Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Nuclear Power for Australia?

The Federal Government has released Dr Ziggy Switkowski's report on the feasibility of Nuclear power generation for Australia.

Some of the recommendations of the report include:
  • the possibility of up to 25 nuclear power plants by 2050.
  • their cost-effectiveness would rely on increased taxation on carbon-based fuels (mostly coal)
  • the Federal Government would "have to" provide some money to (private) companies to build them
  • Overseas workers would be needed, because we don't have the skills (at the moment)
  • They could be situated near existing (coal) power stations
  • The rate at which Australai contributes to global worming could fall, but there would still be significant increases in greenhouse gases.
Mining companies (esp those that mine Uranium) welcomed the report. I'm not sure about the coal mining companies, such as BHP-Billiton.

The report did not address the problems of nuclear waste disposal, a topic that has been contentious in the past.

Mr Howard is supporting the proposal to build nuclear power stations in Australia, and today, the Federal Energy Minister, Mr Ian Macfarlane, has said electricity prices will need to rise by as much as 30% !

The report looked at the economics of installing nuclear power stations. It dealt only superficially with the effects on greenhouse gas emissions, and still concluded that there would be a significant rise in greenhouse gas emissions, even if Australia installed 25 nuclear power stations. It did not properly consider the issues of mining, transport, enrichment, safety, environmental issues, reliability, waste transport and storage, reprocessing (to make plutonium) or security.

The report to the Prime Minister provided Mr Howard with the report he wanted to hear. We voters should be sceptical of any use of the report to justify nuclear power based on economics. Any environmental arguments put forward by Mr Howard or others are of dubious value.

The Analyst