Banned in every state and every territory in Australia. Late-term abortion? Euthanasia? Advising those confused about their sexual identity to give it some thought? Well, yes, the latter is banned in every state or soon will be. But I’m really talking about nuclear energy. Apart from individual state prohibitions, nuclear energy is not permitted under two federal Acts. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Incidentally, I wonder, who was prime minister in 1998 and 1999?
These two Acts “expressly prohibit the approval, licensing, construction, or operation of a nuclear fuel fabrication plant; a nuclear power plant; an enrichment plant; or a reprocessing facility.” Passing strange, you might think, when Australia holds almost one-third of the world’s proven uranium reserves and exports around 7,000 tonnes per year, representing about 10 per cent of the global supply. Stranger still when, as part of the AUKUS joint defence deal with the UK and US, we intend buying and making nuclear subs. Apparently it is one thing to own a nuclear plant powering a sub just off the coast. Another to have one on dry land to keep the lights on. Hypocrisy and politics are not unusual bedfellows.
The Libs and Nats have recently been making noises about bringing nuclear in from the cold. Nothing too definite and unequivocal mind. After all, it was the same parties in government which banned it; even if it was part of a weak-kneed trade-off to get parliamentary support for a nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights. However, the Labor government is dismissive. It’s the most expensive form of energy, it says, and then goes on to ask, and flamboyantly so, exactly where nuclear plants would be put? This scares the pants off the Coalition; knowing that suggesting actual locations would bring down the ire of local populations ginned up by activists. Stalemate.
In the circumstances, why are the Coalition parties even talking about the possibility of talking about nuclear energy? It’s a hopeless gesture. It is, but then, again what other strategy do they have? They have signed on to net zero by 2050. They’ve been part of subsiding wind and solar energy. They are totally and completely complicit in ruining Australia’s international competitive advantage in generating cheap and reliable energy. They are complicit in burdening industry, small business, middle-income people, the poor and needy, with soaring power bills. They haven’t been opposing; they’ve been in league. That was then, now they rightly suspect that the whole green-energy house of cards is soon enough about to fall. And they need an escape hatch. We favoured considering nuclear which would have saved us, they can say in their pathetically abject wretchedness.
No one side of politics whether in Australia, in the UK, in Europe, in North America could have got away with vandalising cheap and reliable energy without the support of the other side. In exactly the same way, the grotesque response to COVID could not have occurred without the concurrence of both sides. Equal measures of idiocy and despotism ensue when adversarial politics dies.
I admit that at one point, I favoured nuclear energy. No longer. For some countries fine, but certainly not for Australia with our abundance of high quality coal and natural gas. Arguing for nuclear cedes the preposterous premise that we face a climate crisis. And the “proof” of the premise. A revolving door of baseless claims of untoward extreme weather events when, in fact, there has been no increase in the frequency or intensity of such events. The world is growing greener and more productive as we speak. And for those in colder climes maybe pleasantly warmer, though I doubt Alaskans have noticed.
It’s all a beat up, as was Paul Ehrlich’s population bomb in the late 1960s; the dire predictions of resource depletion by the Club of Rome in the early 1970s, and the terrors of incipient global cooling in the mid-1970s. These scares have all been gazumped by global warming, aka climate change, aka the climate crisis. The confected Covid scare provided respite from the climate scare for a couple of years before most people, except the most suggestible and gullible, lost interest. Never mind, back to the scary climate crisis. “The climate time-bomb is ticking.” So the UN’s honcho António Guterres recently claimed. Rest assured. It will never go off. However, if the climate cultists have their way, it’s going to continue ticking. It’s their key to power and enrichment.
Here we are in the Lucky Country sitting on plentiful, affordable and accessible hydrocarbon energy. Yet, apparently, the only option being mooted to its replacement by ruinous renewable energy is nuclear energy. No, the only rational path is to dig and drill for coal, gas and oil. Unfortunately, irrationality rules the day on both sides of politics; just to a somewhat different degree.