Nov 212006

“While I think it’s probably not viable at the moment, I think it will become viable within a 10- to 15-year time frame. And I think that’s why we have to start planning now because if we were to leave it 10 to 15 years to start planning for the construction of these facilities, by then it may well be too late.”

Thus spake  Martin Blakeman from the mining company Newera Uranium following the release and presentation of Ziggy Switkowski’s report on the Prime Ministerial Taskforce on uranium mining, processing and nuclear energy.

I listened to Ziggy’s speech to the National Press Club this afternoon….morning for me, but I’m a Queenslander….and the opinion I formed is pretty much the same one the conservationalists and environmentalists have formed. This really was a glowing report. The negatives of nuclear energy generation were generally glossed over, even though Ziggy said he and his team had visited Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Granted, neither of those reactor designs exist any longer with any generators Australia chooses to build will be of the yet to be constructed 4th generation reactor type. Fully computer controlled with multiply redundant safety mechanisms built in. Really advanced stuff, but still nuclear reactors containing energies we barely understand, creating toxic wastes we still cannot deal effectively with.

Ziggy’s report basically stated that the review team had been everywhere, man. They’d been to Finland, USA, Russia, Ukraine, France, England, Japan…..they’ve been everywhere. They’d sought out and been shown the pinnacles of nuclear power generation where-ever it is utilised. They’ve had the benefits extolled and the drawbacks – such as the US administration’s 20 year failure to have Yucca Mountain accepted for nuclear waste storage – barely mentioned. In fact, the review barely mentions them. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl barely rated a mention today. Windscale didn’t. Ziggy’s report only painted a two-toned picture. One colour means confirmation and the other means when. Sure, the arguments will be raised. Nuclear not economically viable until we start taxing carbon emissions, but really……how hard can that be to instigate?

I’m a pragmatist on this issue. Australia will go nuclear within the next twenty years. The current government has completed the ground-work in the past week in having their manipulation of Corporation’s Law sanctioned by the High Court. Such a sanction only clears the way for future governments to do as they will when the NIMBY factor begins to kick in over just where the mooted 25 nuclear power stations will be sited. This will be despite what a majority of Australians will want. A majority now don’t want nuclear, but lack the information to make an accurate judgement on the issue. Today’s draft review won’t help provide that information. It will, however, feed the case for the yea-sayers and all the vagaries of the technology which few understand and even fewer want to. Well done, Ziggy. You’ve given Little Johnny what he wanted you to give him. You’re a good lad.

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