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The Truth? 'Nuclear is Not the Answer'
Published on Thursday, November 16, 2006 by The Age / Australia
The Truth? 'Nuclear is Not the Answer'
by Leon Gettler
 

Nuclear energy is not the panacea for tackling global warming, says one of the world's most celebrated climate change campaigners, former US vice-president Al Gore.


GORE: 'NUCLEAR IS NOT THE ANSWER'
Former US vice president Al Gore waves to photographers during a press conference to promote the movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in Hong Kong, September 2006. That film and several about Iraq are among the final 15 entries for the 2007 Oscars best documentary, organizers said. (AFP/Samantha Sin)
Mr Gore also shrugged off Prime Minister John Howard's recent claim that his film An Inconvenient Truth showed "a degree of the peeved politician".

"It may be one of those elements that's in the eyes of the beholder," he told The Age yesterday.

Mr Gore said nuclear power was unlikely to play a significantly bigger role in the climate change battle. "Even if you set aside the problem of long-term waste storage and the danger of operator accident and the vulnerability to terrorist attack, you still have two others that are more difficult," he said.

The first problem was one of economics.

"Nuclear power plants are the costliest to build and they take the longest time and at present they come in only one size — extra large."

The second was nuclear weapons proliferation. "For eight years when I was in the White House, every problem of weapons proliferation was connected to a reactor program," he said.

The Prime Minister has recently talked up the prospects of nuclear power plants being built in Australia, arguing the country could not afford to "sacrifice rational discussion on the altar of anti-nuclear theology and political opportunism".

Next week an inquiry into nuclear power headed by former Telstra chief executive Ziggy Switkowski is due to deliver its findings.

Mr Gore said it was extremely important that Mr Howard had now acknowledged the damage from carbon dioxide emissions.

"Let me say I want to be respectful of the Prime Minister's change in rhetoric.

"It's not easy to do something like that and … this position might be a way station for him on the real road to Damascus where he actually joins the world community," he said.

"And he may. I don't know, I can't look into his heart."

Mr Gore said that Australia and the US should sign the Kyoto Protocol but he acknowledged that this presented Mr Howard and US President George Bush with big political problems given that they had previously "demonised" it.

Of Australia's promotion of a new global climate change pact he said: "Obviously neither Australia nor the United States can write its own little treaty and be separate from the rest of the world."

But there was, he said, a third path: "To join the world discussion now in Nairobi on how to strengthen Kyoto and how to make whatever changes Prime Minister Howard wants to advocate and join the rest of the world community. That's the test."

Mr Gore, now chairman of investment firm Generation Investment Management, yesterday met with Premier Steve Bracks and his deputy John Thwaites. He described Victoria as forward thinking on climate change and said he would take a number of local initiatives back to the United States.

He was particularly impressed with the Bracks Government's "black balloons" advertising campaign, which links household energy usage with the amount of carbon dioxide it releases into the air.

"I'm going to take that ad back and show it to some folks there, maybe put it on YouTube," he said.

With MATHEW MURPHY and LIZ MINCHIN

Copyright © 2006. The Age Company Ltd.

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