So it’s time I entered a serious post, and I can think of no better subject than that of the prospective nuclear energy report tabled by former Telstra boss, Ziggy Switkowski, today. The federal Opposition are already declaring their intention to oppose the establishment of nuclear energy plant development, but have also flagged their intention to support extended uranium mining.
I’m of the opinion that nuclear power in Australia is probably wasteful, let alone dangerous. This isn’t a region that needs nuclear power when we have so many other opportunities for generating power in this country that we do not exploit. We may be one of the few developed countries that does not draw some of its electricity from nuclear power, but we also have more opportunities for supporting development of alternative energy sources – solar and wind – than many other developed nations. And nuclear power just isn’t as cheap as everyone thinks it is. As the Opposition notes, from a purely economic perspective (including the insurance risk associated with augmenting our nuclear energy practices), nuclear power just isn’t worth it.
However, I’m unsure of whether increased uranium mining is a good idea, either. Sure, it will increase jobs and income to the GDP, but will it be in the interests of Australia to increase dramatically the possibility of increased exposure to ionising radiation as a result of mining and transporting uranium, as well as the possibility of increased nuclear waste production? I suspect the economic arguments against nuclear power are probably emulated in terms of risks and payoffs of uranium mining (unless we massively increase the price of uranium for overseas buyers). I hate to take such an emotional issue down to the level of mere economics, but there’s no point arguing against nuclear power and for uranium mining. The risks are there for mining as well as converting radioactive elements into electricity. And the costs of increased production of uranium mining are worth considering as well.
Take away the emotion, the danger and the jobs from the argument, and the result is still the same: the safest and most under-used energy sources in Australia are still solar and wind. I know they produce less power and require more effort over time, but we can use these sources, and in a period where carbon emissions on a global scale are so high, shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to maximise the natural energy sources we have available to us?