Mood: accident prone
Topic: nuke threats
Picture: Australian PM John Howard peers into the reactor at Lucas Heights. Will Australia like the USA be promoting unsafe nuke energy in South East Asia?
Here is a story that senior writer Marian Wilkinson of Sydney Morning Herald reported from Darwin APEC energy minister's conference yesterday 30th May 2007 but it only appeared on the web (!?) not our press version (reproduced in full below).
We telephoned her about this and apparently there was lack of space. But first her pithy story builds on another by the competition here a week earlier from Nigel Wilson, 15 years in that role:
The Herald ran another story to the Darwin fracas 30 May 07 instead about Morris Iemma repudiating John Howard's nuclear plans
[which is funny because it runs in the press but is missing from the web based text index for 30 May. But a bit of googling throws it up here for a different date. Advice found on axing state bans on nuclear - Sydney Morning Herald - 29 May 2007. The googling is guess work because the article is actually printed under the headline "Bid to overturn nuclear ban" bottom right page 6. ]
Whatever the confused (deliberate or otherwise) Herald indexing, the issue of nuclear energy expansion in Australia was the question time strategy it seems in both NSW and State Parliament. Seems its not just Premier Iemma and Opposition leader Rudd who will fight the nuke expansion plans on the beaches: Singapore are obviously very alarmed at the lack of safety implicit in the sleep walk to nuclear proliferation by Vietnam and Indonesian governments. But what about Australia's role in our neighbours' planning? We would be selling the raw materials and probably much technical support out of Lucas Heights reactor, do yer think? Is the Pope a Catholic? Does the bore hole ooze hot mud (ie a disaster in Indonesia recently)?
As explained to journo Wilkinson we see one alternative future like this on a 5 or 10 year horizon:
- USA promotes missile defense system vis a vis Nth Korea, Iran, China leveraging support of Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan and likely others.
- An arms race to prevent USA first strike capacity (via foolproof shield) ensues.
- Tensions rise. Allies of the USA feel the need for a nuke weapon deterrent of their own, as Japan is flirting with right now.
- Australia's PM seeks nuclear energy dual use capacity in order to prepare for this strategic security possibility.
- Somewhere along the line someone makes a human error or comparatively minor clashes are exagerated like the precursor to the Vietnam War, and a nuclear weapon is launched by someone.
- Apocalypse. Do not collect, do not pass go. Game over.
No wonder Singapore are scared about this kind of future, even likelihood under a Howard Bush style regime of the future.
We tipped off some others like MP Peter Garrett and Senator Bob Brown's office about this report of diplomatic rage up in Darwin, and here is the rather scary story in full:
Asia-Pacific nuclear authority plan scuttled after safety debate
Date: May 30 2007
Marian Wilkinson in Darwin
A plan to set up a regional nuclear safeguards authority for the Asia Pacific has been ditched after an intense debate at the APEC energy ministers conference in Darwin which centered on the importance of nuclear safety.
The proposal was dropped from the final declaration of the conference, despite being included in earlier drafts. But the Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, denied there had been a "bitter debate" over the issue after Singapore raised questions over nuclear safety.
The discussion on the role of nuclear power as an option to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the APEC region was strongly supported by the US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Clay Sell. Mr Macfarlane said Singapore had requested that any decision by an APEC country to pursue the nuclear mix should be made in consultation with their neighbours.
Officials from both Vietnam and Indonesia told the APEC conference their countries were studying the option of nuclear power stations that could come on line in the next decade.
The final declaration contained a watered down clause encouraging APEC members to join the organisation's nuclear technologies group to ensure the "safety, security, seismic health and waste handling aspects" of nuclear power were "adequately addressed".
The final declaration by the 21 APEC countries also supported sharing technologies on energy efficiency, biofuels, clean coal and renewable energy as well as measures to increase energy security in the growing APEC region. But there was little support for a regional carbon trading emissions scheme that would put a price on greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels across APEC.
A report on emissions trading is set to be delivered to the Prime Minister, John Howard, tomorrow. But it is now believed it will be unlikely to set hard targets for Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Macfarlane strongly signalled in Darwin that the targets will be left to another economic committee to assess how they can be achieved without cutting into economic growth.
Mr Macfarlane told reporters any target will depend on the technology capable of achieving it. "The challenge at the moment is not to set targets, the challenge is to actually have the technology to achieve targets."
Labor has set a long-term target of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, based on emissions in the year 2000 which the Government has dismissed as irresponsible.
Tomorrow's report will, however, pave the way for Australia to finally establish an emissions trading scheme that will put a price on Australia's greenhouse gas pollution.
The importance of clean coal technology in achieving a target for greenhouse gas cuts was highlighted yesterday when a slanging match broke out between Mr Macfarlane and the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, over his state's high profile "zero gen" clean coal project.
Mr Macfarlane told reporters in Darwin the project has "collapsed" but Mr Beattie said he had "no idea" what Mr Macfarlane was talking about. "Why would the coal industry invest $600million in clean coal if they weren't serious?" Mr Beattie said. "Ian Macfarlane is repeatedly trying to undermine clean coal technologies?"
Postscript #1 1st June 2007
By coincidence (or not ?) a prominent reflection on widespread public fears of nuclear apocalypse was published today in the high circulation Sydney Daily Telegraph:
Shute's sands of timeBy Gideon Haigh: THEY don't make novelists like Nevil Shute any more: a self-made millionaire who served in both