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Australia is the only G20 country without nuclear power. Why?

Australia is the only G20 country without nuclear power. Why?

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is in the headlines for acknowledging a simple fact: nuclear energy is inevitable in Australia.

Hysterical opposition from those with little knowledge about nuclear power has already begun.

The problem with any discussion on nuclear power is that it is fraught with misinformation promoted by frenzied nuclearphobes. Nuclear power evokes fear of the unknown because we don’t have nuclear power here. We’ve also been told repeatedly that it’s scary and something to fear.

We may live in an age that values feelings over facts, but psychologists tell us the best way to tackle a phobia is to confront it; to take a closer look and to understand the details, thus removing the mystery on which irrational fears rely.

Those willing to do that find nuclear power is no big deal. In much of the rest of the world it’s just a normal means of energy production, growing from 3.3 per cent of global electricity generation 40 years ago to 10.6 per cent today. It is a significant energy source in countries such as South Korea and Sweden, while in France it provides 75 per cent of electricity generation. The US, Britain and China are expanding their use of nuclear power by developing small modular reactors that are cheaper, safer, more flexible and generate little waste.

There are 400 nuclear reactors in the world, and there will be more than 500 within 10 years. More than 60 are under construction and China plans another 200 by 2050. This global growth in nuclear power is occurring despite the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japan, where an earthquake and tsunami killed 20,000 people. It’s often forgotten that the resulting meltdown of an old and poorly located nuclear power plant, while it prompted significant upheaval, killed no one.

It may contradict the beliefs of the flower-power generation, but the nuclear power industry is significantly safer than other large scale energy-related industries. Fossil fuel power, hydro power and wind power are deadlier, both in absolute terms and relative to the power they produce. A 2006 review commissioned by the Howard government came to that conclusion and it remains true today.

An Australian nuclear industry also has the potential to create a secondary industry based on the safe storage of waste products. With vast uninhabited, geologically stable land, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory could become world leaders in the field of nuclear waste storage. If a small country such as Sweden can safely generate nuclear power and provide for the safe disposal of waste, so can Australia.

Australia has about half the world’s known uranium deposits. We export uranium to other nations that reap the benefits of nuclear energy, and there are more export opportunities to come, yet we are rejecting the benefits ourselves.

Meanwhile, our household energy bills continue to rise.

Australia is the only G20 country with a blanket ban on nuclear energy. If we are genuine about tackling the energy gap, the soaring cost of electricity and our commitment to emissions reduction, we need to dispel the myths and let the nuclear industry flourish.

The Australian

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