Apr 5, 2006

Personal abuse has no place in the nuclear debate

Personal abuse has no place in the nuclear debate


5 April 2006

Prime Minister John Howard must keep personal abuse out of the debate about uranium mining and the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia.

Today, the Prime Minister labelled me “Neanderthal” for my opposition to nuclear power in Australia.

I also find totally repugnant columnist Paddy McGuinness referring to me as a “Gauleiter”, the title of regional Nazi leaders responsible for millions of deaths.

Australians are rightly concerned about nuclear power and uranium mining due to intractable problems of economic cost, waste disposal and nuclear proliferation.

Surveys indicate that a majority of Australians are opposed to the push by the Prime Minister to further involve Australia in the nuclear fuel cycle in developing a domestic nuclear industry.

Of all the energy options, nuclear energy is the most capital intensive to establish, decommissioning is also extremely expensive and the financial burden continues long after the plant is closed. On 30 March 2006, Britain estimated it will cost $170 Billion to clean up their 20 nuclear sites.

After 50 years, there is still no safe way to dispose of nuclear waste. This is highlighted by the difficulty of storing small amounts of low-level nuclear waste from medical procedures, let alone high level radioactive waste.

The rise in terrorism and the emerging nuclear black market are threats which shape the nuclear debate. That’s why former WA premier Geoff Gallop said today, “the last thing we want is nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism”.

Bad policy in some areas can be undone, but a policy mistake over uranium or nuclear power has potentially catastrophic consequences.

It is ironic that those arguing for a rational debate have resorted so quickly to irrational personal abuse. Nuclear advocates need to outline their solutions to outstanding issues if they are to convince Australians to embrace the nuclear fuel cycle.