Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting Right Side Up Down Under

624 Watching Australia come to grips with nuclear energy is like watching Mr. Hyde fighting not to become Dr. Jekyll - the struggle is intense but perhaps not wise. Let Ziggy Switkowski  (and doesn't that seem like a name right out of Laverne and Shirley!),  chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, explain it to you:

MALCOLM Turnbull [leader of the Liberals, currently the political opposition] is correct in emphasising the need for bipartisan support if the nuclear journey is to proceed. The question is, why has it been so hard to build bipartisan support? There may be three reasons not to support nuclear power for Australia:

* You don't believe in climate change or the need for a sustainable economy, so business as usual is fine.

* You don't believe a small economy such as Australia's, with its 1.4 per cent contribution to global emissions, can make a difference, so why bother with clean energy?

* Your planning horizon stops at 2020; the first nuclear reactors would appear later than that in Australia.

That second point is sort of amusing. In Neville Shute's novel On the Beach, Australians didn't cause the war that destroyed the Earth, but the deadly fallout was heading their way anyhow. The terms are somewhat reversed now, with nuclear energy a kind of savior for a problem Australians haven't caused. Switkowski lays out many of the pro-nuclear energy arguments we've seen many times on this site and makes some recommendations:

Our policy architects suggest there is no future scenario that will require nuclear power in Australia but:

* Deep greenhouse gas emission reductions will almost certainly prove beyond the capability of existing technologies and renewable energy platforms to deliver in the time allowed. The inclusion of nuclear power will be critical to our success.

* Our lights will start to go out as investment in clean baseload energy generation stalls in an uncertain regulatory environment and the nuclear alternative is not validated.

* In a carbon-constrained future, nuclear-powered economies will exploit their cost advantages for clean energy in competing with Australian products newly burdened by embedded carbon costs.

We're not sure cap-and-trade will put Australia in quite so dismal a position, but we take the point. The whole article does not have a lot that pro-nuclear energy folks haven't fully internalized, but take a read to see all this laid out for the increasingly ambivalent Australians.

If you want to keep up, here's the blog for you: Nuclear Australia. Also done at Blogger, it looks almost exactly like Nuclear Notes.

Mr. Switkowski himself.

1 comment:

Matthew66 said...

Dr. Zygmunt Switkowski is a respected Australian business leader and nuclear physicist. I think he is quite right when he points out that Australian products will, ultimately, have to be priced higher for their carbon content. While it hasn't happened yet, I am pretty sure that the European Community, and perhaps even the USA, will ultimately impose a carbon tax on all goods imported from countries that burn coal to generate electricity. It is a logical conclusion to the carbon debate, and you can bet that the powerful French trade unions will heartily support such a tax, considering that French manufactured goods will likely not be subject to such a tax.