Apr 292007

Australia’s only feasible options are clean coal technology and nuclear power.

ABC News Online

and the light on the hill, according to Anthony Albanese, isn’t the glow from a nuclear waste dump. Yet the 44th Australian Labor Party’s national conference has ratified a policy change, albeit on a slim margin, which will see the ’three mines’ policy consigned to the historical wastebasket.

Let’s be honest for a moment and admit exactly why John Howard is promoting nuclear energy as the be-all and end-all. Greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and export income from a virtually untapped resource don’t even rate a mention. John Howard’s epiphany on nuclear power generation came twelve months ago smack bang in the middle of an afternoon tea with his good buddy George. Before that moment in time, staunch climate change denialist and champion of Australian coal industry jobs, John Howard knew all too well that nuclear energy was a step too far for the Australian electorate. Yet no-one in the Australian media questioned this dramatic about face. Why not, I ask?

The man is still a climate change denialist, but the championing of coal industry jobs seems to have been tempered by this increasing rhetoric on expanding a public debate on nuclear energy. The question needs to be asked. Why does America want Australian involvement in the nuclear cycle? Australia is probably the most blessed nation on the face of the planet when it comes to the plethora of energy generation options, and fossil fuels are simply a part of that plethora. We do not extend enough in research terms into renewable energy generation, yet we have arguably the greatest platform for promotion of solar power generation of any nation. Yes, we’re blessed with massive reserves of coal and natural gas. One being much cleaner than the other, the other being a primary energy resource which can be cleaned up, albeit it at a cost. That cost is much, much less that the establishment of a nuclear power generation regime, with much, much less in the way of toxic by-products as a result of its use. Yet, we see this cleverest of politicians in a generation, constantly now, promoting the nuclear option, knowing that as his Minister Ian MacFarlane stated only yesterday, establishment of even a single nuclear power station in this country has an inordinately long lead time and wouldn’t be in operation before 2020. Again, this begs the question of just why Howard is so adamant that nuclear is the only way forward for this nation.

John Howard is being disingenuous at best if he still thinks that the electorate has swallowed his statements regarding a conversion from climate change denier to climate change embracer. He has never accepted the tenets of science in regard to climate change and never will., so, again, why the push to nuclear energy?

I;ll tell you why, reader, and it all centres around the U.S. administration’s desire to have more of its client states on board in the uranium enrichment/storage cycle. If that means those clients need to have the excuse of nuclear power stations as a salve to public rejection of the enrichment/storage cycle, then so be it.

For mine, Labor is being far more pragmatic and realistic on the question of uranium and nuclear energy. We have the worlds largest reserves of the element, but whether we mine it or not, nuclear proliferation will continue. There is nothing Australia can do to slow that inexorable process. By mining and exporting the element, we may at the least have some say in who the first-line buyers might be. A conscience saver, if you will. We’re also obtaining value for the export. That’s pragmatism. If we don’t, someone else will, so we might as well benefit from what we have while at least having some say in where it goes. As for nuclear power generation, the answer is very succinct. We don’t need it. We never have, and by the time we might, the world’s entire reserve of uranium would have already been exhausted, including our own. Quod erat demonstratum.

So, all political considerations aside, all attempts at wedging ideological opposition into corners and all pretence at being what he’s clearly not on the issue of climate change, just why does John Howard want to drive the nuclear bus in Australia?