Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Australia Nuclear Update

In an opinion piece in today's Australian, Paul Gilding, former executive director of Greenpeace International and founding partner of Ecos Corp., addresses the issue of environmental stewardship and nuclear energy in Australia:

One of the key principles of sustainability, and one accepted by environmentalists and governments around the world including our own, is product stewardship. The logic is simple. If you put something out there, you need to accept some responsibility for the consequences, even if the product's use is not directly under your control. This is why we see McDonald's acting on obesity, Ford and Toyota on climate change and BP on air pollution.

If we accept this principle, there are only two morally defensible positions for Australia on matters nuclear. Either we sell uranium, use nuclear power and take back nuclear waste for storage in Australia or none of these. It is politically convenient for the Howard Government to raise the nuclear power in Australia debate as a distraction from their agenda of selling more uranium. However, if they are serious about nuclear power, they should be proposing that we ship our share of the world's nuclear waste back to Australia and store it here permanently.

If the South Australian and West Australian governments want to expand uranium mining because of the economic benefits it brings, they should have the courage to also propose to their electorates that they host storage facilities for high-level nuclear waste. After all, 240,000 years is a serious, long-term economic benefit.

Done well, this also could be incredibly strategic and lucrative for Australia. Imagine Australia providing long-term, geologically safe storage for nuclear waste in the Australian outback as part of its sales package.
Later, Gilding lays out his opposition to nuclear energy, but can't discount the possibility that Australia will turn to nuclear in an attempt to help stem greenhouse gas emissions:
For the record, I remain unconvinced that nuclear power is an intelligent or effective response to climate change, economically or environmentally . . . Will nukes win? A few months ago I would have said no. Now I'm not so sure. With Siberia melting, my world has changed, and all bets are off.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Australia is also a large exporter of coal. Is Mr. Gilding also proposing that Australia take reciept of the fly ash produced when their coal is burned in foreign power plants?