The Greens’ Problem: part 1

Nanko Park, Shirakawa, Fukushima (wikitravel)

The political leaders of the Australian environmental movement want you to feel bad about the uranium we supply to other countries to fuel their climate-friendly reactors.

Paradoxically, they also insist we have no moral responsibility for it at all.

This is the Cosmo oil refinery fire in Chiba, caused by the 2011 tsunami. Images of it are used frequently in anti-nuclear articles, including this one by Jim Green.

Which of these mutually exclusive positions applies really depends on which is most useful for opposing nuclear energy at any given time.

In May 2015, Dr Jim Green (alumnus of Professor Brian Martin) produced a document for Conservation Council of South Australia. It is worth a read — though less as a source of information and more as an example of polished anti-nuclear polemic. Under ‘Moral arguments’ he states bluntly:

Some argue that Australia has a moral responsibility to accept the high level nuclear waste arising from the use of Australian uranium in power reactors overseas. In fact and in practice, the responsibility for managing nuclear waste lies with the countries that make use of Australian uranium. There are no precedents for Australia or any other country being morally or legally responsible for managing wastes arising from the use of exported fuels, or from the export of any other products.

In a speech to parliament in March of the following year, Mark Parnell, Greens party member of the legislative council in South Australia, made sure to perpetuate the narrative around Fukushima which for years has been so insidiously damaging to the economically-impacted prefecture. He highlighted:

Many people are unaware of the Australian involvement in the Fukushima disaster. I think it is fairly well understood now that there is no dispute that Australian uranium was used in the Fukushima reactors.

Australia is morally off the hook for used uranium fuel. But it was our uranium in Japan so we should feel really bad about nuclear energy. But not responsible enough that we should rationally consider operating a potentially lucrative waste repository. But just responsible enough that nuclear energy is just too immoral to include in Australia’s future energy mix.

This is called having it both ways.

Part 2