Monday, March 05, 2007

'Clean Coal' and 'Safe Nuclear' both non-existent and no use even if they did exist

The countdown to climate change: "Nicholas Stern, former World Bank chief economist, in his report to the British Government last year, which warned that the world has only 10 to 15 years to avoid catastrophic climate change. As Greens senator Christine Milne points out, the fact of the matter is that neither the nuclear nor geosequestration options will deliver any cuts to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in the next 15 years.

"According to Stern, it is likely that within 15 years, with "business as usual", global warming will reach a "tipping point" where global warming will be positively reinforced by a series of related events such as the melting of the Arctic ice cap, so that global warming will spiral out of control irrespective of what measures are taken to reduce greenhouse gases."

"Geosequestration is further away and arguably more unsafe than the nuclear option. Its problems include: there is no evidence to show it can be done on a commercial scale; nobody knows what it will cost; and it can't be retrofitted, so all existing coal-fired power stations would be redundant."

"While the chances of accidents are low, and nuclear power plants have a better safety record than coalmines, there is the possibility of a catastrophic accident. Which means plants are uninsurable.

"Last week the Greens published a research paper on nuclear risk, which showed that Australian insurers have nuclear exclusion clauses. Nuclear power reactors are so risky that companies won't build them without government indemnities. In other countries, where indemnities are granted, the government accepts financial responsibility by removing the requirement to prove negligence in common law cases involving nuclear damages. In Australia the Government has failed to do this (Lucas Heights), in effect pushing the risk onto home owners.

"The paper reached the tart conclusion that "the coal industry has prospered by not paying for its pollution; now it seems the nuclear industry will not pay for its risk"."

"Taking real steps to deal with climate warming before 2020 doesn't require multibillion-dollar investments in nuclear power or geosequestration. It requires relatively conservative tax and subsidy changes to modify household and business behaviour to flatten the demand for electricity... savings could be expedited by a carbon tax or "cap and trade" to boost the price of electricity, backed up, if necessary, by regulation."

This is a real crisis and the policy response of both Government and Opposition is pathetically inadequate. They are playing 'politics as usual' in the face of disaster. They are serving their corporate masters in the coal, uranium and mining industries, and not the public. Neither party is prepared to confront the coal industry and tell the public the truth: coal is killing the planet and has to be phased out in a specific timeframe. Neither party is willing to immediately introduce a carbon tax to start sending price signals; neither is prepared to commit to the steps necessary to achieve major reductions in energy consumption, and rapid uptake in renewable energy production.

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