Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Nuclear Power: Have we got no choice?

John Howard tells us at every opportunity that the only solution to global warming is nuclear energy. He says that this is the only clean option and the only way to cut carbon emissions. These statements echo those of other capitalist leaders around the world who are looking for a quick fix to the pressures they are now facing.

Not to say that nuclear energy is a quick fix, but in the eyes of a politician who is unlikely to see another term through, the long term impacts of nuclear energy will not be his responsibility.

Many countries who signed up to the Kyoto Agreement, excluding Australian and the US of course, are struggling to meet the small targets that were set. Emission cuts were to be 3-8% of their 1990 levels by 2012. To have any chance of actually changing the effects of climate change, we would need to cut emission by 60-80% within the next ten years. In order for this to be achieved there needs to be many other options to be looked at seriously, other then nuclear energy.

The risks associated with nuclear energy are hard to argue with- we only have to remember the disasters such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, to see what can happen. There are of course the longer term problems of radioactive material. Uranium and plutonium remain radioactive for 100 000 years. How can it be guaranteed that this material could be safely disposed of and not be a risk to ours or future generations?

There are many sustainable options to nuclear energy and non renewable resources. Many of which are currently in use, but only to a small degree as there is little effort from the capitalist governments and industry to switch to renewable energy, from non renewable energy, such as coal, which produces a staggering amount of immediate profit. A sustainable alternative however, would require a prioritisation of money invested in technologies and infrastructure and wouldn’t be as profitable for private industry for many years.

There are many other sources of energy possible including wind, wave, solar, biomass (fast growing plant material), hydrogen fuel cells, geothermal and combined heat and power generators. Many of these alternatives are currently used around the world, and in Australia, to some extent, but their full potential is yet to be seen.

Due to the profit motives of capitalism, many of these alternative solutions to nuclear and non renewable energy will not be seen unless a socialist planned economy in brought in. It is only under socialism that such planning can occur. Whilst we understand that the problems facing the planet will not be solved under capitalism, we nevertheless actively fight for any reforms to halt the devastating effects of climate change and the effects that nuclear energy will have on our planet.

The Socialist Party calls for immediate research to be done in the areas of renewable energy sources and for alternative jobs to be provided to workers currently employed in non renewable energy sectors. We also raise the need for the energy industry to be nationalised so that workers and the community can control where money for research, technology and infrastructure is spent.

By Denise Dudley