17 January 2009

Nuclear the 'only viable clean power'

From: Australian Associated Press in the Australian, January 16, 2009

AUSTRALIA will probably have to go nuclear to tackle climate change, engineers and scientists say.

They say nuclear power is the only reliable, proven source of electricity with a minimal carbon footprint.

They're tipping 15 per cent of the country's electricity will come from nuclear reactors by 2050.

And the first plant could swing into action just 10 years after approval is given.

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, which represents more than 700 experts, has issued a report calling for nuclear power to be on the table.

The problem with coal and gas-fired power is that it emits carbon pollution, which causes climate change.

But renewable energy, often touted as the solution, is either not baseload power or not proven, according to the report's lead author John Burgess.

"We need power that runs for 24 hours a day, as opposed to just when the sun shines or the wind blows,'' Dr Burgess said.

''(Nuclear power) is an existing technology which is operating quite safely.''

Dr Burgess said public hostility to nuclear power could fade as concerns about climate change grew.

The report said Australia was well-placed to go nuclear because of an abundance both of uranium reserves and remote sites for dumping waste.

There are more than 440 nuclear power reactors in the world, in 31 countries.

The report said Australia would probably have a "generation 3 plus'' style of nuclear reactor, which is safer and more fuel-efficient than current plants.

A plant would produce between two and 10 cubic metres of waste a year, a small amount compared to some other technologies, the report said.

But the Australian Conservation Foundation was not having a bar of the engineers' nuclear push.

"It's completely unrealistic of them, they're on a hiding to nothing,'' said the Foundation's nuclear-free campaigner David Noonan.

He said Australians did not want nuclear power or nuclear waste.

Renewable energy was the way to tackle climate change, and it could be a cheap, baseload source of power, Mr Noonan said.

And he said if Australia opted for nuclear power, it could send a message to other countries that nuclear weapons would also be developed.

The Federal Government opposes domestic nuclear power.

Energy minister Martin Ferguson reiterated the message when questioned on the Academy's report today.

"It is the Government's view that nuclear power is not needed as part of Australia's energy mix given our country's abundance and diversity of low-cost renewable energy sources,'' he said.

"The Government has a clear policy of prohibiting the development of an Australian nuclear power industry.''

The Academy's report, which looked at the best ways for Australia to generate electricity in a climate-friendly way, said a technological revolution was needed.

Emissions trading was a good start but would not do enough to encourage low-emission technologies. It said $6 billion should be spent by 2020 on researching greener electricity generation.

New technologies must be deployed on a massive scale, and there should be "relentless'' work on energy efficiency programs, the report said.

Copyright 2009 News Limited

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