September 16, 2010

The nuclear energy spectre

A topic of conversation that has recently come up in my social circle is nuclear energy, a debate largely inspired by the attempts by ghost of the Howard Government Nuclear energy lobby (led by Ziggy Switkowski).

A fear expressed to me was that the climate change committee that Labor and the Greens Party will set up will be pressured to suggest nuclear energy as “solution” to climate change.

I do not support nuclear energy as a “sustainable” energy source or an alternative to fossil fuels. It is as bad, if not worse, than fossil fuel. I also strongly support a “No New Mines” policy – and think Australia should not export uranium to countries that have not signed the Non-proliferation Treaty.

I have many reasons for opposing nuclear energy. Most of them boil down to pointing out that both coal/gas and nuclear energy are bad for the environment. Using an environmental argument for nuclear energy does not, in my opinion, stand up to scrutiny. The answer to our energy crisis (in terms of the environment) is not nuclear energy, but sustainable energy, such as solar, wind, hydro, etc.

All of this said, Australia (and the world) needs to find genuinly sustainable energy sources, as well as reduce our overall consumption.

Rather than pump money into an industry that is poisonous, dangerous and unsustainable, the Federal Government should invest in sustainable energy such as solar, wind, hydro, or any number of other sustainable energy technologies. Furthermore, there should be greater investment in energy efficient technologies – most of our industries and power consumption is hugely inefficient – both cost savings and energy/environmental saving could be made.

If nuclear energy is going to be pushed, then there are alternatives to uranium, most notably thorium, which is safer, more environmentally friendly (although still radioactive) and could not be used for the weapons industry. UPDATE (2014): I’m advised that thorium can be weaponised.

[box type=”info”]Helen Caldicott’s book Nuclear Energy Is Not The Answer is an excellent starting point to furnish yourself with some facts about nuclear.[/box]

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