The Guardian • Issue #2101

EDITORIAL

Hiding behind Dutton’s nuclear idiocy

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2101

Opposition leader Peter Dutton is sticking by nuclear energy for Australia as though it’s a real policy. The idea has been described as “idiotic”, as well as a time-wasting distraction. Dutton’s plan is all of those things, but it’s worse than that.

Here’s what’s wrong with the plan in a nutshell. It would take a lot of time to build. That’s time we don’t have because Climate Change is upon us right now. It would cost – so much money, that we’d have to pay for it either with higher taxes or a hefty levy on our power bills. Dutton’s line is that nuclear power would have to pay for itself, but he knows it can’t do that. The last US reactor to be built lost a fortune and is being paid for by an indefinite levy on the power bills of everyone in the state where it was built. If Australia tried to build nuclear, the costs would be worse and the times would be longer because this country doesn’t have the experience of building large-scale nuclear reactors.

Peter Dutton knows all this – at least he should. He was part of a government from 2013 to 2022. That’s enough time to get started on a few nuclear reactors if it’s such a good idea. The last government had access to authoritative reports showing that nuclear would be insanely expensive, and that massive investment in renewable energy would be a much better path to both lower carbon emissions and lower power bills. If Dutton doesn’t know all this, it’s because he doesn’t want to know. Dutton did nothing about nuclear then. The Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison governments he served in didn’t want to go near the issue.

Nuclear is popular with the people who like it in this country because of what is not. Nuclear isn’t renewable energy, and it’s not effective action on carbon emissions. That’s why Dutton likes it.

Characteristically, Dutton has attacked the CSIRO, rather than respond to the substantial points they’ve made about nuclear. He has to do that because he has no answer to the facts about costs, safety, and the feasibility of building any kind of nuclear reactor.

It’s not that nuclear power does nothing. What it does is suck up enormous amounts of time and money that would otherwise be spent on decarbonising our economy. Nuclear is a delaying tactic. That’s why a lot of people who are enthusiastic about nuclear absolutely loathe renewable energy and the idea of closing down coal and gas power in Australia.

While everyone knows about the dangers of nuclear power when it goes wrong, there’s another danger that needs attention. Nuclear is helping fossil fuel companies harm Australians right now. How? By providing an alibi to Anthony Albanese’s government and its efforts to prolong the use of coal and gas. Unlike Peter Dutton, Anthony Albanese is in government right now. He can hurt us now, instead of promising to heat the planet later, the way Dutton does.

Albanese is harming every Australian in at least two ways. Firstly by putting serious amounts of our money into Carbon Capture and Storage – a technology that promises to suck carbon out of the atmosphere, but only succeeds in sucking enormous amounts of cash out of governments, while prolonging the life of harmful fossil fuel extraction and use.

The Labor government is also harming Australians by promoting gas extraction and usage. Albanese has continued the Liberal-National government’s pattern of allowing corporations to export Australian gas for almost nothing, then pretending that there’s a looming gas shortage which justifies more gas extraction.

Dutton’s nuclear nonsense is another reason to not vote Liberal come next Federal election. Albanese’s CCS and Gas Strategies are reasons to campaign right now.

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