Letters to the editor: May 19

The Goon Show today

In an episode of the BBC's famous programme The Goon Show, Colonel Bloodnock (Peter Sellers) was approached by a person seeking political asylum, and he advised him to "go down to the House of Commons, that's the finest political asylum in the land".

If you watch Question Time from the House of Representatives in our own parliament you could be forgiven for giving similar advice to anyone seeking political asylum in this country.

Wesley Granger, Goulburn

For a hair-razing effort

Thanks, readers, for a hair-razing effort! On behalf of the Leukaemia Foundation, I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to readers for their incredible support of World’s Greatest Shave this year.

The extraordinary people who shaved or coloured and their generous sponsors have now raised an incredible $4.9 million in NSW alone, helping to fund projects that will make a genuine difference to local families facing blood cancer.

The money will now be used to provide safe and comfortable accommodation in the city for families living in regional NSW so they can more easily access life-saving treatment. 

It also means we can offer free transport, counselling, information and practical support to the 60,000 Australians living with a blood cancer.

Meanwhile, researchers funded by our supporters are working tirelessly to discover safer and more effective treatments. Although their critical research is improving survival rates, sadly an Australian still loses their life to blood cancer every two hours.

But, thanks to those taking part in World’s Greatest Shave, we are well on our way to reaching our goal of $5.6 million in NSW. There is still time for people to sign up or make a donation at worldsgreatestshave.com.au

Bill Petch, chief executive, Leukaemia Foundation

Heating up on warming

On Monday evening at Politics in the Pub in Goulburn, we heard [UNSW Professor of Physics] John Storey of the Greens make quite inaccurate assertions and at times complete falsity to criticise the use of nuclear energy to address global warming.

Following my question as to why nuclear energy was not considered by the panel as a suitable technology, John Storey [said] the incident at Chernobyl was caused by operators attempting to load follow. As a physicist he would know more than anyone that this is not correct. The cause of events at Chernobyl centered around events on 25 April, 1986 prior to a routine shutdown when the reactor crew at Chernobyl 4 began preparing for a test to determine how long turbines would spin and supply power to the main circulating pumps following a loss of main electrical power supply. It had nothing to do with load following and the Chernobyl reactor was of a type that would never have been used in Western nations.

He also claims that nuclear power reactors can't load follow. French nuclear power plants operate in either baseload mode, frequency control mode or load following mode. Load following mode involves a variable load programme with load changes at varying ramp rates for 24 hours. In load following mode, some units may operate as low as 50 per cent of rated power.

To implement these flexible operation modes, French nuclear plants use two types of control rods. Normal control rods are supplemented with grey rods that have a lower neutron capture effectiveness. Grey control rods and primary coolant temperature variation allows significant operating flexibility for French nuclear plants. They are the perfect generator to serve a nation’s varying demand.

He also claimed it was too slow to implement despite the recent construction of four reactors in the UAE. These were started in 2012 and the first comes on line this year generating 1400MW at 95 per cent availability. The current programmes in China and Korea and the historical construction of 58 reactors in France over a 22 year period. No other low carbon energy programme has come close to this record and nuclear power is the fastest way to construct a truly low carbon economy.

Next he alleged that 7000 MW of PV cells made annually in China equalled 7 nuclear power plants. They don't come even close. With German capacity factors of 10 per cent, Australian at 15 per cent and Arizona at 19 per cent, those 7000MW of PV cells put out about 700MW to 1,330MW depending on where they are placed or 70 per cent to 130 per cent of one reactor.

He then claimed Australia doesn't have the water to cool the reactors. Our population is largely coastal. We have ample opportunities for sea water cooling or the inland resources at defunct coal plant sites such at Liddell. We even have a very good site that is worth considering near Marulan.

I stated on Monday night that if we continue to go down the path of intermittent renewables such as wind and solar then our emissions reductions will plateau and we will never get to the targets that are required. John Storey is entirely incorrect in claiming Germany is nearing 100 per cent renewable energy – it’s not even close and their emissions have plateaued and not reduced since 2009. Right this minute, Germany is generating electricity with 59 per cent fossil fuels, zero solar and burning more forests in biomass than wind generation. Check out real time energy generation in Europe at electricitymap.org

I reacted strongly to Monday night’s event where a physicist left science at the door and assumed the mantle of a glib politician. No opportunity was provided to challenge these incorrect statements. Our struggle to get effective action on global warming cannot be entrusted to people whose education means they should know better.

Robert Parker, president, Australian Nuclear Association