Menzies Research Centre - Truth to Power

By Senator Alex Antic.


The tragic bushfire events of the past few months are a tragic reminder that the Australian landscape is unforgiving.

The opportunistic green left of politics has predictably directed its energy towards the claim that these fires are inextricably linked to Australia’s carbon emissions.

Putting aside the problems with that argument, and issue of Australia’s significant track record of responsible emissions reduction, they are insistent that more should be done.

Why then is the green left of politics so resistant to nuclear power when it is a method of generation that is demonstrably effective, reliable, safe and virtually emission free?

For the green left of politics, however, it’s not enough to find a practical solution to a problem. For them no proposal is palatable unless is it is ideologically pure. Only an electricity grid consisting entirely of renewable energy will satisfy their zealotry. With current technology, such a scheme is merely a dangerous fantasy.

Nuclear power is safe. In simplistic terms, a nuclear power plant is no more than an oversized tea kettle, heating and boiling water to turn turbines and generate electricity while producing next to zero carbon emissions in the process.

There is extraordinary misinformation peddled regarding the safety of nuclear power. Its unfair portrayal in popular culture has exacerbated the issue, making it easier for scare campaigns to proliferate.

Detractors often cite the failure of 1950s technology in the Chernobyl incident. However, comparing the Chernobyl plant to modern nuclear energy generation such as small modular reactors is like comparing a white knuckle ride on the Wright Brothers’ plane to a leisurely trip on today’s A380 passenger jets.

The Government’s House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy was recently told that nuclear power generation claims less lives per unit of energy than almost any other method of production.

The South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission delivered its report in May 2016. It concluded that the opportunities provided by a nuclear industry were so great, and the risks so manageable, that it recommended an investigation into the commercial development of such a project ought to occur.

Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce (Ret), who led the Royal Commission, told the committee that the more time he spent with people explaining nuclear power, the more comfortable they became with the concept.

Canada chose to pursue a nuclear industry in the 1950s and 60s, and the result has been a safe, multi-billion-dollar industry.

As the world’s second largest uranium producer, Canada now exports 85 per cent of its product as part of an industry worth $1.3 billion a year.

Nuclear energy provided 15 per cent of Canada’s electricity in 2018 with next to zero emissions; 60,000 Canadian jobs are supported by its nuclear industry, many of them high-paying and high-tech.

It is estimated that a spent nuclear fuel storage facility could generate as much as $51 billion during its operation, and allow South Australia to stockpile a wealth fund of $445 billion for our future.

In Australia, there exists a federal prohibition on nuclear power generation contained in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Twenty-year-old legislation based on 40-year-old thinking.

The recent standing committee has recommended that the Government consider the prospect of nuclear energy as part of its future energy mix, work to progress the understanding of nuclear energy technology and consider lifting the moratorium on new generation technology.

I believe that there is a bright future for a nuclear industry in South Australia, and this doesn’t just mean mining uranium. It also means nuclear power generation and the storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The political left tells us that climate science is settled yet science also tells us that nuclear power is safe, produces almost zero emissions and is soon to be cost effective. Why do they pick and choose their information?

Those who tell us that we are in the middle of a climate emergency can no longer be allowed to have their ideological cake and eat it too.

I will never support any project that is unsafe. However, exploring a nuclear industry is a no-brainer for South Australia.

We sit on enormous reserves of uranium, we have some of the most geologically stable land on the planet, and we represent one of the most politically stable democracies in the world. We are perfectly placed to lead the charge for a much needed new industry in this state.

Emergencies come in many forms. The nuclear fuel cycle has the ability to solve an economic emergency in South Australia at the same time as the so called “climate emergency”. What is needed is community engagement and bipartisan support.

At the very least, the Australian people deserve an opportunity to be provided with proper facts relating to nuclear technology.

For those who talk the emission reduction talk, it’s time to walk the nuclear power walk.

Read the original article here.