Listen to the scientists. We hear this phrase in discussions on climate change. But the Green-left only listen to scientists if it suits their politics.
The Green-left denies the science on nuclear power, peddling fear and hysteria that nuclear is toxic and unsafe while ignoring scientific facts.
Everything, even water, is poisonous at a high enough dose, while harmless at lower doses. Radiation is no different. The lowest dose with a clear link to increased cancer risk is 100 milliSieverts (mSv) in a year; 1000mSv causes radiation sickness; 4000 mSv usually fatal; 8000mSv definitely fatal. The maximum allowable annual dose for US radiation workers is 50mSv.
Everyone is exposed to radiation every day from everything. We absorb 3 - 4mSV annually just living on Earth. A chest CT scan delivers 7mSv. Exposure from smoking 1.5 packets of cigarettes a day for a year is 36mSv, a staggering 120 times the exposure from living next to a nuclear plant for the same period.
Exposure on a flight from New York to Los Angeles is 0.04mSv. In the US, flight crews are classified as radiation workers. When I sat on the Australian Uranium Commission board, I learned that the uranium mine workers who are exposed to the most radiation are the pilots.
Nuclear power produces zero CO2 emissions. Properly regulated it’s safe and reliable. Nuclear power has operated for over sixty years in over thirty countries, with 449 nuclear plants today producing more than 10% of electricity globally without incident. The Green-left ignores this. They’d rather talk about the Fukushima plant failure during the 2011 tsunami.
Fukushima was caused by incompetence and mismanagement. The accident was preventable. The plant’s owner failed to prepare for known risks. No other Japanese nuclear plant failed during the tsunami. Nuclear plants are designed to safely withstand earthquakes and other disasters; they’ve done so for decades, including the devastating 1995 Kobe and 1999 Taiwan earthquakes.
Fukushima shouldn’t have happened. But with an immediate response, most harm was mitigated. No Fukushima plant workers died or experienced radiation poisoning. Of more than 20,000 workers, 167 were exposed to over 100 mSv. And of more than 150,000 evacuees a small number may have received dosages above 100mSv.
Many residents can now return to evacuated areas. Some have to live with elevated background radiation of up to 20 mSv per year. This will reduce with further remediation but in the meantime is within safe limits. Put another way, levels are 5 -7 times higher than normal; so spending 1 day in those areas is like spending a week in Tokyo.
Nuclear is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world, with safety precautions disproportionate to actual risk. The Green-left exploits this for alarmist purposes. Evacuations and people in plastic coveralls with Geiger counters means it must be bad, right? Actually it’s extreme precautions.
The Green-left also ignores scientists on gas extraction, making exaggerated and false claims about fracking or “unconventional” gas. They should listen to scientists.
A study by the Australian Council of Learned Academies in 2013 said: “provided appropriate monitoring programs are undertaken and a robust and transparent regulatory regime put in place (and enforced), there will be a low risk that shale gas production will result in contamination of aquifers, surface waters or the air, or that damaging induced seismicity will occur.” Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, said “there is a lot of evidence that fracking is safe. … The evidence is not there that it’s dangerous. In fact, the evidence is that, if properly regulated, it’s completely safe.”
Many state/territory governments have banned unconventional gas extraction. Bizarrely, Victoria even banned onshore conventional gas extraction. Meanwhile Australia faces gas shortages.
The Green-left says Australia must reduce emissions to avoid the consequences of climate change. Listen to scientists and you’d know we’ll face those consequences anyway.
Australia’s emissions are 1.3 per cent of global totals. Finkel has testified the impact of Australia’s emissions on global climate is “virtually nothing”. He justified Australia taking steps to reduce emissions with an analogy that individual votes don’t impact election outcomes and people still vote. Sure, but people don’t pay to vote.
The Paris targets won’t stop global average temperature rising by over 2 degrees Celcius, the critical threshold. Paris is just a start, with meaningful reductions to be achieved through far more ambitious targets to be agreed … in the future … by other people.
So Australia’s approach is spend billions; move to more expensive, less reliable electricity; and suffer climate change anyway. A more apt analogy would be paying to vote for Candidate A with Candidate B well on track to win.
It’s madness. We should listen to the scientists, embrace nuclear power and gas extraction and ignore the Green-left science deniers.
This article was first published in the Herald Sun on 23 October 2017 under the headline "Science points the way to a nuclear future".
Listen to the scientists
24 October 2017
By Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO