Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Nuclear power: No solution to climate change

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There has been a lot of talk of ‘reopening the nuclear debate’ and Howard is amongst world leaders who are planning a massive turn to nuclear power, on the claim that it does not produce the greenhouse gases that fossil fuels do. Nuclear’s supporters are attempting to paint it as a clean, green and viable alternative.

Howard’s report of the Government’s Uranium Mining Processing and Nuclear Energy Task Force calls for the building of 25 nuclear power stations. “Nuclear power is part of the solution both to Australia’s energy and climate change challenges,” he said. He claims the report demonstrates there are no sound reasons to prevent uranium mining in Australia – announcing the Government would respond swiftly to the report’s recommendations.

Nuclear power doesn’t reduce greenhouse gases

The report is cold comfort to those promoting nuclear power as the one-size-fits-all answer to climate change. Nothing in the Switkowski review will remove one gram of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in less than 15 years.

In fact, as John Busby reports CO2 is released in every component of the nuclear fuel cycle except the actual fission in the reactor. “Fossil fuels are involved in the mining, milling and enrichment of the ore, in the fuel can preparation, in the construction of the station and in its decommissioning and demolition, in the handling of the spent waste and its re-processing and in digging the hole in the rock for its deposition”.

Who’s agenda?

Howard’s nuclear power plan is not a serious examination of clean energy alternatives, but a campaign to ensure that uranium mining is expanded in Australia. Australia is home to around 40% of the world’s known uranium deposits – much of it at BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine South Australia. Western Australia also has many deposits. Howard has called on the state governments to remove the existing restrictions around Australia on the export of uranium.

International experience shows nuclear power is only possible with massive subsidies. The Switkowski report confirms 25 nuclear power stations would only be feasible in Australia with massive government subsidies and would be at least 50 per cent more expensive than existing alternatives. A new generation of reactors would take about a decade to bring on line and cost billions of dollars to build each.

It’s no coincidence that the nuclear commission handpicked by Howard, was headed by boss Dr Ziggy Switkowsk former CEO of Telstra, previously CEO of Optus. Nuclear power is very big business. And very expensive.

The Socialist Party opposes any such handouts to big business. We argue for the phasing out of nuclear energy and fossil fuel consumption to be replaced with existing forms of renewable energy like wind and wave generators, and for the development of new forms of energy generation like hydrogen cells and bio-fuels.

As a form of energy nuclear power is far too dangerous. And as Dr Helen Caldicott uncovered there’s simply not enough uranium in the world to sustain nuclear power over the long term. Socialists have always argued that to leave a key economic industry like energy in the hands of multinationals and corporations is a recipe for environmental disaster.

The only way for a future with clean renewal energy sources is for the energy industry to be owned and controlled by the community whom it serves and workers who run and operate it not by corporations who exploit the environment for profit.

By Kylie McGregor


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