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Australia must consider nuclear energy.



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Tue, 29th July 2008 JULIE BISHOP FAIRFAX BLOG - AUSTRALIA MUST CONSIDER NUCLEAR ENERGY

The Hon Julie Bishop MP Deputy Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Employment, Business and Workplace Relations

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The latest statistics released by the National Greenhouse Office show that Australia reduced its greenhouse gas emissions per person by almost 14% between 1990 and 2006.

While this is encouraging, over that same time frame there was a 40% increase in emissions from electricity generation, the vast majority of which is coal-fired.

Power stations account for 50% of Australia's greenhouse emissions.

The entire transport sector accounts for 14% of emissions.

Demand for energy is forecast to increase by at least 2% per annum until 2030.

For Australia the greatest potential for reductions in emissions is in the area of electricity generation.

In pursuing alternative forms of energy, there has already been considerable investment in wind generation and a lesser investment in solar generation.

However, these technologies do not achieve significant reductions because of the intermittent nature of the supply.

Electricity generators must continue with coal and gas power infrastructure in order to maintain sufficient capacity to supply 100% of electricity demand.

Sure, when the wind blows it is possible for coal-fired power stations to reduce their level of operation but power generators cannot shut down a coal-fired station. It is not possible to judge for how long or how hard the wind will blow.

Solar power has similar difficulties in that power is not generated at night and it is less effective on cloudy days.

There are other promising technologies such as geothermal but these are not yet proven.

Currently, nuclear power is the only proven technology capable of delivering low emission reliable baseload power 24 hours per day.

The issue of nuclear power has to be debated rationally if Australia is serious about making deep cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions.

Before the last election, the Labor party mounted an irresponsible and highly emotive scare campaign about nuclear power, which means the Rudd Government will not even consider nuclear power as a possible or potential means of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

Australians should consider that some of the most environmentally aware nations on earth - such as France, Switzerland and Sweden - have significant nuclear power generation.

A group of physicists from the University of Melbourne has established a site to provide information to support a rational discussion about nuclear energy and its alternatives.

It is a good starting point for anyone interested in the debate - nuclearinfo.net

If Australia is to position itself well for a future of low emission energy, the nation must engage in a coherent debate about the nuclear option.