Friday, 18 May 2007

Nuclear energy now our only option

As reported by David Barnett in the Canberra Times:

Selected paragraphs (I wonder, sometimes, if writers mind me editing them this way...)
Alternative energy can only be peripheral. We do not face up to our real choice because the Greens are watermelon green on the outside and deep Trotskyite red on the inside. Their prime concern is the evil of capitalism, and they command the media. Our politicians are just not game to take them on.
Australia, which has vast reserves of both fossil fuel and uranium, faces a simple choice between failing to meet the political expectations held for the nation in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and developing a nuclear power industry.

The great drawback in staying with fossil fuel is that we will become an increasingly backward nation. Some 30 countries in Europe, Asia and North America produce nuclear energy. Our scientific expertise was deliberately downgraded to the production of medical isotopes under the ALP government.

When it came time to replace the submarine fleet, we had no option but to look backwards to conventional power, instead of to the larger, faster and far more effective nuclear powered submarines because we do not have the infrastructure to support such vessels.

We have dithered over nuclear power for 50 years, while the world has moved on. Newcastle, which once produced the world's cheapest steel, and Wollongong have both become industrial wastelands. We produce cafe lattes as good as any in the world, but our manufacturing has moved north, and so, increasingly are our service industries also relocating.

The International Energy Agency in its World Energy Outlook for last year observed that the world faced the twin threats of not having adequate and secure supplies of energy together with the environmental harm caused by consuming too much of it.

Switkowski expects demand for electricity to more than double by 2050, while at the same time pollution and emission levels must be brought down on today's levels.

The solution as he sees it is a fast deployment of 25 nuclear reactors by 2050, so that about one third of electricity generation is nuclear, with greenhouse gas emissions down by 18 per cent. The first of them could be operating by 2016 and certainly by 2020.

They appear to be safe. Switkowski's commission visited Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, which led to new safety standards and new reactor designs. Nuclear power plants now have very low incident and accident rates. Radiation risks are very low.

Britain, the United States, Japan and Korea are all increasing their production of power from nuclear plants, having concluded that the risks association with nuclear power generation could be managed. We agreed, Switkowski said.

Staff will be needed for the nuclear stations. Australia would need to invest in research and development, and in education and training across a range of fields.

Australia can only benefit from the great impetus this must give to our knowledge and to the development of new institutions. Concerted effort around the world to abandon the use of chlorofluorocarbons has led to a shrinking of the hole in the ozone layer during the past four years.

We have been held back by fear of the unknown an unknown that incidentally is thoroughly known elsewhere by green activism, by ignorance and by the media that exploits issues for their emotional or political implications, rather than on their merits.

It is time to put it behind us.

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