Nuclear: The Unlikely Environmental Hero | Adelaide University Union

Words by: Richard Matthews for On Dit
via Nuclear: The Unlikely Environmental Hero | Adelaide University Union

Netflix is a fantastic service for procrastination and education alike. I recently binge watched Kampen om tungtvannet or The Heavy Water Wars, a miniseries documenting the lives of key players during WWII over the procurement of deuterium oxide for the development of the Atomic Bomb. One of them was Werner Heisenberg, known famously for his uncertainty principle. The miniseries leads us to believe that Heisenberg’s attempts to build a nuclear reactor was to create limitless energy, not as a weapon, but as a means for humanity to excel: a solution to a greener future.

SRC Councillor Jack Crawford, has already made the case for why you should defy our ‘militant, nuclear chancellor’ and attend the antinuclear rally. I’m here to discuss why you should get to know nuclear before condemning it so that, like Heisenberg, humanity may excel.

The issue of a nuclear waste dump is more complex than whether we should store the world’s high-level waste in South Australia. It is more nuanced than breaking the militant, nuclear weapons proliferation. The public perception is so against nuclear that current federal laws prevent nuclear plants from generating electricity (even though a local nuclear plant may have prevented the recent state wide blackout). If we are serious about solving the problems of climate change, affordable power and energy security, nuclear needs to be a viable option.

In a great 14-minute talk, Michael Shellenberger, environmental policy expert, argued for nuclear power plants that would break the nuclear weapon cycle and solve the renewable energy crisis.

As Shellenberger discussed, public perception is a massive hurdle. A fuel dump is the start to ease public perception on this overly emotive issue while being responsible for the Uranium we mine. The ultimate end game has to be the introduction of thorium reactors as a way to provide stable base load generation, to complement our renewable energy targets.

Crawford is right; it is a student issue, getting a job after uni is a student issue. With a nuclear dump comes approximately 9,600 jobs, many of them coming from the fields of civil, mining, electrical and mechanical engineering.

These are all fields that are suffering significant depression for new graduates in South Australia. There are also flow-on jobs with business, regulatory, management and legal fields all also seeing new jobs created.

If you want to attend the rally, get to know nuclear first. The benefits of nuclear energy to the environment are greatly under played. Like Heisenberg, we are faced with a choice: We can either jump on the bandwagon, or we can choose to support the greater good. We’ve seen too much politicizing of important issues recently; let’s have science win especially when nuclear may be the solution to a healthier environment and a greener future.

If you want to get to know nuclear you can by visiting

Richard Matthews is the Disability Officer and the Postgraduate elect for the Student Representative Council. He is a member of the University’s Academic Board, holds a Bachelor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Honours. He has five years of experience working in Power or Engineering related fields.