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If Nuclear Power is the answer, it must have been a pretty stupid question...

What kind of Quality of Life are we Creating?

This is an excerpt taken from an article written by Professor Ian Lowe.Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University, Brisbane. One of Australia's best-known environmental scientists, he is president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. He recently joined Senator Bob Brown in public discussions regarding sustaining true quality of life on our planet, at the recent Woodford Folk Festival, both men received standing ovations at the end of each session. Support for their continued efforts in the political and educational arenas was unanimously applauded.

"The debate about nuclear energy is a welcome recognition of the urgent need to respond to climate change. I welcome that awareness and the resulting debate, but the nuclear option is not a wise response. It is too costly, too dangerous, too slow and makes too little impact on greenhouse pollution. That is why most of the developed world is rejecting the nuclear option in favour of renewable energy and improved efficiency.

There is no serious doubt that the climate change is real; it is happening now and its effects are accelerating. It is already causing serious economic impact such as reduced agricultural production, increased costs of severe events such as fires and storms, and the need to consider radical water-supply measures such as desalination plants. So we should set a serious target for reducing our rate of releasing carbon dioxide, like Britain's goal of 60 per cent by 2050. The Australian policy vacuum is a failure of moral leadership and also an uncertain investment framework.

The economics of nuclear power just don't stack up. The real cost of nuclear electricity is certainly more than for wind power, energy from bio-wastes and some forms of solar energy. Geothermal energy from hot dry rocks also promises to be less costly than nuclear. That is without including the huge costs of decommissioning power reactors and storing the radioactive waste. So there is no economic case for nuclear power. As energy markets have liberalized around the world, investors have turned their backs on nuclear energy. The number of reactors in western Europe and the United States peaked 15 years ago and has been declining since. By contrast, the amount of wind power and solar energy is rising at rates of 20 to 30 per cent a year.

Reducing energy waste is the cheapest and most immediate way to reduce greenhouse pollution. For instance, more than 10 percent of household electricity is used by keeping appliances such as TV's, stereos and videoplayers on stand-by.

Nuclear power is too dangerous - not just the risk of accident such as Chernobyl, but the increased risk of nuclear weapons or nuclear terrorism. It remains the case, as the Ranger Inquiry found nearly 30 years ago, that increased export of Australian uranium would contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nuclear power also inevitably produces radioactive waste that will have to be stored safely for hundreds of thousands of years. After nearly 50 years of the nuclear power experiment, nobody has yet demonstrated a solution, expanding the rate of waste production is just irresponsible.

Nuclear power will not stop climate change. The argument that it would reduce greenhouse pollution presumes high-grade uranium ores are available. Even with such high-grade ores, there is a massive increase in greenhouse pollution from mining, processing and reactor construction before any electricity is generated. The known resources of high-grade uranium ores only amount to a few decades' use at present rate, so an expansion of nuclear power would see this high grade ore depleted and therefore larger quantities of lower grade ore would have to be mined.

To avoid dangerous self-created changes to our climate, we need to act now. We should make a commitment to the sensible alternative that produce sustainable cost-effective reductions in greenhouse pollution: wind power, solar water-heating, energy efficiency, gas and energy from organic matter such as sewage and waste."

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Article by Robert Kendall

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