A file picture dated 17 February 2010 shows cattle grazing in the shadow of the cooling towers for Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant that use the Westinghouse AP1000 advanced pressurized water reactor technology, Waynesboro, Georgia USA.
A file picture dated 17 February 2010 shows cattle grazing in the shadow of the cooling towers for Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant that use the Westinghouse AP1000 advanced pressurized water reactor technology, Waynesboro, Georgia USA. ERIK S. LESSER

NUCLEAR POWER: Expert reveals its problems, benefits

THE negatives against nuclear power in Australia would be the construction costs, the dumping of waste, and the potential risk of being targeted by terrorists.

But through more recent technology, a kilogram of uranium could produce 8000 times more heat than a kilogram of coal.

The feasibility of nuclear power was explained by Rockhampton based CQUni associate professor Mohammad Rasul, who specialises in energy, power plants and process industries.

Mr Rasul agreed to discuss the feasibility of nuclear power but not on the politics of it, which has recently become a topic of political discussion through Hinkler MP Keith Pitt.

Mr Pitt and Queensland Senator James McGrath are pushing for a Senate inquiry into legalising nuclear power in Australia, and have written a letter addressed to the Prime Minister advocating the issue.

The resulting national coverage attracted the attention of Media Watch host Paul Barry, who this week scrutinised the overall number of recent news articles about the topic advocating nuclear power.

Without intending a slant, the Newsmail reached out to a Queensland academic willing to discuss the science and fears behind nuclear power, who said the risk of nuclear disaster was low if one considered the numerous nuclear power stations across the world that have existed without disaster.

Other benefits would be that the operational costs would be cheaper than a coal fired power station, although more expensive overall because of construction and maintenance.

It also avoided emissions, although there was a significant catch.

"In terms of operation, it is not dangerous," Prof Rasul said.

"The main problem is the dumping of radioactive waste, that is the only disadvantage.

"I don't see a problem with the feasibility if we can take the risk of dumping the radioactive waste."

However, the waste itself was radioactive for more than 10,000 years, and although operation was safe, disasters could happen if there was a failure with the initial nuclear reaction.

"During the nuclear reaction it is producing high energy," he said.

"That energy is going through a tube in the boiler, and water from the other tube is coming from the nuclear reaction.

"Sometimes a high pressure can come into the tube...that might burst. If that bursts all things in the nuclear section are completely gone."

There was newer energy technology known as 'supercritical' power plants which made nuclear power generation more efficient, which was mostly being used in China and India.

A 'supercritical' nuclear power plant was 80 per cent efficient, while a coal powered station that was not 'supercritical' operated at an efficiency of about 38 per cent, Prof Rasul said.