Four Corners - Who's Afraid of Nuclear Power
Almost daily, the barrackers for nuclear power notch up a small new victory. With each gloomy media mention about global warming or fossil fuels, the nuclear industry can boast: We’ve got the clean answer. It’s still a hard case to sell to Australians who, after all, have long enjoyed a massive abundance of cheap coal and who last seriously thought about going nuclear 35 years ago.
But there’s no dodging the issue any more. Australia is a notorious greenhouse polluter because of its coal addiction. In the conservation movement fissures are appearing. Anti-nuclear warrior Peter Garrett argues that going nuclear is a neat but dangerous excuse for ignoring renewable energies like solar and wind. But former Greenpeace leader Paul Gilding praises the nuclear industry for bringing climate change to centre stage.
Is Australia’s aversion to nuclear power soundly based? Or are there lessons to be learned from other countries’ experience?
Four Corners examines how Australia squares with Scandinavian nations, which have wrestled with meagre fossil fuel resources, acid rain from their neighbours’ coal-fired power, and the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl. The contrast is astounding. While Australia derives 80 per cent of its power from coal, half of Sweden’s power is nuclear. Despite vivid memories of Chernobyl, and their close proximity to nuclear reactors dotted through their country, about 80 per cent of Swedes back nuclear power – in fact they show more enthusiasm for it than their own government.
In Australia, coal is king. Jonathan Holmes asks whether the government’s refusal to tax coal for its pollution damage is shackling cleaner alternatives – not just nuclear but renewable technologies too. A mere 0.3 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from wind power; in Denmark, it’s 20 per cent.