By PHILIP HOPKINS
A FORMER scientist with the State Electricity Commission, the Latrobe Valley’s Ray Burgess, has scathingly attacked AGL’s plan to close Loy Yang A station by 2035, calling it “fairyland thinking”.
Mr Burgess, a Morwell businessman, was an independent candidate for the seat of Morwell in the 2018 state election.
He received six per cent of the vote in a field of 11 candidates dominated by the Labor, National and Liberal parties and former National and independent, Russell Northe. He is not standing in this year’s election.
Mr Burgess said the big energy companies were talking up a post-coal agenda without any serious discussion about what was going to replace coal.
“They do not seem capable of comprehending or at least acknowledging the scale of electricity production these large thermo-mechanical power stations generate,” he said.
Loy Yang A produces 2110 megawatts of electricity, Yallourn W 1450MW and Loy Yang B 1000MW.
“If these are all gone by 2035, we are in serious trouble.
“They are living in a fairyland, thinking wind, solar, batteries and pumped hydro will cover our First-World electricity requirements.”
Mr Burgess said sadly, this would result in a loss of jobs and a reduced standard of living for many Australians.
“This does not include the blackouts and huge expense required to make a green ‘new world’ energy system,” he said.
Mr Burgess said many people in the Valley understood the inadequacies of a green future.
“An 80-year-old widow and housewife commented to me, ‘I can’t see how it’s going to work’.
“Just a plain grandma with common sense practicality. She gets it,” he said.
Mr Burgess said if a low-carbon society was mandated by the voting public, “then we need to seriously be considering a nuclear future, and quickly”.
He cited a report he had studied from the University of Queensland called ‘What would be required for nuclear energy plants to be operating in Australia from the 2030s’.
It was written by a team of scholars and students from the university under the leadership of Professor Stephen Wilson, head of the Centre for Energy Futures in the Faculty of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, with input from other experts in Australia and overseas.
The Chancellor of Queensland University, Peter Varghese AO, wrote in the foreword that there was no single answer to the question of the best combination of technologies to provide reliable emissions-free electrical generation at affordable cost.
“Opinions will vary and differ. But if we are to have any chance of arriving at workable answers, we must be prepared critically to examine the various options,” he said.
Mr Varghese is a former Australian Ambassador and High Commissioner; the former director-general of the leading intelligence group, the Office of National Assessments; and a former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
As a diplomat, Mr Varghese said he had always been interested in how nuclear energy could be used in a safe and affordable way without contributing to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
“As the country with the largest reserves of uranium in the world, these are questions which should be part of our public debate,” he said.
“Does it remain sensible for such a country to export uranium but prohibit the safe use of this technology for itself?”
Mr Varghese said today’s modern, more compact nuclear engineering designs, especially small modular reactors, had reframed the traditional safety and security concerns of nuclear power.
“These are some of the questions this study examines,” he said.
Dr Wilson, who is now an Adjunct Professor, told the Express that the report did not advocate nuclear energy, was also not anti-nuclear, but emphasised the question must be taken seriously.
“We have to prepare for the option whether we need nuclear or not,” he said.
“If in a decade from now we decide that we have to do it, it will not magically appear.
It’s not a question of just repealing the ban on nuclear energy and nuclear plants will pop up like mushrooms.
“We need a disciplined, well-managed program of work to get there.”
Professor Wilson said it would take a minimum time of decade to achieve this.
“If we get our heads together, we could be there in a decade,” he said.