I hope you will allow me the right of reply to the posting by Barry Brook (entitled ‘Monckton versus Brook Debate’), which unjustly accuses me of making a personal attack on him during the debate on nuclear power held at the University of Adelaide on 5 Feb 2010.

The alleged attack took place in the panel discussion after the formal speeches of the debate, in which the anti-nuclear team, Dave Noonan and I, had comprehensively refuted the pro-nuclear, anti-renewable energy arguments of Barry Brook and Tom Blees. Both pro-nuclear speakers had created the incorrect impression that they could speak with authority on energy issues.

In the panel discussion I simply pointed out that Brook’s area of expertise is conservation biology, for which he has a substantial body of scholarly publications on extinction of species. But, he doesn’t have a single scholarly publication on energy technologies or energy policy. That is a highly relevant point in a debate conducted at a university. Brook doesn’t have any demonstrated expertise on energy greater than any other intelligent person who has read about energy issues.

Similarly, if I had been arrogant or foolish enough to attempt to make authoritative statements about Brook’s field of expertise, species extinction, it would have been entirely appropriate for Brook to question my expertise in that area. It would not constitute a personal attack. However, in the fields of energy technologies and energy policy I have over 30 years experience, with many scholarly publications and three books, the most recent being ‘Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy’ and ‘Climate Action: A campaign manual with greenhouse solutions’.

I could have also questioned Blees’ expertise too, but as an overseas visitor to Australia he was treated gently. However, he appears to have no academic qualifications at all. He is an excellent writer in terms of presentation, although much of the content of his work is in my view simplistic, incorrect or inadvertently misleading.

Brook also claims incorrectly that we didn’t address his (false) claim that nuclear weapons cannot be produced from the spent fuel of a nuclear power station. On this claim, which both Dave Noonan and I refuted, the pro-nuclear team used tricky and misleading language. At one point Brook and Blees said that nuclear power stations don’t produce ‘weapons-grade’ plutonium, which is true by definition of that technical term. But we pointed out that this statement is misleading, because the ‘reactor-grade’ plutonium produced in a civil nuclear power station is nuclear weapons capable, that is, it can be used to produce an inefficient but destructive nuclear weapon, sufficient to wipe out the central business district of a small city. Indeed, the USA has successfully tested such a weapon.

The only energy technologies that can achieve substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 (and possibly out to 2030) are energy efficiency and renewable energy. Nuclear power (including the non-existent integral fast reactor) is too slow, too dangerous and too expensive.

Mark Diesendorf, 10 Feb 2010