Australia has every chance to keep its image of a clean, healthy and prosperous country. There are many positive aspects to Australia’s present situation.
1. Public opinion. The most recent Auspoll showed overwhelming support for renewable energy, virtually 100% for solar. Nuclear power had men half and half in opinion on it, but women resoundingly opposed.
2. Growth in renewable energy, despite lack of genuine promotion by Federal and State governments. Some big centralised solar projects are in train, and, quietly, many decentralised renewable energy projects are happening, often in regional areas.
3. The governing Australian Labor Party still has a policy against nuclear power, and the Prime Minister has stated that it will uphold this policy. Queensland still has a policy against uranium mining. New uranium mines, and the expansion of Olympic Dam still wait approval by State and Federal governments.
4. Nuclear energy in retreat internationally. Over the past 2 years in the USA grassroots lobbying and public opinion has blocked 7 attempts by the nuclear industry to increase tax-payer loans for new reactors, the final most recent funding bill – not one dime for new nuclear reactors! License renewal refused for Indian point nuclear reactor. Several reactors approaching their shut-down date, and no new ones happening. Public opinion and grassroots action building against nuclear waste transport to Texas.
Europe: France and Russia experiencing public protest against nuclear waste transport, while the German government faces loss of power over this issue, with a huge protest movement involving all sections of society.
India: the nuclear push there is stalled while USA, France, Russia all try to overturn India’s Nuclear Liability Act, a law which makes the foreign nuclear supplier responsible for nuclear accidents resulting from their technology.
The big hype from the nuclear salesmen (USA, France, Russia, South Korea) masks the fact that it is at present all sales talk, with not much nuclear reactor building happening yet.
5. An Australian, Julian Assange, has highlighted the way, with Wikileaks, that we can use the new communications media to educate, and to activate public opinion. The grassroots movements in USA, Europe, and around the world, can mobilise to move this planet towards a truly clean energy future.
AUSTRALIA’S ANTI NUCLEAR STRUGGLE
While not even nuclear preacher Ziggy Switkowski really thinks that Australia needs nuclear power, there will still be a push in 2011 for Australia to accept it. The Labor government will “debate” the issue – with alikley result of approving nuclear power. Why? Simply because that would tie Australia in completely as an international uranium seller, AND, as an international nuclear waste dump.
In 2011 Australia faces some disturbing developments. as Dr Helen Caldicott notes, from People for Nuclear Free Australia:
The Labor Government under Resources Minister Martin Ferguson is determined to establish a radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory on the land of the Warlmanpa people. The place is called Muckaty Station, situated 120km north of Tennant Creek and close to the railway line that Haliburton (Dick Cheney’s company) constructed between Adelaide and Darwin. Not only is it planned for this railway to transport uranium mined in SA and WA to the Darwin Port but it might also be used to transport radioactive waste from Lucas Heights in Sydney and our very dangerous reprocessed waste from Lucas Heights from France and Britain through Darwin.
Although the Labor Party in opposition opposed these radioactive waste plans, Ferguson has overridden many of his colleagues and is intent on seeing the waste go to Muckaty station. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said she will stick with the Muckaty plan, despite the ALP’s original promises.
There is something even more surreptitious in the wings. The US currently has about 64,000 tons of deadly radioactive waste accruing at its 104 reactors around the country with no place to store or move it. Australia’s vast desert areas are often suggested as the perfect place- Bob Hawke and others support this enthusiastically on the grounds that we could make a lot of money being the radioactive waste dump of the world.
Many of the Muckaty Traditional Owners are extremely upset that their sacred land should be so violated and a group have taken action in the Federal Court to halt the Ferguson dump push. Many other Australians, including trade unionists and health professionals support their efforts to protect their country. Muckaty station sits atop a shallow aquifer which provides water for communities and wildlife. This dump, if it proceeds, could contaminate the water, land and food with long-lived radioactive and carcinogenic elements for hundreds of thousands of years, through impending earth movements, floods, geological disruptions, ice ages, and other unforeseen events.
Other quite terrifying scenarios are opening up in many states. The WA government is enthusiastically supporting extensive uranium exploration and fast-tracking mining plans – there are over 100 uranium sites in that vast state. BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine in SA is proposed to increase its uranium output by a factor of five to make it the biggest uranium mine in the world. All Australian uranium mines are now owned by foreign corporations.
As we know uranium and plutonium generated in reactors can be used to make atomic bombs. Radioactive waste will, over time, induce epidemics of cancer, leukemia and genetic disease in future generations. Indeed, according to the New York Academy of Science, the Chernobyl disaster (reaching its 25th anniversary next April) has killed almost one million people in Europe from these diseases thus far.
Will we be the nation which exports the fuel stock for nuclear weapons and epidemics of disease all over the world, or do we have the moral fibre to prevent this???
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