Who Would Jesus Irradiate?

One of the current affair issues foremost in my mind at the moment is the latest volley of Western government calls for us to embrace nuclear energy. All in the name of reducing CO2 emissions and halting global warming.

Just as I was starting to give up hope, to resign myself to the inevitable, along came a timely article from New Scientist entitled, “Is it all over for nuclear power?” I was surprised. I was blown away. More significantly, the author Michael Brooks blew away many of the key economic arguments propping up of the nuclear industry propoganda.

As a consequence I find myself renewed in my convictions that the nuclear  industry is something we as Christians can and should take a stand against. I dug up this comment of Philip Johnson in “Alternate Spiritualities as the Unpaid Bills of the Church: Notes from the Rapidly Expanding Ferment in Australia” which I think has direct relevance:

“Evangelicals have only joined the bandwagon over ecology after everyone else has made it an issue of concern. Here we see the church, as usual, lacking any leadership or prophetic edge, and by default non-Christians make good on our deficiencies. However, it is not enough to simply adhere to principles of “reduce, reuse, and recycle”. Evangelicals must go beyond making simple statements about God as Creator, and giving lip service to the concept of stewardship of the earth.”

Can we recover our prophetic edge? One can only hope. Let’s at least not take this lying down.

I this vein I would like to draw your attention to another article by Wendy Frew, Environment Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Nuclear no cure for climate change, scientists warn

AUSTRALIA could not develop a domestic nuclear power industry in time to stave off the effects of climate change and such a program would be prohibitively expensive, energy experts say.

The cost of building the large number of nuclear power stations needed to even partly replace coal as a source of electricity would be so heavy no private investor would take on the risk without huge government subsidies, they said.

The Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, warned at the weekend that Australia would have to get used to the idea of a domestic nuclear power industry because it was part of the solution to global warming.

Scientists have warned the world needs to make large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions now to avoid further big changes to weather patterns.

But coal-fired power plants could not be replaced fast enough with nuclear plants to make any real difference, said the research principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Chris Riedy.

“It would take 10 years to get one nuclear power plant up even if there was no public protest,” Dr Riedy said. “And all of the evidence from where they have been built [overseas] shows they have had to have massive [government] subsidies to keep them going.”

A 1000-megawatt nuclear power plant would generate between 2 and 3 per cent of Australia’s current electricity consumption, said Dr Iain McGill, research co-ordinator for the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at the University of NSW.

“Coal generation is about 85 to 90 per cent of national electricity market generation, so it might require around 30 to 40 such plants to replace coal-fired generation,” he said. “Such a program would almost certainly take numerous decades.”

Dr Mark Diesendorf, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW, said a 1000-megawatt nuclear plant would cost at least $3 billion to build – 2½ times that of a coal-fired power plant – and much more to operate than fossil fuel plants. To build a lot of nuclear plants, say, over 20 years, would emit so much greenhouse gas it would take 40 years to break even in terms of CO 2, he said.

“You would have this great big spike in CO 2 emissions … I think the whole thing is insane,” he said of suggestions that nuclear power could help fight global warming.

In Britain a House of Commons environmental audit committee report published two weeks ago rejected constructing new nuclear power plants to replace those that will soon be shut down, because they could not be built quickly enough to meet demand for electricity.

The US Government is offering financial subsidies to the country’s stalled nuclear industry to encourage construction of new plants worth about $US17 billion ($22.4 billion).

A campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation, David Noonan, said nuclear power would be “incredibly expensive and too slow and ineffective” a way to tackle climate change.

“It is the only source of power that could annihilate your city. It would certainly be a terrorist target as well as a signal to the region that Australia might be going down the nuclear weapons path,” he said.

4 thoughts on “Who Would Jesus Irradiate?

  1. It’s an interest of mine as a long-term opponent aware that the financial susbidies are truly horrifying and that the political consequences of a plutonium economy are frightening. So I’ve been following the debate in the UK …


  2. What piggy-backs on this re-emergence in political discourse on nuclear power and exploiting uranium mining in Australia is the role played by both the coal and petroleum industries that have a strong lobbying presence in Canberra and also with the two major political parties.
    The addiction to coal and petrol in this country is generously sustained, and let off the hook by well-meaning international efforts like the Kyoto Protocol. Our political leaders cannot bring themselves to ratify it and act because it would be the scorpion’s sting to their donors, and the fear of loss of seated members at the next federal plebisicite.
    Meanwhile government subsidies for solar energy have quietly dipped below the radar screen, there are too few houses in cities like Sydney with rainwater tanks, little encouragement given to grey-water recycling of domestic waste water and so on. The leader now in solar energy technology is Germany, rather intriguing given that the Australian continent is peculiarly “sun-drenched”. And some of the local talent in alternate energy systems either have or will soon be moving to the northern hemisphere where their efforts are appreciated.
    Again, we have a reversion to an imaginary “good old days” somewhere in 1950 that is paternalistically projected out for us by grubby carrot-to-the-donkey tax cuts in the new budget — a neat diversion from holding the government accountable on the Wheat Board, Kyoto, Oil and Coal, and behind the scenes the nuclear/uranium issue is quietly and constructively built up as our economic-salvation as spin-doctors rehearse their lines to chant the mantra “our economy” in a future media-date.
    But it is also the case that once one moves from vested commercial-industrial interests and political lobbying, we come back down to personal and inter-personal choices. Are we willing to practice a “sabbath-like” principle with reference to using the domestic car? Are we willing to walk, catch buses and trains and ferries instead of constantly relying on the domestic car?
    And theologically: when are we going to be frank about being like Adam — a priest-king appointed as a guardian of the earth, with the direct responsibility of propelling the earth towards its telos? This requires us to recapture the motif of the earth as an “oikos” (household) in which the health and vitality of soil, water, creatures and humans are treated as a sacred trust. Or if we imbibe on “Left Behind” novels, then presumably we can justify our self-centrist misuse of earth’s resources because after all “I’m only visiting this planet” and it is heaed for the cosmic dust-bin, right???
    Well if the propheto-maniacs who fixate on the Book of Revelation were to re-read the text then church goers of a certain ilk would begin to review their habits and consumption. After all “a new earth” is depicted in Revelation 21. Here the theology of creation and of eschaton meet and fuse together — but that’s alien turf sadly for a lot of Christians whose spiritual diet has comprised tinned baby food mixed together in the wake of pop prophecy books on the mark of the beast and Russia v America at Armageddon.
    Instead of the Federal Government’s obsession with a monetary economy, let’s exchange that for a better transaction: returning to a real “oikos” (the greek word from which economy, ecumenics and ecology all derive) and working on the Divine Economy of a healthy creation???


  3. A word is missing from the previous note above; the sentence above in the 2nd paragraph should read:
    “The addiction to coal and petrol in this country is generously sustained, and let off the hook by *ignoring* well-meaning international efforts like the Kyoto Protocol.”


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