The Inevitable Triumph of Nuclear Power?
“ANNA Bligh, the Queensland Premier, has backed calls for the Labor Party to review its policy on nuclear power
“The Queensland Premier has warned that renewable sources cannot meet the surging demand for baseload electricity… according to The Australian.
PHIL Sawyer, friend, retired fisherman, foundation member of the Australian Environment Foundation and member of the ALP, explains why the ALP will vote for nuclear at the national conference next year:
“THE recent flurry of statements about nuclear energy from some ALP politicians, including the PM, have ensured that the subject will be debated at next year’s national conference. The consequences of this development are going to be considerable.
Not least, the work of Parliament’s Climate Committee is now reduced to irrelevance. How can this Committee possibly come to any conclusion about a national carbon price regime before the ALP decides its energy policy?
Impossible. It will be forced to defer its deliberations until the ALP conference finally decides the issue. Thus the chief vehicle of Green influence on the Government will be sidelined for a year, an interesting development indeed.
But the most important outcome of recent events is that very fact that the nuclear cat is now well and truly out of the bag, making a pro nuclear decision by the ALP conference almost inevitable, something the commentariat seems to have missed so far.
Such a decision will be a game changer all round, profoundly effecting relations with the Greens, and the Opposition, not to mention making Greg Combet’s task of trying to come up a credible emissions mitigation policy a damn sight easier. It is not too much to say that the fate of the Government is at stake, so the debate should concentrate their minds wonderfully.
The PM has certainly played a straight bat on the nuclear issue so far, citing the hardy old perennial excuses, the cost argument, and our boundless renewable, as reasons for dismissing it. She also pointed out that no one wanted one in their backyard, and that the proponents of
nuclear faced a ” tough ask”. She touched most of the bases.
The problem is that these are not tenable positions to take to conference. This is because any motion that would allow for competition from nuclear power in our emissions reduction strategy instantly renders most of the traditional reasons for opposition to nuclear irrelevant to the question at hand, which is: Should nuclear be allowed to compete? I think it is inevitable that the ALP will eventually vote for a change, and I offer the following reasons why.
As a delegate to conference, one can hardly argue that nuclear is so expensive it shouldn’t be allowed to compete! An untenable position. But one could still maintain the view that nuclear is so expensive it won’t be able to compete, and then vote for the motion! No change of view is
In the same way, one can hardly argue that renewables will be so cheap in 10 years time that nuclear should not be allowed to compete, in 10 years. Another untenable position. But one can continue to believe that renewables will ultimately be our cheapest solution, and be able to vote for the motion.
And one can continue to believe that no region of Australia will ever consent to having a nuclear power plant, but still vote for a policy that gives the regions the opportunity to do so.
Thus it turns out that any motion to allow competition from nuclear has the political virtue of not requiring a public change of opinion from all those who are on the public record as citing costs, or our abundant renewables, or location problems, as justifications for the current anti
nuclear policy. People like the PM, for example. They will therefore be able to painlessly vote for the motion, which most of them know is in the national interest, and indeed the party’s interest, and not be required to change their mind on anything they presently hold dear, or
have to defend themselves against charges of backflipping either, something politicians just hate. This underlying political reality should make a pro-nuclear vote at conference inevitable.
The few delegates likely to vote against the motion are the ones who have stuck with the safety issue over the years, regardless of economic or climate imperatives, or indeed the safety record of the nuclear industry itself. The irreconcilables. The ones who think James Hansen
and Professor Lovelock are merchants of death for their support of nuclear energy. I rest my case.
The Adelaide Advertiser reported recently that South Korea has announced plans to
build 14 reactors over the next 10 years. Lord help us.
And of course it was Phil Sawyer’s open letter to Greg Combet, posted at this blog on November 23, 2010, which kicked things off