<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Climate change and the politics of nuclear power

Nuclear power plant

Credit: Wikimedia

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It's hard to believe the nuclear debate is back on again. Every few years, it seems to return like a bad penny.

Last week, Environment Minister Peter Garrett copped a real bucketing when he approved a uranium mine in South Australia. In the blogosphere, posts like this one attacked the former environmental activist for selling out.

His cred, people say, is burning. Such is the power and the passion.

Then earlier this week, Federal Resources minister Martin Ferguson welcomed an agreement formalising a uranium mining project in Western Australia. Ferguson wants Australia to consider nuclear energy and has condemned environmentalists for demonising nuclear, gas and coal-fired energy, saying solar and wind energy are not viable on current technology.

He is now at odds with Queensland premier Anna Bligh, who has ruled out uranium mining in her state.

Rio Tinto is urging the Government to start preparing the way for a nuclear regime and for a decision to be made by 2020.

Ziggy Switkowski, who heads the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, says that we could see a whole lot of "safe" mini reactors operating within the next five years. He reckons this would ease community fears about nuclear energy.

He has been followed up the Federal Opposition spokesman on energy and resources, Ian Macfarlane,
telling the ABC that nuclear power is the best way to address climate change.

For her part, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has ruled out nuclear power, saying the government will focus instead on reducing coal fired power emissions and on renewables.

Three years ago, Al Gore told me that nuclear power was unlikely to play a role in the battle to stop global warming.

"Even if you set aside the problem of long-term waste storage and the danger of operator accident and the vulnerability to terrorist attack, you still have two others that are more difficult," he said. "Nuclear power plants are the costliest to build and they take the longest time and at present they come in only one size - extra large."

And then, he said, there is the problem with nuclear weapons proliferation.

Still, the debate continues, particularly with the Liberals placing nuclear power back on the political agenda.

And with the ALP set to dump a 2007 national conference resolution requiring the Rudd government to renounce its power to impose a nuclear waste dump on the Northern Territory, nuclear energy can't be ruled out completely.

What’s your take on the debate? Why does this keeping coming up? And do you think nuclear will solve the climate crisis? What should we do to resolve the problem?