http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070203/sc_afp/unclimateaustralia;_ylt=Atbg3c7gm2Aml7RL0lb7O8QPLBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-Australian PM uses UN climate report to push for nuclear power
by Neil Sands, Sat Feb 3, 12:26 AM ET
SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said a UN report blaming human activities for global warming bolstered the case for using nuclear energy as an alternative fuel source.
Howard's government dismissed the UN report as "nothing new" and defended its climate change polices from attacks by top scientists.
The prime minister said the report showed all options must be examined, arguing nuclear power offered a realistic alternative to carbon-producing fossil fuels, unlike wind and solar power.
"We must be open-minded and courageous enough to look at all of the options, including nuclear power.
"There is no point, in the face of such a comprehensive challenge, of ruling out consideration of something which may, over time, provide part of the solution to the problem.
"You can't run power stations on solar and wind, let's be realistic."
Australia currently has no nuclear power stations and operates only one nuclear reactor, which is used to produce isotopes for medical purposes.
Howard has frequently expressed scepticism about global warming but recently softened his stance as an election looms later this year and opinion polls show widespread public concern about the issue.
But his government remains the only developed economy to join the United States in refusing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, saying it is unfair because it does not impose caps on developing countries.
Howard defended his government's stance that Australia would only sign up to emission limits that were "economically realistic" and did not hand a competitive advantage to other countries.
"Signing Kyoto is not going to solve the problem because Kyoto does not include the world's major polluters," he said.
"We've moved on from that, and in any event Australia is going to meet our target under Kyoto. Many of our critics who have signed Kyoto will not do so."
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the report but said the Australian government had long accepted that the country must prepare for hotter and drier conditions in the future.
"The science in this report is important but it is not new," he said.
"The Australian government's response to climate change has been fast and decisive... but this is a global challenge and for the world to cut emissions, we need all the major emitting countries to join in global action."
But the normally staid Australian Academy of Science launched a rare attack on the government, accusing it of being too slow to take climate change seriously.
"The government and policymakers haven't taken much interest in the climate change issue until very recently, and in that sense we've lost time," academy president professor Kurt Lambeck told Melbourne's Age newspaper.
"Other parts of the world have taken different positions and started doing remedial things, so it has been frustrating.
"But I think the message has finally got through. The evidence has become such that it can't be ignored any longer."
The opposition Labor Party accused Howard of being "asleep at the wheel" on the issue of climate change during more than a decade in power.
"This is a national challenge, a national crisis, an international crisis and Mr Howard has spent 10 years denying it exists," Labor leader Kevin Rudd said.
The UN report warns fossil fuel pollution will raise temperatures this century, worsen floods, droughts and hurricanes, melt polar sea ice and damage the climate system for 1,000 years to come.
Review proposes 25 nuclear power stations by 2050
The Australian, 22 November 2006
But there will be no bipartisan support for nuclear power, with Labor immediately rejecting the proposal, and coming out against uranium enrichment.
Kim Beazley signalled he would be campaigning on the issue in the coming federal election.
The Opposition Leader asked: "Where will the 25 reactors go? And where will the nuclear waste be dumped?"
Going nuclear could reduce Australia's emissions by 18 per cent, with the reactor sites having to be close to water -- possibly seawater -- and as Dr Switkowski said, "only tens of kilometres" from major centres.
On radioactive waste, Dr Switkowski said Australia's geological stability and wide spaces without population meant you could "take your pick" on where a deep repository was located.
"Just about every part of the continent satisfies these criteria," he said.
The issue opened a new front in the federal-state battle, with some premiers taking a combative approach to the nuclear issue.
South Australia's Mike Rann and Victoria's Steve Bracks signalled yesterday that they would put legislative roadblocks in the path of any nuclear power stations in their states.
Mr Beazley signalled plans to make it a key issue in marginal seats at the election. "If John Howard is re-elected, we'll go down an inexorable course for 25 nuclear reactors in this country and tens of thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste," he said.
The Wilderness Society said Mr Howard had the report he wanted and a nuclear industry and would "create vast amounts of toxic waste".
Australian Conservation Fund spokesman Don Henry said the report failed one of its aims by proposing nuclear power as a way of attacking greenhouse gas emissions while acknowledging it could not begin in earnest until 2020. "We will have fried the planet by then," he said.
Australia could have 25 nuclear reactors by 2050 - Update
Australian Associated Press Financial News Wire, 21 November 2006
Conservationists reacted with horror to the report, saying its views would consign Australia to a toxic legacy.
Labor leader Kim Beazley called on Mr Howard to explain where the 25 nuclear reactors would go.
"If John Howard is re-elected, we will go down an inexorable course for 25 nuclear reactors in this country and tens of thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste," Mr Beazley said.
"If the Labor Party is elected, we will go down the path of clean coal and renewables. It's as simple as that."
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said using nuclear power in Australia would be "crazy" because it would damage the environment and the economy.
"My government does not support nuclear reactors in Queensland," he said.