Guest post by John Morgan. John runs R&D programmes at a Sydney startup company. He has a PhD in physical chemistry, and research experience in chemical engineering in the US and at CSIRO. He is a regular commenter on BNC.
Energy minister Martin Ferguson has today released the Draft Energy White Paper 2011 (The Australian, ABC). The Government is soliciting submissions , so with a quick review, I’d like to open some discussion on possible material for a submission.
So what’s in the white paper? In short, lots of new gas development, energy market privatization, and “…the Gillard Government unambiguously does not support the use of nuclear energy in Australia”.
But Ferguson does seem to be determined to inject some ambiguity into the matter. Elaborating on this unambiguous position he explained:
Nuclear for Australia is always there as an option. We don’t have to invest in R and D and innovation on that front. Other nations are the specialists. But if we get to the end of this debate some years in the future and we haven’t made the necessary breakthrough on clean energy at a low cost outcome, then nuclear is there for Australia to blow off the shelf after a debate in Australia.
His Opposition counterpart Ian Macfarlane is singing from the same song sheet:
We haven’t had any active consideration of nuclear energy in Australia but the fact remains that nuclear energy is the one base load technology that is clean energy and until we find a better alternatives to clean, zero-emission energy than nuclear, then it’s going to remain on the agenda of other countries.
And of course the Greens are furious.
The white paper itself expresses this unambiguous position in remarkably equivocal terms. The full position on nuclear power is buried right at the back of the document on page 223 in a text box aside from the main text, where it is offered as a ‘contingency’ consideration. I will quote this in full:
• Australia’s plentiful natural endowment of a range of low‐cost energy resources has played a major role in shaping our energy generation base around coal and gas.
• Other countries have chosen to adopt nuclear power often as a way of diversifying their energy mix. As one of the world’s largest uranium exporters, Australia has respected and supported this right through trade under strict safety and security safeguards. Nuclear‐powered electricity generation currently produces around 16 per cent of the world’s electricity – around 10 times Australia’s total annual electricity generation. Undeniably this results in lower global carbon emissions.