Nuclear Energy and Active Citizenship: Introduction

Year level

Upper Primary/Lower Secondary

Notes for teachers

A number of sites are listed in the resources section to help teachers familiarise themselves with this complex topic. Initially, students may need a reminder to respect different points of view. Ideas are also provided for graphic organisers, some of which will need to be printed off, and some of which would be better as large displays on classroom walls. It is recommended that teachers study the unit carefully, before students start work on it, and prepare display areas or printouts if required.

Curriculum Links

Links to the Australian Curriculum

Learning Outcomes: Secondary

Research topic

Investigate ‘active citizenship’ and how it influenced an environmental issue in Australia. Consider how citizens found information, worked in groups, informed the community and communicated with the government about the replacement of the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney.


People in many countries are concerned about the environment, but do not take any action about it. Some citizens, however, have the knowledge and skills to take up environmental issues actively with their governments. The use of nuclear power is one issue that has been taken up by active citizens in Australia. The arguments centre on the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney. It is a small reactor, used for research and for making radioisotopes. These radioisotopes are used in medicine, pollution control and for getting rid of insect pests. In 1997, the Federal Government announced that it was time to replace the old reactor with a new version. Some people were very concerned about this and wanted no reactor at all. Others believed that there were good reasons for the reactor to be replaced.

In this investigation you will be asked to find out the main arguments for and against the replacement of the reactor, and the use of nuclear technology in Australia. You will look at the kinds of actions different groups took to convince others to support them, and rate them for their efficiency, effectiveness and ethics. You will be asked to look at possible future developments in this conservation issue, how they might affect communities, and what actions could be taken about them.

Overall aim

After exploring this topic, you will have learned about the involvement of active citizens in the nuclear energy debate in Australia. You will have examined a range of articles and opinions on nuclear technology and its effects, and will have analysed the actions of various groups who do, or do not, support it.

In investigating this topic you will also have become aware of your own values and feelings about the nuclear energy debate. You will have developed your own perspective on the issue, and have had to take into account the opinions of others, even when you disagree with them. You will have found out what active and informed citizens can do when faced with an issue that concerns them. You will apply these values, skills and perspectives to possible future developments in the nuclear energy debate, and decide on a reasonable course of action that citizens could take to influence them.

Focus questions

What are active citizens doing to influence the use of nuclear technology in Australia? What are the positive and negative aspects of replacing the reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney?


In your investigation, you will examine the risks and benefits of using nuclear technology. You will consider these in connection with the government’s decision to renew the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights, from the point of view of various groups opposing or supporting this decision. You will investigate the activities of these groups and assess them. Then you will be asked to consider possible future issues related to nuclear technology and how active citizens might be involved in them.

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