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.