JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Should we fast track our carbon reduction by removing barriers to nuclear energy in Australia?

Doug Cameron and Dennis Jensen debate the issue of nuclear energy in Australia.

Doug Cameron and Dennis Jensen debate the issue of nuclear energy in Australia.

Doug Cameron, Labor Senator for NSW

Promotion of nuclear power as a way to reduce greenhouse emissions is a complete distraction from the main game of developing affordable low-emissions energy technologies. It is also curious; as it generally comes from people who tend not to accept the science of climate change; much less that its causes are human induced.

Nuclear power is expensive. It does not operate anywhere in the world in the absence of huge taxpayer subsidies. This fact is always missing from the nuclear power as panacea to climate change line. A 2011 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists found these subsidies often exceed the value of the power produced. In many cases it would have been cheaper for taxpayers to buy electricity wholesale from non-nuclear sources and just give it away.

Beyond Australia's research and medical nuclear facilities, we have no nuclear workforce. We don't have a nuclear engineering capability. Not one Australian university offers a course in nuclear engineering at any level. Even if we wanted to, Australia couldn't build a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear power is dirty. It produces large quantities of high level nuclear waste, even larger quantities of low level nuclear waste and plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons — none of which can be safely disposed of. Apart from earthquake, flood, storm, tempest or war, what could possibly go wrong?

These are the barriers to nuclear power in Australia. They can't simply be wished away on a fast-track fantasy.

Dr Dennis Jensen, federal member for Tangney (WA), Liberal Party.

It strikes me as strange that the solution the Gillard government has enacted to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is simply to impose a tax. The reality is, in order to achieve reductions, real alternatives are required. For baseload power supplies in Australia, the only alternative to fossil fuels is nuclear power.

You need only look at the penetration of renewable energy supplies in the world market to see that these are not genuine alternatives, they are simply wishware. Take away generous subsidies for the renewables sector, and the picture is even worse.

The reality is that, by 2020, by the government's own figures, our carbon dioxide emissions will increase by more than  5 per cent; the ''reductions'' are ''achieved'' by the purchase of carbon credits from overseas. This is simply smoke and mirrors, the reality is that our emissions go up.

Nuclear power is a genuine, economic and technical alternative (if it were not economic, why go to the lengths of applying a legislative ban to its generating electricity, as no generator would go this way on a level playing field?). I also find it strange that the Labor government believes that it is fine to export a fuel for a method of generating electricity that is deemed, by this government, as too dangerous for Australia. This stance is irresponsible, illogical, hypocritical and incredibly unethical and immoral; if nuclear power is that bad, the sale of uranium overseas should be banned.

In conclusion, if this government is to be consistent in a policy sense, it should move to remove the legislative ban on nuclear power.

twitter Follow the National Times on Twitter: @NationalTimesAU


  • Nuclear power has been used for over 60 years, and with 439 nuclear power plants currently operating worldwide, the few well known accidents are rare (approximately 3). With new technological developments the already low risks are getting becoming negligible. The issue of nuclear waste is not the disaster waiting to happen that so many anti-nuclear types keep pushing. Australia, of all places, is the ideal country for storing nuclear waste, with a stable geology and vast uninhabited areas of land. Uranium for example, naturally comes from under the ground, so what's the big issue of putting it back underground after it is spent?
    Despite Doug Cameron's inference, I am not a global warming skeptic. Nor is Tim Flannery, Australia's celebrated scientist and environmentalist who is also a nuclear energy advocate. Flannery has written many books on the human races tendency to eat its own future, so his ideas should not be dismissed on idealogical grounds.
    All power generation creates an environmental footprint. The types with the lowest footprint are not up to the task of providing the nation with the base-load power we need. Many people who claim to be environmentalists also oppose wind power vigorously.
    I would support the establishment of a few nuclear power plants in Australia. Im also a Labor voter, but I don't agree with the government that we can have a green future by simply increasing taxation for those who pollute, which at the end of the day is the consumers.

    Date and time
    March 22, 2012, 11:40AM
    • It's not quite as simple as saying "what's the big deal about putting it back underground when it is spent". Nuclear reactors breed lots of elements and isotopes that don't occur in nature, and are very dangerous. If the only result of a nuclear reactor was spent uranium, no doubt there wouldn't be a big deal.

      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 1:18PM
    • Why doesn't our media ever run a debate on whether renewable energy is the answer? Too obvious? Too constructive? Baseload solar thermal is already working in Spain and being built in the USA.

      Nuclear power would take decades to get up in Australia - renewable energy is here and now, and cheaper. We need to stop wasting time on these debates, and the media needs to start doing their jobs properly.

      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 2:23PM
    • @deb
      Care to mention where in Spain they use baseload solar?
      Andasol-1 has a 30min backup - not baseload.
      Andasol-3 has 7.5 hours backup - not baseload.
      Both these plants combined produced 60MW, one nuclear or coal powered turbine can produce anywhere from 440MW to 1100MW.

      How many "Andasols" would you need to deploy? How many gas fired backups?

      Also, new research claims that these new solar plants use twice as much water than coal fired power stations. That's not good.

      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 3:53PM
    • For those who wish to be so critical of the solar thermal in Spain, I suggest they consider their motives. This is a new technology with great promise for the future. Like it or not, salt storage really does allow for baseload solar.
      The pace of innovation in solar over the last two decades has been truly amazing. I now have panels on my roof that produce far more than the average household consumes in a day. If every house new house was built with panels on the roof, the demand on baseload power stations could be progressively reduced. In a country such as ours, I see no good reason why we can't aim toward a future free of coal & nuclear.
      Or do the nuclear fanboys want to suggest a way that solar will contaminate the future and pose greater risks than nuclear?
      Do the nuclear fans want it because they think it's pretty cool that we can do it? I just see no rational valid arguement for taking the most potentially dangerous option.

      Lambs Valley
      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 4:36PM
    • Bob Carr favours nuclear power as does Martin Ferguson. Maybe they might knock a few heads together and at least get the debate started.

      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 5:00PM
    • Before anyone typecasts anyone as anti- nuclear types:

      This is a common and well known technique of the nuclear industry.

      They play specialist knowledge and try to discredit by any means possible any dissenting views.

      Unfortunately they also misrepresent the science and lie to the public.

      My dislike of nuclear power is based on the NRC and other industry studies of safety.

      When you see a study that says the risk of a Fuel Pool event is very high, but the frequency is low so not to worry, you have to ask yourself why?

      When that risk with a low frequency is exactly what was very likely to happen at Fukushima, and almost did happen - yet according to the expert study was about as bigger disaster as you can get - then you have to take the industry claims with a very big grain of salt.

      The figures oft quoted by the apologists are almost always wrong.

      There are many deaths from radiation from nuclear plants, especially in Japan.

      Tepco simply does not know (by their own admission) what has happened to the workers at the plant.

      You don't need more than one nuclear accident to ruin 100,000 people's lives as proven by Fukushima.

      So 3 accident is more than enough to show that this is madness.

      Please Wyn - do not place me at risk. And Wyn - would you like to justify your choice to argue for my life being threatened? Why do you wish to do that to us?

      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 9:08PM
    • @Gra

      "I now have panels on my roof that produce far more than the average household consumes in a day."

      Wow and how much does it produce at night? When most people are cooking and watching TV? None? Oh - that's a problem don't you think?

      Without baseload, all you have is unreliable power generation, yes there are plenty of storage options but all are very inefficient.

      The best solution I have seen is Dinorwig "electric mountain" in the UK. But the Greens would block such a system in Oz due to it being classified as a Hydro Dam.

      Date and time
      March 23, 2012, 9:44AM
  • There is no value in having a nuclear debate that only discusses uranium based reactors. Thorium reactors which do not generate weapons grade byproducts and which produces waste that has a fractional lifespan to that of uranium fueled reactors should be in the forfront of the dscussion. I oppose any uranium based reactors as they are by design unstable, costly and are used because they can produce weapons of mass distruction. Thorium reactors on the other hand are another story and when the nuclear industry starts focussing on those I'll start listening.

    Date and time
    March 22, 2012, 11:42AM
    • Thorium reactos are a great idea and there is plenty of it in Australia. Unfortunately, no commercial scale thorium reactor has ever been built. The American molten salt one was basically a toy and the prototype Indian one is not fully operational.
      Discussion of the nuclear option in Australia is basically a waste of time for me. It would take 15-20 y before we could even have the skill base to build any type of nuclear reactor and another 10-20 years to build one. I am 58 so I do not worry.

      Dr Ray RITCHIE
      Sydney University & PSU-Phuket
      Date and time
      March 22, 2012, 7:19PM

More comments

Comments are now closed

HuffPost Australia

Follow Us

Featured advertisers