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STANDING COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRY AND RESOURCES
Developing Australia's non-fossil fuel energy industry
House of Reps
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRY AND RESOURCES
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
Developing Australia's non-fossil fuel energy industry
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRY AND RESOURCES
(House of Representatives-Friday, 19 August 2005)
CHAIR (Mr Prosser)
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
HILL, Dr Roderick Jeffrey
HORN, Mr Cedric Murray
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
RUFF, Associate Professor Tilman Alfred
HAWKINS, Ms Dimity
RAYNER, Mr Lindsay
MUDD, Dr Gavin Mark
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
GREEN, Dr Jim
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
STUBBS, Miss Michaela
NOONAN, Mr David Joseph
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
SWEENEY, Mr Dave
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
HORE-LACY, Mr Ian
ACTING CHAIR (Mr Hatton)
BRUNT, Mr David Andrew
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON
CHALMERS, Mr Mark
- Dr Hill
Content WindowSTANDING COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRY AND RESOURCES - 19/08/2005 - Developing Australia's non-fossil fuel energy industry
CHAIR —Thank you for agreeing to give evidence before this committee, the public hearing today. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that the hearings are a formal proceeding of the parliament and remind you that the giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. I also remind you the committee prefers that all evidence be given in public. However, at any stage you may request your evidence to be given in private and the committee will then give consideration to your request. I invite you to make a short opening statement before we proceed to questions.
Miss Stubbs —Friends of the Earth is a non-profit non-government organisation, which is committed to social justice and environmental sustainability. We recognise that these two issues are inextricably linked. Friends of the Earth believes that social impact assessment, consultation and approval processes with traditional owners and affected Aboriginal people is inadequate. This issue needs to be addressed within the structure and regulatory environment of the uranium mining sector. There need to be corporate codes of conduct which are taken up by government at national and state levels.
The current situation is unacceptable, where there are people with legitimate concerns who are being excluded from any negotiation or consultation process. There is a demand for empirical improvement in existing operations which include clear recognition of the rights of Indigenous communities and traditional owners. We travel regularly to meet with traditional owners and Aboriginal communities affected by uranium mining.
Many have expressed disapproval at the activities of mining companies on their land and they have raised serious concerns about the damage being done to their country and sacred sites and the inadequacies of the consultative process. Companies go into communities that do not necessarily have independent expertise in those fields and the ability to translate that information into language or culturally appropriate material. Friends of the Earth is extremely concerned that this happens without an independent observation of this process.
When a community does say no, it is not acceptable for these companies with power and influence to keep pressuring that community, whether by offers of various opportunities—be they financial, access to employment or health and education services—or by threat of legal action. People should not be in a position where they have to support uranium mining to get economic benefit. These should be the interests of the government and not a trade-off for allowing companies access to mineral wealth.
We have seen mining companies frequently involved in establishing small Aboriginal groups who are willing to support their activities, and providing financial support. These groups are then regarded by the company as the official representatives and they proceed to consult with them. This gives the appearance that they are going through the correct process whilst ignoring others with legitimate interests. These divisive tactics used in the past have been well documented.
The division in communities and ongoing damage caused by companies has not been addressed. Open and inclusive community consultation and negotiation processes should be established and administered by an independent body. Mining companies must not have control of these processes or have veto over who is considered a stakeholder. There are many other ways in which mining companies impose on the rights of traditional owners and Aboriginal communities, including manipulation of the Native Title Act, excluding participation at the environmental impact statement stage in various ways and overriding the Aboriginal Heritage Act. These situations are not unique to one particular project. They have occurred in every community where uranium mining occurs.
I would like to refer to the opening statement made by Mirrar senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula to this inquiry. She points out that the community overall has not benefited from uranium mining and that the mining royalties have not improved their quality of life. The traditional owners have been pushed aside by people in government, mining companies and Aboriginal organisations who do their bidding. Once these people get their project up and running, the problems of the communities are ignored. She expresses concern for long-term environmental contamination and toxins entering the food chain. These concerns are echoed everywhere that uranium mining has occurred.
The Mirrar right of veto for the Jabiluka mineral lease is a good example of a positive outcome for an Indigenous community opposed to specific projects. This came about by the Mirrar traditional owners’ struggle and public pressure on the company, but these rights of veto should be available to all with legitimate interests and should be upheld at a Commonwealth government level.
Mining is a privilege, not a fundamental right. It involves the Commonwealth and a private company undertaking a project for commercial gain. The company must therefore prove that it can manage its operation in a responsible and just way. If the government has the capacity to approve or disallow a project, it is appropriate that it is fully aware of the impact of these projects. There needs to be a thorough independent investigation of past dealings of mining companies with traditional owners and Aboriginal communities which have been seriously flawed. A comprehensive plan for future engagement in processes should be designed, in consultation with Aboriginal people, and implemented before further developments occur.
As a final note, I would like to point out the inaccessibility of inquiries such as these to those traditional owners and Aboriginal communities that are most directly impacted by uranium mining. There has been no attempt to make this an inclusive process.
CHAIR —Thank you. Can you explain to the committee how you obtained the figure on page 5 of your submission which claims that a doubling of nuclear power by the year 2050 would only result in a five per cent decrease in greenhouse emissions?
Dr Green —That is based on numerous reports. I am happy to provide the references to the committee on request. I can summarise them here. Friends of the Earth UK’s 2004 report looks at a doubling of UK nuclear output and arrives at a reduction of eight per cent in greenhouse gas emissions vis-a-vis fossil fuels. For various reasons, that is somewhat of an overestimate because it inadequately reflects growing energy demand and various other factors.
Feiverson, a scientist, calculates that if global nuclear power grew at just over two per cent per year until 2050 to an installed capacity in that year of 1,000 gigawatts, which is slightly under three times the current output, total cumulative carbon emissions projected during this period would be reduced by about eight per cent. That Feiverson report is certainly worth looking at.
The Nuclear Information and Resource Service says that if nuclear power was to account for 70 per cent of electricity by 2100, 115 reactors would have to be built each year. That is 10,000 new reactors, so that is one of the issues that arises when you are looking at a nuclear solution to climate change. It is totally impractical. Even if we were to have over 10,000 nuclear reactors by the end of the century, that would still result in emission reductions relative to fossil fuels of just 16 per cent. If the committee would like the references, I am happy to provide them.
CHAIR —Following on from that, a number of prominent environmentalists—namely, James Lovelock, Patrick Moore, the Greenpeace founder, and, relevant to your organisation, Hugh Montefiore—have stated that the rapid expansion of nuclear energy is necessary to avert an environmental calamity. How do you respond to that?
Dr Green —Very simply. You could name a handful of people. You have named a couple there. I could name a couple of others. There is also an organisation called Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy. It has a web site which you can easily find. It claims to have 6,000-odd supporters and members.
CHAIR —So what? They are wrong?
Dr Green —I am just saying that is what they claim.
CHAIR —All right.
Dr Green —But there is no vetting of people who want to join that organisation. You join by simply filling out a brief web site form, at no cost.
CHAIR —These are fairly significant people who have been involved in the environmental movement. To now come out and make a statement like that is significant, wouldn’t you say?
Dr Green —No. I do not think when two or three or four environmentalists say something and the other 99.9 per cent of the environmental movement says something else that you can say it is a significant split. Also, it does not really matter. The essential issue is whether the arguments they are proposing have some validity. If you look at Lovelock, many of his arguments are simply promulgating the familiar propaganda that we get from the nuclear industry. Some of his arguments are quite absurd. He seriously wants to have high-level nuclear waste in his house for home heating and food irradiation.
CHAIR —And Patrick Moore?
Dr Green —What about him?
CHAIR —Why would you say that he has the view now? He is the Greenpeace founder.
Dr Green —I would like to finish with James Lovelock first. As well as that absurd statement about having high-level nuclear waste in his home—and he insists that that is a serious proposition—he also wants to use high-level nuclear waste to protect fragile ecosystems, on the supposition that people are not going to intrude into fragile ecosystems if they are protected by high-level nuclear waste. Can anyone imagine a more absurd method of protecting fragile ecosystems?
CHAIR —And Patrick Moore?
Dr Green —We take the arguments on their merits. Too many of the arguments are simply restating the propaganda of the industry. One thing I noticed with Lovelock, and to a lesser extent with Moore, is that they are simply not up to speed with the central and the unresolvable problem of the nuclear industry, which is the contribution to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Lovelock has said absolutely nothing on that topic.
CHAIR —What about Hugh Montefiore, who was for two decades trustee of Friends of the Earth?
Dr Green —He is more interesting; firstly, because there is no question of his environmental credentials and his honesty and his integrity. Also, his arguments are somewhat more moderate than those put forward by people like Lovelock. But still, he is sceptical about the capacity for renewables and energy efficiency to meet the challenges that we face. There is no doubt that those challenges are immense and it is going to be difficult to move towards a clean energy future. That does not mean it is impossible and it does not mean that we need a nuclear fix, since nuclear cannot do the job anyway and since nuclear is the only form of energy with a direct connection to weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps I could summarise that problem in just a little bit more detail.
The nuclear power industry has resulted in the production of 1,600 tonnes of plutonium. If we allow 10 kilograms per bomb, that is enough plutonium for 160,000 nuclear weapons. Each year nuclear power reactors are producing enough plutonium to build 7,000 nuclear weapons. Let us say we can indefinitely safeguard 99 per cent of the existing stockpile of plutonium against military use. That still leaves one per cent of the plutonium, which would suffice for 1,600 nuclear weapons. That is an immense challenge and that is going to get far worse if we are looking at a nuclear fix for climate change.
It is also a matter of historical record that of the 60 countries which have developed a nuclear industry to any significant extent, including a power and/or research reactor, over 20 of those countries have used their supposedly peaceful nuclear facilities and materials for weapons research and/or production. That is a strike rate of one in three. In some of those cases the weapons work was short-lived and small-scale but in other cases the peaceful nuclear facilities and materials have led directly to the production of arsenals of nuclear weapons.
The cases in point there are Israel and India, which have used so-called research reactors to produce plutonium for their arsenals of nuclear weapons. Pakistan and South Africa have used supposedly peaceful enrichment plants to produce highly enriched uranium for their arsenals of nuclear weapons. North Korea claims to have produced highly enriched uranium weapons and also has a so-called experimental power reactor which is implicated in their weapons program. As I say, over 20 countries have made some level of progress towards weapons capability using their supposedly peaceful nuclear materials.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —I understand the importance of consultation with the Indigenous community. I can see a dramatic improvement in the performance of the resources sector generally in recent times. Do you think the process is worse with respect to uranium mining than mining generally in Australia, including gas et cetera? If so, on what basis do you make that suggestion? This is an issue of major interest to me.
Miss Stubbs —I clearly have not suggested that by the comments that I have made. Since the terms of reference of this inquiry are specifically about uranium mining, that is what I have addressed here.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —That is why I wanted to know. I cannot see any difference in the process of consultation between the particular resource sectors.
Miss Stubbs —If that is so, then the consultative processes with other industry sectors are also flawed. These improvements need to be made clearly across the mining sector.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Do you therefore believe, for example, that Aboriginal organisations such as the Northern Land Council, the Central Land Council and a whole host of other land councils around Australia are letting the Indigenous community down in terms of their representation and negotiations with mining companies?
Miss Stubbs —That is not what I am saying at all. What I am pointing out—and this is from experience of speaking with people involved in these communities—is that the concerns are there; that the consultative processes have been seriously flawed. This includes by people who are still involved in those processes. But in many cases there have been parties with legitimate interests that have been excluded from these consultative processes by a range of different means.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —In Kakadu there was a view amongst a lot of Indigenous people that they have been excluded, and the only people consulted were the Mirrar people, and that they ought to be consulted because it is also their backyard.
Miss Stubbs —This points out that there does need to be clear consultation with all interested parties. We also need to recognise that there have been many cases where mining companies have chosen who they are going to deal with. They should not have control over saying, ‘Okay, we’re going to speak to these people but not somebody else.’ As long as the mining companies have veto over who they consider—
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —The people identify themselves as traditional owners, don’t they? Therefore, they have to be consulted.
Miss Stubbs —Yes, absolutely. They should be. It is not just a matter of them being consulted; there are flaws that remain within those consultative processes. Often that is, like I expressed in my initial statement, that they do not necessarily have adequate tools to deal with this information and to translate that into language and culturally appropriate material that is accessible for everybody involved.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Despite the fact they are generally represented by highly paid non-Indigenous people, including lawyers, accountants et cetera?
Miss Stubbs —Exactly. Sometimes these processes have also been funded by the companies themselves. That does not show a clear independent interest.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —In terms of social good, I agree there is an obligation on government to do whatever it can on health, education and infrastructure. In terms of royalties, they tend to go directly to traditional owners with no obligation to invest in some of that infrastructure; to build on the foundations. Do you think there ought to be a review of government policy that would require some of those royalties paid by companies to go to improvements in health, education, job creation and training, rather than just monetary payments?
Miss Stubbs —To begin with, these traditional owners and Aboriginal communities should not have to rely on the royalties of mining companies, for those basic reasons.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —But I did not say that. If the Indigenous community actually decides—and they are on a regular basis deciding that resource development is to their advantage—do you think governments should think through, also, policy with respect to royalties not just being paid in monetary payments but certain proportions potentially being allocated to assist in the improvements of health and educational facilities and training?
Miss Stubbs —I think that you are really getting away from the central points here. The government does not say where the mining company has to spend their profits from these operations and, like I said before, they should not have to rely on royalties from these moneys to provide those services.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —I accept that.
Miss Stubbs —Those services should be provided already.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —It is about building on existing services that ought to be provided by government. I do not question that.
Dr Green —Or existing lack of services.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —I do not question that. In terms of Jabiluka, if the Mirrar people decided to approve the mining of Jabiluka, and you say it is principally their decision, should that go ahead?
Miss Stubbs —Obviously we respect the rights of traditional owners to make a decision over what developments they want to occur on their land, but we would still oppose those developments and the environmental impacts of those, both locally in Australia and globally.
Mr ADAMS —That is pretty elitist.
Miss Stubbs —It is not elitist at all.
Dr Green —In what sense do you make that assertion, Mr Adams?
Mr ADAMS —She made the statement. I am saying that it is elitist.
Dr Green —In what sense?
Mr ADAMS —You are saying, ‘We have a view which is above the traditional owners.’
Dr Green —We are saying that we respect their rights and their decisions.
Mr ADAMS —’But we are smarter. We know better.’
Dr Green —No. We have a range of other concerns to do with weapons proliferation and to do with the high-level waste around the world.
Mr ADAMS —You are saying, ‘We are smarter than you. We know better.’
Miss Stubbs —Absolutely not! That is totally opposed to the view that we are expressing. I would like to know upon what grounds you would make such insinuations.
Mr ADAMS —You are saying that the traditional owners have made a decision but you do not accept that they have a right to make that decision.
Miss Stubbs —No, we do. I said we respect their right to make that decision.
Mr ADAMS —But you think they are wrong.
Miss Stubbs —But our opposition to uranium mining and its global impacts, as well as those environmental impacts on the site, are our concern also.
Mr ADAMS —I say that is an elitist view.
Dr Green —I say that you are verballing the witness and that Mr Prosser should draw you into line for doing so.
CHAIR —If you do not carry on with the hearing, I will pull you into line.
Mr ADAMS —Who do you think you are? Where do you come from?
Dr Green —I come from Friends of the Earth Australia.
Mr ADAMS —Yes, Friends of the Earth.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —I want to go to the issue of international safeguards. You raise questions about the management of Australian obligated nuclear material. What suggestions do you have in terms of how we can improve that management? That is what I am looking for from your raising of that issue.
Dr Green —Where do you start? I could rattle off half a dozen examples of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office making false and misleading statements.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —I want that material. We need to be informed of this.
Dr Green —Do you want it now—
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Yes, please.
Dr Green —or do you want it in writing?
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —I want it now, and you can follow it up with a further submission if you want to. If there are weaknesses—that is why we are having this inquiry—we actually want to find out.
Dr Green —Argument 1: root-and-branch reform of the national Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office for systematically making false and misleading comments. I will give you six examples. Carlson, the head of the Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, says:
... in some of the countries having nuclear weapons, nuclear power remains insignificant or non-existent.
Yet, as he knows, nuclear power exists in all but one of the nuclear weapons states—formal or informal weapons states—and in most of the nuclear weapons states there is a significant nuclear power industry. In fact, the five declared nuclear weapons states account for 60 per cent of nuclear power output. That is no coincidence. The civil nuclear programs provide vast pools of expertise from which the military programs draw. Argument 2, Carlson says:
If we look to the history of nuclear weapons development, we can see that those countries with nuclear weapons developed them before they developed nuclear power programs.
That is just false. In Israel, India, Pakistan and South Africa, civil nuclear programs clearly did pave the way for the successful development of nuclear weapons. In Israel it was more the stated interest in developing nuclear power than the development per se.
Argument 3: ASNO, the Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, and Carlson make statements about the weapons useability of reactor-grade plutonium, which are clearly out of step with the vast majority of scientific opinion. The Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office also implies that the United States is lying when it says that it carried out a test using reactor-grade plutonium in 1962. To the best of my knowledge, the Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office has not had the courtesy to explicitly state that to the Americans. Carlson says:
One of the features of Australian policy ... is very careful selection of our treaty partners. We have concluded bilateral agreements only with countries whose credentials are impeccable in this area.
Yet Australia sends uranium to weapons states which pay lip service to their NPT disarmament obligations. South Korea has just been caught carrying out a whole raft of secret nuclear weapons research projects from the early eighties to the year 2000. They could hardly be said to be impeccable. The Japanese industry could be said to be in disarray because of a series of safety data falsification scandals covering all of the nuclear utilities in Japan.
And one final example: Carlson says that weapons-grade plutonium is not produced in the normal operation of power reactors. That is simply not true. In the normal operation of power reactors you do get the generation of weapons-grade plutonium but it is then converted within the reactor to fuel grade and then reactor-grade plutonium. Carlson’s statement is also misleading in that he ignores the possibility of abnormal operations, which is very simple. You simply irradiate the fuel for a shorter period of time and you get a high grade of plutonium.
Also you will hear statements from ASNO and from people like Hore-Lacey from the Uranium Information Centre that power reactors have never been used to produce plutonium for bombs. It is unlikely to be true. The 1962 American test is a case in point. India and possibly also Pakistan may well have used power reactors to produce plutonium for bombs. But, more to the point, they are just simply misleading the public yet again because it has been research reactors which have produced the plutonium for the arsenals in both India and Israel and possibly also North Korea.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —I would like you to expand on that and follow it up with a written submission. Can you also identify how we, in terms of pursuing the implementation of our bilaterals, can tighten up with respect to the policing of those processes? It is a condition of our exports that we enter into bilaterals.
Dr Green —Yes. You would need to totally revise all of the treaties, I think. For starters, there are totally unjustifiable secrecy provisions within the treaties. We know how much separated plutonium exists in a whole range of countries—it is about 600 kilograms—but we do not get country by country breakdowns. Can anyone begin to imagine why we should not know how much separated plutonium Japan holds of Australian origin? Can anyone imagine the justification for that?
Mr HATTON —Can anyone imagine Japan going down the track for developing nuclear weapons?
Dr Green —Yes, they can.
Mr HATTON —You can, and you think they will, despite Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Dr Green —I did not say I think they will. Can you list the countries which neighbour Japan, Mr Hatton?
Mr HATTON —I know what countries neighbour Japan. I know that China and North Korea are significant problems—
Dr Green —China is a nuclear weapons state. North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons. South Korea has just been caught carrying out a raft of secret nuclear weapons research programs.
Mr HATTON —Is there any extant evidence—
Dr Green —North Korea firing a missile over Japan some years ago.
Mr HATTON —Is there any extant evidence of Japan going down the track of developing a nuclear weapons program?
Dr Green —Yes. There are numerous statements from Japanese politicians, some of them high ranking, and also from people outside the political establishment, such as military people, saying that Japan should develop nuclear weapons or Japan should consider developing nuclear weapons.
Mr HATTON —Is there any extant evidence that they have so far?
Dr Green —Has anyone suggested that they have?
Mr HATTON —No, I am asking the question. What you said was that they had significant stores of plutonium that were effectively weapons-grade plutonium; that would have been developed, I imagine your argument is, from Australian—
Dr Green —I did not say weapons-grade plutonium.
Mr HATTON —Okay, just separated plutonium.
Dr Green —Separated plutonium which could be used in weapons.
Mr HATTON —Which could be used in weapons, right, and that uranium was supplied by Australia or supplied by elsewhere.
Dr Green —Yes.
Mr HATTON —What is the point of your argument: that they would provide it to someone else to make nuclear weapons or that they would actually make their own program?
Dr Green —There are two problems. One is the risk that Japan will go nuclear and that is certainly a serious possibility because of the regional tensions. The other issue—and this is the most troubling of all in some respects—is that even without going down the nuclear path in a formal sense, Japan’s plutonium stockpile creates significant regional tensions. I might dig up a relevant quote there because it is quite an important issue. The quote comes from an American ambassador to Japan who was writing in 1993—Secretary Armacost—and diplomatic cables 1993-94 from US ambassadors in Tokyo. US ambassadors in Tokyo—not Friends of the Earth in Tokyo—described Japan’s accumulation of plutonium as ‘massive’ and questioned the rationale for the stockpiling of so much plutonium, since it appeared to be economically unjustified.
A March 1993 diplomatic cable from US Ambassador Armacost, in Tokyo, to US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, obtained under FOI legislation, posed these questions:
Can Japan expect that if it embarks on a massive plutonium recycling program that Korea and other nations would not press ahead with reprocessing programs? Would not the perception of Japan’s being awash in plutonium and possessing leading edge rocket technology create anxiety in the region?
The answer is yes, it does create anxiety in the region. You can easily draw a line between Japan’s plutonium program and what South Korea has been doing for the last 20 years, secretly and in violation of its NPT obligations. You can draw a line between North Korea and China and Japan. It is all an absolute mess. As Professor Broinowski says, North-East Asia is a disaster waiting to happen, and we are providing the raw materials.
Mr HATTON —Given the North Korea situation where we know they have developed that capacity in secret, we know that China is an existing weapons state, that Japan—having stores of plutonium—is really a driver for China to be significantly concerned. Although they have no nuclear weapons, they just have stores of plutonium, that should drive China to be really concerned and think they might be attacked as a result of that.
Dr Green —Put yourself in the position of someone in the Chinese military state. You would obviously be framing your decisions as to your nuclear arsenal with some thought given to Japan’s situation and Japan’s status as a break-out or threshold nuclear state, would you not?
Mr HATTON —How is it a break-out or threshold nuclear state?
Dr Green —It has the raw materials, the technological and industrial infrastructure and expertise to build nuclear weapons in a very short space of time.
Mr HATTON —Is it a break-out state? Has it broken out? I think you have said it has not, but you would still regard it as a break-out state because of its potential, not its actuality?
Dr Green —Using the terminology, by convention when we say ‘a nuclear break-out state’ we are talking about a state with the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in a short space of time and, in Japan’s case, using feed stock supplied by Australia.
Mr HATTON —I might start where I wanted to come from, and that is ground zero for you is that you are against any nuclear use at all in any form?
Dr Green —No, not at all. We are totally pro nuclear when it comes to solar power—biggest fusion reactor you will ever see.
Mr HATTON —You mean the sun.
Dr Green —Absolutely. It can supply more power than any of us could ever want and, best of all, it is 150 million kilometres away, so there is zero risk of it contributing to nuclear weapons proliferation and none of those other problems such as radioactive waste. We also support the use of accelerator spallation technology for medical and scientific applications.
Mr HATTON —Using accelerators but not using research reactors like Lucas Heights?
Dr Green —That is right.
Mr HATTON —The sun does have some attendant problems and risks in terms of the gamma rays it puts out and all the rest of it. It does not come free of problems and difficulties, but your fundamental approach is that the mining of uranium, civil use of power and all the rest of it is that you are completely against that?
Dr Green —No, not as a matter of principle but because the safety and proliferation problems have not been resolved, the waste management problems have not been resolved—
Mr HATTON —So if all those things were resolved—
Dr Green —and this whole history of radioactive racism persists. I was surprised to hear Mr Ferguson say that there have been improvements in this regard, because I would have thought Jabiluka was one of the most outrageous and disgraceful examples of radioactive racism in Australia, and that was only a few years ago.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Just so you know, I am in regular consultation with resource companies across a whole range of sectors. Any fair-minded person would acknowledge there has been improvement with respect to the attitude of mining companies to the Indigenous community in terms of consultation and trying to get long-term outcomes of benefit to the Indigenous community. To put your head in the sand and deny that is undermining your credibility.
Dr Green —I am not commenting on that broader statement of yours, Mr Ferguson. I am saying that if there is an improvement more generally, it is certainly not evident in the nuclear field, and Jabiluka is one of the most striking examples of radioactive racism ever. You only have to go back a few more years to the mid-nineties and you had WMC sidestepping Arabunna to get a pipeline across Arabunna land to Roxby Downs; again, one of the most outrageous and disgraceful examples of radioactive racism. That is just one decade ago.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Why don’t you go and talk to a few land councils about the approval of the processes relating to the Darwin-Alice Springs railway or the proposed gas pipeline through Wadeye to Gove? There were absolute endeavours to properly consult the Indigenous community, including looking after sacred sites. The world has moved on. It is about time people in the Australian community understood that the resource sector is generally absolutely committed to doing the right thing by the Indigenous community.
Dr Green —Including the uranium mining industry?
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —It is interesting that it was Rio, through ERA, that made the decision that Jabiluka will not go unless the Indigenous community approve it.
Dr Green —I know. Let us make that the norm rather than the exception and let us have that as the norm without the Mirrar having to fight long and hard—
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Also, the other side of that coin is if that is to be the case and the Indigenous community in a given area approve uranium mining, then that is also the norm and it should go ahead.
Miss Stubbs —There has also been no move on the part of these mining companies, that have caused these divisions in the past, to rectify the problems they have caused. The division, damage and distress they have caused to communities continues on today.
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —I would have thought damage and distress is more related to problems generally with respect to alcohol and drugs and a whole range of issues. We have created an unholy nightmare for our Indigenous community with respect to not problems created by the mining industry but us generally, as a society.
Dr Green —Do you think it caused something other than distress when Yvonne Margarula got arrested for walking onto her own land?
Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —There are a lot of other people in Arnhem Land who support uranium mining. Perhaps they ought to be consulted too.
CHAIR —We are getting off the track a bit.
Mr HATTON —Something I struggle to understand is proliferation risks. You argue that civil nuclear programs also support nuclear weapons programs in the five declared nuclear weapons states—the US, Russia, the UK, France and China—in particular, civil programs provide pools of expertise from which military programs draw. Is it not a chicken and egg situation? The weapons programs and the missiles came before the nuclear programs. The argument we had with the previous person who was here, Dr Mudd, was pretty simple. He said if you start with the weapons program initiated in the Manhattan Project in 1942 until you get the nuclear weapons used at the end of World War II, then those secrets stolen by the Russians, the Chinese being given it from the Russians—the UK was a direct beneficiary of the Manhattan Project. They were involved in it. France got access to that material pretty quickly.
The key states that were involved had weapons programs well before they developed any civil nuclear program. Is it not an inversion to argue that the core problem here is the civil program, rather than the fact that nuclear weapons were developed and used at the end of World War II? The capacity and the extension of that development of nuclear weapons is separable from their nuclear civil programs that did not come for a decade and a half or more.
Dr Green —You are ignoring a few points. You are ignoring the fact that at the moment the five declared nuclear weapon states account for 60 per cent of global nuclear output and that there is frequent transfer of personnel to and from the civil program to the military program.
Mr HATTON —But initially weren’t the weapons developed in place?
Dr Green —Yes, in the five declared nuclear weapon states. In the other weapon states, the civil nuclear programs provided the fundamental basis for the development of their arsenals.
Mr HATTON —Let us just concentrate on the—
Dr Green —But why?
Mr HATTON —Because I am choosing to ask the questions, not you, that is why. I would like to understand why all of the emphasis is put on the civil when, in the key nuclear powers—have a look at them; have a look at the Security Council of the United Nations—the development of their programs was initially exclusively to develop nuclear weapons and provide nuclear weapons arsenals against each other, and to go thermonuclear, in the United States case, and then have that information given to Russia. The mutually assured destruction of the 1960s was based not on civil capacity and civil power production; it was based on the development of enormous arsenals and the continued development, in technological and innovation terms, by Russia, the United States, China, the UK and France.
Dr Green —Do you dispute that 20-plus countries have used their civil nuclear programs for some level of weapons research and/or production and that four or five countries have gone all the way, using their civil programs to develop arsenals of nuclear weapons?
CHAIR —Dr Green, I would urge you to answer the questions, not ask questions. For you to ask questions is disorderly and I could remove you from the meeting. Please answer the questions.
Dr Green —I do not think he asked a question anyway. Did you?
Mr HATTON —Yes, I did ask a question. The rebuttal was an attempted rhetorical response. The main nuclear states have developed weapons programs first. They developed civil programs after that. Once those weapons programs were in place and the arsenals built, we had the development of other weapons programs from other countries, not all of which were dependent upon their civil nuclear programs.
Dr Green —To a very large extent they were dependent on those civil programs.
Mr HATTON —The stress of your argument here is that civil comes before the military use, whereas in fact the development historically is entirely the other way. You may be against nuclear use altogether or virtually altogether. I think that is the approach that you are taking. I know it is convenient to put the stress on civil power production through nuclear means.
Dr Green —Isn’t this an inquiry into the civil nuclear industry?
Mr HATTON —Yes, but if it were just that, then the evidence that you would have given us, the evidence Dr Mudd gave us, the evidence that the doctors against nuclear warfare gave us, the evidence that other groups are giving us, would not be making an absolute conjunction between civil nuclear production and weapons use and related military uses. We have had earlier evidence today that they are virtually one and the same thing and almost indistinguishable. I think your arguments are running along the same lines. It just seems a conundrum to me that historically it is the other way around.
Dr Green —In some states.
Mr HATTON —In the key states with most production.
Dr Green —Who says what is key and what is not? I would have thought that South Asia—India and Pakistan—was very much a nuclear hot spot. They developed civil programs—ostensibly civil programs—and then that led to production of arsenals of nuclear weapons.
Mr HATTON —Yes, I know that happened, but you have also said that 60 per cent of civil nuclear power is in those key leading states and you have made a conjunction to say that it is just swapping those people from one to the other, that it is indistinguishable effectively, so therefore the civilian use of nuclear power can be condemned on that basis. Is that not true?
Dr Green —Not entirely, but it is a problem, and I think a useful way to phrase this is: let us imagine the history of the last 50 to 60 years without the development of civil applications of nuclear technology. We would imagine that most or all of the five declared nuclear weapon states would have gone ahead and developed arsenals of nuclear weapons, so we are agreed on that point.
Mr HATTON —Yes.
Dr Green —It might also be the case that one or more of the five declared nuclear weapon states would abandon its arsenal of nuclear weapons if it did not have the synergies and the economies of scale that come from having a significant nuclear power sector. Another crucial point is that it is unlikely that any of the non-declared nuclear weapon states would have developed arsenals of nuclear weapons if not for being able to ride their weapons programs on an ostensibly civil program. We would almost certainly have fewer nuclear weapon states in the world today if not for civil nuclear power.
Mr HATTON —Let us go back a step in terms of development of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the fundamental agreement at the core of that. Whether it has worked well or ill, certainly you could argue that it has not worked as well as it should have. A core provision is that those people who are mining uranium—countries such as Australia—or those who wish to build civil programs—electricity production based on civil nuclear reactors—had to sign up to not be engaged in proliferation and they had to sign up to the peaceful uses of that material. Those who did not sign up had no such provision in relation to them. You know that India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has not stopped it from (1) having a civil program, or (2) developing a weapons program. And those other countries that were not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have not been retarded in any material way, given that the technologies exist. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is an attempt to contain, an attempt to control the situation. Whether it has been breached, whether it has been broken, whether it has been cast aside by some, it is the most significant approach the world has had historically to try to contain this technology once it was developed, is it not?
Dr Green —No. Go back to Atoms for Peace and extensions of that, leading up to the NPT and IAEA safeguards. It is not just containing. It is also proliferating—proliferating civil technologies despite their dual-use capabilities. As for safeguards, the more the better, but the system has been shown to be flawed. We usually talk about Iraq here because Iraq exploited each and every loophole in the system, so you cannot say that safeguards in the NPT and IAEA system hindered Iraq. On the contrary, it was the basis upon which they built their nuclear weapons program, exploiting each and every loophole.
Mr HATTON —I think it is demonstrable, given what has recently happened in Iraq, that there was an enormous amount of bluff and bluster and a country that wanted to demonstrate that it was a great regional power, and in fact wanted to become a larger regional power, but their capacity was fundamentally proscribed in the 1991-92 war, and that the period after that—not allowing the weapons inspectors in and all the rest of it—was one of the greatest con jobs in history.
Mr ADAMS —Dr Green, I apologise if Miss Stubbs felt I was badgering her. That was not my intention. I accept your right to be here and to give evidence, Miss Stubbs. The issue is about uranium and it is about energy in the world. There is a shortage of energy in the world. We are facing a crisis in world terms. China is driving some of this because of its growth and where it is moving to industrialise and improve its quality of life. I take it that you are totally opposed to uranium mining and nuclear energy. What other sources can we offer countries like China to continue to improve or to industrialise in the way that they have, when they would argue that the West has used nuclear energy and many other sources to improve its quality of life?
Dr Green —I think it is a really interesting question. It is an important and a valid question, but in some respects it is the wrong question, because it is the Western countries who are primarily responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and the unfolding problem of climate change. It is still the Western countries with vastly greater per capita emissions, far greater than India or China, so it is upon us that the responsibility lies to take the lead in addressing these questions.
As for what we can do for China: supporting Chinese moves to address energy demand through efficiency measures, demand reduction, and doing similar things much more energy efficiently, and helping them to develop clean energy technologies, the same sorts that should be developed everywhere, which are a mix of solar—also solar water heating—wind, wave, geothermal, biomass and all the rest of it.
Mr ADAMS —Dam building.
Dr Green —I do not really have a response to that, because I am not quite sure what you are getting at. There is a question as to large hydro, isn’t there? Usually when you are talking about people interested in a clean energy future, there is a distinction made between large dams, with major environmental and social impacts, and small-scale hydro, which can be done much better.
Mr ADAMS —Small is beautiful!
Dr Green —Not necessarily, not if you are losing efficiencies along the way. I am not supposed to be asking questions, but if I can throw one into the air in relation to China: would a Chinese nuclear industry whistleblower be sent to a prison/re-education camp or would they be executed immediately?
Mr ADAMS —I do not know the answer to that.
Dr Green —Does anyone have an answer?
CHAIR —The committee will not take that question. Thank you for your evidence here today. Dr Green, you said that you were going to give some documents to the committee and table some further information. If you have that information, I would like you to hand it to the secretariat right now, thank you.
Dr Green —I do not have it now, so I will submit it separately.