GOOD for Anna Bligh in pointing out the obvious, that alternative energy cannot match coal-generated power as a baseload electricity source, and that means we should consider adding nuclear power to our energy options. On Thursday, Queensland’s Premier called for a review of Labor Party policy, which does not permit nuclear energy now. She joins other Labor leaders, notably federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, in calling for the party to at least argue out its position on nuclear energy rather than continue a decades-long ban. Calls for debate are immensely unpopular with old Left loyalists, who are still fighting the Cold War and conflate nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. Strangely enough, while they keep on condemning all but medical uses of uranium, they never mention France, which sources 75 per cent of its power from nuclear power plants. The ban, dating from days when fluorocarbons destroying the ozone layer was the fashionable threat to the environment, ignores the obvious: coal-fired power stations are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions; nuclear plants are not.

Hatred of nuclear energy runs so deep among environmentalists that many will not face the flaw in their argument, that if coal is unclean, producing power from uranium should at least be considered as a way of cutting our carbon emissions at a price the community can afford. Instead, they point to the potential of power produced by wind and the sun. But the arguments for alternative energy do not cut it. When it comes to pumping out enormous amounts of electricity to meet peak demand, solar power simply cannot compete on cost or capacity with big power stations fuelled by coal, or even uranium. The green dream of home owners becoming peasant energy farmers, producing power from rooftop solar panels, is already occurring, but at such an enormous cost that schemes are being scaled back. In NSW, subsidies meant home-produced solar power was pumped into the grid for $6000 a megawatt hour, compared with the $52 hourly rate that coal-fired power costs. A national subsidy scheme started by the Howard government cost taxpayers $1 billion, but solar power still accounts for only 0.1 per cent of the electricity market. As for wind power, the tall towers, with gas generators used to power turbines in still weather, produce electricity for anything between $350 and $1100 a tonne of carbon not emitted, stratospherically above the charge of $14 that the Rudd government’s carbon reduction plan put on the agenda at the beginning of the year. Ideology, not economics, is at the core of the environmental argument. Rather than being especially interested in the cost of power, even including a carbon price, the green extreme wants us to consume less electricity, considering the lifestyle our abundant coal and gas make possible an insult to the environment. That many dismiss nuclear power makes the point. Nuclear generators are expensive to build, produce waste that must be safely stored forever and on straightforward production costs cannot compete against power stations using Australia’s abundant coal and gas reserves. But nuclear power plants are vastly cleaner in terms of carbon than coal, and produce effectively endless electricity.

source: theaustralian

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