Friday, October 7, 2005

Nuclear Power PR campaign debunked by report

Anti-nuclear activists replied to advocates of nuclear power with a comprehensive damning report 'Nuclear Power - No Solution to Climate Change'. Fifty people attended the launch held at Northcote Town Hall organised by Friends of the Earth. Speakers included report author, Dr Jim Green, physicist Dr Alan Roberts, and President of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Dr Tilmin Ruff.



Jim Green gave a comprehensive summary of the report, and bedunked the current pro-nuclear marketing that nuclear power is a necessary method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report says that a doubling of nuclear power output by 2050 would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by just five per cent,while increasing the hazards of potential nuclear accidents, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation, and the still unsolved problem of waste storage. The report outlines that the solutions to greenhouse gas emissions from power generation lie in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation such as in wind, bioenergy, solar, and tidal power.

Green made the point that only a third of greenhouse gas emissions come from power generation, with the majority caused by the burning of oil as petrol in automobiles.

Dr Alan Roberts is a retired physicist from Monash University who stated up front that he can't see the nuclear energy campaign succedding. "This bubble is going to burst" he said. He then proceeded to outline the background to the nuclear industry public relations campaign, which started with background briefings to the media in the United Kingdom in May 2004. This was a marketing campaign with several prominent Public Relations firms involved, including the involvement of a former British Minister for Energy. The campaign has stressed that nuclear energy is needed for diversification of energy supply, and that nuclear power generation does not contribute any green house gasses. Dr Roberts said that the marketing ignored the fact that substantial green house gas emissions are caused in the total nuclear cycle from mining and extration of uranium, transportation, building reactors, transport of waste, and decommissioning nuclear reactors.

Dr Roberts does not subscribe to neoliberalism, but he said competition and a true free market would kill nuclear power: "nuclear power is not able to compete without subsidies".

The nuclear industry does not want a full and open debate on nuclear power, according to Dr Roberts. He told an anecdote of a chance meeting with an official of the Uranium Information Bureau several years ago. When Alan Roberts asked why they had not debated the subject recently the official said "we decided we would not engage in any debates. We found it counterproductive."

The third speaker was Dr Tilman Ruff, President of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War. Dr Ruff outlined the dangers in radiation, in the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear war, and said "this is not a solution to global warming" and that it "delays us getting on with real solutions".

After the speakers several questions were asked. It was revealed that up to half the existing nuclear power reactors need decommissioning in the next 10 years. The British parliament has recently allocated 56 billion pounds just for decommissioning nuclear plants in the near future. The storage of waste was raised, with still no foolproof solution found. Even the Synroc solution trumpeted for the last fifteen years, is still not in use. Most high level waste is currently stored on site with the nuclear reactors. Dr Jim Green referred any detailed enquiries on nuclear waste to the website http://radwaste.org

With BHP taking over Western Mining Corporation and the Olympic Dam Mine at Roxby Downs, several ethical investment schemes have been reassessing opposition and investment in companies involved with uranium mining, a member of the audience said. The size of BHP means it is seven per cent of the Australian stock market, and many fund managers belief it is an important stock to have. The questioner posed that most people were members of superannuation funds and should pressure their funds not to invest in companies involved in uranium mining, or to choose ethical funds which explicitly opposed uranium mining.

The meeting was held in Northcote because the Federal member for the seat of Batman is Labor member Martin Ferguson, who has been pushing very strongly for the expansion of uranium mining and export of uranium to China. There were calls for Martin Ferguson, a shadow minister, should be speaking ALP policy, rather than pushing his own agenda. Members of the audience called for Martin Ferguson to publically debate uranium mining and nuclear power with his electors.

It was announced that Nuclear Free Australia is having an anti-nuclear tour of the city on Tuesday October 11, meeting at 12.30pm GPO Bourke Street Mall.

The meeting wound up with a spokesperson from the Friends of the Earth Anti-uranium Collective, Michaela Stubbs, outlining some grassroots activities that people coud do. The Anti-uranium Collective holds weekly meetings at FOE, 312 Smith Street, each Wednesday night at 6.30pm.

The chair of the meeting, Dimity Hawkins from MAPW, gave details of an intriguing invitation from the US Consulate to the MAPW to attend a briefing on how Iran is breaching non-proliferation conditions in their nuclear program. Something to ponder about in regard to preparing public relations for a possible US attack on Iran?

The report is available for download at:
http://www.melbourne.foe.org.au/documents.htm

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Wonthaggi turns on Wind power

For more than 30 years myself and many other environmentalists, have advocated the necessity for research and development of alternative renewable energy systems. While the Federal Government poured millions of dollars into the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the HIFAR reactor at Lucas Heights near Sutherland in Sydney, funding for renewable energy systems was largely ignored.



With global warming accelerating caused by the release of greenhouse gases by coal fired power stations and the internal combustion engine, it is time to assess what the Federal Government has been doing. Companies specialising in alternative energy research and development are still chronically underfunded.