The Australian Energy Conundrum

By Morgan Pettersson

With the COP17 conference wrapping up in Durban, South Africa yesterday and anti nuclear protests erupting around Germany recently, it seems that climate change and alternative energy sources are still high on the public agenda.

The Australian government is implementing the controversial carbon tax next year, but they have until then to decide how to spend the $10 billion dollars set aside to be used on alternative energy sources.

The Gillard government is setting up the CEFC (Clean Energy Finance Corporation) which aims to become an independent body to invest that $10 billion in clean energy solutions and technologies.

Although, the opposition warns they will scrap the organisation if they come into power in the next elections, which will be a serious setback for not just Australia’s climate future, but the rest of the world as well.

For many the question is a simple one, the money should be spent on clean, sustainable energy such as wind and solar power.

Whilst debates are still raging over the governments interest in coal seam gas, there is another energy source they may be considering as well.

The government may be seriously considering Throium nuclear energy.

What is Thorium nuclear energy you ask? Well it actually isn’t a new development

Thorium energy has been around since the invent of uranium nuclear energy but as it couldn’t be developed into nuclear weapons it has been largely ignored.

Many are calling for Thorium to become the new alternative energy because it doesnt produce as much waste as Uranium nuclear and is seen to be much safer.

It is mined from Monazite, a deposit that Australia has large reserves of.

It is being marketed as a ‘green energy option’ with a liquid form of the fuel being meltdown proof and the waste taking less time to break down than uranium waste.

The Australian government met with Thorium Australia on the 24th and 25th of November for a Symposium outlining the benefits of investing in Thorium energy.

Whilst Thorium nuclear reactors are currently banned in Australia, this can obviously be overturned.

This was shown recently with Julia Gillards announcement to export Uranium to India thereby overturn a thirty year ban on the exportation of Uranium.

So why is the government even considering this sort of base load energy, especially after having witnessed the devastating effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Well it appears that it is keeping its options open, and in the mining crazed state any profit gained from the exportation of thorium must look attractive.

Yet even the Thorium Australia web site openly states that “There are still technical issues needing resolution before a thorium-based fuel cycle can become common.”

So even the main organization pushing for thorium in Australia knows that there are problems with it, so why is the government not focusing on renewable energy options that are known to work?

The International Energy Association released a report last month warning that the world only has five years left to find a global solution to keeping the warming of the world under two degrees.

The Australian climate and the size of our country compared to the population makes solar and wind energy a viable alternative, we dont need nuclear energy of any kind.

There is no risk associated with renewable energy, and no waste that is left over from it, which irregardless of how long it takes to break down is still harmful to the earth and its people.

Many people are already able to harness solar energy in their homes through the use of solar panels, which cut down the need to rely on coal powered electricity.

In fact a report released from the climate talks in South Africa, the ‘Clean Energy Report’, show that over one million Australians now harness solar energy in their homes.

Doesn’t this point the government towards the inevitable conclusion? That Australians want renewable energy.

Many groups, such as the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), are campaigning for the government to take clean, renewable energy seriously.

They have sent a team of 13 young people over to Durban to attend the COP17 summit on climate change to put pressure on the attending delegate to do more to combat climate change.

Sandy Chambers, a member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, has been in Durban for the pre conference youth meeting as well as attending the official United Nations meetings.

She hopes to make the Australian government and other attending world leaders realise the importance of investing in renewable energy sources.

“I aim to communicate the concerns of young Australians to our government negotiators and other world leaders. Young people are the biggest stakeholders in the climate debate. We are dependent on the decision makers of today on the kind of world we will inherit tomorrow” she says.

It is with hope that many Australians are waiting to hear the results of COP17, especially in regards to Australia’s role in the worlds climate future.

There are many more who are also waiting with baited breath to see what form of energy the government will decide to invest in, with many hoping that is it not nuclear.

Whilst the government will hopefully not choose the nuclear energy pathway there is still the mining of uranium and thorium that creates a moral dilema.

Are we in the right if we dont invest in nuclear energy, but still export uranium to other countires to fuel their nuclear plans?

So the question remains, do we take the path well travelled and commit to nuclear energy in either form even though we have already seen the devestating effects of Fukishima and Chernybol, or do we take our own path and commit to sustainable, renewable energy sources that will not harm the earth and the people of Australia.

Atomkraft. Nein, Danke.

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Comments
3 Responses to “The Australian Energy Conundrum”
  1. Geothermal says:

    Green energy has come a long way in the last decade, it will only continue to grow in the future. It’s an exciting time for invention.

  2. James Taylor says:

    Fantastic article Morgan!

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