Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nuclear power inevitable, says Ziggy

By Catherine Best

November 15, 2007 08:16pm,21598,22767424-5005520,00.html

NUCLEAR power will eventually win favour in Australia and become our cleanest, most efficient power source, says Australian Nuclear and Science Technology Organisation chairman Ziggy Switkowski.

Addressing a business forum tonight, Dr Switkowski said he was happy nuclear energy was not an election issue because the debate was still young.

But he said nuclear power stations had a place in Australia and there was no doubt they would become part of our energy landscape.

“We will get there, I'm sure that we will get there, whether it happens in the next term of government or the one after,” he said.

“The attitude in Australia, I think, will move from concern to grudging acceptance, to enormous relief that we have this very efficient technology and these vast reserves that will give us what we think will be the lowest cost, safest, cleanest form of base load electricity.”

Dr Switkowski, speaking at the Oxford Business Alumni forum in Melbourne, made the comments during a debate on the impact of climate change on business.

Joining him in the debate were former British Airways chief executive Sir Rod Eddington, Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry and parliamentary secretary to the minister for foreign affairs, Greg Hunt.

Dr Switkowski said 31 countries around the world had nuclear power and 20 more were looking to go nuclear before 2020.

But Mr Henry said if half of all households in Queensland installed a solar hot water system, the equivalent of one nuclear power station worth of energy would be saved.

He also raised concerns about safety.

Dr Switkowski said in the history of nuclear power only two accidents had occurred - at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979 and in 1986 at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union.

No casualties were recorded at the former and Mr Eddington said safety practices had improved.

“No energy source is completely accident free but the nuclear industry, as it stands, has got a pretty good record,” he said.

Mr Henry said there was still no functional long term disposal for nuclear waste.

“And you have to remember the waste stays dangerous for thousands of generations of human lives,” he said.

The speakers accepted that climate change was real but expressed differing views on how to deal with the global problem.

Most importantly they said Australia could do little in isolation but much globally, particularly in guiding the high greenhouse emitters like India and China.

Mr Eddington said business and industry must adapt to survive.

“The winners will be companies that reacted in an intelligent and forward thinking way, those who adjust and adjust smart,” he said.

At the same forum two years ago, former prime minister Bob Hawke called for Australia to become a repository for the world's nuclear waste and said at the time his party should abandon its three mines policy on uranium.

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