Saturday, May 27, 2006

Nuclear: Why now?

So the government has finally worked out that fossil fuels are bad. The question I want to know is why have they ignored the problem up until now? And why the sudden urge to 'go nuclear'? There's been a lot of 'free' advertising for the nuke industry over the last couple of months - the 60 minutes special for instance - and now the government wishes a debate about the issues? I'm very suspicious about the timing.

What's changed in the last fifty years? Nuclear power still faces the same problems it did back then:

  • It is expensive - although nukers will tell you that a nuclear power station now compares favourably with coal. Of course by that they mean that it is only twice or thrice as expensive rather than ten times the cost.
  • It is dangerous. Chenobyl and 3 Mile Island. Need I say more?
  • It produces radioactive waste that is dangerous for fifty thousand years or more. This is the biggie as far as I'm concerned. I feel guilty leaving behind problems for my kid and grandkids. Fifty thousand years is ten times longer than all of recorded human civilisation. You can bet that in that amount of time someone will turn the waste into a weapon.
No, the only thing that has happened is that the power source of the 20th century, oil, is supposedly running out. The government has realised that Oz is sitting on 40% of the world's supply of yellow cake (mostly Uranium oxide) and that makes their economic rationalist eyes light up with glee.

So they're trying to take the first steps in ensuring that nuclear energy is the power source of the 21st century.
  • Stage one is to ship the stuff to everyone that already has nuke power - even those that haven't signed the nuclear proliferation treaty ie. India.
  • Stage two is get the country hooked on the stuff so that there won't be an outcry - except from those loony hippy greens - when they mine Kakadu.
  • Stage three will see mass proliferation of nuclear power across the globe
  • Stage four: profit and global domination.
Personally I'm not overly adverse to the global domination bit - just as long as it's me that is doing the dominating - but I see fundamental problems apart from those listed above. Nuke energy is only one short step from nuke weapons. Good for us to have, bad for others to have. Where do we put all the waste? NIMBY for fuck sake!

Why replace one polluting energy source (fossil fuels) for another polluting energy source? The only advantage nuclear power has is that it is proven and ready now. But we're not in an immediate energy crisis. Why not take the opportunity that is presented and grab it by the short and curlies? Petrol prices are on everyone's mind. Why not increase the subsidies and incentives for creating renewable energy sources? You'll have inventors climbing over one another hoping to ride on the back of that horse.

Why not? Because there's not long term profit. Patents only last twenty years. After that anybody can use the technology to harness 'free' energy. There's no chance to influence and dominate if you can't control the fuel supply. After all it is far more important to make another couple of billion than it is for Mum and Dad to be able to cook the peas at night if they're a little late with the bill. You can't do that if they're getting free energy from the sun, can you?

They want to go nuclear because then they'll still have control.


teddlesruss said...

typical, that nimby attitude. you want to make government more accountable, you also want Australia to not become a third world country (although we're not far off it) but then you're all in favour for not taking responsibility for the waste iyby. That's what makes nuclear power problematic, in my opinion, that people keep shifting the blame and responsibility around, and that's when bad things happen to good reactors...

skribe said...

No Ted, I'm all in favour of not creating the waste in the first place.