Letter to the Editor, Australian Financial Review.
Proposals for a nuclear reprocessing hub in South Australia, apparently gaining in both Coalition and Labor support, will be sorely tested in the coming and inevitable public debate.
This is a thinly-disguised plan for the first nuclear power stations and a reprocessing plant on Australian soil. Such reactors and plant will require public subsidies unless, as in the latest UK project, a foreign entity like China helps foot the bill. China and Japan are at the heart of the South Australian proposals. When Prime Minister John Howard tested the waters of public opinion on nuclear power stations - without the China or Japan factor - his retreat was swift and total.
The idea is to store nuclear wastes above and below ground somewhere in the Outback - that is, on Aboriginal lands. Besides raising questions of transporting the wastes, what of the morality of dumping such toxic materials in someone else's yard? If so safe, why not put the nuclear hub in Adelaide or Canberra, let alone the Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Indian, British or French countrysides?
We are in an age of handbag-sized nuclear weapons. International terror organisations see these as the Holy Grail. In the coming century of unprecedented human dilemmas, a nuclear Australia will inevitably become a more attractive focus and target for such organisations - as well as for hostile foreign governments.
With rapid innovation and cost reduction for both energy efficiency and renewable energy, the South Australian proposal is not just unnecessary, it is a case of blinkered thinking, foreign pressure and big dollars getting in the way of a clear-eyed national strategy for Australia's future independence,security and lifestyle.
Former Leader of the Australian Greens.