Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh to be Canada: Why do nuclear waste storage

It must be nice to be Canada. They don't have to go along with the United States' military adventures like Vietnam and Iraq, except when right and World opinion are behind them, as in Korea and Afghanistan. Yet they know that the US can never let anything bad happen to Canada. Australia would love to be in that position. Well we can. More details below, but first some introductory facts.

Australia's proximity to the largest Muslim nation makes us nervous. This is undoubtedly irrational, but the feeling is a potent force in Australian politics. The response is to show slavish friendship to the Americans. The electorates support for our involvement in Iraq is typical. The fact that the war is a disaster doesn't matter. In fact in a funny way it helps. Our message to America is that we support you, right or wrong. However our slavishness is going to start to wear thin with the electorate as the government enacts the provisions of the amusingly named "Free Trade Agreement", like the recent Copyright act that will make nearly every Australian a criminal.

As a practical matter it is not clear that all our attempts to ingratiate ourselves with the Americans will be effective. The American electors have still never heard of us, except for those who think we have something to do with "The Sound of Music". Their political system nearly always picks a state Governor with no foreign policy expertise for President. The Presidency does not adapt to shifting opinion in the way that a parliamentary government does. So it is by no means certain that America will help us when we need them, particularly if America has other problems distracting it at the time.

Fear of our neighbors might be irrational, but one thing that worries me is the nuclear waste that is scattered around the world, often in geologically and politically unstable areas. Personally I would be more comfortable if it was skillfully processed, then buried in our sparsely populated and geologically and politically stable land. One form of processing that would make sense would be to use it in a Thorium reactor. This produces CO2-free energy, and at the same time it reduces the radioactivity of the waste to a two hundred year problem instead of thousands of years. Australia has huge reserves of Thorium.

Indeed I think that we shouldn't be shipping out Uranium (or Thorium) and washing our hands of the waste problem. We should take it back, for everyone's greater safety.

There are lots of reasons why storing nuclear waste is a natural economic activity for our technologically advanced and Uranium exporting nation. But there is a huge additional side benefit. Suddenly we are like Canada. We become a nation that America, and other advanced nations, can not afford to let fall into the hands of the bad guys. We no longer have to follow America into every quagmire. We no longer have to submit to their latest schemes to protect their wonderful Intellectual Property from the depredations of Australian consumers.

This is a plan than can be sold to the Australian voters. It will make the World safer if we can get all that nuclear waste stored in deep and stable granite. And by making the Australian voters feel safer, we can turn Australia into a force for peace, as Canada has long been.