Flat White

Want to save the planet? Go nuclear

29 September 2021

12:17 PM

29 September 2021

12:17 PM

Amidst general gloom and doom, there’s been a small ray of light, showing that sometimes scare campaigns and endless demonisation does not work: yesterday’s polling published by Essential about Australian attitudes to nuclear energy.

Just shy of an outright majority of Australians now support nuclear energy; those opposing are in a clear minority – just under one-third of those polled. Even the easily terrified Millennials are in favour, and by a similar margin. Not surprisingly, the only group with a majority (or, again, just shy of majority) opposed are the Greens supporters; though even among the supporters of the party of environmental catastrophism and scares galore, 38 per cent are in favour of peaceful nukes.

There are some important takeaways from this poll (albeit a small sample).

Firstly, if presented and pursued well, nuclear energy could be a political winner for the Coalition to take to the next election. By contrast, Labor can be wedged on this issue, as it neatly divides the blue-collar union base (which wants more jobs) and the trendy inner-city base (which wants more windmills, just nowhere near where they live or vacation).

Secondly, nuclear power also happens to be a solid scientific proposition, and in a political climate where even many among the Coalition in Canberra are now in favour of Australia achieving “net zero” emissions by 2050, nuclear power is the only technology that can help us meet that goal – and within that timeframe.

Thirdly, Australia is ideally positioned to “go nuclear”, seeing that one-third of the global uranium supplies are buried under our ground. Currently, importers overseas are benefitting from our energy-rich ore goodness, but it makes perfect sense to use what we have domestically to power ourselves in the future. With uranium, Australia could just about become energy independent too, with exception of some sectors of the transport industry that will need fossil fuels into the foreseeable future (planes more so than cars, and with plentiful nuclear energy we could turn most of our vehicle fleet electric).

Sensible environmentalists – like Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, Michael Schellenberger, a “Time” magazine “Hero of the Environment”, even, most recently, Zion Lights, the former Extinction Rebellion spokesperson – understand that nuclear energy is the only way currently available to supply the world with clean and plentiful energy that is not based around carbon (most importantly, base energy, which most “renewables”, being intermittent, cannot provide in the absence of reliable storage technology, which as yet does not exist).

The hysteria that surrounds nuclear energy, whipped up by environmental activists over the past half a century, disguises the fact that the technology has always been among the safest – not to mention the fact that two million lives have been saved to date by the substitution of nuclear for fossil fuels, cutting down on air pollution – and is getting even safer, as it is getting progressively smaller, cheaper and more efficient, aiming to completely use up fuel and not leave any waste byproducts.

Apart from revulsion against anything nuclear, no matter how different to nuclear weapons, deep down the opposition to atomic energy has little to do with “looking after the environment”. The neo-Malthusians are wedded to the belief that there are too many of us doing too much, and so humanity needs to be limited – in numbers, in economic growth, in consumption. As Paul Ehrlich, that arch neo-Malthusian, once said, “Giving society cheap, abundant energy… would be the moral equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun”.

For those in the environmental movement more inclined towards socialism, being green is just a convenient way to get red: climate change is not a problem in and of itself but a symptom of capitalism, and so the idea is to change the system rather than play around at the edges (in the words of AOC’s former chief of staff when talking about the Green New Deal, “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”). For those people, the problem with nuclear power is that it’s just too enmeshed with capitalism – it’s big and it can’t be decentralised (like renewables);  thus it falls foul of the concept of “energy justice”. As such, it has no part in their post-capitalist utopia.

If this polling is anything to go by, the public opinion is slowly embracing common sense and science over fear and emotions. As someone rained upon by the Chernobyl cloud in my younger years, I am very much looking forward to Australia, from the Outback to the ocean, powered by our own resources.

Let us not allow failing of socialism in the past – like Chernobyl – to scare us from nuclear energy, and let us not allow socialist machinations today to deny us virtually limitless supply of CO2-free energy into the future.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where a version of this piece also appears.

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