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the nuclear debate « Previous | |Next »
May 25, 2006

It would appear that the ALP states and territories are going to fight any commonwealth proposal to build a nuclear power industry in their territory. Federal Labor has ruled out nuclear power plants under a Labor Government-- but not uranium enrichment. Isn't energy regulation in the Australian federation primarily a state responsibility, not a federal one?

The Howard Government, of course has changed tack in a sudden and ad hoc manner. Is this due to the winds blowing from Washington? Suddenly, global warming and climate change are seen as serious and potentially catastrophic problems. Serious scientific research is no longer being misrepresented as a left-wing beat-up propelled by religious greenies and anxious scientists. Nuclear power is now clean and green and spruiked as the only solution to climate change.

Geoff Pryor

So we have nuclear power instead of the pricing path of Kyoto with its market for emission permits or a steadily increasing carbon tax on pollution.

What has happened to coal? What has happened to all the talk about the development and adoption of geosequestration technology that will resolve the problem of excessive emissions? Is that what we suspected--wishful thinking?

Mike Steketee writing in The Australian puts the debate into a domestic context. He says:
The urgency for Howard is not climate change or an early decision on building a nuclear reactor but next year's election. Nuclear power will not make economic sense in Australia for a long time, if ever. Nor is it a silver bullet for tackling climate change, given electricity generation supplies only about 30 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases and that it would take too long to expand the nuclear industry by an amount sufficient to make a large difference to carbon dioxide emissions.
Howard was firing the shots on the run from Ottawa & Dublin whilst trying to play statesman and his Ministers were left playing catchup. It looked blatant politiking, given that Australia has cheap coal-based energy Australia, and has little reason to enthusiastically embrace a much more expensive source of power.

Update 26 May
Peter Hartcher in an op. ed. in the Sydney Morning Herald builds on this account in terms of Howard's trap. Hartcher says:

Howard's best prospects of damaging Labor are to create the circumstances for it to damage itself. And that is exactly what he has done. Nuclear issues are deeply divisive for Labor and always have been. The party is currently committed by its platform to support the so-called "three-mines" policy, an anachronistic nonsense.This policy marked an uneasy truce between Labor's anti-nuclear Left and its pro-uranium Right.

Will the ALP tear itself to pieces over this? So far it has indicated it will revise the "three-mines" policy, thereby appeasing the party's pragmatists, yet ruling out a nuclear power industry, satisfying the party's anti-nuclear forces. Will this hold until its its national conference?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:27 PM | | Comments (0)