Nuclear not the solution to global warming: Sydney Ideas forum
6 December 2006
Nuclear energy will not solve the global warming problem and should only be considered as part of the solution, a Sydney Ideas public forum was told last night.
"The most optimistic projection on behalf of the uranium industry is that nuclear energy can provide 20 per cent of the world's power," theoretical physicist, defence specialist and director at the Australian Strategic Policy Unit, Dr Andrew Davies told the Is Australia's Future Nuclear? audience. "It's not going to solve global warming. It might buy us a little time but that's all - we shouldn't kid ourselves to the contrary."
The panel of five leading experts at the Sydney Ideas forum, co-presented with the University of Sydney's Science Foundation for Physics, questioned whether or not the nuclear debate should be combined with the demand to act on climate change and also called for an objective assessment of all available energy options.
According to Sydney University research physicist Christopher Dey, some renewable energy technologies are "cost-effective right now" and should be seriously considered and backed financially. "Most people think that wind technologies could supply 10% of Australia's electricity," he said. "There's no excuse not to start renewables."
The forum, chaired by ABC Radio National Late Night Live presenter Phillip Adams, also heard that the introduction of nuclear energy was almost inevitable. Sydney University physicist Professor Manfred Lenzen told the audience at the Seymour Theatre Centre that in order to combat climate change, emissions needed to be reduced by 90%. "And at the moment, I can't see how we get there without introducing nuclear into the energy portfolio," he added.
Nuclear expert Robert Fry, formerly with the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he believed that nuclear energy was a "sensible, rational way to go" but also agreed that all energy options needed to be "assessed objectively."
However, some panellists argued that without the Federal Government introducing a carbon tax, nuclear energy along with other more environmentally soundalternatives,would remain economically unviable. "Nuclear energy is an economic non-starter," Dr Davies told the audience. "I don't think there's a dollar in it for anyone, so I don't think it will happen."
The expert panel at the Is Australia's Future Nuclear? forum comprised of:
- Professor Manfred Lenzen and Dr Chris Dey, research physicists with the Sustainability Research Group at the University of Sydney's School of Physics. Both were contributors to the Federal Governmentnuclear taskforcereport.
- Dr Andrew Davies, Director, Operation and Capability Program, Australian Strategic Policy Institute
- MrRobert Fry, long-time leader on nuclear and health physics with the Australian Energy Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency
- Ms Julie Macken, journalist/commentator and author of articles on the nuclear debate for the Australian FinancialReview and NewMatilda.com
The Is Australia's Future Nuclear? Sydney Ideas forum was conducted in response to Prime Minister John Howard's call for an open debate on nuclear energy. It also followed the recent release of the findings of the Federal Government nuclear energy taskforce, chaired by former Telstra boss and nuclear physicist Ziggy Switkowski. The forum was the final Sydney Ideas event for 2007.
Contact: Katrina O'Brien
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