With the obvious urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and the global demand for energy rising exponentially, nuclear energy may be the only non-carbon-emitting technology capable of meeting the world's requirements.
The nuclear industry's image has been compromised by the threat of weapons proliferation, reactor malfunctions and the storage of radioactive waste. However, today's proponents argue that improvements in reactor design have made them safer, as well as more fuel-efficient and cost-competitive to build, compared with coal plants.
Participants in the panel discussion include energy technology entrepreneur Gus Nathan, environmental scientist Barry Brook, and international energy law expert Kim Talus. Talus is especially critical of the absence of balanced and objective discussion about nuclear energy in Australia, the polarised positions akin to a "religious issue." He also opines the lack of public education and industry expertise. Brook is convinced a very fast reactor is something Australia should be strongly considering.
"Thinking Critically About Sustainable Energy: A Nuclear Future" is the fourth of a series of public forums hosted by RiAus aimed at providing a comprehensive examination of sustainable energy technologies and a critical evaluation of their potential for reducing carbon emissions.
Barry Brook is an environmental scientist known for his lively blog at bravenewclimate.com. He is currently Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change at the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute. Brook completed his PhD at Macquarie University on the subject of population viability analysis in 1999. He has a background in biodiversity management and conservation ecology.
Brook's work focuses on global environmental change, and the impact that climate change and global warming are having on traditional risks to natural systems. In recent years he has become a respected commentator on energy policy, and has conducted considerable research on systems modeling for sustainable energy. He recently co-authored with Ian Lowe the book Why vs. Why: Nuclear Power.
Gus Nathan is Director of the Centre for Energy Technology. His research career has been aimed at developing sustainable energy technologies, spanning combustion and emissions control, bio-fuels, the mechanics of single and two-phase flows, and geothermal, solar and wind energies.
Within these fields he has authored or co-authored some 60 papers in international journals and 110 for peer-reviewed conferences, delivered keynote lectures at international conferences, and applied for seven patents which have been filed or granted internationally.
Professor Nathan led the design team for the award-winning fuel and combustion system for the Sydney Olympic Relay Torch.
Dr. Kim Talus
Kim Talus is a lecturer in International Energy and Resources Law at the UCL School of Energy and Resources, Australia. Previously, Kim worked as a researcher at the Institute of International Economic Law at the University of Helsinki, where his research focused on European Union energy law. He has also worked in private practice and at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Talus has received several international awards for his work, including the 2008 Scholarship Award of the International Bar Association.
Barry Brook, Director of Climate Science at The University of Adelaide Environment Institute, discusses the potential impact of fast nuclear reactors. He explains that by recycling and reusing nuclear waste, these plants are capable of turning a golf ball-sized piece of uranium into a lifetime's worth of energy.
"The U.S. has mined enough uranium already, to power all of its energy needs for about a thousand years," explains Brook.