CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 18 (UPI) — Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced he has ruled out nuclear power for his country.
“Australia has multiple other energy sources and we will not be heading in the direction of civil nuclear power,” Rudd told reporters in Canberra.
Rudd’s remarks came after U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement Tuesday of federal loan guarantees to build two nuclear reactors.
Australia, however, apparently plans to stay with coal.
“Roll the clock out to 2020, 2050, in terms of the role of coal in total global energy production — it’s huge,” Rudd said.
Coal-fired power stations, known for high carbon dioxide emissions, generate about 80 percent of Australia’s electricity. Australia surpasses the United States as the world’s biggest per capita carbon emitter.
The Australian government has proposed cutting its emissions by 5 percent by 2020 but that target could rise to 25 percent if a global climate protection agreement can be reached.
Rudd said Australia would explore technologies to lower greenhouse gas emissions, including schemes to capture emissions from coal-fired power plants and store them underground. The prime minister noted that Australia is a world leader in carbon capture and storage.
But CCS could create a “time bomb” for future generations, said John Hepburn, a Greenpeace Australia energy campaigner.
“There are concerns over whether it will actually stay underground, basically forever,” Hepburn told Bloomberg News. “You may have to transport the carbon dioxide a long way to a suitable storage site and there are risks associated with that.”
“Australia has probably the most coal-intensive economy on the planet,” Hepburn said to Bloomberg. “The fossil fuel industry, and the coal industry in particular, have a large amount of political influence as a result.”
Hepburn suggests that Australia should aggressively conserve energy and rely more on renewable power to meet the country’s climate goals, rather than depending on either nuclear power or fossil fuels.
Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal.
The chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, Ziggy Switkowski, said he expected Australian public opinion would soon favor nuclear power.
“There will come a time, perhaps in the next electoral cycle, when the national mood will be strongly pro-nuclear and the government will feel more comfortable about endorsing discussion of nuclear power as part of a longer-term national strategy,” Switkowski told The Australian.
World Nuclear Association estimates list Australia as the world’s third-largest producer of uranium.
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