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Friday, 18 September 1987
Page: 346

Mr CAMPBELL —I address my question to the Minister for Science and Small Business, pursuant to an answer he has just given in respect of the glasshouse effect. Would it not be true that if the world were massively to turn to nuclear energy, there would be a diminution of the glasshouse effect? If that were the case, much of the uranium required would be supplied by Australia, so would not Australia have a moral obligation to provide services to the world for the storage of waste because we have the best technology, geography and geology to do so?

Mr BARRY JONES —I thank the honourable member for Kalgoorlie for his question, which is absolutely without notice. I am not sure whether the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy might not be more comfortable with it. This, in fact, is one of the fundamental issues that the world has to look at. There are very serious problems, in Europe, particularly, with the effect of acid rain and other phenomena as well which are clearly associated with the conventional use of coal technology and so on. On the other hand, I suppose we would have to say that in Australia we are not terribly keen at this stage on looking towards even more rapid reductions in the world consumption of coal.

Mr Young —Chernobyl was not too good either, was it?

Mr BARRY JONES —Chernobyl was not exactly a great success. There is a fundamental question which has to be resolved in the long term about the comparative merits of the nuclear alternative as against the conventional use of coal and as against the development of other alternative strategies such as the more efficient use of energy; in other words, getting a higher degree of deliverable energy out of new technologies that are being developed. For example, I will mention something that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie I know has a very keen interest in, something that is quite new. In the course of the week, I had a visit from Professor Herman Branover of the Beersheba University-an area with which people who see the film The Lighthorsemen will become familiar. He is doing remarkable work on following up a procedure that really has been understood for about 120 years but not yet developed, and that is the generation of electricity in high volume by getting molten lead and turning it through a very elaborate series of pipes.

Mr Cadman —How do you melt the lead, Barry?

Mr BARRY JONES —With coal. The molten lead is aerated with molten globules then proceeds through a pipe at high speed. On either side are the poles of a magnet. That movement then generates electricity in an extraordinarily efficient way. Professor Branover says that he is getting a fuel efficiency in excess of 40 per cent.

Mr McGauran —Oh, of 40 per cent!

Mr BARRY JONES —We are having some enlightenment from the honourable member for Gippsland on the subject. We are not getting a very high level of intellectual efficiency from that corner of the chamber ending with the honourable member for Gilmore. That process can cause a dramatic reduction in coal use, but may cause a very dramatic increase in the international market for lead. So in every area, as I have been saying quite a lot lately, the implications of the development of super-conducting materials can be tremendous for the rare earths industry-the development of rare earths both here and in China-but on the other hand it is very likely to have negative effects on the coal industry. So in a way all these issues are part of one continuum and all have to be looked at.

Mr Hawke —There is a universal Occam's razor.

Mr BARRY JONES —The Prime Minister is absolutely correct, as usual. I cannot top that.