The Bluff Aluminium Smelter Has Got To Go

If you want to find a prime example of the stupidity of the Government owning commercial enterprises, look no further than the Bluff Aluminium Smelter.

Only government could encourage a company to build an operation that gobbles up 15% of a country’s electricity generation, and have it located thousands of kilometers and a large ocean away from the source of its raw materials. Then supply electricity to that operation at rates far cheaper than any company or homeowner in New Zealand enjoys.

Now Rio Tinto, the company that owns the smelter, is looking at cutbacks. One can only hope those cuts include the mothballing of the white elephant in Bluff, which the Government is effectively subsidising. It makes no sense for ordinary Kiwis to be paying outrageous power bills when a good 1/6th of generation is tied up in bauxite electrolysis, and freeing up those resources could help reduce costs.

Of course, if we didn’t have the job and growth killing Resource Management Act, which makes new generation capacity built by private interests almost impossible, this would be far less of an issue. But as it remains, people died to construct the Manapouri dam, and using it for crony capitalist purposes while pensioners struggle to pay their power bills is pissing on a whole bunch of graves.

While we are at it, can we get rid of this Nuclear Free nonsense, so we can build stations with the safest, cleanest and most environmentally friendly method of generation known to man?

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5 thoughts on “The Bluff Aluminium Smelter Has Got To Go

  1. Stephan Hokke says:

    You have got to be kidding about bringing in nuclear. Why risk a Fukushima when we already have plenty of natural potential that can be developed? Nuclear is a solution that creates a problem of how to deal with the nuclear waste. There are better, less risky alternatives using coal, wood chips, algae, etc which can be developed by private individuals whereas nuclear would be a regulatory nightmare of a government controlled quango.

    As to the smelter, you may be right, but I would have to check into it further to see what is what on this and if it is really such a waste as it appears to be.

    • Stephan, do some research and you will find nuclear power has killed fewer people and is more environmentally friendly than almost any other form of power generation. It is the least risky form of power generation.

      • Stephan Hokke says:

        I am willing to do the research. However, the mere fact that a nuclear accident can devastate a wide region for tens of years gives pause for thought. A philosopher once wrote that if you create a weapon, you should also have a team that works on a counter to the weapon. I would extrapolate that this applies to any technology. Therefore, if nuclear power were to be allowed in NZ, it should only be if there is a process available to clean up a meltdown because of human error, earthquake, terrorist action. To my knowledge, only Bruce Cathie has mentioned that such a remedy is possible.

        You mentioned that nuclear has been safe compared to other energy sources. You are probably right as the only disasters are Chernobyl, Fukushima, plus 23 others and the total death toll is perhaps about 5,000. But this is where the gods have smiled on us and nothing really bad has happened. However, risk assessment tells me that it is better to opt for the lowest risk option. What happens if it goes wrong? For example, Fukushima where the initial problem of flooding was exacerbated through no power to keep the spent fuel ponds full. That is why I go for other, natural methods. I once thought that nuclear power was the way to go, but Fukushima has wakened me up. Therefore I look to other means which have no toxic byproducts at all.

        On the original subject, if the Bluff Smelter was closed down, what are you proposing the cheap electric power be used for? Desalination is a possible use, but I have no other ideas at this point of a valuable product that could be created using the power.

  2. Stephan, there have been far more dams collapse, and far more coal mine explosions, with far greater casualties and destruction in 140 years of hydroelectric and coal powered generation than there have been in 60 years of nuclear power.

    You cannot compare these many fatalities to the long record of safe generation of nuclear power. Fukushima melted down because of one of the worst earthquakes and tsunamis in recorded history, and there was not even a single direct fatality from it. The only accident with significant loss of life was Chernobyl, and that happened because the people running the station were experimenting with the reactors by literally playing chicken with them. In terms of risk assessment, many people are intimidated by the toxic nature of radioactive materials as compared to good-old-fashioned water or fossilised amorphous carbon, but the reality is that while radioactive material can IN THEORY kill very quickly and easily, the risks of disaster are much lower than that of a crack in a dam or a spark in a mine.

  3. On the original subject, if the Bluff Smelter was closed down, what are you proposing the cheap electric power be used for? Desalination is a possible use, but I have no other ideas at this point of a valuable product that could be created using the power.

    Is this a serious question? Electricity prices in New Zealand are insane. The last power station to come on line was the Clyde Dam in the 1980s, and the NZ population has grown 50% since that time. Freeing up 15% of generation capacity would have a significant impact on prices, provided the current cartel situation is reformed.

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