The Australian Nuclear Energy Debate - 50 Years Too Late?

Well, no surprises that Little Johnny throws his weight behind nuclear energy. He states the need to consider it in the wake of high oil prices and as a non-polluting energy source. Nevermind the former, but he has never given a hoot about the environment. He justs wants to go nuclear to boost the uranium industry (selling to India too, the non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and split the environmental lobby, just like he did the Republican movement. He simply wants to control the agenda so Australia will do as his donors wish.

Having said that, some environmentalists are also talking about re-engaging constructively in the nuclear debate as a non-polluting energy source while renewable energy becomes better and cheaper, and this has led to quite a split within the movement. Social and environmentally progressive nations like Finland use nuclear energy; why shouldn't an energy inefficient nation like Australia do so?

I have 2 issues with going down the nuclear path. One is that despite being non-polluting, we don't know how to dispose of nuclear wastes properly. Not yet anyway. If we can in the future then that is another matter altogether.

Second, the argument for using nuclear energy in the interim worries me because of the prohibitive sunk and fixed costs in creating a nuclear power plant. No government in their right mind will withdraw their plant after 3 years of operations once alternative renewable energy becomes viable after spending hundreds of millions, if not more on nuclear power. As well, the time, energy and money spent on nuclear energy will only take away from investments in alternative renewable energy, and that will ensure nuclear energy continues in the long term at the detriment of renewable energy.

As well, there is something to be said that the international nuclear lobby wants Australia to go down this path as the Aussie desert is a good spot to store nuclear waste. I don't know how accurate that is but I wouldn't discount it.

At the end of the day we do need a healthy debate about nuclear energy. I believe that in a free and fair debate the nuclear lobby will lose, but I have no doubt it will be manipulated by the powers that be in order to ensure debate is stifled and twisted in their favour. By the same token, those opposed to nuclear energy shouldn't try to silence those looking for a debate. Don't act like the nuclear lobby-win the argument at the grassroots and then take on the lobby as a powerful unified movement from below.

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