Ben Heard reports on the Walkerville Town Hall meeting.
When you set aside a decent portion of your life every week to advocating a cause that can occasionally seem lost, there is no better feeling than breaking new ground.
That’s what happened at Walkerville Town Hall on Saturday.
We broke new ground in presenting a united front of environmentalists who support nuclear power.
It sounds so simple but I have been watching. Until very recently, pro-nuclear environmentalists have failed to stand together effectively. The consequence is that we have failed to achieve the shift we have needed. We have always had logic, reason, science, rationality, context, enlightenment and morality on our side.
Nearly the full 100 ticket holders were in attendance, a result that stunned and delighted the Mayor and event organiser for a public holiday Saturday. The protest turn out was small (6 people perhaps) and for the most part entirely courteous. Most of those protesting then attended the presentations, and one of them had a very interested and respectful chat with me during the interval.
The audience was not stacked in the pro-direction either; I knew a half a dozen or so supporters. This was a genuine mixed community audience.
Our moderator, Becky Hirst, was excellent throughout, and Mayor Heather Wright gave a punchy intro which was, in a nut shell: this is an argument that deserves to be heard.
But what really sang about the day was the presentations and question and answer session. As the promotions promised, the audience were treated to four very different perspectives from four quite different individuals, unified by a common conclusion. This was really, really powerful.
I gave the stripped down version of my original presentation (Ben Heard_Walkerville_June 2012), along with the popular slides that demonstrate how a small number of nuclear reactors almost completely decarbonises South Australia’s electricity.
Barry then lead with an excellent breakdown of current energy generation and trends. His slides really completed the story that “rapid growth” of renewables from a miniscule base does not hold a solution to decarbonisation. He spoke frankly of his previous dismissal of the nuclear option on the grounds of uranium resource limitations, which lead into his excellent discussion of Generation IV nuclear and the Integral Fast Reactor (which, for newcomers, extracts a further 150 times the power from uranium than do current commercial reactors).
Geoff Russell was my personal star for the day, giving a great, and again very sincere presentation that contextualised the risks of radiation in an incredibly compelling way. His analysis of the posture of incredible fear on display from this photo was a real highlight.
Could the guy with the geiger counter possible get further away from the poor, terrified child? Radiation is not ebola for God’s sake. He is clearly terrified of something he did not understand.
He was followed by Corey Bradshaw who left the audience in no doubt: from the point of view of biodiversity, we are failing on all fronts. The solutions will demand clean energy at scale, and there is no way the downside of nuclear outweighs the downside of failing to use it.
After a quick break Barry gave the audience an unexpected experience: he produced a geiger counter! After picking up a few blips from the stage, he wander into a more “radioactive corner” and brought back a box of samples including a nice big piece of pitchblende (also known as uraninite), basically a rock from northern South Australia. Boy did that geiger counter hum! Barry talked about the geiger counter readings, what it would mean if he held the pitchblende for a year, held it up to his head and invited the audience to have a play after the event. It was a fantastic addition to the event.
Then we got into questions, and this was a great surprise: every single question was genuine. No soapboxing introductions, no monologues. Questions from people who wanted our perspectives. What is the impact on water supply? Where would a reactor be sited? Why not straight to LFTR (Liquid Fuel Thorium Reactor)? What about the cost? Do you support Iran and North Korea using nuclear technology? …
So my sincere thanks to Walkerville Council, particularly Mayor Heather Wright and promoter Sonia DiNicola, for showing the fortitude required to stage the event. Thanks to my excellent fellow speakers and also supporters of DSA. Both online and through our local meetings, we all helped make this happen.