Royal Society of NSW News & Events

Royal Society of NSW News & Events

1316th OGM and Open Lecture

Helen Cook and Adi Paterson “Australia’s nuclear future: a new discourse for the 2040s”

Helen Cook
  Principal,  GNE Advisory


Dr Adi Paterson FRSN FTSE
  Former Chief Executive Officer

Date: Wednesday, 4 October 2023, 6.30—8.00 pm AEDT 
Venue: Gallery Room, State Library of NSW, Shakespeare Place, Sydney
Video presentation: YouTube video
All are welcome

Summary: The debate about nuclear power in Australia has been deeply divisive, with pro- and anti-nuclear lobbies failing to engage with each other. Helen Cook, the author of the canonical work on legal regulation of the rapidly-innovating nuclear industries, The Law of Nuclear Energy, and Dr Adi Patterson, former CEO of ANSTO, bring new perspectives and argue for a more nuanced understanding of the issues.

Helen Cook discusses the proactive role that nuclear law can play in addressing key challenges for global governance of nuclear power. Adi Patterson argues that the assessment of options for power generation should be technology-neutral. It is a mistake, he argues, to focus only on renewables to achieve carbon zero by 2040. He notes that there is geopolitical pressure, in particular in our region, to be engaged in nuclear industries. Cook notes that 50 countries are currently considering or actively implementing new nuclear power programs, recognising the role that nuclear energy can play as a proven, clean, dispatchable, and economical technology to improve energy supply security and mitigate climate change.

Helen Cook is the Principal of GNE Advisory Pty Ltd., a law practice dedicated to all aspects of the civil nuclear energy sector. She has expertise advising on the establishment of legal and regulatory infrastructure for civilian nuclear power programs, as well as the negotiation of commercial contracts for new nuclear power plants, including covering procurement, construction, and financing. She currently advises on three of the demonstration small modular reactor projects in the United States and Canada and two of the front-runner SMR projects in Europe. Helen advises governments, such as Egypt and Estonia, on their nuclear power programs and recently drafted a national nuclear law and nuclear liability law for the Philippines. She is the author of the comprehensive legal textbook, The Law of Nuclear Energy which is in its Third Edition, and is recognised by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a nuclear law expert. Helen is a non-executive Director of Silex Systems Limited, an Australian-listed company commercialising laser enrichment technology together with Global Laser Enrichment LLC in the US, and an Executive Committee member of the Australian Nuclear Association. She lived and worked for 13 years in the Middle East and the United States before returning to Australia to start a family.

Dr Adi Paterson FRSN FTSE has a strong public science and senior management background, with extensive operational and strategic management expertise, in particular in nuclear programs and in the commercialisation of scientific research. He co-authored the post-Apartheid National R&D Strategy in South Africa and was Chief Operating Officer of the national Department of Science and Technology. From March 2009 to September 2020, Adi had strategic oversight and responsibility for ANSTO’s multi-facetted portfolio of activities. He anchored a values-based program of positive change and growth. This leveraged outcomes based on the nexus of public science investment and practical innovation with positive impacts on health, industry, and the environment. He also oversaw the integration of the Australian Synchrotron into ANSTO operations in 2016. Since leaving ANSTO, he has established a specialised consultancy company, Siyeva Consulting, that focuses on technology and energy futures.

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