Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Shedding some light on the nuclear energy debate



Download PDFDownload PDF

PRESS STATEMENT J T O L by the Minister for National Development and Energy

SHEDDING SOME LIGHT ON THE NUCLEAR ENERGY DEBATE

The Minister for National Development and Energy, Sir John Garrick,

said today that it was a great pity that so .much of the public

debate on nuclear matters was based on half-truths and untruths

which, in many cases, were used to generate fears about the risks of nuclear energy and to raise false expectations that alternative sources of energy were available which made nuclear energy

unnecessary.

The Minister was commenting on Senator Chipp1s statement yesterday that "the nuclear power industry is widely recognised as being on the way out", and· appealed for a more rational consideration of the issues associated with this important topic.

The Minister said that no one should overlook the significant

contribution which nuclear energy was now playing in electricity

generation throughout the world or the likelihood that this reliance on nuclear energy would increase.in the future. A tabulation prepared recently by the IAEA (see Attachment A) indicated that

there are already some 272 nuclear power reactors operating

worldwide which are producing some 154 GW of electricity. Over

80 per cent of this electricity is generated in Western industrialised" countries and represents more than a doubling of

the contribution of nuclear energy to total electricity generation in OECD countries since 1974.

A further 238 nuclear power reactors were under construction '

throughout the world at the end of 1981 and, when fully on stream, .

would provide another 222 GW of electricity.

The Minister recalled that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that, by 1990, industrialised'countries will be

relying on nuclear energy to provide about 9 per cent of total energy requirements. This compared with about 4 per cent in 1980.

In some countries the reliance on nuclear energy was very much

higher than this·. In France, for example, nuclear power stations

currently generated about 35 per cent of all electricity consumed in that country and this proportion was projected to double to 70 per cent by 1990.

>·â–  2 . .

Senator Garrick emphasised, however, that the likelihood of

an increasing reliance on nuclear energy did not stop at 1990.

The Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD has calculated that installed nuclear generating capacity between 1990 and 2000

would need to increase by between 26-40 GW of electricity per

year in the OECD countries to satisfy the projected total

demand for energy by 2000.

In the course of its major investigation of future energy

mixes the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), an independent research institution based in Vienna, concluded that nuclear energy might meet approximately 40 per

cent of the energy market by 2030. The Minister pointed out

that these projections included the provision of nuclear power

to meet the demands of developing countries, many of whom

did not have any viable alternatives if they were to aspire to the standards of living of industrialised countries.

Senator Garrick said these facts indicated, notwithstanding the resistance and opposition voiced in certain quarters, that the

nuclear energy industry was already a substantial and technically

and economically viable activity throughout the world and likely

to become even more significant in the years ahead. What is more, the Minister said, this industry had a low accident, rate

and excellent safety record .. . ·. 'Ti ; · ' ' = . · · · ·

It was of course necessary, Senator Garrick said, to distinguish

clearly between nuclear energy and nuclear weaponry, although

many opponents of nuclear energy had sought to confuse the two in the public mind. Every thinking person wished to do

everything possible to limit the threat of nuclear war, but

this was an issue separate from the need to provide nuclear

energy for electricity generation.

Senator Garrick also said it was both foolhardy and mischievious

to suggest that renewable energy sources - such as solar and

wind power and biomass - constituted a viable option to

nuclear energy's contribution to current and prospective

total energy requirements. The Minister pointed out renewable

3 .

energies currently provided less than half of one per cent of

all energy requirements within IEA countries and this proportion

was likely to be little more than 1 per cent by 1990.

Important as renewable energy sources might be in complementing

other sources at the margin, it could not realistically be

hailed as a substitute for nuclear energy.

The Minister suggested that the Australian Democrats should

have greater regard for the facts before they rush into print on nuclear energy matters. He said it was particularly

absurd for Senator Chipp to say that:

"The Federal Government is trying to implement the nuclear

power industry through the backdoor, by giving control to the

States, because of Democrat opposition."

The Minister said that the Government's position remains as

stated in his joint announcement with the Minister for Trade . and Resources on 5 June 1981 in which it was announced that the Atomic Energy Act would be replaced by more appropriate

legislation. Discussions are continuing on this basis with

the·States. .

Senator Garrick recalled his earlier statement had made it clear that new legislation would recognise ...the respective

constitutional responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States. Nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards obligations are a principal Commonwealth responsibility, he said, and

legislation in this area is being given high priority. He added that the areas of environment, health and safety

involve traditional State responsibilities, and new legislation

could be expected to reflect that· fact.

Despite Senator Chipp1s stated opposition to nuclear legislation Senator Carrick said he assumed that Senator Chipp recognised

the need for proper legislation in nuclear matters, especially non-proliferation. ·

Senator Carrick pointed out the new legislative base would not be promotional", but was intended to ensure that regulatory

processes covering nuclear activities were firmly established

before such activities arose. He noted that a recent

report of the National Energy Advisory Committee on "Nuclear

Power in Australia" had emphasised the importance of having - t '

such legislation in place in advance.

Senator Carrick said that it was clear from the information

quoted above that nuclear power was not on the way o u t ,

as Senator Chipp asserted. It was a fact of life and

it behoved everyone concerned with the provision of energy

to meet future demands to work towards ensuring that nuclear

energy was a safe and acceptable energy source.

. ' 4 .

Canberra ' 13 July 1982

Enquiries: .

Mr P . Ryan 062-477447 (home)

ATTACHMENT A

Nuclear power reactors ■ in operation and under construction at the end of 1981 In operation · Under construction

Country

Number Total Number . Total

of units . MW(e| of units MVV(e)

A r g e n t i n a 1 3 3 5 2 1 2 9 2

B e l g i u m 3 1 6 6 4 4 3 8 0 7

Brazil 3 3 1 1 6

Bulgaria 3 1 2 2 4 2 1 4 0 8

C a n a d a 11 . 5 4 9 4 1 4 9 7 5 1

" C h in a , R e p u b l i c o f " 3 2 1 5 9 3 2 7 6 5

C u b a 1 4 0 8

C z e c h o s l o v a k i a 2 8 0 0 6 2 5 2 0

F in la n d 4 2 1 6 0

F ra n ce 3 0 21 5 9 5 2 6 2 8 5 8 5

G e r m a n D e m o c r a t i c R e p u b l i c 5 1 6 9 4 · 4 1 6 4 4

G e r m a n y , F ed er a l R e p u b l i c o f 1 4 8 6 0 6 1 0 1 0 6 3 6

H u n g a r y 2 8 1 6

India 4 8 0 9 . . 4 . 8 8 0

Italy 4 1 4 1 7 . 3 1 9 9 9

J a p a n . 2 4 1 4 9 9 4 1 2 9 9 7 3

K or ea , R e p u b l i c o f 1 5 6 4 8 . 6 8 6 9

M e x i c o

N e t h e r l a n d s 2 5 0 1

2 1 3 0 8

P ak is ta n 1 1 2 5

P h i l i p p i n e s . 1 6 2 0

R o m a n i a · v ; 1 6 6 0

S o u t h A fr ic a 2 1 8 4 2

S p a i n . 4 1 9 7 3 11 ■ 1 0 1 4 2

S w e d e n 9 6 4 1 5 3 3 0 2 5

S w i t z e r l a n d 4 1 9 4 0 1 9 4 2

U n i o n o f S o v i e t S o c i a l i s t R e p u b l i c s 3 5 1 4 0 3 6 2 5 2 4 2 6 0

U n i t e d K i n g d o m 3 2 7 6 2 7 9 5 5 3 3

U n i t e d S t a t e s o f A m e r i c a 7 5 5 7 0 0 8 7 9 8 7 2 1 7

Y u g o s l a v i a . 1 6 3 2

W o r l d T o t a l 2 7 2 1 5 3 7 7 2 2 3 8 2 2 2 0 1 8

Construction in Austria and Iran has been interrupted and plants in these countries are not included.

Source: IAEA· Bulletin, Vol 2.4, No -1, March 1982 '