Nuclear Power Has Never Made Any Social, Financial, or Environmental Sense

Sydney Morning Herald p13, 26 April 2006

Anthony Albanese

The meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor 20 years ago was one of the most significant disasters of the 20th century, and the effects of it are still being felt. To get a sense of the scale of the disaster, authorities are still trying to prevent more radiation from leaking and there is still a 30-kilometre security radius around the site.

As Mikhail Gorbachev declared this month: "Chernobyl opened my eyes like nothing else. It showed the horrible consequences of nuclear power, even when used for non-military purposes."

The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that radiation exposure from the Chernobyl disaster will lead to the deaths of up to 4000 people, and there have been 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mostly in children. The agency found that 350,000 people were displaced, with relocation a 'deeply traumatic experience'.

Chernobyl showed the world that nuclear power was not safe, but just 20 years later our Prime Minister is ready to bring nuclear power to Australia.

On April 7 John Howard told Southern Cross Radio: "My philosophy is that if it became economically attractive, I would not oppose [nuclear power] any more than I oppose the export of uranium."

The Treasurer, the Defence Minister, the Industry Minister and the Environment Minister have all said Australia should consider establishing a nuclear power industry.

The ALP has opposed nuclear power in Australia for decades. Its platform states that "Labor will prohibit the establishment in Australia of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle".

Nuclear energy doesn't add up, economically, environmentally or socially, and after more than 50 years of debate, we still do not have an answer to nuclear proliferation or nuclear waste.

Nuclear power is the most capital intensive to establish, decommissioning is extremely expensive and the financial burden continues long after the plant is closed. On March 30 Britain estimated it will cost $170 billion to clean up its 20 nuclear sites.

In the US, direct subsidies to nuclear energy totalled $115 billion between 1947 and 1999, with a further $145 billion in indirect subsidies. In contrast, subsidies to wind and solar energy combined during the same period totalled only $5.5 billion. Those costs don't include the black hole of nuclear waste - because there is no solution.

The Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, said on November 27: "In terms of high-level waste, if it were ever to be produced from an Australian nuclear industry, well that will be a matter for the governments of the day".

What an abrogation of responsibility!

The issue of nuclear proliferation is another critical concern that cannot be left to a future government.

According to the Oxford Research Group, a nuclear weapons designer could construct a nuclear weapon from three or four kilograms of reactor-grade plutonium.

About 250,000 kilograms of civil plutonium has been reprocessed worldwide - enough to generate 60,000 nuclear weapons. It has also been suggested that two or three people with appropriate skills could design and fabricate a crude nuclear weapon, using a cricket ball-sized sphere of reactor-grade plutonium.

Last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned about the dangers of nuclear proliferation: "Our fears of a deadly nuclear detonation ... have been reawakened ... driven by new realities. The rise in terrorism. The discovery of clandestine nuclear programs. The emergence of a nuclear black market."

This is the reality that must shape the nuclear debate. Australia should lead the world in the adoption of clean energy. We should seize the economic benefits of the push to cleaner energy and renewable energy.

There is a $1 trillion industry emerging globally in carbon-friendly technologies. During this month's visit by the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, a $300 million deal was signed by the Tasmanian renewable energy company Roaring 40s to provide three wind farms in China.

China's renewable energy target of 15 per cent by 2020 puts the Howard Government's 2 per cent target in perspective.

With investments in solar and wind power, clean coal and gas technology, and with the right price signals in place, Australia can transform today's energy industry into tomorrow's energy economy without investing in nuclear power.

Now is the time to reflect on the lessons from the Chernobyl disaster. We should ask ourselves if we want a clean energy future or a toxic waste future.
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Anthony Albanese is the federal Opposition environment spokesman. This is an extract from a speech being given today [26 April 2006] at the University of Sydney.


Nuclear Power: A Toxic Waste Future, No Greenhouse Solution
Nuclear Energy
Each 1000 megawatt nuclear power plant produces about 500 pounds of plutonium a year and about 30 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste.
In comparison to renewable energy, energy generated from nuclear power releases 4-5 times more CO2 per unit of energy produced, taking into account the entire nuclear fuel cycle.
It has been scientifically established that low-level radiation damages tissues, cells, DNA and other vital molecules.
Nuclear power plants produce extremely toxic radioactive wastes that are long-lived and have no safe means of disposal. Disposal is neither scientifically credible nor is there any sustainable options for interim storage.
There have been several failures in breeder reactor programs. The French and UK breeder reactor programs have also been permanently closed. Uranium supplies are rapidly diminishing. The combined effects mean that nuclear power will not be able to supply the long-term needs of the world's energy demands.


The immense problem of what to do with the world's nuclear waste is only now beginning to be tackled.

Nuclear Radiation: The Stealthy, silent destroyer of DNA

Atomic Bomb Testing In Australia
According to a special report on an investigation of residual radio-active contamination, about 100,000 dangerous metal fragments contaminated with Plutonium still litter the Maralinga atomic test range - 25 years after the atomic tests which caused them. [The West Australian 26/4/1985]
A Toxic Legacy: British Nuclear Weapons Testing in Australia
Wayward Governance: Illegality and its Control in the Public Sector
The heritable and carcinogenic effects of radiation often do not manifest themselves for considerable periods. Moreover, both effects may result from other causes, unrelated to radiation, or may even occur spontaneously. Thus, any determination of the health consequences of nuclear weapons testing in Australia would require very detailed records identifying those citizens who were exposed to radiation, and the degree of radiation to which they were exposed.
Despite the fact that airborne radiation from the Monte Bello tests was detected as far away as Townsville and Rockhampton, official fallout measurements were not compiled, and available data was insufficient to estimate collective exposure.
The plight of Aborigines in the vicinity of the prohibited zone was in many respects a reflection of their status in Australia at the time.
Because of their unique lifestyle, and often their lack of clothing, footwear and permanent shelter, Aboriginal residents in remote parts of Australia were particularly vulnerable to radiation.

British nuclear tests at Maralinga
Between 1952 and 1963 the British government, with the agreement and support of Australia, carried out nuclear tests at three sites in Australia: the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australian and at Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia.

Poisoned Pacific: The legacy of French nuclear testing
..another 44 French bombs, including five hydrogen bombs, were detonated in the Pacific skies above Moruroa and Fangataufa, another small atoll 40 kilometers further south. The monitoring stations New Zealand operated on other Polynesian islands regularly registered heavy fallout. But the French government each time claimed that the patriotic particles emanating from Moruroa managed to avoid all the islands of French Polynesia.
French nuclear testing: A fool's errand
France, in parallel with the United Kingdom, has never tested any nuclear explosive devices on its primary or indigenous home soil. All French nuclear explosions have been conducted on colonial territories, first in Algeria and then, following Algerian independence in 1962, in the Tuamotu Archipelago (which includes the uninhabited Mururoa and Fangataufa Atolls) in the South Pacific. France claims that all its tests have been conducted on "French" territory, whether on the mainland in Europe or elsewhere.

The Effects of French Testing at Moruroa and Fangataufa
French tests, whether in the atmosphere or underground, have left enormous quantities of wastes at the test site: contaminated earth, waste from decontamination of equipment, contaminated clothes etc. There is no official acknowlegement of the storage, transfer or eventual clean-up of these thousands of tonnes of waste.

French Cover-Up, Mururoa Nuclear Contamination Reported, 10 Years On

Broken Arrows
Military incidents with atomic bombs 1950 to 1996

Meltdowns
Civian incidents with nuclear power 1980 to 1999

Chernobyl: Understanding SOME of the True Costs of Nuclear Technology
For the past 23 years it has been clear that there is a danger greater than nuclear weapons concealed within nuclear power. Emissions from this one reactor exceeded a hundredfold the radioactive contamination of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No citizen of any country can be assured that he or she can be protected from radioactive contamination. One nuclear reactor can pollute half the globe. Chernobyl fallout covered the entire Northern Hemisphere. —Introduction, page 1, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, by Alexey V. Yablokov, Vassily B. Nesterenko, Alexey V. Nesterenko, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 1181, December 2009, p335.

US Nuke Plants on Hold
Gillard Government to Dump Nuclear Waste in the Northern Territory
Australian Nuclear Waste Site Flooded, Under Water
Nuclear Waste will be Stored in Sydney
Fukushima Nuclear Emergency in Japan
Fukushima workers told to lie about radiation
Fukushima Shut-Down To Take 30 Years
Fukushima Nuclear-Contaminated Water Dumped in Sea
Fukushima Radiation Circling the Planet
Australian Uranium Mine Linked to US Arms Dealer
Frequent Radioactive Leakes at Beverly Uranium Mine
Australian Beverly Mine Discharges 90 Million Litres of Liquid Radioactive and Acidic Mine Waste into South Australian Groundwater Per Year
For Australia, water of any quality is precious, and particularly so when the only secure supply of water in a region is from groundwater. With the rise of water treatment technologies such as desalination, water of any quality is a valuable resource, environmentally as well as for possible community and industry use. An acid leach-type in situ leaching project, especially as approved for Beverley and Honeymoon without remediation of polluted groundwater, therefore imposes a major environmental risk and pollution burden on future users of groundwater in these regions. In situ leaching mining is therefore far from sustainable. -- Dr. Gavin Mudd
Spill Disrupts Australian Ranger Mine in Kakadu National Park amid Closure Threats
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