July 2017 Guest Speaker, Pete Van Ness

Pete Van Ness, from the Department of International Relations, ANU, spoke to the Vintage Reds on the topic of nuclear power.


Pete and Mel Gurtov are the editors of a recently published book, Learning from Fukushima: Nuclear Power in East Asia. (The book is available for free download from the ANU Press.)

The project developed from an ANU workshop which aimed to respond in a helpful way to the March 2011 triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown) in north-eastern Japan. It evolved into a collaborative investigation of whether nuclear power was a realistic energy option for East Asia

The focus was on the ten members of ASEAN, none of which have nuclear power plants; though at the time, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia were all interested in getting one.

The book ends with nine reasons why nuclear power is a bad choice for any country which is not already a nuclear weapons power. These are:  1 the high cost of construction;  2 continuing need for very highly trained staff;  3 difficulty for a regulatory authority to be transparent, and lack of transparency that goes with high levels of security required around nuclear facilities;  4 huge liability in the event of an accident, frequently paid by the public;  5 cost of decommissioning, under both normal and crisis conditions;  6 the relationship between nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons;  7 the intractability of the problem of nuclear waste disposal (there is currently still no site for the permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste anywhere in the world;  8 the health implications of exposure to radiation, including much lower levels than previously believed; and  9 the insufficiency of nuclear power as an answer to concerns about climate change.