A fierce debate will no doubt follow calls from Australian Workers Union (AWU) heavyweights Bill Ludwig and Paul Howes to end the ban on uranium mining in Queensland:
“ There is an abundance of uranium in Queensland which is currently not exploited,” Mr Ludwig said.
“ This is at the cost of our national income and good jobs.”
AWU National Secretary, Paul Howes, said the AWU wants to see further development in Australia of sustainable energy which will fuel our economic growth while limiting carbon emissions in the face of climate change.
The job-generating potential of uranium mining isn’t a strong argument, however, given the massive amount of mining industry investment scheduled for the next few years, and the large number of mining industry jobs (particularly in iron ore, coal and coal seam gas) coming out of it. That is, there will be plenty of mining industry jobs around, so there is no justification for ending the ban on uranium mining as a job creation measure.
The argument that nuclear energy is good because it would lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions is a better one, and certainly nuclear energy ought to be investigated as one means of reducing emissions.
That said, it’s worth having a debate about nuclear energy and uranium mining only so long as we give serious consideration to the occupational health risks of uranium mining, the risk of nuclear reactors melting down, and the risk of nuclear material getting into the wrong hands.
Expert opinion may be that the risks are very low, but there’s something about uranium – probably its potential to end human civilisation – which makes one very wary of the stuff. If you’re not at all worried about uranium, you may not know enough about it, and you ought to read this book: