tip off

The Australian’s defence to criticism of its war on Greens: stop oppressing us!

You’ve got to love (by which of course I mean “sigh sadly at”) the almost infantile response by The Australian to criticism of its declaration of war against the Greens last week. Rather than being chastened, clarifying for readers that although on an editorial level they don’t like the Greens they will of course be professional when reporting on them in the news section, the paper is unrepentant, playing the persecuted card:

Yes, we will keep reporting

IT is now clear that senior members of the media, including The Australian Financial Review’s Laura Tingle and the ABC’s Fran Kelly and Barrie Cassidy, have embarked on a concerted campaign to delegitimise tough reporting and this newspaper.

repressed
Help! Help! We’re being repressed!

But I don’t recall anyone criticising The Australian for “tough” reporting. It was being criticised for shamelessly one-sided reporting, and declaring that it wanted a significant party “destroyed”. Which is of course quite different.

Oh, dear. This is going to be a disingenuous defence based on exaggerating and misrepresenting the criticisms made, rather than responding to them head-on, isn’t it?

Yes. Yes, it is:

We make no apologies for some strong reporting on our front pages, including on the day independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor opted to support Labor. But reporting the views of Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson is not the same as editorialising.

We understand why some in Labor might like us to take our foot off the pedal and give the Greens and independents a holiday. We understand why some media rivals would like to silence reporters who have shown them up with day-to-day political and business reporting and analysis as well as investigations. What is harder to comprehend is how politicians wedded to the democratic process and journalists who believe in a free press can imply it is in the national interest for politicians to be protected from the usual scrutiny of the media.

But The Australian wasn’t criticised for “strong” reporting. Nobody suggested that “reporting the views of Noel Pearson” was editorialising. Nobody’s asked it to “give the Greens and independents a holiday”, or tried to “silence” poor old News Ltd. No-one’s asking for political parties to escape “scrutiny”.

The problem is the partisan (and misleading) way in which News Ltd has acted not as a trustworthy broker of information but as an advocate for the Coalition. Not just on its editorial and opinion pages, but in its entire coverage of the political arena in the “news” pages as well. And, of course, the consequences for its credibility on the subject of the Greens and, by extension, this minority government when it has declared it wants them “destroyed”. As editor Chris Mitchell must know, that’s what commentators are discussing, not some diabolical conspiracy to “silence” fair criticism of Labor and the Greens.

Could you actually address that criticism in your defence next time, Chris? Rather than disingenuously misrepresenting it as something entirely different?

Turns out it’s not only the Herald Sun that likes to treat its readers with contempt.

PS: I love the News Ltd claim that it was even-handed before the election on the basis that some of its newspapers went for Labor. But of course all its big mastheads, the ones with real influence, went for the Coalition, and Labor was left with the Adelaide Advertiser and two Sunday papers.

ELSEWHERE: The Daily Telegraph works to confuse its readers about refugee numbers. Sadly what I said aboutThe Australian above and the Herald Sun yesterday applies to their NSW counterpart, too.

45
  • 1
    confessions
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    More anti-Greens hysteria in the Oz today.

    While I would like to see a national debate on the viability and feasibility of nuclear power as an alternative to coal, I don’t think calling the Greens hypocrites for opposing uranium mining (which they’ve always done to my knowledge) is a good start. WA Labor oppose uranium mining too as far as I know.

    There’s also this outright falsehood:

    For example, they also oppose the $50bn Gorgon liquefied natural gas project off the West Australian coast.

    Scott Ludlum was asked about this on Sky the other day. He said the Greens support the project, but not in its proposed location.

    And I do think it’s hilarious that a newspaper that goes to great lengths to deny the principles of scientific endeavour on purely idealogical grounds has the unmitigated gall to accuse others of “antediluvian prejudices”. WTF are they putting in the water coolers at the OO headquarters these days?

  • 2
    Matthew of Canberra
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    It’s far from over, too – we’re just moving into the next phase.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/speakers-job-would-perk-rob-up-a-bit/story-fn59niix-1225924286891

    I think the oz and its retainers are hoping to swing an early election, and they want to shape the narrative before then.

  • 3
    surlysimon
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Jeremy
    They used the word (if it indeed is a word) “delegitimise” which points to the shallowness of it’s argument.

    As for News Ltd being the bastion of journalistic integraty and the last stand of the “truth”, that really is very funny, is this the same News Ltd that publishes that journal of record “The NEws of the World” not forgeting it’s other paper of record “The Sun”.

  • 4
    Think Big
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    This is the publication that printed 50 lies about climate-change so it’s anti-green (and anti-ALP) bias is long running and well documented.

  • 5
    twobob
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    delegitimise tough reporting and this newspaper?

    To revoke the legal or legitimate status of?

    Is that really what is happening? Don’t they mean discredit?
    They have discredited themselves and they know it.

    And I love it. They have been exposed and the more they deny their cheer leading and partisanship the more people hear about it.
    Go on chris, do it again, do it again, ohhh your sending shivers down my spine PLEASEEE
    do it again.

  • 6
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    That link is amazing, Confessions. “Hypocrites? Greens would block clean power sources”?

    Since when are LNG and nuclear “clean”? They might have lower carbon emissions than coal, but they’re hardly “clean”. (Something tells me Chris Mitchell might object if someone set up a nuclear waste dump in his suburb.)

    I think I’ll have to do an update on THAT editorial when I get back from court.

  • 7
    Bogdanovist
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    When a Newspaper makes itself the story you know things have gone pear shaped. It’s the journalism equaivalent of Godwin’s Law.

  • 8
    gilly
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Its a form of dissonance perhaps…. On the one hand they are a newspaper and on the other a lobbyist. So they try to rationalize the conflicting feelings by justifying, blaming, and denying.

    I think slowly but surely a lot of the Greens’ principle are becoming the norm anyway. The idea that

    human economies exist within, and are dependent upon, natural systems; resource management is, therefore, central to good economic management

    meaning we should build an economy

    that meets human needs without unnecessarily damaging the natural environment

    is a goal that you’d think should have been obvious but it is one that has taken a long time for the other parties to recognise.

    Also, yesterday, BHP boss Marius Kloppers endorsed a clear price signal on Carbon – a greens policy.

  • 9
    confessions
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Yes Jeremy. Mitchell obviously wasn’t watching Senate proceedings when the Greens supported the government’s renewable energy targets. There’s also this:

    Last week, Greens leader Bob Brown and his ABC ideological soulmates took rank exception to our observation that the Greens "are hypocrites; that they are bad for the nation; and that they should be destroyed at the ballot box". Only the voting public can do the latter.

    Leaving aside the fact that the ABC takes the OO line these days anyway, has a newspaper ever in Australia’s history openly declared a political party should be destroyed at the ballot box? Can you imagine the OO outrage if, say the SMH were to make such a declaration of the Nationals, who have a lower vote share than the Greens, and who have consistently eschewed the interests of their rural constituency in return for having their tummies stroked by the Liberal party, thereby deserving to be punished by voters?

    These are indeed strange days.

  • 10
    jules
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Confessions @1 if that article had been titled “…cleaner power sources…” instead of “clean” ones then it would have been less misleading. Funny how headlines can frame an issue.

    The rest of the article wasn’t much better tho.

    And out of interest, I spoke to someone the other day about a film addressing cancer rates among workers at Australian uranium mines. (There’s a lot more to the story of uranium mining and pollution in Australia than most people are aware of. Hopefully this film will be good, accurate and help change that.) This drama is sposed to document high cancer rates among mine workers. Apparently the cancers come on within a few years and are aggressive. The film is fiction but the makers say its based on good research and accurate figures. They were comparing it to asbestos wrt to the health implications. (They would tho, having made the film, and being “true believers”.)

    I can’t comment on how accurate it all is as I haven’t seen the film yet or sussed out the figures, but hopefully will be seeing it in the next week.

  • 11
    CJ Morgan
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Methinks Chris Mitchell doth protest too much.

    I stopped subscribing to the OO more than 10 years ago, but persisted with the ‘Weekend Oz’ until earlier this year, when I could no longer stand the partisan propaganda.

    What a lunar right rag it’s become.

  • 12
    Just Me
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    The Oz, and especially The Weekend Oz, were my main print source of news and current affairs for over 25 years, but I completely gave them up a few years ago. It is not a legitimate newspaper anymore, it is a blatant, shameless propaganda mouthpiece for the hard right. I will not even visit any online News Corp site anymore, so they get not a cent of advertising revenue via my mouse clicks.

    I am no less informed about the world (quite the contrary, in fact!), have an extra $20 a week in my pocket (which nicely covers my ISP bill), and I feel so much cleaner.

  • 13
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Gosh if The Australians keeps this up they might start turning a profit in a few years.

  • 14
    Dom Ramone
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy @ 6

    I think I’ll have to do an update on THAT editorial when I get back from court.

    What did you do?

    ; )

  • 15
    quantize
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    In truth, and on balance, only a sane person could come to the obvious conclusion that News Ltd is a Coalition PR machine. They simply don’t have any evidence to the contrary.

  • 16
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Dom @14 – I accepted a brief at Broadmeadows! (I’m a barrister.)

    But just FYI for everyone else, we won’t be publishing further commentary about what writers on this blog (including commenters) do in their offline lives. It’s kind of off-topic.

  • 17
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    The OO today have yet another editorial claiming we have to get into gear and “process” asylum seekers off shore, which of course has not a skerrick of legal underpinning as they are well aware.

    With the estimates showing that only 75 of the 6,000 or so refugees who claimed asylum here in the last two years being denied they are in fact advocating refoulement and kidnapping which are both against the law.

    They know this, they have been told repeatedly by experts that the stance they take is illegal and inciting law breaking and possibly genocide but they keep right on doing it.

    We did the deterrence thing in 1938 so we could protect the white Australia policy, why on earth would we deter Afghans today when we occupy their country? If we had tried that with the Vietnamese we would have been condemned.

    Now today they are pretending that the detention is overloaded so we must stop more people. – the terror and OZ say the same thing again.

    It’s like the laws of this land and others have no meaning to the Newsltd. mob.

    Everyone has the right to seek asylum.

    That is the law of the fucking land – they need to accept it and get over it instead of playing the demonising game.

  • 18
    confessions
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    @ jules:

    This is why I’m open to a national debate on nuclear power, but one which occurs sensibly, and within an evidence-based framework. I have to say, I find the arguments of (for eg) Barry Brook on IFRs extremely compelling, but also recognise that there are legitimate safety concerns which need to be considered. But I don’t expect that the Oz is mature enough to carry such a national debate, esp in light of its recent anti Greens hysteria.

  • 19
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    SM – indeed. I’ve posted on the Daily Telegraph‘s shameless attempt to mislead its readers on asylum seeker statistics here.

  • 20
    Ern Malleys cat
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    The Australian had a front page today reporting Marius Kloppers of BHP Billiton calling for a carbon tax.
    Yes, like the carbon tax that is Greens policy.
    No mention was made of the Greens except an assertion that that they would clash with Kloppers over the MRRT.
    Hardly ‘holding Greens policies up the light’ that they promised.

  • 21
    B.Tolputt
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Integral Fast Reactors are something of a double-edged sword in the debate on using nuclear power.

    On the one hand, they’re purported efficiency and decreased danger & volume of waste material make them quite compelling. Compelling enough for a once anti-nuclear person such as myself to think again about whether the new & old advantages outweigh the established disadvantages.

    On the other hand, it is unproven technology. As exciting as IFR’s are (and they are a bulwark in rational pro-nuclear arguments these days), the USA got cut the IFR programme just prior to the stage where they’d roll-out test facilities. Whether this was because of stupid politics, the war-lobby not wanting to lose an excuse for enrichment enabled reactors, or something else – I don’t know. The fact remains though that IFR’s are a possibility not an established foundation one can use to argue the nuclear power debate. For this hopeful, that is a very sad fact indeed.

  • 22
    Dom Ramone
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy @ 16

    I know, I was making a joke.

  • 23
    Johnny Come Lately
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    JS, your link @19 doesn’t work

  • 24
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Fixed.

  • 25
    Matthew of Canberra
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    JS @16

    “But just FYI for everyone else, we won’t be publishing further commentary about what writers on this blog (including commenters) do in their offline lives.”

    Damn. So you don’t want to hear about my frill-necked lizard costume? It has glitter. (finally, it’s happened to me, right in front of my face, my feelings can’t describe it … doof doof doof)

    Aside from that …

    Ibid @19:

    One of the more amusing disconnects with the shouters is that they simlultaneously believe that (A) there’s a queue, and people who arrive by boat and claim asylum are bad because they’re jumping the queue, and (B) people who arrive by air are ok because we know who they are because they arrived with a passport. Ok. So … is there a queue, or isn’t there?

    And we know what some passports are worth these days …

  • 26
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Why does our legal system allow so much foreign ownership of our MSM?

    Oh yes, I know how it happened, but when Rupert Murdoch decided to become an American-for tax purposes-why wasn’t he obliged to surrender his equity in all his Australian media companies? Also, as an American, why was he still permitted to impose his own imprimateur on our media?

    If Bill Gates had tried to buy up our MSM many Australians would have registered their fury at an American takeover. But Rupert Murdoch wasn’t criticised for his American takeover of our media. Why not?

    Clearly the old saying ‘one can’t have your cake and eat it too’ doesn’t apply to people as rich as Rupert Murdoch.

  • 27
    confessions
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    B.Tolputt:

    I don’t agree that IFRs can’t be considered as part of a nuclear debate. The fact is we simply have to get our GHGEs down, and with such promising technology, we’d be crazy not to consider all angles.

    Basically I’m like you: was once stridently anti-nuclear, but now willing to consider it in the context of global warming, and shifting to a low carbon economy.

  • 28
    monkeywrench
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Given the phenomenal increase in Greens support at the election, one would think at the very least that making the Australian a more Green-friendly paper would actually be a good business plan.
    No wonder the stupid hidebound old farts are going broke.

  • 29
    monkeywrench
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Regarding The Australian’s nasty displays of bias these recent months, I emailed the PM’s office and expressed my resentment that my taxpayer dollars might be directed to them, and my idea that they might be better spent placing the Government’s advertising in some alternative medium.
    You can do this too: It’s easy!

  • 30
    SHV
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    @17:

    “It’s like the laws of this land and others have no meaning to the Newsltd. mob.”

    Oooh, oooh! Pick me, pick me.

    Let’s see, just off the top of the head, without notes:

    * Murdoch’s promises about media diversity re: purchase of channel 10/ Telegraph all those years ago,

    * Ditto, UK media and support for Thatcher coinciding with scrapping of competition panel review,

    * Ditto Wall Street Journal,

    * $600million self-funded purchase of his anchor, Qld News, by “Cruden” via your Commonwealth Bank (one of his biggest supporters over the years),

    * Promise about “poison pill” shares before US Court,

    * Promises to NSW Supreme Court,

    * Bolt/Wilkie/ONA leak,

    * ‘News Of The World’ criminality,

    * Tax!

  • 31
    gilly
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Classic.

    The SMH says

    Big business backs push to cut carbon

    INDUSTRY groups are backing BHP’s push for rapid action to put a price on carbon emissions

    The Australian says

    Business condemns carbon price call

    MICHAEL Chaney has joined the chorus of business opposition to BHP Billiton chief Marius Kloppers’s call for a price on carbon.

  • 32
    monkeywrench
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    They’re tiptoeing ever so quietly away from the steaming pile they dropped recently:
    The CFMEU’s Tony Maher gets all reasonable about a carbon tax, even towards the Greens…
    If that didn’t give you a palpitation, two items later in their scrolling opinion box we have Greens senator Ludlam showing why old-fashioned nuclear technology isn’t worthwhile.
    The Australian might actually have realised its own foolishness; although Gilly’s example above shows that spinning a news item with a damning headline still seems to appeal to them.

  • 33
    monkeywrench
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I am genuinely surprised that the second item in my post above got through The Australian’s mesh of self-absorption. They must have gritted their teeth to cracking point at this:
    “It is hard to identify where in the mainstream media this debate will be given a chance to develop beyond the juvenile anti-Greens spitting contest we’ve witnessed during the past 48 hours.”

  • 34
    twobob
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    monkeywrench
    Thanks for the email link. You should be pleased to know that I have this morning fired off an email pointing out that I do not wish to sponsor the partisan newspaper either directly through the purchase of the paper in order to browse government jobs or indirectly as an taxpayer as the government pays to advertise jobs.
    Lets hope the message gets through and is heard and acted upon. I mean what is the worst that can happen? The paper attacks the government? It is a bit late for that.

  • 35
    surlysimon
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    One Liberal front bencher isn’t raeding the script according to News Lyd
    http://www.theage.com.au/national/turnbull-backs-abcs-expansion-strategy-20100916-15eo2.html

  • 36
    monkeywrench
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    twobob@34
    *Thumbs up*

  • 37
    Fran Barlow
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy said:

    Since when ...{is}... nuclear “clean”? {It} ... might have lower carbon emissions than coal, but ...{it's}... hardly “clean”.

    Define “clean” Jeremy. Speaking as an ardent environmentalist, I’d define clean in terms of the relative environmental footprint.

    Every attempt to extract energy from the biosphere has a footprint, so in this broad sense, no technology is clean, though some technologies have a smaller footprint (are less “dirty”) than others.

    The notion of the footprint takes account of

    a) emissions of pernicious effluent to parts of the biosphere upon which humans and other life directly or indirectly depend
    b) disruption to habitat, especially of areas to at risk or critically endangered species
    c) call upon limited resources e.g. potable water, land
    d) general amenity of land
    e) EROEI

    One has to consider also the output — to what extent does the footprint of an industrial activity meet ineleastic demand for an output?

    Nuclear power is, by mWhe, the least dirty of all the ubiquitously despatchable energy sources. It demands far less water that CST, it requires far less concrete and steel and land than CST or wind and requires no fossil thermal redundant capacity at a level of capacity credit equivalent to coal. In some places it may be no cleaner than geothermal, thought his too requires the movement of enormous amounts of fresh water, whereas nuclear power plants can operate at the ocean shore or without water at all. They require far less land and unlike biomass, the volume of feedstock that needs to be transported is tiny.

    And personally, providing appropriate hazmat provisions were observed, living within 1000m of a nuclear hazmat store would be fine with me. OTOH, living within 1000 m of either

    a) a gas plant
    b) a petrochemical plant
    c) a fertiliser or pesticide plant
    d) an aluminium smelter
    e) a major airport

    would be a much bigger worry. Apparently though, that’s no biggy.

    Gen IV plants will ultimately be able to use nuclear hazmat as feedstock, which means that much of what people worry about with so called “nuclear waste” is not as big a problem as it might seem.

    Indeed, with thorium you don;’t even need uranium and it is a by-product of zirconium recovery. Uranium can be extracted from seawater.

    So sweeping generalisations are to be resisted.

  • 38
    Eponymous
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    While I generally like your comment Fran (rigour! Hooray!) I think there are a couple of generalisations in there which could be disputed. (Oh, as an aside, just figured out what mWhe is… thought it was an abbreviation… capital M for mega, small m for milli ;-) )

    The ‘requires far less concrete and steel’ meme seems sourced from Barry Brook’s T-Case 4 numbers, and I, at the very least, would be reluctant to assign that much certainty to them. I believe the statement ‘could be if comparing to old technology’. Yes, it is a problem for renewables that they haven’t been in operation for a long time and the data is not available to make that statement conclusively. I’ve come to grips with that by coming to the position that there are risks with either proposition (nukes or renewables) and I prefer the idea of extracting energy from a pretty innocuous source that will not be exhausted, and doesn’t need decommissioning and disposal at the end of it’s life.

    I find it very unlikely that a nuclear plant could operate without cooling water. Note that French reactors are severely limited by ambient temps:
    http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=29441

    Old article, but i couldn’t find a more recent one. In short, they have env. laws that govern discharge temps of cooling water, which can be exceeded in hot weather, requiring the plant to shut down.

    Geothermal doesn’t necessarily need cooling water. All thermal plants will work better with it though. Classic Second Rule.

    And I agree, Gen 4 reactors look pretty awesome. But they’re not going to be able to contribute quickly enough in the short term. No nuclear plant will be able to. Australia goes nuclear tomorrow, laws passed, site commissioned, contractor secured; there’s then 10 years building and another 5 or so before it becomes carbon neutral. Further, check out Switkowskis calcs on how much difference 10 plants would slow Australia’s growth in emissions.

    So, I agree, it is hard to argue that nuclear is still dirty. But it is also hard to support it as a short term solution to AGW.

    I also dispute the ‘fossil thermal redundant capacity at a level of capacity credit equivalent to coal’ statement. There are all sorts of awesome engineering solutions available to fix this, but I shan’t bore you by going into them now.

  • 39
    Fran Barlow
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Eponymous:

    It seems you’ve mixed up a number of claims here. Let’s see if I can unpick them.

    Re: Embedded energy, materials demand

    General comment: Whatever one things of this, it needs to be in the mix. If one can show that delivering 8000 hours or rated capacity output each year using Solution A demands 75 times as much concrete and 25 times as much steel and 25 times as much potable water delivered to locations 5 times as far from where the site is as Solution B, then one has to factor that in. There is no free lunch.

    I see no reason to depart from Professor Brook’s estimates for CST or wind as we do at least have working models of both (and in the case of wind much more than that). To date, nobody has shown how CST or wind could be significantly more parsimonious in their call on basic resources. The fact of the matter is that in the case of wind, capacity credit in Victoria is 3% and in SA 8% and this is based on gas being able to step in. During this year in SA we have had runs of several days when SA’s 972mW wind resource, spread out over an area of 1100km was a net drain on the system. There were days when it was producing 2%. Spreading this resource even further afield pushes up grid connection costs and resources. So does trying to store the energy in batteries or in pumped storage and of course running gas in parallel subverts the prime purpose of having wind (or other renewables).

    I prefer the idea of extracting energy from a pretty innocuous source that will not be exhausted, and doesn’t need decommissioning and disposal at the end of its life.

    People can prefer what they like. But let’s unpack this. All sources, including renewables, need decommissioning and disposal at the end of their useful life. As we don’t have industrial scale solar thermal around yet we won’t know for sure what that is, but wind turbines are needing decommissioning and disposal on 20-25 years, whereas nuclear power plants that are 35 years old are being extended to 60 years. When you consider the massive differential in concrete and steel with the nuclear plant sized to do the job wind does, and mutliply even that by two, one can see the problem.

    This leads us to a point you develop as follows:

    And I agree, Gen 4 reactors look pretty awesome. But they’re not going to be able to contribute quickly enough in the short term.

    At the point where decommisioning of LWRs or Gen III arises, those GenIV plants will be ready to step in and most of the hazmat will be used again. The actual costs of decommissioning are built into the supply cost of power, so it’s not really a legacy issue.

    I find it very unlikely that a nuclear plant could operate without cooling water.

    Well while they can be air cooled, they need not, because they can be built at the coast, where they can also do flash desal. Plenty of water there. There are parts of Africa (and possibly Australia), where this might be so, but ideally, you want your plants as close to load as possible, and having massive CSTs near a major demand centre and where insolation was ideal and land is cheap is a lot more tricky. The small physical footprint of a nuclear plant helps out here. Your link to the situation in France was about reactors built on rivers — something I’d certainly not favour.

    Geothermal doesn’t necessarily need cooling water.

    It most certainly does! How are you going to extract heat from those hot rocks except by pumping water down there? You can do a fairly closed loop and minismise the water loss, but you are going to need a lot at places like Cooper Creek. You are going to be drawing that from fresh water or paying a huge water cartage cost.

    Re: the timeline question — how soon could nuclear be rolled out?

    This is less a technical question than one that is political and administrative. Clearly, if there were a political climate favourable to the rollout of the technology, there’s no reason why one couldn’t simultaneously conduct and complete EIS and on dozens of sites brownfields sites (e.g smelters, other industrial grounds, existing power plants which we’d be looking to replace, military bases like Jervis Bay) and get these completed within 3 years. We could then select those that were the most suitable and aim to mass manufacture one or tow basic designs with variants, having the components checked for specification in whole batches. We’d probably lean towards designs that had application beyond our shores so that we could spread the initial costs across. This would radically cut the cost of each plant and acclerate delivery while reinvigorating engineering in this country.

    If that is what we were doing we could have perhaps 15 or 20 up and running by 2030, and indeed, we might have helped a major emitter like Indonesia to have a similar number. We might even be able to sell turn key packages to China. That would be a huge contribution to cutting GHGs.

    It’s worth noting though that if we built just one plant capable of replacing Hazelwood in Morwell Victoria, Australia’s emissions would fall by 5% in one hit and overnight that region would get clean air. Australia would have the equal (with Iceland) least CO2 intensive aluminium in the world. All those plug in electric cars then become zero emissions. We could do that for less than $AUS6bn dollars.

    With sensible policy in this area we could, using nuclear, get Australia’s electricity sector to zero emissions by about 2035 for a lot less than $100bn dollars and if we went hard on getting transport onto the grid, that then is a bonus, because we clean that up too.

    I also dispute the ‘fossil thermal redundant capacity at a level of capacity credit equivalent to coal’ statement. There are all sorts of awesome engineering solutions available to fix this, but I shan’t bore you by going into them now.

    Well perhaps you should list one or two, perhaps inan open thread since it’s not strictly on topic here.

  • 40
    Eponymous
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Fran, I’m going to bail out after this. Debating on the interwebs does my head in! So hard to maintain a thread of conversation.

    Look, no dispute on the LCA (life cycle analysis) side of generation choices. I would argue though, that if there was a price on carbon, this would be picked up anyway. Energy intensive and difficult materials (particularly Portland cement) will be more expensive and have their pollution factored in. Don’t forget the reverse to that though, which is that the embodied energy in nukes is much larger than with renewables so even if we build them now, right now as in this afternoon, they won’t start lowering overall emissions until 2020.

    This is my over arching concern with nuclear. Sure, it makes sense in the 50 year plan, but if we’re employing it as a stop to climate change, surely we need to act faster than that? I currently advocate going as hard as we can with renewables, test all these theories about geothermal cooling water and grid dynamics, then if by 2020 it’s looking impossible, then we start building nukes. But until then, in my view, anyone stopping renewable deployment for the sake of future nuclear power has lost sight of the goal of reducing emissions as quickly as possible.

    Have you read Switkowski/UMPNER, or either of Ian Lowe’s summaries? There’s a key phrase in there I need to put in my wallet because I constantly forget…
    http://www.ansto.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/38975/Umpner_report_2006.pdf

    “The greenhouse gas emission reductions from nuclear power could reach 8 to 17 per cent of national emissions in 2050.” That’s from the pro-nuclear report, indicating their best case scenarios. It is not a zero emission option. The nuclear industry even says so.

    Read page 2. There are some serious limitations to deploying nuclear power quickly.
    “The earliest that nuclear electricity could be delivered to the grid would be 10 years, with 15 years more probable.”
    This is not a solution in keeping with the urgency required from the IPCC reports.

    In summary, there are a lot of ‘coulds’ in the pro-nuclear argument and a lot of ‘can nots’ about the future of renewables. I would argue, and do regularly, that on balance of doubts, I still think the outcomes of a grid of 100% renewables is a better option than nuclear. Nuclear defers all sorts of problems to later.

    Insurance: p 163
    “Governments might be called upon to provide funds if the amount of damages from an accident exceeded the covered amount, or for exclusions that might apply to the private coverage.”

    Decommisioning: The report suggests this should be internalised and part of the electricity price. A fund would need to be managed by AEMO or similar. With that included, costs are “Nuclear power is likely to be between 20 and 50 per cent more costly to produce than power from a new coal-fi red plant at current fossil fuel prices in Australia.” 50% puts it in line with wind w/ battery back up.

    This has not occurred in the UK where decom costs are starting to be worn now http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4859980.stm

    While the renewables will require some decommissioning, the end result is not nearly as toxic as nuclear and is largely steel and concrete, both of which experience huge energy benefits of being recycled.

    And none of this touches my concerns about proliferation and waste disposal. Regardless of what anyone says about ‘we’ll solve that later’ it clashes severely with my ethics. AGW is an intergenerational equity issue; a solution that places further burdens on future generations is no solution at all in my opinion. You’ll have to do a lot to convince me otherwise on that one.

    And onto the ‘redundant capacity’ argument.

    There are a couple of solutions to this problem; energy storage, which exists and has done for 40 years; and dynamic grid management, or the Smart Grid.

    For energy storage, start by reading this:
    http://www.electricitystorage.org/ESA/technologies/
    then these
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoalhaven_Scheme
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bendeela_hydroelectric_pumping_station
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_Valley_hydroelectric_pumping_station

    Then also note the amount of pumped storage in Tassie, which is in the GW range. The Tassie link helps us out there enormously.

    This also ignores the number of projects that are going up right now, teaming renewables (generally wind) with on-site battery storage. Chatham House rules forbid me to comment on where or whom is doing this.

    And the Smart Grid stuff is already happening to a small extent, but the possibilities ramp up with a fast glass network, like the NBN. Already generators own half the glass fibre in Oz, put there to manage the network. What they’re heading towards is ‘demand side response’ (DSR) where generators reach agreement with large energy using individuals to switch off major loads when asked. They reach agreement on which can be turned off and how much energy it’s worth. You no doubt realise that turning a load off the grid is essentially the same as turning on a generator, and so spare capacity can be leveraged when required.

    In either case (storage or DSR) the amount of intermittent generation permitted on the grid is identical to the flexibility in the grid. IE 4GW of pumped hydro means 4GW of wind, plus any regional variation, as that figure assumes that all generation goes on and off at the same time. If it maintains a 20% baseline figure, (because of regional variations) that means 4.8GW of wind can switch in and out.

    Lots of ins and outs in this one. Lots.

  • 41
    Eponymous
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Happily, this just appeared in my Twitters:
    http://www.itheo.org/articles/does-australia-wish-exercise-alternative-nuclear-option

    Good article on the downfalls and problems of current technology.

    I agree with the thrust; throium reactors represent a pretty good technology. But, they can not be deployed now, nor soon enough to challenge growth in emissions. Again, it’s a contributor to the 2050 scenario, while ignoring our current needs.

  • 42
    Fran Barlow
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Eponymous

    You’ve raised a lot of significant issues but like you, I suspect that this particular place would be a poor place for a detailed reponse. I will simply stipulate that a number of the claims you make are at best about the alternatives to nuclear are highly contestable. I was for example, a long time a fan of pumped storage but it’s not going to be nearly as useful with wind as I thought because staright conversion is technically quite difficult and the cost of building new pumped storage capacity is very great. Tasmania has been importing energy of late, and so I’d be a little leery of relying too much on their reserves.

    More generally, I have said a number of times that mere CO2 abatement isn’t going to get us where we need to be on the timeline we need to get there. We will almost certainly need to look at some serious complementary geo-engineering options to buy us the time for abatement to work.

    It’s also the case that the serious objections you raise apply with even greater force to renewables, as these, at industrial scale, always excceed in LCA terms the embedded concrete and steel cost of nuclear. No matter how you slice it,. this remains the case and if wind is seen as smaller this is only because the modelling has assumed installed capacity or sometimes CF without looking at its actual operation within the system.

    I’d be happy though to have a proper independent standing commission look at options for decarbonisation and look at specific problem areas case by case so as to work out what was best. Think Hazelwood.

  • 43
    Eponymous
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    There are already a number of proposals around to close Hazelwood. Pretty credible mostly, but in the order of $5b I think?

    So, given you support nuclear, and your own estimates have plants going in by about 2030. What do you want to do between now and then? Will you prevent renewables going in?

  • 44
    deft descender
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    The day the ABC starts having a balanced view will be the day I’ll support a call for News Limited to do the same.

    The difference is no one is obliged to buy News Limited papers but we all pay taxes for the ABC to spout it’s equally biased rubbish.

  • 45
    confessions
    Posted September 28, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    The difference is no one is obliged to buy News Limited papers but we all pay taxes for the ABC to spout it’s equally biased rubbish.

    Agree on the ABC. These days it’s just a mouthpiece for the Liberal party. For instance, ABC24 said Gillard was a “no show” at the official church service this morning. She’s an atheist FFS, why would she attend church? Yet this is curiously not mentioned on Their ABC.

    Time for the Howard appointed Board members to go. Then we might get some decent, balanced political coverage.

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