Nuclear no-nos

Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of Earth, writes: Re. “Climate debate: solar power is just a ‘toy’” and “The Power Index: carbon cutters, Martin Green at #8” (Friday). In the comments section, Geoff Russell opines that China is “gearing up to produce small modular reactors by 2020 or thereabouts”. This is the standard “look over there” tactic of the nuclear zealots. What is actually happening in China, as Russell well knows, is that dozens of ‘”generation 2″ reactors are under construction or in planning — reactor technology that wouldn’t be licensed in the West.

Regulation is a joke, staff training standards are inadequate, press freedoms are non-existent, and whistleblowers — if they’re lucky — are imprisoned.

Claude Walker writes: The comment in Friday’s edition by Geoff Russell must not go without correction given that the claims made in that comment are blatantly false. In his hyperbole, Russell claims that solar photovoltaics are “only generating 0.1% of our electricity in 2013”. This is clearly untrue, and also quite disingenuous because we do not know how much of “our” electricity will be produced by solar PV in 2013 (it’s only March, after all), and Russell is hardly making an attempt at accuracy when he refers to “our” electricity — the usual measure is the percentage contributed to the national energy market (NEM), which excludes the NT and WA. In 2011, solar PV produced about 0.6% of the electricity in the NEM and this figure is increasing as installation continues while total demand for electricity shrinks. No doubt, in 2013 solar photovoltaics will contribute a higher proportion of the electricity sold in the NEM than ever before.

While the contribution is small, with adequate regulatory settings, it will continue to grow. Russell’s subsequent paragraphs lack (even) internal logic. While he emphasises the transport costs and land requirements of building a solar farm he ignores completely the transport costs of building a yet-to-be-invented nuclear reactor. He also ignores the contamination of land caused by uranium mining, and the costs associated with supply of fuel and disposal of waste. Yet he considers nuclear “green” in comparison to solar. It hurts me to read such blatantly incorrect and internally inconsistent opinions because they serve to delay the progress that we owe to future generations.

Why 457 visas are a women’s issue

Michael Secomb writes: Once again, the male-dominated Canberra media gallery has demonstrated that it just doesn’t understand women’s issues. The gallery pontificators have been bagging Gillard for her move for a review of the 457 visa system on the basis that it is supposedly just playing cheap politics during her time in western Sydney. However, they seem to have missed the point entirely. It was this government that allowed Gina Rinehart to bring in workers under 457 visas for her mining operations, so the government is certainly not against importing suitable workers if they can’t be found locally. However, there have been reports of claims that 457 visas were also being used to ring in Asian women to work as s-x slaves in local brothels.

Gillard referred, during her International Women’s Day speech, to having met two of those women and told of how moved she was by their stories. This is certainly a relevant issue to western Sydney, where some one-third of residents were born overseas, many in countries that trample on the rights of women. Those women would be very interested in the PM’s denunciation of s-x slavery and the government’s passing of related legislation last week. However the boys in the media gallery, obsessed as they are with petty political manoeuvring by male politicians, missed this whole issue, just as they missed the significance of Gillard’s misogyny speech last year. To put it bluntly, the boys have shown once again that they just don’t “get” women’s issues.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey