The Potential of Nuclear Power

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1989
This paper is essentially an address, rather than a detailed presentation of facts, because the third edition of `Nuclear Electricity - An Australian Perspective' has just been completed and will be available for the seminar. That 96-page booklet contains a lot more information than The AusIMM would be prepared to print in the seminar proceedings. Hence I have kept this paper brief, and ask readers to obtain a (free) copy of Nuclear Electricity at the seminar or from The AusIMM. It can be read as a supplement to the paper (or vice versa). According to one of Australia's well known critics of nuclear power, Professor Ian Lowe, `the pro-nuclear lobby's predictions of the future use of nuclear energy .... have been regularly and consistently wrong by large amounts, always overestimating the future demand for uranium" (Aust. Society, April 1989). While I do not accept this as a bald statement applying to all those in favour of increased use of nuclear power, there is sufficient truth in it for it to be credible. Certainly in the 1950s and the 1960s, when the new technology for producing controlled power from atomic fission was first being commercialised, there were some very exaggerated projections of the role of nuclear power. Many people thought that it would take over from fossil fuel fired electricity generation in much the same way as the motor vehicle took over from horse-drawn transport. And these early projections were not simply concerned with electric power generation, they included excavating harbours and digging canals with nuclear explosives.
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