Nuclear Power for Australia?

by Alastair Harris - Date: 2006-12-02 - Word Count: 813 Share This!

Australia has one of the worlds largest supplies of Uranium. It is therefore ironic that Australia has not taken advantage of this resource to produce power. Australia only has one nuclear reactor and this is mainly for scientific use/research not the production of power. This is because Australia also has huge cheaply access coal reserves. Australia therefore has numerous coal plants for the production of power, the majority of power production coming from this source. Being a dry continent currently in the grip of a record drought the options for hydro power is limited and largely already exploited.

The problem with being so reliant on coal is the amount of CO2 and other gases produced that are contributing to global warming. Australia which continues to has a growing economy and population has increasing power demands like most of the world. Australia which has not sign the Kyoto agreement (rightly so as Kyoto is a mere band aid measure and will not seriously change our environmental problems).

Thus the Australian prime minister, John Howard, is pushing Australians to consider the nuclear option to meet future power needs as nuclear power plants don't emit CO2 or other greenhouse gases. However there are a number of problems with this option.

Firstly nuclear power is more expensive power. Australians already complain about the size of their power bills (an average family in Brisbane spends about $500-$800 a quarter or over $2000 a year). This is particularly felt most by those who rely on air conditioning to counter Australia's hot climate. They are not willing to accept more expensive options.

Secondly although there are thousands of nuclear power plants operating without incident and although it happened on the other side of the world Australians are well aware of the Chernobyl disaster and the shocking consequences that continue to be felt. Australia although a large continent is essentially like a giant island with a belt of green extending only a few hundred kilometers inland from the sea with the rest being in a vast desert or near desert condition for much of the time. Australia couldn't afford to have any section of this 'green' band destroyed or a no go zone, such a result would have a greater impact in event of a disaster than in other 'normal' countries. It has already been made clear for nuclear power to be a option is must be near a water source and near to power users to cut down on transmission costs.

The vast majority of Australian would have the view of "not in my back yard". Whilst most wouldn't care if a power plant in the middle of the desert a couple of thousand of kilometers away, the lack of water and transmission costs for make this an unrealistic option. With a power plant in their back yard there is the higher risk of radiation from the transport of nuclear waste to a holding facility (likely to be somewhere in the outback). Although Australian could easily have a nucealr waste facility with no threat to people due to extreme isolation and geological stablity in the outback, the problem lies in transporting the stuff there. Road and Rail transport are both subject to regular accidents. A heavy vehicle carrying waste could result in a mini-chernobyl with nuclear waste entering the environment from such an accident possibly endangering a large area and having long term consequences.

Such waste from a nuclear power plant would also give Australia the potential to immediately make nuclear weapons in a very short space of time. Australia is already recognised has having the technological know how to produce the require missle and warhead technology. Such an outcome would be very worrying for our neighbours and lessen our argument against nations such as North Korea having nuclear weapons.

Likewise such nuclear power plants would be a magnet for terrorists and the like.

The final nail in the coffin for the prime ministers idea is that the states have made it clear they have no interest in nuclear power. Such a battle over energy would be over the very survival of states and their rights. If the states lost such a battle the point of having individual state parliments would be mute, they would be useless overhangs from federation with the Federal government in fact taking over all government in Australia should such an eventually occur. Some would argue this process of the destruction of the state government is already well underway, with the federal government grabbing ever more power, but further on this is for another article.

Whilst nuclear power presents a vison of greenhouse gase free energy production it doesn't present a realistic future for Australia. Australia has other options to explore, both wind and solar, possibly geothermal and even the real future for a cleaner world - H2 - Hydrogen power. Perhaps putting research and money into this field will produce better and more politically acceptable results.

Related Tags: nuclear power, nuclear power australia, australian energy, nuclear australia, australian politics

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