Home' SA Mines and Energy Journal : May - June 2015 Contents 4
MAY/JUNE 2015 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL
SACOME has long been
advocating a bold vision for
South Australia from our political
leaders, but bold vision also
requires bold leadership and in
turn, bold decisions.
The State Government's vision for
SA puts 'realising the full potential
of our resources' as the number
one economic priority and we firmly
believe minerals and petroleum are
one of very few industries able to
make a real difference to the State's
economy over the medium and long
term. Of course, this statement
means very little without real action.
Whilst there are many things going
on, SACOME is pleased to have the
State Government announce a Royal
Commission into South Australia's
role in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle. A
mature debate on nuclear, particularly
in relation to uranium enrichment and
the use of nuclear power for remote
mining activities is something that
we have been advocating continually
for at least the past five years and
a debate does not get any more
mature than a Royal Commission!
You may ask, why go to the
extent of a Royal Commission?
There may be many reasons, but
a key one is that witnesses must
give their testimony under oath and
therefore emotion and exaggeration
are taken out of the debate and
we are left with real facts.
A Royal Commission is hard to
ignore by the political parties, other
states and the Federal Government.
It's not State legislation that will need
to change to make most aspects
of expanded participation in the
nuclear fuel cycle possible, although
rules and regulations will need to be
written, but rather Federal legislation
that needs to change to make most
of these activities legal in Australia.
In a world consumed by the notion
that climate change will irreparably
affect our planet to our collective
detriment, we are putting our heads
in the proverbial sand if we are not
at least prepared to consider further
participation in the nuclear fuel cycle.
While the air in Australia may
be pretty clean, reportedly around
40 percent of people living in
China suffer from asthma and
respiratory illnesses are one of the
leading causes of death. And still in
China, each and every day, carbon
emissions increase notwithstanding
massive investments in renewable
energy and a program to build
more than 80 nuclear reactors!
It is important to understand that
China's commitment to nuclear
energy does not replace a single
coal-fired power station. Its demand
for new electricity far outstrips its
nuclear and renewable energy build
program, with coal and gas fired
power stations being built at a rapid
pace. But isn't that adding to China's
emissions and air pollution problem?
Absolutely, which is why we
need to encourage a much bolder
nuclear build program to meet its
enormous base load appetite.
The one thing we have learnt
here at SACOME is that there
will be a demand for all types of
energy for the foreseeable future,
so it is not about picking a winner.
There is no risk to the coal or gas
sectors in the foreseeable future
from rapid renewable and nuclear
energy programs. Likewise, to
those environmentalists who say
that solar and wind is the answer,
ignore the base load energy
requirements across the globe that
still cannot be met by wind which
doesn't blow all the time and sun
which shines only during the day.
Of course renewable energy
improves all the time and we should
invest in these technologies, as
we should invest in nuclear as that
technology keeps on improving.
We should remember that when
the internal combustion engine was
created the naysayers were critical
of such a dangerous machine, yet
improvements over decades have
enabled us to use engines reliably
and safely to the point where
they haven't been questioned in
my lifetime or even in that of my
parents. Likewise with nuclear, I'm
sure my children and grandchildren
will wonder why Australia
persevered for so long without
nuclear power stations or for that
matter nuclear powered submarines.
So what does greater
participation in the nuclear fuel
cycle bring to South Australia?
If I gaze into a crystal ball for
a moment, just like Houston is
considered the energy capital of
the world from a hydrocarbon
perspective, Adelaide could
become a nuclear energy capital.
That doesn't mean having lots of
nuclear powers stations, as we
probably need only one in SA in
the foreseeable future. What it
could mean is many companies,
universities and research
centres working on the nuclear
technology of the future -- better
and safer ways to enrich uranium,
improving performance of nuclear
reactors, pioneering small reactor
technology for remote and third
world communities to lift people
out of energy poverty, finding ways
to reuse nuclear fuel waste for
future power generation and more.
Imagine tens of thousands of
smart jobs being created here off the
back of our rich uranium endowment
and first class research facilities.
Having just visited BP in Houston and
also seen the myriad of petroleum
companies, it is easy to imagine
a brighter future for SA based on
the attraction and promotion of all
things nuclear. Or we can continue
to ship off the raw product and
turn our back to the potential.
Nuclear is not our only
opportunity, as we still have
massive potential in our other
mineral and petroleum resources.
To reach their full potential in
SA in my lifetime, more bold
decisions are required now and as
a community, we should demand
these bold decisions rather than
accepting genteel decline.
Bold is beautiful
A word from the Chief Executive
We are putting
our heads in the
least prepared to
in the nuclear
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