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Mining and Energy Union raises worker safety concerns as Callide coal-fired power station goes offline before promoting coal over climate collapse 

Workers at Central Queensland’s Callide Power Station have stated that they fear for their safety and the future operation of the power plant as, “Further malfunctions have left all units out of action” according to Australia’s Mining and Energy Union (MEU).

Shane Brunker, MEU Queensland Vice President, said that Callide was today in ‘black start’ mode, meaning it is completely offline. Monday’s cooling plant collapse in the C3 unit has been followed by trips in B1 and B2 units. The remaining C4 unit has still being repaired following an explosion last year. 

He stated, “Workers have been alarmed to look up and see plumes of steam and dust, they are very concerned about what’s going on at Callide. We are relieved no-one has been hurt during the failures and malfunctions this week, but it has been a real possibility. 

“At this stage it’s not clear that CS Energy site management is able to get the power station back up and running. Callide Power Station is crucial for providing baseline power for Queensland.”

However, he then contentiously added, “This week’s events confirm workers’ fears that investment in maintenance of the power station has been neglected in the race to shut down coal power and move to renewables.”

No evidence was provided to back-up that assertion.

The point needs to be laboured that Callide is a coal-fired power plant and coal-based electricity generation is a major cause of climate collapse. This fact doesn’t necessarily mean that Brunker is wrong about worker safety.

Nonetheless, Brunker added, “We need the Queensland Government to step in and ensure Callide is being responsibly managed and maintenance and repair is prioritised – not only to get the power station back up and running but to keep it operating safely in the years ahead.”

He then said, “The focus should be on investing in the existing fleet and exploring opportunities to improve them rather than running them down.”

Such an assertion is naturally at odds with reality of global climate collapse and any justification in the continued use of coal for the benefit of continuing a moribund, localised economic industry – instead of pivoting to green forms of power generation – is short-sighted in the extreme.

Still, Brunker doubled down saying, “This should include carbon capture and storage which has been proven in Queensland already including at Callide A.”

Carbon capture isn’t a legitimate solution to climate collapse. Targets like “90 per cent efficiency” when it comes to capturing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power stations are regularly quoted, but even releasing 10 per cent of coal emissions will still lead to catastrophe. The oft-quoted ’90 per cent’ target also doesn’t tell the story that 90 per cent capture is simply not reached on a day-to-day basis and that if climate collapse has any chance to be averted, a total switch from fossil fuels needs to happen, globally, immediately.

The announcement doesn’t make it clear whether the MEU is more concerned about its workers’ current wellbeing at the power plant or using them as an excuse to promote the coal industry to the media.

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