Nuclear energy is one of the most remarkable, extraordinary and potentially valuable resources known to man. Respected and exploited intelligently by some, it is feared and rejected by others; often on grounds that lack rationality or persuasive logic. Australia today at national policy level unfortunately falls into the latter grouping as currently the only one of the top 20 OECD nations still to rule nuclear power as illegal. Its politicians, mostly individually supportive, nevertheless show little collective will to consider otherwise; so denying the Australian people adequate consideration of the exceptional physical, economic and environmental potential of nuclear energy in the national generation portfolio.
Yet this has not always been so. The presentation opens by focusing on what might have been and closes by speculating on what can yet be. Australia and Australians have an extraordinarily proud history of diligent investigation and world-class achievement in the search for value in the humble atom. The attainments of Australia’s distinguished scientists and engineers in nuclear research and development, now spanning more than 65 years, are quite exceptional. Our young nation is recognised in the international sphere as ‘boxing far above its weight’. But the notion of extracting the uranium atom’s uniquely concentrated clean energy to generate electricity and heat, in the peaceful service of all Australians, remains an opportunity still to be grasped. Tragically for the Australian people our present generation, despite the continuing efforts of an enlightened few, has yet to illuminate the path ahead.
About the speaker: Martin Thomas qualified in Mechanical Sciences from Cambridge University in 1957 with Class 2 (1) Honours. He joined Merz and McLellan in the UK, migrating with his family to Perth in 1967 to join Merz Australia, managing several power generation projects for developing mining companies. He moved to Sydney in 1976, specialising in industrial energy conservation in Australia and overseas. He was appointed founding MD of the Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy in 1995 and chairman of Dulhunty Poles in 2006, a role he still holds.
Former roles include chairmanships of Austenergy; NSW Electricity Council and the 2000 Olympic Energy Panel. He was deputy chair of Australian Inland Energy. In 2007 he chaired CSIRO’s Energy Technology Expert Review Committee. He was the Institution of Engineers Australia National President and President of the Australian Institute of Energy. In 1992 he was elected to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. In 2006 he served on Prime Minister Howard’s Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review. In 1992 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to energy and engineering and in 2003 received an Australian Centenary Medal.
In 1997 he received the AIE’s Institute Medal; in 2008 the Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal, Engineers Australia’s highest award; and in 2015 the AGM Michell Medal, the highest award of Engineers Australia’s College of Mechanical Engineers and the Annual Award of the Australian Nuclear Association.
(*ASHET is the Australian Society for History of Engineering and Technology. Click here to find out more about the Society.)BUY TICKETS