on that case. There’s going to be a fair bit happening when it comes to federal politics and that nuclear debate in coming months.
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July 17, 2021 at 02:30AM