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Australia is back in the nuclear game

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Dr Adi Paterson (screenshot via YouTube).

One of Australia's chief advocates for nuclear power Dr Adi Paterson, CEO of Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, (ANSTO), has done it again. 

This time in China, he quietly signed Australia up to spend taxpayers’ money on developing a new nuclear gimmick — the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR).

This new nuclear reactor does not physically exist and there is no market for it. So its development depends on government funding. 

Proponents claim that this nuclear reactor would be better and cheaper than the existing (very expensive) pressurised water reactors, but this claim has been refuted. The TMSR has been described by analyst Oliver Tickell as not "green", not "viable" and not likely. More recently, the plan has been criticised as, among other things, just too expensive — not feasible as a profitable commercial energy source.

Paterson’s trip to China and his signing up to this agreement received no Parliamentary discussion and no public information. The news just appeared in a relatively obscure engineering journal

The public remains unaware of this.

In 2017, we learned through the Senate Committee process that Dr Paterson had, in June 2016, signed Australia up to the Framework Agreement for International Collaboration on Research and Development of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems (also accessible by Parliament Hansard Economics Legislation Committee 30/05/2017). 

This was in advance of any Parliamentary discussion and despite Australia’s law prohibiting nuclear power development. Paterson’s decision was later rubber-stamped by a Senate Committee.

Former Senator Scott Ludlam, in a Senate Committee in May 2017 queried Dr Paterson on his pre-empting of Parliamentary approval for Australia to join the nuclear Framework Agreement. 

He pointed out that:

"Nuclear power reactors are actually prohibited in Australia under national law, so under what authority did you sign an agreement to promote research and development on nuclear reactors?"

Dr Paterson said that he’d discussed the matter: with the Department and with the relevant ministers.

He argued that signing this agreement provides us with a seat at the table at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

However, Senator Ludlam pointed out that Australia already has that seat:

"We did not have to sign the gen IV agreement to retain our seat at the IAEA."

Dr Paterson was then obviously supremely confident in his ability to make pro-nuclear decisions for Australia.

He said:

"It would be a virtuous outcome to join the Generation IV International Forum … It was one of my proudest moments as the CEO of ANSTO to sign that agreement … I think it is the right thing to do for Australia."

Nothing seems to have changed in Paterson’s confidence levels about making decisions on behalf of Australia.

Interestingly, Bill Gates has abandoned his nuclear co-operation with China. His company TerraPower was to develop Generation IV nuclear reactors. Gates decided to pull out of this because the Trump Administration, led by the Energy Department, announced in October that it was implementing measures to prevent China’s illegal diversion of U.S. civil nuclear technology for military or other unauthorised purposes.

Apparently, these considerations have not weighed heavily on the Australian Parliament.

Is this because the Parliament doesn’t know anything about Dr Paterson’s trip to China and his agreement for Australia to partner with the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) in developing Thorium Molten Salt Reactors?

Read more by Noel Wauchope at antinuclear.net and nuclear-news.net and follow her on Twitter @ChristinaMac1.

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