I just attended a lecture by Dr Ziggy Switkowski (see the above picture) on the topic of nuclear power, for a long time Ziggy has been the most prominent advocate of nuclear power in Australia, so naturally the talk was pro-nuclear. The lecture was free for alumni of Swinburne University and introduced by Swinburne’s Chancellor who described Ziggy as a friend.
Before the lecture started I handed out flyers for Beyond Zero Emissions  with a plan for zero carbon use in Australia by 2020. That was more difficult than handing out Greens polling cards on election day. The people who attended were there for a purpose and they could see the free food and wine on offer inside the building so getting them to stop and take a brochure wasn’t easy. There were also people from Friends of the Earth  and some other anti-nuclear organisations giving out brochures.
There were also some anti-nuclear protesters dressed as Uranium miners and the specter of nuclear contamination, they made for an interesting picture (which is amazingly good for a phone camera 20 minutes after sunset), but got in the way when I was handing out brochures. There were a few university security people at the door trying to keep the opposition away who were a bit annoying. There was also one policeman in attendance who was quite friendly, he asked whether there was a competition between the different groups as there is when handing out how-to-vote cards on election day.
15 minutes before the lecture was due to start I quit handing out the brochures and went inside for free food and drink (food always tastes better when the other team pays the bill).
I felt that Ziggy did a poor job of advocating nuclear power. There were a number of gaping flaws in his argument, but I have to commend him for his honesty in his appraisal of how hard it would be to develop a nuclear industry in Australia. Most nuclear advocates are a lot more optimistic about the process of building nuclear power plants and training all the people to run them.
I will write a post tomorrow rebutting some of Ziggy’s arguments.
After the Lecture
Immediately after the lecture the vice-chancellor stated that 500 people registered which made it the best attended such lecture that they have held. I don’t know how many of the 500 attended, but I did notice that about 1/4 of the seats in the lecture hall were empty. It’s rather sad that they can’t get more people to such lectures, is TED.com stealing the audience?
When I got out of the building I started handing out brochures to people as they left. I noticed that they were a lot friendlier than they were on the way in. I believe that people who left the lecture had greater interest in renewable energy because Ziggy just failed to make a good case for nuclear power. I expect that anyone who hadn’t already made up their mind would immediately want to research the alternatives after watching Ziggy’s lecture.