I feel a bit silly writing to you like this but there seems to be no other way.
I respectfully request that you give Australia permission to build nuclear power stations.
I see that in March last year that you said that personally you were against nuclear power but recognised that it had a place in the mix and you would discuss it at a later date.
Greta, we too think it has a place. We think wind and solar are great. Hydro power is even better. Gas is the lesser of two evils and coal-fired power stations should be phased out in a practical manner.
Trouble is wind and solar are too unreliable for base-load. We do not have enough hydro. And we are not allowed to have clean, non-carbon emitting nuclear power stations.
So to stay afloat, we need coal-fired power stations – even ones that burn brown coal and coal dust from mine washeries which emit heaps more carbon gases than the black thermal coal-fired power stations.
And Greta, it is not only the greenhouse gases that are being emitted – these power stations also pump particulates into the atmosphere that cause widespread asthma and other respiratory problems.
The levels of SOx, NOx and particulates in the atmosphere in the NSW Hunter Valley during times of atmospheric inversion layers exceed the levels at which mass deaths occur in polluted cities such as Athens.
Now, I know Australia has been closing coal-fired power stations and reducing its carbon footprint at a rate that exceeds its international obligations. And while that is a good thing, it is still not enough.
The downside of this campaign has been a huge rise in power prices and a corresponding decline in manufacturing in Australia. Steel production for example has halved and we are one of the world’s best steel producers.
We now send our iron ore and our coal to China and India and buy our steel from them. They are our number one and number two exports. Yes, their processes are dirtier than ours and yes there has been a dramatic escalation of greenhouse gas emissions on earth because of it. And yes, we have lost tens of thousands of Australian jobs in the process.
But Greta, it enables our politicians to ignore the bigger picture and point to the feel-good statistics that Australia is exceeding its goals even if China and India are not. You might think a 5 per cent reduction in a country that produces only 1.3 per cent of the annual greenhouse gases is not much and I agree it is not earth shattering.
Further, a nation which once had the cheapest and most reliable electricity system in the world now has blackouts and power-shedding – not something you have to endure in Sweden with your nuclear power stations producing 40 per cent of your needs.
And as bad as that is Greta, there are other reasons that we need nuclear power stations.
As you would know, at the end of the day, national security comes down to economic strength – aka what you can afford. As Australia loses its competitive advantage in cheap energy, we are becoming poorer and less able to afford the best defence.
For example, nuclear submarines have a lot going for them. They can travel the long distances necessary for Australian defence, whereas diesel submarines tend to be for smaller European countries such as yours.
Nuclear submarines don’t need to surface to “snort” air to run the generators, so they are more stealthy. They tend to be larger and more comfortable because they have electricity in surplus. It is considered the best system.
But Greta, no-one has a nuclear powered submarine program without a domestic nuclear industry. The consensus is that it isn’t possible without that know-how.
We have just ordered a whole fleet of submarines from the French but we had to choose diesel power with lead acid batteries which is very old technology. However, the way in which we have chosen to build the subs means that we expect the design and technology to change. If you agree to us having a domestic nuclear industry it would make this capability a choice. At the moment, it isn’t a choice.
Then there is the issue of nuclear weapons. We may not need nuclear weapons now while we are under the US nuclear umbrella. But a lot of bad things can happen beneath the threshold of nuclear retaliation. Further the US defence guarantees have never been less certain and China has never been more aggressive. The Trump and Xi factors worry us.
With a domestic nuclear industry and our growing expertise in space rocketry and perhaps a few other foundational investments, we could have a credible pathway to nuclear weapons. That is, to signal our willingness to cross that threshold if provoked. China is putting a lot of effort into seeing if it can peel us away from the US. This would change that calculus.
Incidentally, Australia is one of the world’s biggest producers of uranium and we have lots and lots of unoccupied space to build nuclear power stations safely distant from population centres in the case of accidents.
And expensive? Not worth considering in light of the above.
Now Greta, you might be wondering why I am seeking your permission given that you are an 18 year old schoolgirl from Stockholm, who has never been to Australia.
Well, as silly as that might seem, it is no sillier than the fact that Australia cannot have nuclear power stations because half a dozen Green Party and Australian Democrat Senators got together in 1998 and passed an amendment banning nuclear power stations in Australia.
And Greta, if you gave your approval, it might be just what is needed for our politicians to repeal this ridiculous law.
You have an almost Messianic following among those irrational activists that our politicians so fear. It would be great if you could talk some commonsense into them.PC