Nuclear Energy Debate: Going nuclear – an answer to global warming?

The second in a series of annual debates dedicated to the memory of John Smith a passionate environmentalist, solar energy proponent, educator and keen debater who died 1 November 2004

Jointly presented by: The Australia and New Zealand Solar Energy Society (ANZSES) and The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at UniSA

Wednesday 25 October 2006

Nuclear energy is back on the agenda as a contributor to energy supply in the threatening context of climate change.

But can we really expect nuclear power to replace fossil fuels as a source of energy, and what are the environmental, cost, security, nuclear proliferation, and other implications of pursuing that option?

Do not miss this fascinating debate chaired by prominent media figure Terry Lane and featuring two experts with very different perspectives on this controversial question.


  • Mr Ian Hore-Lacy, Director, Uranium Information for the Australian Uranium Association, will take a positive position on the role of nuclear energy in an energy-demanding world
  • Dr Mark Diesendorf, Director, Sustainability Centre Pty Ltd and Senior Lecturer, Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW, will argue that nuclear energy involves too great a cost, including the greenhouse energy used in mining and processing nuclear products and the government subsidies that hide the real bills.


Ian Hore-Lacy

Mr Ian Hore-Lacy: Presentation by Mr Hore-Lacy (pdf format 2Mb)*

Mr Ian Hore-Lacy holds the dual roles of Director for Public Communications with the World Nuclear Association, an international trade association based in London, and also Director, Uranium Information for the Australian Uranium Association, which he has effectively held from 1995. His function is primarily focused on public information on nuclear power via the Web.

He is a former biology teacher who joined the mining industry as environmental scientist in 1974, with CRA (now Rio Tinto). He is author of Nuclear Electricity, the eighth edition of which has been published by Elsevier and World Nuclear University as Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century.

His particular interests range from the technical to the ethical and theological aspects of mineral resources and their use, especially nuclear power. He has written several books on mining, environmental, economic and related issues, the latest being Responsible Dominion - a Christian approach to Sustainable Development, published in 2006 by Regent College Press.

Key points to be presented:

  • Electricity demand is rising quite rapidly
  • Most is base-load
  • Nuclear power plays a major role in many countries
  • Renewables are unable to meet this demand to any extent
  • Nuclear power is cost competitive, and will become more so with costs on carbon
  • External costs very small, CO2 emissions from full life cycle are negligible
  • All wastes contained and managed almost uneventfully over 50 yrs.
  • Energy balance very favourable
  • Uranium is very abundant
  • Safety has always been paramount in the west
  • 415 of world's 440 power reactors are 2nd generation - reliable, robust and safe.
  • 12350 reactor years of experience
  • First 3rd generation plants operating
  • Later 3rd generation plants now building 1-2 orders of magnitude safer then 2nd generation
  • Future: Hydrogen economy, high-temperature nuclear power is best prospect to make Hydrogen on commercial scale

Mark Diesendorf

Dr Mark Diesendorf Presentation by Dr Diesendorf (pdf format 0.5Mb)*

Dr Mark Diesendorf teaches, researches and consults in the interdisciplinary fields of sustainable energy, sustainable urban transport, theory of sustainability, ecological economics, and practical processes by which government, business and other organisations can achieve ecologically sustainable and socially just development. Prior to joining the Institute of Environmental Studies in June 2004, he was senior lecturer in Human Ecology at the Australian National University (1994-1996), then Foundation Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney (1996-2001), and then Director of Sustainability Centre Pty Ltd (2001-present).

Based on his belief that science, technology and economics should serve the community at large, he has been at various times secretary of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science (Canberra), co-founder and vice-president of the Sustainable Energy Industries Council of Australia, co-founder and president of the Australasian Wind Energy Association, and vice-president of Appropriate Technology for Community and Environment (APACE).

The Australian people are being offered a false choice between energy futures based on so-called "clean coal" or nuclear power. In reality, neither of these technologies will be safe or affordable within the next 20 years. All the serious concerns about nuclear power from the 1970s and 80s are either unchanged or, in the cases of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, worse today. Nuclear power is currently more expensive than wind power in the USA and UK. As high-grade uranium runs out, nuclear power will become a significant emitter of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Efficient energy use and certain renewable energy technologies are ready now, but are receiving only token support by the Australian Federal and State Governments.

* Presentations available in PDF format – Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view and print. You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader from Adobe.

While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy – valuing our cultural diversity – and building our future.