Leslie Kemeny at the Canberra Times notes that Australia is badly lagging the G8 in its refusal to consider nuclear energy for its energy needs:
Don Argus, chairman of BHP Billiton exhorted delegates to ''start talking seriously about using the country's vast uranium resources for domestic use'' and '' to engage in a debate about nuclear energy''. Without nuclear power Australia would face a century of environmental, economic and geopolitical disadvantage and would miss out on the optimal technology for electricity, water and hydrogen production.
In February 2008, despite growing global and Australian approval for nuclear power, Climate Minister Penny Wong reasserted the Australian Labor Party's opposition to it and promised to press for the greater use of ''alternative energy resources''. She stated, ''We don't need to go down the path of nuclear energy. What we do need to ensure is that we look at renewables, and the Government has a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020 to drive investment in the renewable energy sector. We will also be investing in carbon capture and storage so there is a clean coal future for Australia.''
Australia doesn't want to see its coal industry crater, so to speak, and who can blame them? While carbon capture and sequestration has potential, it would certainly benefit Australia - and any other company or country wanting to try it - to use nuclear energy to generate the impressive amounts of energy necessary to do it without knocking energy prices out of whack.
Of course, tucking away carbon and hoping the earth doesn't burp it out isn't the only thing you can do with it. For example, there are projects to recycle the emissions as hydrocarbons.
But however you slice it, Australia is missing the boat here:
Without such a provision [favoring nuclear energy] there will be little hope of meeting our stated emission reduction targets [20% reduction of emissions by 2020]. Adopting such an energy policy would transform the token political gesture of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol to the practical and ethical high ground of a real contribution to the global climate change problem.
Kemeny is the Australian foundation member of the International Nuclear Energy Academy - an interested party to be sure. But his argument is good.
Correction: Reader Luke lets us know that BHP Billiton does indeed include uranium in its portfolio. I've removed the parenthetical comment from the above that said it does not.
A post combustion capture facility. Picture courtesy of the Australian Coal Association. You can haul this big phone booth away with a truck to wherever you intend to put the emissions. Still experimental, but it shows that one should not underestimate an industry's ability to square its circles to stay relevant in a changing marketplace.