Friday, May 26, 2006

The nuclear debate in Australia

John Howard says he wants a debate on nuclear power to occur in Australia. That's fine by me, but I think the debate should be about the bigger problem of global warming and that nuclear should be just part of the conversation. But I can play on Howard's terms. Let me open the debate by asking what we do with the spent uranium?

As if on cue the government is just about to receive a report it commissioned that was conducted by Professor John Gittus, and independent consultant to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Funnily enough it will say that the the latest type of nuclear power station is economically competitive with new coal fired power stations: :::[SMH].

Mrs Bishop said the study concluded that nuclear power was the safest, most secure way of generating electricity with greater price stability in comparison to gas or coal power generation.

The analysis also found the nuclear option was even more attractive when considering the cost of environmental damage and carbon dioxide emissions from new coal or gas-fired power stations.

"I welcome this report as a useful contribution to what I hope will be an evidence-based debate about nuclear power in Australia. The debate must focus on the facts and not be biased by emotion," she said in a statement.

OK, no emotion I promise (other than the emotion of surprise - this is the first time I have head of nuclear being economically competitive with coal). Now what about that spent uranium? What are we going to do with that? There I go, getting all emotional again.

I needn't. It seems Howard's attempts to talk up a nuclear debate is simply: :::[A red herring to prompt a Labor split.]

UPDATE:

Peter Hartcher's article elicited an interesting response published in letter to the editor of the SMH the following day:

Peter Hartcher gets John Howard's motives absolutely right when, out of the blue, the Prime Minister suggests a full debate on nuclear power for Australia ("A red herring to prompt a Labor split," May 26). Howard must know that because of economic factors here, the private sector wouldn't consider it in a fit. His real intention is much more cynical - to divide the ALP.

But I don't think Hartcher is altogether correct in claiming that because Iran is drenched in oil, it doesn't feel the need to develop nuclear power for electricity. When I was at the Australian embassy in Tehran in 1972 and 1973, the Shah frequently said oil was too valuable and finite a commodity simply to burn for power. With the backing of the Americans and the World Bank, he had a vigorous nuclear research program. This was the foundation for the program, which the revolutionaries who ousted him, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been building on.

Richard Broinowski Paddington


And a clever judo throw.

There's a very simple answer to the Prime Minister's devious and divisive call for a debate on nuclear energy. At every turn we must tell him: it's not about nuclear energy, Mr Howard, it's about renewable energy.

John Newton Glebe


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