on climate change can help business competitiveness
and economic growth' (See
Nuclear Energy Debate – Relevant Information'
to TNEP's Mike Smith talk to ABC Triple J Radio on
about the Pro's and Con's of Nuclear Power
nuclear energy debate in Australia has begun. The
Prime Minister Mr John Howard is the latest in a line
of Australian politicians to suggest that Australia
should debate the use of nuclear power, including
Treasurer Peter Costello, Science Minister Brendan
Nelson, Labor backbencher Peter Garrett and New South
Wales Premier Bob Carr. Now Hugh Morgan from the Business
Council of Australia has also weighed in. Before this,
overseas George Bush in his 2005 State of the Union
Address reignited the debate by calling “for more
(energy) production here at home, including safe,
clean, nuclear energy.” Also in the UK James Lovelock,
long time environmentalist, has championed nuclear
has the debate arisen now? This time the debate is
resonating because of a growing recognition of the
scale of reductions of greenhouse emissions necessary
to avoid dangerous climate change. As our book The
Natural Advantage of Nations shows (on page
37) for the last 400,000 years CO2 levels did not
rise above 280 ppm yet they are already at 381 ppm
and rising faster than ever. Most glaciers are in
significant retreat, coral reefs are bleaching significantly,
and already Pacific islands like Tuvalu are having
to evacuate citizens to New Zealand due to rising
International Panel on Climate Change stated that
60% reductions in CO2 levels are necessary by 2050.
Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger has
announced a 80% target of greenhouse gas reductions
by 2050 and stated that "California is going
to be the leader in the fight against global warming,
I say the debate is over. We know the science, we
see the threat, and the time for action is now."
Bob Carr just announced that "NSW will aim to
cut carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050."
This follows the example of Tony Blair and the UK,
Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany who have
all publicly committed to 50% of more reductions in
greenhouse gas emission by 2050.
are now really wanting to know how can nations achieve
a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
in a way that does not harm the economy? This is the
key question that we devote much of Section 4 and
5 of The Natural Advantage of Nations to
addressing in Chapters 17
Profitable Greenhouse Solutions with Adjunct Professor
Alan Pears, Chapter 18 Greening
the Built Environment with Alan Pears and Dr Janis
Birkeland, Chapter 19 Sustainable
Urban Transport by Jeff Kenworthy, Robert Murray-Leach
and Craig Townsend and Chapter
21 Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Consumption
and Cleaner Production by Professor Chris Ryan.
chapters bring together the latest case studies, technologies
available and economic modeling showing that it is
possible to achieve deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions
without using nuclear energy.
let’s consider can nuclear power solve the problem
of climate change?
The first point The Australian Greenhouse Office’s
latest inventory figures show greenhouse gas emissions
from electricity generation only accounted for 35%
of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Other major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in
Australia include transport (15%), agriculture (18%),
industrial processes (6%) and landfill (2%). If you
add land clearing into the equation, these sources
account for 65% of greenhouse gas emissions. None
of these would be reduced by building a nuclear power
plant. The AGO expects emissions from transport, commercial
buildings and industrial processes to rise significantly
by 2020. Yet the way some proponents of nuclear power
argue, one could be forgiven for thinking nuclear
power is the one ‘big fix’ needed.
The World Nuclear Association (WNA) website states
simply that: ‘With carbon emissions now threatening
the very stability of the biosphere, the security
of our world requires a massive transformation to
clean energy. Renewables like solar, wind and biomass
can help. But only nuclear power offers clean, environmentally
friendly energy on a massive scale’. What the
WNA conveniently ignores is the fact that most greenhouse
gas emissions do not come from electricity generation.
In many countries, 20% or more of greenhouse gas emissions
come from non-CO2 sources, which, again, a switch
to nuclear power would not reduce. Non-CO2 gases currently
account for well over one-half of the greenhouse gas
emissions in Brazil and India. There are five classes
of greenhouse gases, other than CO2, recognised by
the Kyoto Protocol as causing global warming. These
gases have significantly higher global warming potential
and last longer in the atmosphere than CO2. Carbon
dioxide lasts, on average, 100 years in the atmosphere.
In contrast, one SF6 molecule has the same effect
on warming the planet as 23,900 CO2 molecules, and
lasts 300 times longer in the atmosphere than CO2.
Perflurocarbons have a global warming potential up
to 9,200 times greater than CO2 and last in the atmosphere
up to 10,000 years. Therefore, no nuclear power on
its own will not be sufficient to reduce greenhouse
emissions significantly given that it can only influence
35% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in an OECD
nation like Australia and even less in some other
Nuclear power does produce less greenhouse gas emissions
than goal or gas fired power stations but we need
to ask will investing in nuclear give us the best
return on investment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
compared to other potential energy sources and demand
On the 17th of June 2003 the Economist
magazine, wrote that Nuclear energy does not merit
any more investment because it is too expense compared
to alternatives including wind and solar energy sources.
The US has spent more money subsidising nuclear power
than they did on the entire Vietnam War and the Space
Race. Recently the Guardian
newspaper estimated the cost Britain 's civil
nuclear waste legacy have risen to around £48bn,
a £6bn increase on previous estimates.
Diesendorf again writes that “Nuclear energy has received
huge subsidies since its inception: government-funded
R&D, uranium enrichment, security systems, and
insurance from accidents. In the USA the latter subsidy
was institutionalised by the Price-Anderson Act, which
initially limited the liabilities of a single nuclear
accident to $560 million. Much of the data claiming
that nuclear energy is cheap comes from industry and
government sources that cannot be verified. But we
now have much better data from two countries where
the electricity industry has been corporatised and
privatised: USA and UK. Here the market has revealed
the real costs of nuclear energy.
the USA, no nuclear power stations have been ordered
since 1978, primarily because of poor economics. (Initially
the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979 discouraged
nuke building, but memories of that accident have
faded and nowadays it is economics that rules out
this technology.) However, there are signs the Bush
administration may be preparing to grant a new round
of massive subsidies to nuclear power. A 2003 report
on "The Future of Nuclear Power" from an
MIT team estimated that a hypothetical new nuclear
power station in the USA could produce electricity
at US 6.7 c/kWh (AUD 9 c/kWh). For comparison, wind
power in the USA is currently priced in the range
4-5 c/kWh, depending upon siting and size of wind
the UK, when the electricity industry was deregulated,
nuclear energy had to be subsidised from a levy on
electricity amounting to 1.2 billion pounds sterling
per year. That is equivalent to a subsidy on each
unit of nuclear electricity of UK 3 p/kWh (about AUD
6 c/kWh), making the total cost of a unit of nuclear
electricity almost double the price of wind power
at excellent sites in the UK.
does it make sense to create a new terrorist target.
these times of heightened terrorist fears it is important
to debate and question anything, let alone a nuclear
power plant, that could create such a significant
terrorist target. Post 911, the traditional hazards
associated with nuclear power plants have been added
to by the possible scenario now of terrorists flying
an aeroplane into any of the world's nuclear power
plants. Those traditional hazards are significant.
While the worst nuclear accidents are emblazoned on
the minds of millions, there have been more big ones
than most people probably know of: Chalk River (1952),
Greifswald (1976), Three-Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl
(1985), Monju (1995), Tokaimura (1999), for starters.
While only 31 people died immediately from radiation
at Chernobyl, an estimated 3 billion people received
some radiation exposure, and one estimate suggests
that accident will ultimately cost 16,000 lives.
what is currently missing from the nuclear energy
debate in Australia currently is the fact that there
are now 13 significant costed studies showing that
with an appropriate mix of demand management, energy
efficiency, renewable energy, hybrid cars and biofuels,
fuel cells, distributed energy generation any nation
can achieve 30-60% reductions in CO2 emissions economically
by 2050. These are summarised in the final section
of the Clean Energy Future report
by the Clean Energy Group.
studies all show that nuclear power is not required
to achieve the necessary greenhouse gas reductions.
why a sustainable energy future, based on efficient
energy use, renewable sources of energy, biofuels
and natural gas, is the best solution to the greenhouse
problem. (See the Clean
Energy Future ) and Chapter 17 Profitable Greenhouse
Solutions and its extensive online
companion of the recent publication The
Natural Advantage of Nations:Business Opportunities,
Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century.
those interested in further detail please see the
Is Profitable: The Hidden Economic Benefits of Making
Electrical Resources the Right Size,
voted #1 book for 2002 by The Economist Magazine.
demonstrates and proves categorically why companies,
energy sectors, households and governments should
seek to wisely implement an effective sustainable
energy strategy, based on efficient energy use, renewable
sources of energy and (at least for the next 75 years
or so) natural gas. It shows why this is the best
solution to the greenhouse problem. It shows that
the world is on the cusp of a major wave of innovation
in the energy supply and demand sector. Small is profitable
brings together for the first time the context that
connects. Developed by Rocky Mountain Institute, the
book describes 207 ways in which the size of “electrical
resources”—devices that make, save, or store electricity—affects
their economic value. It finds that properly considering
the economic benefits of “distributed/renewable (solar,
wind, geothemal, biomass, tidal,etc)” (decentralized)
electrical resources typically raises their value
by a large factor, often approximately tenfold, by
improving system planning, utility construction and
operation (especially of the grid), and service quality,
and by avoiding societal costs.
have taken a "Not In my backyard approach"
to the cheapest renewable energy option wind power
but this is because until recently there was sporadic
information on where are the best wind sites in Australia.
Until recently as a result of this wind sites had
been proposed for high tourist value coastal sites
leading to genuine concerns from the respective local
communities. Now CSIRO's Victorian
Wind Atlases show that many of the best sites are
inland in places that would add valuable income to
farmers and rural communities whilst allowing their
crops and herds of sheep and cattle to continue to
grow and graze respectively. Also in Europe it is
now cost competitive to put wind generators out at
sea on old oil rigs and other areas where the sea
floor does not fall away quickly out of sight (and
out of mind). Another criticism has been the noise
wind power makes. However through better design made
possible by the wide uptake of the techology, the
noise problem and other negatives have been drastically
reduced. These and other concerns are addressed on
the US Department of Energy website.
M., Hargroves, K., Palousis, P., and Paten, C. (2006)
The Nuclear Energy Debate–relevant information.
Retrieved 13 July 2006 from: http://www.naturaledgeproject.net/TNEPArticlesNuclear.aspx.