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Friends of the Earth Adelaide – Submission to Senate – nuclear power an unrealistic distraction

Submission no 9 to the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
We are responding to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee’s inquiry
into the “Environment and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear Energy
Prohibitions) Bill 2022”.

The purpose of the Bill is to remove Australia’s ban on nuclear power. Although superficially
such an amendment might seem innocuous, because it would not in itself lead automatically or
inevitably to the construction of nuclear power plants, in fact it would be pernicious for the
following reasons:

1) It would divert attention from the immediate need for an urgent response to climate change.
Even if a decision was made today to introduce nuclear energy to Australia, not a single kilowatthour
of electricity would be generated from nuclear reactors for over a decade. But the climate
cannot wait that long. Fortunately, there are proven and realistic alternatives that can be acquired
much sooner and much more cheaply, especially in a country as rich in renewable energy
potential as Australia.

2) It would mislead the public into thinking that nuclear energy might be a realistic alternative for
Australia. Viewed objectively, both the historical record and the current status of nuclear power
demonstrate that nuclear energy is neither reliable, cost effective, nor fit for purpose in the
Australian context. If there is any argument for the use of nuclear power, it only applies to
countries which already have nuclear power plants and which need to make a decision about
whether or not to continue operating existing plants. In that case, given that the upfront cost of
existing plants has already been sunk, there may be an argument for continuing their operation
while shifting to a 100% renewables-based zero emissions energy system. However, constructing
new plants just diverts investment from cleaner and more cost-effective alternatives.

Some people who promote nuclear power are sincere, but misinformed or deluded. Others are
quite cynical. There are those who recognise that by promoting nuclear power they can serve
their own interests by delaying the energy transformation and prolonging an energy system which
is based on large-scale centralised generation and the use of fossil fuels. Then there are those who
promote nuclear energy to give them a point of strategic difference with their political opponents.
They are looking for another angle on the climate wars that have blighted the energy policy
landscape for over a decade.

Australia cannot afford to give credence to naïve or cynical arguments in favour of nuclear
power. We must rapidly shift from an energy system based on fossil fuels to a system based on
renewable energy backed by various forms of storage (e.g. batteries and pumped hydro). This
requires governments, industry and the general public to be highly focused on real solutions. The
last thing we need is for vested interests and nuclear true believers to muddy the waters with
fanciful talk of nuclear power.
The best way to send a clear message to industry and the community that Australia’s future lies in
renewable not nuclear energy is to maintain the ban on nuclear power.
See the notes and references listed below for background and supporting argument.
Philip White
Friends of the Earth Adelaide

Notes and References

  1. Nuclear energy is too expensive and will come too late………………………….
  2. Nuclear energy is a barrier to renewable energy……………….
  3. There are realistic alternatives………………..
  4. A few persistent myths
    4.1 Baseload Power
    ‘Baseload power’ is an outdated notion promulgated by nuclear and fossil fuel apologists in order
    to mislead policy makers and the general public………….. 4.2 Lessons of the war in Ukraine………… 4.3 All the other problems with nuclear energy still apply..Nuclear energy generates waste that must be isolated for millennia………… more

February 24, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

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