Nu­clear de­bate far from over

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

OP­PO­NENTS of nu­clear power might well feel they can af­ford to put their feet up fol­low­ing the dev­as­ta­tion and ra­dioac­tive fall­out cri­sis grip­ping Ja­pan.

That f eel i ng prob­a­bly grew stronger on Tues­day af­ter the small quake – a mere 4 on the scale of rat­ing the colos­sal forces be­neath our feet – that made a bit of noise and caused a few rip­ples in teacups up Fly­ing Fish Point way.

One strong ar­gu­ment by those who see nu­clear en­ergy as a so­lu­tion in the cli­mate de­bate has been Aus­tralia’s ge­o­log­i­cal sta­bil­ity. We mine ura­nium here, they say, and be­cause we don’t suf­fer too many t r e mors wor t h n o t i n g , there is lit­tle if any risk of the sort of nat­u­ral disas­ter that is caus­ing so much grief in Ja­pan.

Well, that ar­gu­ment puts what hap­pened to New­cas­tle in 1989 – 13 peo­ple were killed – to one side and also ig­nores the fact ours is a nation of flood and drought, with lit­tle in be­tween.

Add to that the fact that in the North there are cy­clones ev­ery sum­mer that would tear the cladding from any re­ac­tor ves­sel, and you start to won­der just how safe nu­clear en­ergy can ever be.

De­spite this, what are the odds that even though the PM is adamant Aus­tralia won’t go down the nu­clear p a t h a nd e v e n t hough pol­lies of all colours say now is not the time to have that sort of de­bate, it will be trot­ted out in time?

The cat­a­lyst will re­main cli­mate change and the im­pact of coal as an en­ergy source.

As­sum­ing Ja­pan were to say ‘‘ that’s it, we’re scrap­ping our nu­clear en­ergy pro­gram’’, it’s likely coal would be the choice for fill­ing the 30 per cent void in en­ergy re­quire­ments – and we all know where a lot of that is mined.

If so­lar power and wind en­ergy are vi­able al­ter­na­tives, es­pe­cially in Aus­tralia as Ju­lia Gil­lard so op­ti­misti­cally s uggests, why haven’t we de­vel­oped them? Have fun think­ing about this while you await the de­bate.

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