Jim Green’s recent Punch piece on Fukushima accuses Barry Brook and I of having an “indifference to human death and suffering”. This is offensive and false.

A lot of things went wrong here…

Green’s attempt to support his accusation by cherry picking sections of the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report into the radiation induced health impacts at Fukushima displayed considerable ignorance and bias.
Presumably Green considers the cancer risk figures calculated by the 35 authors of the WHO report as credible. Presumably, that’s because he understands that they are seriously expert in such matters. So why didn’t he present their judgement about what the numbers actually mean?

The first sentence of the associated WHO press release summarises their findings, but I prefer a shorter simpler sentence from the Summary and Conclusions in the body of the report (p.92): The present results suggest that the increases in the incidence of human disease attributable to the additional radiation exposure from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident are likely to remain below detectable levels.

What? Say that again ... “below detectable levels”?

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  • LC says:

    07:00pm | 13/03/13

    “How do you propose that could be done ?” Through the use of an organization similar to that which policies OH&S laws, perhaps. And they’ll need to have teeth. Lots of them. Read more »

  • LC says:

    06:34pm | 13/03/13

    “Coal plants cost $1 billion and take about 1 -2 years to build.  An equivalent nuclear plant costs $5 -10 billion and about 5-10 years to build.  Fuel costs are lower, but you have to also factor in decommissioning ($500million), disposing of spent rods at a rate of about $5million… Read more »


Today is the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and it promises to be another silly-season for Australia’s nuclear apologists.

Describe this image

They have form. While the crisis was unfolding in March 2011, Ziggy Switkowski advised that “the best place to be whenever there’s an earthquake is at the perimeter of a nuclear plant because they are designed so well.” Even after the multiple explosions and nuclear meltdowns, Adelaide-based nuclear advocate Geoff Russell advised: “If you are in a quake zone and have time to seek shelter, forget hiding under door jambs and tables, find a nuke.”

Even as nuclear fuel meltdown was in full swing at Fukushima, Adelaide University’s Prof. Barry Brook reassured us that: “There is no credible risk of a serious accident… Those spreading FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] at the moment will be the ones left with egg on their faces. I am happy to be quoted forever after on the above if I am wrong ... but I won’t be.” Eggs, anyone?

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  • Anticitizen1 says:

    06:46pm | 11/03/13

    What if an two asteroids collided in space and meteors resulting from the collision came down on your city and the only way you could survive was if you were in a 500 meter deep bunker at the time? I mean we are talking about the same levels of probability… Read more »

  • jim says:

    06:27pm | 11/03/13

    Mr Green so how many people have actually died. Nice! you can’t skew the obvious question. Just bringing up statistics of what could happen is not an argument to say that it has already happened. Read more »


The Dark Knight Rises, the last and final instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, packs a serious punch. For almost three hours audiences are held captivated by the reluctant return of the Caped Crusader to save Gotham City from a neo-fascist Nemesis in the guise of the megalomaniacal Bane. The political subtexts are not standard Hollywood fodder.

An unwitting anti-nuclear campaigner…

Nolan not only fesses up to the corruption at the heart of the otherwise civilized veneer of modern liberal Democracy, he also tackles head-on themes such as the inevitable compromise and capitulation to following orders intrinsic to carrying out state sanctioned authority, and ultimately, the darker impulses that may lay at the heart of the nuclear industries push into promoting itself as the clean energy solution of the future.

It is on this second score that The Dark Knight is at its most prescient, timely and cutting. One of the major arms of the Wayne Empire’s commercial interests is in developing Nuclear Fusion energy – the silver bullet often touted by the real world nuclear industry as the answer to the impending climate change crisis.

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  • OSB says:

    06:27pm | 07/10/12

    And, to everyone who sites Fukushima as why we can’t have nuclear power think of this. For a plant that was built nearly 45 years ago from an American design that was not meant to be hit by tsunamis, it did pretty well if it took the combined hit of… Read more »

  • OSB says:

    06:06pm | 07/10/12

    @M I’m at Uni now, I’m left and I disagree with everything the green left says about nuclear! Also I’m studying as an engineer (Aero & Mech) and know that nuclear it the only current viable solution. Read more »


The story behind the corporation that owns the Beverley uranium mine in north-east South Australia is scarcely believable.

It looks so peaceful from this angle…

Heathgate Resources − a 100 per cent-owned subsidiary of General Atomics (GA) − owns and operates Beverley and has a stake in the adjacent Beverley Four Mile mine. Over the years GA CEO Neal Blue has had commercial interests in oil, Predator drones, uranium mining and nuclear reactors, cocoa, bananas and real estate.

Radioactive spills and gas leaks at a uranium processing plant in Oklahoma led to the plants closure in 1993. The plant was owned by a GA subsidiary, Sequoyah Fuels Corporation, and processed uranium for use in reactors and for use in depleted uranium munitions. A nine-legged frog may have GA to thank for its dexterity.

A government inquiry found that GA had known for years that radioactive material was leaking and that the radioactivity of water around the plant was 35,000 times higher than US laws permitted.

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  • TimB says:

    06:29am | 03/08/12

    “TimB - Could you go and ask your grandmother, or someone else you trust, how capitalism works? “ How about you pick up your old school textbooks and undertake a refresher course yourself? Because last time I checked, capitalism didn’t advocate encouraging business growth by taxing it more. Natural competition… Read more »

  • Mohd says:

    09:56pm | 02/08/12

    Its crazy for Australia to permit the sale of uranium to UAE, see Egypt was seen as the most stable country two years and now WHAT? We should not allow the sale of uranium to UAE as they have all the gas they need for energy. The dangers are… Read more »


The damage to Japan’s Fukushima reactors has probably ended any risk of Australia going down the nuclear path.

You won't see a wind turbine or solar panel do this, and they're cheaper and quicker to build too

In fact, despite some uninformed commentary, there has been no international renaissance of nuclear energy, only a resurgence of pro-nuclear talk. In the years 2008 and 2009, the world retired 3000 MegaWatts of old nuclear capacity and only 1000 MW was brought on line. In the same two years, about 60,000 MW of new wind power was commissioned.

When I was a young physicist, nuclear power was seen as cheap, clean and safe. I went to the UK in 1968 and accepted support from their Atomic Energy Authority for research on a problem affecting the useful life of fuel elements in power reactors. Since then, despite huge public subsidies, nuclear power has proved to be very expensive.

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  • Geoff Russell says:

    06:10pm | 26/06/12

    900 MW of solar power? What does that mean? That’s a power figure, not an energy figure. How much actual energy was generated by solar? According to estimates from the clean energy council, the latest data is 680 GWh (giga watt hours). That’s 680 of 229,000 GWh that was generated… Read more »

  • LC says:

    02:17pm | 26/06/12

    Phreatophyte I live under a tile roof, so I think I’m OK. PsychoHyena My point is that all power comes with risk, and that solar power isn’t somehow exempt from it. However, if we track compare the track record of nuclear with coal, in terms of both it’s public safety… Read more »


When David Gonski fronted up to his first day of work as the new Chairman of the Future Fund this week, he walked into a flurry of controversy from unexpected quarters.

Maybe it should be called the NO FUTURE fund

Not only was Gonski’s appointment ungraciously questioned by Peter Costello (who felt entitled to the position himself) but he was also subjected to a small band of gas-mask wearing demonstrators outside the Fund’s Melbourne office demanding that the Australian tax-payers money should not be channeled through the Future Fund into companies that manufacture nuclear weapons.

By midweek, online activist group GetUp! had send an email to hundreds of thousands of Australians about the future fund’s activities and, by Thursday, over ten thousand had signed an online petition. It was clear that Gonski may have inherited more toxic skeletons in the Future Funds closet from its former Chairman David Murray than he had bargained for.

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  • AAAdam says:

    06:28pm | 10/04/12

    James, in my worldview the things I listed above all do benefit people. In my worldview it is your rabib environmentalism that is a threat to the future of mankind. That aside, here is a really crazy idea; how about you to use your own money to indulge your own… Read more »

  • Tanel says:

    01:05pm | 10/04/12

    Exactly LRB, isn’t that just ironic that most of the people would choose the larger nest with some toxic, nuclear eggs among it. What does it say about those people? Oh, well, I’m well off here and who cares about the war - let say in the third world countries.… Read more »


If a week is a long time in politics then 106 of them must be close to an eternity.

Maybe they could dump it under this gigantic red rock, it couldn't possibly have much significance

That’s how long it has taken Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson to steer his controversial nuclear waste legislation though both Houses of Parliament.

Introduced as an urgent matter with Coalition support in February 2010, the law passed the Senate this week. While the delay might cause frustration to an impatient Minister, in the timeframe over which radioactive waste remains a serious human and environmental risk it is but a blip.

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  • Gordon says:

    03:04pm | 30/03/12

    This issue has less to do w/ the rights of locals and more to do with the green movement’s terror that safely storing radioactive waste might actually be no big deal. Read more »

  • Candy27BLAIR says:

    10:01am | 22/03/12

    Have no enough cash to buy some real estate? You should not worry, because that’s real to get the mortgage loans to solve such problems. Hence get a bank loan to buy all you want. Read more »


When Julia Gillard rises at the ALP national conference Sunday week to urge uranium exports to India she will anger some of her closest supporters - women.

The Woo Woo Sisterhood. Pic: Digitally altered

She will also rile the ALP left who will argue against yellowcake to the sub-continent, but it is a long time since Julia Gillard has been considered a leftie.

Of greater importance might be the response of women voters in general, a significant number of whom have stuck by Gillard since she toppled Kevin Rudd, bungled an election campaign and scraped together a ragged agenda of her own.

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  • OSB says:

    06:21pm | 07/10/12

    Yes, Gillard may be bad but, trust me, it would be worse under the Liberals at the moment. And even the most right wing of my friends says that. Read more »

  • OSB says:

    06:10pm | 07/10/12

    Whats wrong with socialism, it brought you Medicare, Tax rebates, Public schools and hospitals and used to bring you cheap power and water owned by the state and only asking you not to forget about the people poorer than you. Read more »


Prime Minister Julia Gillard would do well to consider some bigger issues than the praise of conservative political insiders when it comes to plans to sell uranium to India, a country not bound to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A deserted street inside the Fukushima exclusion zone last week. Picture: AP

Aptly enough on the same day she announced her position reversal, the Times of India reported on a trial of a nuclear-ready Agni 2 ballistic missile, capable of traveling over 3000 km to reach its target.

We know that the more uranium India can source from foreign exporters, the more its own uranium supplies can be directed toward its rapidly expanded weapons program, fueling already simmering regional tensions in East Asia.

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  • Thomas says:

    05:25pm | 25/11/11

    France is a good example: they have to buy expensive back-up energy from Germany whenever a French nuclear reactor is down, and that happens at least one month out of every year for maintenance. The nuclear sector has all in all been very expensive for France and would be closed… Read more »

  • Thomas says:

    05:17pm | 25/11/11

    Uranium fanatics never seem to study up on their facts. Nuclear power has *never* been economically viable without huge government subsidies, and that’s even without taking into account the huge costs for dismantling old reactors and getting rid of waste safely, let alone the mind-boggling costs of cleaning up after… Read more »


Early this year, with minimal fuss, the government-owned Future Fund made a principled choice to divest taxpayers’ dollars from companies that produce cluster bombs and land mines – pernicious devices that kill and maim long after a conflict has ended. Their victims, overwhelmingly, are civilians.

The B Wing Extensions at the Happy Hypocrite Political Retirement Village were coming along nicely

Based on this decision, one might assume that the fund – which was set up in 2006 to cover the pension costs of retiring politicians, judges and public servants – has also excluded nuclear weapon companies. After all, these have grave humanitarian consequences too.

But not so. Documents obtained by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in May revealed that the Future Fund owns $135 million worth of stocks in 15 companies that build nuclear arms for the United States, Britain, France and India.

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  • Jase says:

    06:56pm | 14/11/11

    I think they are trying to get at the companies who produce the parts which eventually end up as the final product. For example Raytheon build missiles in Perth, (Private Company) but I am pretty sure there are no explosive parts until the missile arrives in the states or whatever… Read more »

  • Utopia Boy says:

    05:39pm | 14/11/11

    I stopped reading after “Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced a review into whether he should have the extraordinary power to veto nuclear weapon investments.” I thought these bloody politicians were there to make decisions. Can’t they do anything without a committee, a review, an analysis, a white paper, an impact… Read more »


As a scientist who studies natural climatic disruptions of the distant past and finds disturbing parallels with the vast changes that we’re setting in motion with today’s fossil fuel emissions, I’ve long favoured a switch to alternative energy sources.

But having been an anti-nuke protester back in my college days, I’ve also been reluctant to support nuclear power thanks to the unresolved problems of meltdowns, waste storage, bomb proliferation, and terrorism. 

Nonetheless, my attitude changed several months ago after a chance conversation with a geologist friend whose son is training to become nuclear engineer.  “He’s working on a new kind of reactor,” my friend explained, “It can’t melt down, it makes only minimal waste, and it can’t be used for making bombs.  Instead of running on uranium, it uses thorium instead, which is a lot safer to work with.” 

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  • persephone says:

    03:26pm | 25/05/11

    Agreed, Just Sayin’. I really do have an open mind on this. It’s not thorium’s fault Tim’s arguments were tosh. Read more »

  • Just Sayin' says:

    02:01pm | 25/05/11

    Many people HAVE claimed to replicate water engines, I even found plans on the internet once.  I was planning to (sceptically) build one with my father, but we decided not to bother when we realised it was physics-defying perpetual motion engine. (It split water into hydrogen and oxygen, ran on… Read more »


The more things change…

A cooling tower at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant

On this day in 1979 a general emergency was called at Three Mile Island after a water pump broke and radioactive steam leaked into the atmosphere.

Welcome to Monday at The Punch. What’s on your mind?

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  • fairsfair says:

    08:52am | 29/03/11

    Knemon, perhaps… I’d dispute that, but you can have him, I don’t mind. I don’t think anyone does really. After a few sav blanc’s I often got myself into some trouble offering my Ray Warren style commentary while the broncs were playing…. Poor TimB. Read more »

  • Knemon says:

    06:58pm | 28/03/11

    fairsfair says: 02:19pm “please. find a real sport” - would that be in the same way Karmichael Hunt did? Read more »


The after effects of the quake and tsunamis in Japan will cause clear and on-going pain and suffering for years, while the risks from the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors look to be subsiding - see here for the latest updates. Meanwhile, Geoff Russell argues that any and all risks need to be put in perspective.

More deadly than nuclear. Pic: Getty Images

Residents living in the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear plant face some considerable cancer risks during coming decades. They will come primarily from cigarettes, red meat, alcohol and salty foods. These should hardly be called risks, since each will definitely cause tens of thousands of new cancer cases every single year throughout Japan.

An additional possibility, a potential risk, hardly visible in comparison, may come from radiation as a result of the quake and tsunami damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

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The situation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactors seems to be improving, but the long-term fallout remains unclear. The Punch spoke to Associate Professor Haydon Manning - head of politics and public policy at Flinders University and a man with a particular interest in nuclear power - and asked him what it means for the political future of nuclear.

Cartoon: Warren Brown

What’s the history of nuclear fear in Australia?

In the Australian community we’ve never had to confront the stark reality - like the French, the Japanese and South Korea have - of real energy shortage. Given our abundance of coal and gas we’ve never had to focus on any of the positive arguments for nuclear power as the answer to a problem or energy security.

Rather, we associated nuclear power with weapons. This is certainly true of someone like me, who as a student marched on the streets in opposition to Olympic Dam in the late 70s. Then in 1979 we had the ‘icing on the anti nuclear cake’ when Three Mile Island had its minor meltdown.

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  • DaveinPerth says:

    12:49am | 25/03/11

    @Severino - “How long does it take to build one of these you beaut Thorium reactors?” Up until I learned about China’s decision to go with the LFTR (see post at base of page), my best hope was for 10 to 15 fifteen years to go through the development /… Read more »

  • Severino says:

    07:16pm | 24/03/11

    So these reactors you want to propagate throughout Australia don’t exist? Tell me DiP it takes at least 15 years to build a nuclear reactor. How long does it take to build one of these you beaut Thorium reactors? Read more »


The Punch put some questions to one of the nation’s nuclear experts - Dr Gerald Laurence. Dr Laurence is a Radiation Safety Adviser and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemistry and Physics.

People being scanned for radiation exposure. Pic: AP Photo/Kyodo News

Q) How scared should people in Japan be about the nuclear situation?

A) Not a great deal – the 20-year total of deaths from Chernobyl (from the UN 20-year report) suggests that the radiation related deaths are of the order of a few thousand at most; of the thyroid cancers, mostly in the young 99 per cent were treated & cured (note all the data in the report are strongly disputed by environmental and progessive groups who claim that WHO & IAEA are under the influence of the nuclear industrial complex).

In Japan so far it is spent fuel rods that were removed from the core in November, so iodine-131 (which has an eight-day half life) is not a major risk. The most serious fission product that will be released will be caesium-137 with a 30-year half life.

The possibility of food (rice, milk, etc.) being contaminated because of contaminated fields is real, but public health measures (testing and so on) should mean such produce should not reach the public. Local contamination (houses, towns) will clear at rates dependent on the weather (dissolved in rain, etc.). Local weather also disperses & dilutes the plume (and I assume the Japan Met Bureau can model this very well).

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  • Jason Todd says:

    11:12pm | 27/03/11

    Let’s talk about risk vs reward again. If countries like Indonesia are building nuclear, it is because the reward of having a plant outweighs the level of risk. Indonesia may be seismically active, it may have engineering dramas, but obviously if they are building the plants they need the power. … Read more »

  • Paul says:

    10:39am | 21/03/11

    @Anthony “Not quite sure where you got centuries from, the technology has only been around for half a one…” Anthony your logic is faulty. The fact that nuclear power generation has only been around for half a century does not somehow magically change the half-lives of radioactive materials. Chernobyl was… Read more »


Some parts of the environmental movement will be quietly high-fiving each other this week, as the nuclear industry’s progress over the past decade looks certain to take a massive step backwards.

German activists demonstrate against nuclear power in wake of Fukushima disaster. Pic: Getty Images

They have been quick to proclaim ``I told you so’’ and make the fallacious analogy that the incidents in Japan mean that Australia and indeed all other countries should not consider nuclear as part of the energy mix.

Incidents which, it should be kept in mind, involved an unprecedently large earthquake and decades-old technology.

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  • Sharon H says:

    09:31pm | 27/03/11

    Where are we today? . Read more »

  • Doh says:

    05:55pm | 16/03/11

    Your search fu is weak, but then again leftists never like to do their own work.  Just this once I will do your work for you: Some late attempts to diffuse, but the true colours came out first for all to see. Shameful. Read more »


The image of a child surrendering to be tested for radiation poisoning in Japan is heartbreaking.

Hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station number three reactor. Pic: NHK.

It reminds me of the iconic picture of Kim Phuc, running naked along the road after being burned in a napalm attack.

In 1972, that picture brought home the horrors of the Vietnam War.

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  • Francesco says:

    04:47am | 08/02/12

    From BEIR VII page. 268“The use of data on psreons exposed at low doses and low dose rates merits special mention. Of these studies, the most promising for quantitative risk assessment are the studies of nuclear workers who have been monitored for radiation exposure through the use of personal dosimeters.… Read more »

  • Jason Todd says:

    10:56pm | 27/03/11

    Fablish, I am happy to engage the solar and wind debate, and both solar panel and wind (as well as geothermal and wave) technology is coming along, but it isn’t there yet. They are woefully inefficient as well as being expensive. Not to mention that their construction of solar panels… Read more »


If you’re a science or nuclear energy buff, you’ll have to excuse us for starting pretty much at the bottom of the knowledge tree here. First of all, let’s define a meltdown: basically it’s when the core of a nuclear reactor is unable to cool, because of some kind of system failure like, oh, a 10 metre wall of sea water crashing into a nuclear power plant. Radiation can then be released, and that’s when things get really dangerous. So is it happening in Japan? Latest reports say no, not yet and hopefully not at all.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Pic: AP

Click this link for an incredible series of graphics on the internal workings of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, pictured above. This really is some amazing work the New York Times has done at short notice. There’s another really helpful infographic here:

Despite what appears to be an easing - or at least a temporary containment - of the threat of a major radiation leak, let’s dwell briefly on the worst case scenario. Could we be facing another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl? The answer, according to the Science Media Centre of Japan, is almost certainly no. Read a full Q&A at the SMCJ website here. Highly informative, yet accessible, material. Well done them.

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  • Mel says:

    05:07pm | 15/03/11

    I am most curious about the thorium reactors that have been mentioned a few times on ABC 24, but so far not too much mention on other tv stations. Sounds like it could be a goer - without cooling needs, and without the production of materials for nuclear weapons production. Read more »

  • skepdad says:

    04:10pm | 15/03/11

    @alcotrel: it is my understanding that a comprehensive risk analysis was done, but with Japan’s total lack of natural resources they had a choice of massive energy imports or nuke plants.  Not hard to see how they arrived at the decision, and to be fair the plants have stood up… Read more »


Cheers to The Punch for the opportunity to respond to recent contributions on nuclear power, in particular those by Clive Mathieson and David Penberthy.

Exxxxxcellent: would you like one of these next door?

Clive claims that nuclear power is “a debate Labor desperately doesn’t want us to have” and David says “our dominant politicians are determined to not even allow a debate” on the issue.

Clive and David ought to spell out exactly what they want from the government.

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  • Business Energy Australia says:

    03:20pm | 15/05/10

    Thanks for a good read. I agree that it can take a while before your investment in solar panels returns. But on the other hand, it is a very positive thing for our environment and it really helps! Read more »

  • Realist says:

    01:46pm | 24/08/09 Now the NOAA has admitted what has been reported in his blog and is fairly obvious to anyone looking at temperature charts: global warming has flatlined for the past decade.  See chart.  They claim such a decade long event is rare; a little calculation found it a 5% likelihood. … Read more »


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