The Senate’s role in future nuclear decisions

One of the reasons I find it hard to believe the assertions of nuclear power spruikers like John Howard is their use of climate change as the justification for going down the nuclear, when they have spent a decade ignoring the risk of climate change and in many cases working hard to prevent progress on the issue.

However, I don’t dispute that some people now suggesting nuclear power must be considered are genuine, and I think it is important that every effort be made to ensure public debate is factually accurate. As part of announcing the Coalition’s push for adopting nuclear power, Mr Howard has stepped things up another notch, stating that nuclear power must be part of the solution to climate change.

Presumably this sort of extremist approach is another attempt by the government to create a false divide, trying to place those who oppose nuclear power on the opposite side to those who are “serious about addressing climate change in a practical way that does not strangle the Australian economy”. Lame, really.

Coalition Industry Minister, Ian MacFarlane has saidThere will be no movement towards the establishment of a power station in Australia until Australia has debated where nuclear energy fits in its low emission future.”

But Mr Howard also announced today that “The Government’s next step will be to repeal Commonwealth legislation prohibiting nuclear activities, including the relevant provisions of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.”

The current prohibitions on nuclear activity were put into law by the Democrats in 1999 as part of putting the EPBC Act in place. I had carriage of this legislation when it was passed by the Senate.

It seems the government want to change the law before Australia has the debate – or even has the election. It shows again that the Senate result will matter at the next election. Even if the government rushes through law changes soon, they will need a nuclear friendly Senate after the election is they hope to pass the laws to progress their nuclear agenda.

ELSEWHERE: Following are some links to commentary on the nuclear issue on Australian blogs:

UPDATE: Kevin Rudd’s response to John Howard’s announcement isn’t much better than Howard’s response to Rudd – saying “what Mr Howard is doing with his 25 nuclear reactor programs is …. hauling up the white flag on Australia’s future coal exports.”  Bizarre.

And finally, Larvatus Prodeo publishes The Nuclear Thread we Had to Have.

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  1. Senator!This is as much an attack on you as it is a failure of the Libs. to see there obvious dishonesty.To me Rudd is no better.The problem for Australia re nuke matters is our scientists are not working on the real problems associated with nuke matters,including the spent industrial and medical isotopes.It occurs to me that the one deposit hole for these matters isnt good either,although it is easy to see the Aboriginal elders position getting results for them in road making.Defence is pretty wasteful too,and Defence operations may need to construct roads that may have a Aboriginal ownership matter.I think we should be encouraging our scientists to work on the isotope problem by potential re-use of industrial and medical,say,even in attempting to make sea-water drinkable…the comparison with mini nuke power stations on board U.S.A.warships may not be immediately useful.But if a development like that eventuating,if the water met a standard,including industrial use, then maybe limited half life nuke power to desalinate water seems worthy to investigate.Giving even coal fired power stations another water option.The Olympic dam site acid realities should be potentialised for experiment.What can be done with these dams!? Spent isotopes in them!? What would happen,seeing life just melts in it,and the sun another energy form isnt directly monitored or used in design to make these waste deposits a more valuable location.Drop coal in the dams what happens to coal lumps!? Hugh Morgan who retired from Western Mining Corp,and reinvented himself as a coal person is bludging quite a bit lately……….The new players will want the option of compensation if a hostile government were elected,like a young American years ago with a nice cheque from the then Feds. for a $100 million.I was so angry by that,it was another reason to feel contemptible to all Australian government.I was a young man then,and now,arseholes within Labor havent learnt a lesson,and the Liberals wont.

  2. I say no nuclear,but i’m open to discuss it as we may yet have it shoved down our throats.Andrew sensibly notes that all of a sudden the powers that be are green. In amongst this discussion of nuclear,global responsability,coal,future and alternatives, some very good enviorenmental answers and ideas have been produced but no -all the discussion is open to is nuclear.Is the dilemna a face saving one?How can we sell uranium to the world but not use it as in hypocrits if we need USA and china to turn down the coal a bit.As with the worldwide medical push, it feels to me, especially as to where a lot of the pushing is coming from, that we are facing a world consortium of nuclear addicts wanting a dive in the oz public money bin.There are fanatics here,God bless them too,that won’t listen to the fact that our co2 is’nt a flyspot on a beachtowel compared to the rest of the world problem and us going nuclear won’t make a bit of differance. This talk of us setting an example is really far fetched.The rest of the world could’nt care less of us.So much public billions wasted training pilots and technical speciallists in our forces to have them leaving overseas in droves for decades as soon as their times up.We are idiots. Now the powers want us to do the same with nuclear,probably just a foot in the door,in the way of them saying that we at least HAVE to do it for experimental and developement reasons.Attend to the hospitals and dental situation first.It’s nothing but bastardry and abuse.Talk about gangsters.Give our country back.You’d swear someone lost us in a card game to the US corruptions.This is all terribly wrong and dos’nt have to be.I don’t think losing our enviorenment which is also the sense of who we are to have massive developement is a good tradeoff for the cost of nuclear which is also just very expensive metered life.These people are running away with our lives and could’nt care less of our enviorenment-only their pockets.

  3. I thought there was a limit on the number of words per comment?

    David Bradbury’s recently released documentary ‘A Hard Rain’ should be viewed by all Australians before they buy into this dangerous debate. This week Alan Ramsey writes:

    “…Bradbury filmed in five countries, was knocked back for an interview by senior Labor Party figures, including Martin Ferguson, Bill Shorten and the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, in whose state the Olympic Dam mine thrives, and was ignored by Rudd, who did not reply to an offer to “brief him” on the documentary or to acknowledge a copy that Bradbury sent to Rudd’s Brisbane office….

    Somebody, somewhere, should televise Bradbury’s film.”

  4. Dont be too hasty Grey Areas about how we relate to the environment,much analysis over the years suggested alienation from the environment,and,it is pretty easy as we are still in the grip of drought.I notice the ALP is promising a lot of loan to green the immortgaged,I think some people would just want a $10,000 low interest loan,and promise later,pretty please, to pay it back.The unions are claiming Labor will protect their jobs,but,again the facts differ from promise.It will be scientists,and engineers.not parliamentarians..Garrett is going to concentrate on alternative energy forms rather than opposition to nuke matters..he is liking… being paid.In all this hullabaloo about carbon dioxide emissions,human ingestible forms mock cream has been used for Donks.I have ingested it,dearow dearow me,I am still alive so our enzymes and bacteria could handle that to a degree,will the real answer to green house gas, carbon dioxide, be found in the Kitchen or ones vomit !?Makes me want to have a beer to prove within myself I have a type of carbon dioxide reduction process.This election seems to me all about holding on to the lies you can commit to and by flogging the impossibility of this or that nothing will change,except Howards age.

  5. This Debate will probably be like so many others. A rock band will be set up to play a certain song, but they’ll yell out at the audience “what do you want to hear!” Then they Say “Alright- just for you’s!” and play what they were set up to play.This modern pretending is commonplace now to pretend the people have a voice. On nuclear waste. The USA has 750’000tons of extremely toxic hexa flouride waste product stored in steel tanks above ground, since 1945,which have to be maintained.It breaks my heart Phillip to see what has happened to many magic places, belts of green and rainforest creeks scattered sparesly on the sth east.Wherever you turn someone has unthinkingly put their version ,and allowed to, of a Christopher Skase -marina mirage abomination right on top of it.I feel we badly need to decentralise.Smaller minor dams, there’s hundreds of sites.All this talk of desalinination is preposterous when we can lay a pipe from the north from a couple of hundred unobtrusive inline connected sites.I think that’s roughly a third of my allocated word limit.Do i smell testosterone?

  6. Hi Andrew,

    I responded to Lyn Allison’s comments in the Herald Sun here. If we’re going to start throwing out real-world examples of credible approaches to emission reductions, you’ll have to do a far cry better than Denmark.

    – Ed

    P.S. – By the way, please dive into the linked article on Denmark. There you will see information on the subsidies required for wind… as I pointed out in the original post, I suppose those are examples of ‘good subsidies’ as opposed to the ‘bad subsidies’ suggested to jump-start an Australian nuclear power industry.

    Nuclear Australia

  7. A lot of people are going to make a lot of money out of an expanded mining/nuclear industry in this country. It’s so much money that they are willing to sell out Australia’s and the world’s security, our safety, and our environment.

  8. Lame indeed Andrew! John Howard must be planning for a comfy future in which he and his friends Walker, de Crespigny, Switkowski and Morgan make an absolute bucketload on an industry that, if all goes to plan across our nation, and indeed across the planet, will see the shortest lived, most wasteful destruction of a potentially critical energy resource.

    Provided humanity survives another century, our great-grandchildren’s scientific & technological community are going to be very upset at their ancestors. Imagine a futuristic NASA-style body developing spacecraft of immense ability, the sort that will take us to Mars, Europa and Titan, and the sort that will allow us to mine asteroids for precious resources that a super-human society will no doubt require. They test the first ship, whose functioning (while having a significant solar-energy element) relies heavily on a fuel source that was once abundant, but now has been depleted in electricity-generating stations that eventually did nothing to alter climate change trends. The engineers and designers see their ship proven in its aims on the first attempt, but the next trip costs twice as much as the first because uranium prices (due to further depletion of ore-quality), have been forced up. This leaves future-NASA with the only option to take a potshot at part of the Asteroid belt in the hope they can discover a high-grade ore deposit…

    Clearly I speculate, but someone must! It is a dreadful state of affairs to see the various futures of humanity, with nearly all of them promising a dastardly fate, while baby-boomer fatcats in business and government only care about today’s money. The environmental, meltdown and weapons concerns about uranium/nuclear power, in my opinion, are all nowadays moot points – what ever happened to forward-thinking?

  9. That’s fairly emotive Coco, but not all that fact based.

    First we would be naïve to believe those lining themselves up for the deployment of renewable technologies around the world (something I favour in parallel WITH nuclear) were not also looking to make a lot of money in the process. They are all business driven and as such are due a reasonable profit.

    Second, the principal reasons for the higher cost of nuclear are to ensure the protection of security, safety and environment. To point out the costs and risks together reflects a (sadly all too typical) dichotomy which is inconsistent, unfair and not really productive for the overall discussion.

    If I could just pull that string a bit… from where are you getting your facts on risk? I’ve found a discussion of the risks here. Again, including real world experience. Grateful for any others.

    Nuclear Australia

    – PS thanks for your thoughts on the Blog.

  10. I agree the fortuitous timing in bringing this to the fore is in part aimed at giving the ALP an opportunity to further have two competing policies on one issue – and to try to keep its eternal internal implosion process alive and well.

    However i also have heard on the radio there is some UN crowd (hardly a hotbed of imperial capitalists) meeting in Malaysia to examine this issue wrt to climate change etc – despite the history of nuclear i don’t think it is going to go away.

  11. Andrew.

    Noting the responses to your posting on a very important issue and to which the Prime Minister – clearly needs to be attacked for lending support to a nuclear industry, one can also get the impression that he is more interested in granting the wishes of uranium and other related businesses who are more interested in making a dollar.
    However, I’m really annoyed that he has clearly pushed aside many other issues which need addressing.
    Via this response; have you given any consideration to the incident 4 years ago at the Army’s Bulimba Barracks re the using of Tritium and the closure of that base for 6 months?
    Channel Seven’s news carried a exclusive interview with a couple of affected workers and whilst they and others are giving consideration to some sort of legal action, I must also note the licencing by ARPANSA of a nuclear licence to the ADF.
    If Australians are to consider lending support to a nuclear industry; how do we address the storing of nuclear waste, get information from the government re the sites for a power-station, the demands on our worsening water supplies etc?
    As it will be some time before we see a power-station in operation; are we also going to get a balance argument from the federal government?
    I have no doubt that this plan of the Prime Minister will backfire and another question. How does his partyroom feel on giving its support?
    Looking at the wider picture, the federal government’s record on providing compensation to our atomic veterans including those involved in Japan as part of BCOF, isn’t good.

  12. Regarding “The Senate’s role in future nuclear decisions” (2007-04-28), there is absolutely no need for nuclear power in Australia because there is a simple mature technology available that can deliver huge amounts of clean energy for the whole of Australia and without any of the headaches of nuclear power.

    I refer to ‘concentrating solar power’ (CSP), the technique of concentrating sunlight using mirrors to create heat, and then using the heat to raise steam and drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station. It is possible to store solar heat in melted salts so that electricity generation may continue at night or on cloudy days. Half a million Californians currently get their electricity from this source. CSP plants are now being planned or built in many parts of the world.

    With transmission losses at only about 3% per 1000 km, it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity throughout Australia using highly-efficient ‘HVDC’ transmission lines. A recent report from the American Solar Energy Society says that CSP plants in the south western states of the US “could provide nearly 7,000 GW of capacity, or ***about seven times the current total US electric capacity***” (emphasis added). Likewise in Australia.

    Waste heat from electricity generation in a CSP plant can be used to create fresh water by desalination of sea water: a very useful by-product in arid regions.

    In the ‘TRANS-CSP’ report commissioned by the German government, it is estimated that CSP electricity, imported from North Africa and the Middle East, could become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission.

    Further information about CSP may be found at and . Copies of the TRANS-CSP report may be downloaded from . The many problems associated with nuclear power are summarised at .

  13. I am disgusted again today,about how much money the sourpusses of industry require on every matter and probably another backdoor attempt at putting money in the hands of the Morgans and seem alikes.And now Garnaut is back for the ALP with the support of Westpac,all showing care and concern about their country and their skills as to weather the ALP and their skills and the Liberals skills and the speculators and State Government hangers on skills, are the most worthy skills as preached, and the rest of us are conscripted by law,to accept as the most worthy of the skilled, to provide the evidence of their skills, so us who are conscripted to seeing their skills in operation, do so in complete acceptance.FFFFFFFFAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTT.Encore.

  14. so as usual im a little confused.
    when did howard become able to just make a desision that we will have nuclear power stations against what most ppl want in australia.
    the senate is the only thing standing in the way of the govt tunning australia into a nuclear wast dump.
    its my opinion thats what they are up to .

  15. CSP is no substitute for baseload energy! It is inefficient, expensive, and has its own environmental impacts.

    According to the California Energy Commission, all of the solar power in the state amounts 0.2% of the electricity production. Because of the limited availability of sunlight, these systems have low capacity factors and cannot be relied upon for baseload power.

    At 13 to 42 cents per kWhr, solar is the most expensive way to generate electricity. Due to low capacity factors, solar must be backed up with stand-by power generation, which adds to the overall cost.

    Solar requires a vast amount of land. In order for the salts to remain molten at night, CSP requires fossil fuels to be burned for heat. This renewable technology is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions!

    Nevertheless, CSP technology, along with many other renewables should continue to be supported in hopes that a breakthrough will someday allow them to be a significant source of energy generation.

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