Mmmmh! Nucleear Powwer! I think Homer Simpson is the truth about nukes. I also think about those Japanese nuclear technicians from a few years back who were carrying liquid uranium compounds around in slop buckets and chucking them into a vat like they were making soup in a prison-camp kitchen. They overdid it and started a lethal chain reaction all of their very own. It's the little guys who make the world work (The greatest engines turn - upon the smallest cogs!) and it's the little guys who can bring it down. Chernobyl proved that; Gorbachev didn't tell those boys to run risky experiments and neither did the Soviet Academy of Science.
A long while back, Mike Willesee had a "character" appear on his programme; a comedian who did an ethnic routine as "Luigi Risotto". I remember only one of Luigi's sketches; on nuclear power. He appeared in workman's clothes with a hanky tied around his head (a sort of "Italian" version of Paul Hogan's first efforts - "Luigi" wasn't really Italian, of course) and declared that he would clear up our concerns about nuclear power: "Firsta question", said Luigi, "Ees Yoranium sife?" There followed a long pause, then: "Nexta question!" The nexta question was "What izza yaleoh cike (yellow cake uranium ore)?" He produced a yellow-coloured cake and, pointing demonstratively to it, said, "Thees eeza yaleoh cike!!" He then took an enthusiastic bite of it and, after chewing for a few moments, spat it out in disgust. "Ahh! Taste-a horeebull!", he said, and that was it for our education on the topic.
The Australian government hasn't done much to surpass that effort. The information's all there, if you want to dig it out and educate yourself. But where is the forthcoming and public analysis for the lay person who, after all, will be the one getting fried when it goes wrong? Nowhere, of course. The Howard government made the formal noises, but they didn't really want us to be well-informed. They preferred that we trust their independent, impartial expert, Ziggy Switkowski, the independent, impartial nuclear scientist who makes a nice living from being on government payrolls of various kinds. So much for impartiality. ( Howard wouldn't insult the intelligence of the "mob" as he calls us. He never thought we had any.) What about competence? Well, as a Telstra subscriber I can, like millions of other such wretches, see how Ziggy goes on the practical side. yes, after seeing how good ole Ziggy squandered hundreds of millions of dollars, I'm greatly encouraged. Anyone still with a landline knows those crackling, roaring, staticky sounds quite well now: the signs of a deteriorating system. The money to maintain it went on mad foreign schemes and swill for the privatised Telstra pigs. For this declining service, I get to pay at least three times what I did before Ziggy and the other Howard saboteurs got to work. (Many thanks to Mal Colston for crossing the floor in the Senate to support Telstra privatisation. I don't often gloat over a dead man; in your case I'll make an exception, bastard.)
In a previous post I said we had to unhook from carbon fuels. The "obvious" next step to many people is nuclear. Those people are the same people who form the carbon fuel crew. It's really the same industry. Right now they make their money by extracting material from the Earth's crust and shipping it off to be burned or turned into industrial ingredients, like plastics. Dig it up. Ship it. They don't like to actually do processing if they can avoid it. Even when the same company does the whole process of extraction, refinement and delivery, there are corporate discontinuities. The real heart of the business is at the "dig" end. Uranium is the next best thing to petroleum and coal for these types. You dig it up and you...
Well, I say: Hail to hydrogen! Here's why: The gainsayers keep chanting that solar and wind can't cut it for base-load power. They want us to imagine how difficult it is to put solar and wind and other clean energy systems near our cities and derive the necessary juice from them. Maybe they are right. So why do we need to use those systems for direct supply? Why not put them where the environs are best suited to them and use the power to make hydrogen? Imagine this: a network of clean energy stations around our country producing hydrogen. The hydrogen is taken by road and rail to the urban power stations by tanker trucks and trains that run on hydrogen. They discharge their loads into tank farms that supply the power stations. The power stations contain generators fuelled by hydrogen. What happens when we burn hydrogen? We get water as the exhaust product. Hey, we can use that pure water! Pipelines can take it to the cities' reservoirs.
What's hard about that? Nothing unless you'd rather just dig and ship.
Here's another idea: Why don't we double up? All those wind turbines on pylons painted white...why aren't they coated with solar panels? And why do we allow houses to be built with black or grey roofs that soak up all that radiant solar energy...only to induce the inhabitants of the house to use air-conditioning drawing on mains power supply. It should be the other way around: in summer roof-mounted solar panels can generate power for air-conditioning and in winter they can supply power for heating. At least let's stop the practice of fitting heat-trap roofing! What about all those people with exercise bikes, churning the wheels futilely? Those things could be fitted with generators that feed into the mains and provide a nice discount off your power bill. In fact all kinds of exercise machines could be developed to charge domestic batteries or feed into the main grid.
We can cut wastage by other means too. One beauty that gets me is all those extractor fans in toilet cubicles. By all the gods! No bastard ever died from smelling a fart! The damnable things turn on with the light, often inseparably. This gross squandering of electrical power is even written into building codes. Who benefits? The makers of extractor fans. The electricians who install them. The middle-men who sell them. The writers of building codes who take bribes from these vested interests. Think I'm kidding? Read the news. It's plausible. Also, the government has decided to prohibit incandescent lamps. They should do the same with halogen lamps. And why allow the fittings to be sold that require them?
Rip out your toilet extractor fans (or at least disable them), paint your roofs white and/or put solar panels on them. Let's make a start on undermining the nuclear industry. The twin pincers are reduction in demand and activist consumer preference for clean power. Homer is the truth behind Ziggy and if we don't thwart them, the diggers and shippers will stick us with another toxic fuel cycle.