Australia’s Nuclear Power Dilemma

by Caroline Chmiel

Environmentalists in Australia strongly see nuclear energy as a crucial alternative to burning fossil fuels, especially because of its low-carbon emissions. A study conducted in in 2010, and then again in 2011 reveals the Australian public’s changing views on nuclear power in relation to climate change. Post-Fukushima, the majority of respondents (40%) said they would not accept nuclear power as an option to help tackle climate change, though most Australians still believed nuclear power to be a cleaner, more efficient option than coal which dominates their energy production. Previously, the survey in 2010 showed a majority (42%) responding with a sentiment of willingness to accept nuclear power if it would help address climate change.

Australia’s apparent distrust in nuclear power will make the country as a whole more vulnerable to climate change because of the reliance on fossil fuels. Australia is extremely susceptible to disruption due to changing climate, recently experiencing drought, bushfires, floods, tropical cyclones and heat waves. Impacts of these events have been extreme water restrictions and huge government spending on repairing and supporting victims and affected areas. Ironically, as nearly three-quarters of Australians believe the climate of the world is changing, citizens seem less concerned with taking new measures against climate change. Surveys find Australians becoming more favorable towards the use of coal for energy than in past years. Again and again, studies find people will not allow a reduction of standard of living to help reduce future harm. Interestingly in the case of Australia, the fear of nuclear energy comes from the potential for its harm in the future, while climate change will most definitely cause harm to the future. The benefits of nuclear energy should therefore practically outweigh the risks, but polling suggest otherwise.

Finally, Australia continues to be the world’s largest exporter of coal, providing many jobs and economic growth to the country. This stability is difficult to abandon and leaves scientists looking for new technological options in fighting climate change. Scientists believe that, despite the reliance on coal, Australia has many gas, wind, solar and high grade uranium oxide options that will cost much less than in most countries.

Bird, Deanne K., Katharine Haynes, Rob Van Den Honert, John Mcaneney, and Wouter Poortinga. “Nuclear Power in Australia: A Comparative Analysis of Public Opinion regarding Climate Change and the Fukushima Disaster.” Energy Policy 65 (2014): 644-53. Print.

TAGS: Nuclear energy, Australia, climate change, new technologies, Fukishima

Email: deanne.bird@gmail.com haynes.katharine@gmail.com rob.vandenhonert@mq.edu.au john.mcaneney@mq.edu.au PoortingaW@cardiff.ac.uk

 

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