Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Faustian Bargain

'To live is to collaborate.'- Hassan i Sabbah, aka William S Burroughs

The best reason I can think of for authoritarian government is the selfish one that I would not then have to share any of the blame for the decisions of my elected rulers. I am afraid I can't really offer any constructive suggestions at all, though I feel I have a democratic duty to lobby strongly for something or other. All I can say is that I feel awkward and uncomfortable at the idea of our country becoming very, very, very, very, very, very, very rich by selling uranium to the desperately wicked renegade mainland provinces. As seems likely to happen.

I have only two suggestions, which are (almost) purely economic in nature:

Value Adding. It is silly to just export uranium oxide. We ought to process the stuff further along and sell reactor grade uranium. There can't be such a big deal transporting the enriched stuff around, as there is just one plant serving the whole of the United States. Methinks this would help with proliferation concerns, as it would be much easier to track smaller volumes of material going directly to power plants.

Cradle-to-Grave Service. We have a responsibility to take care of the waste products of any uranium we sell, and the users of nuclear energy will pay us handsomely to do so. We have a rare combination of geological and political stability that makes us ideally suited for nuclar waste disposal. The main problem here is the nimby attitude of state governments. I suggest that the Federal Government compulsorily acquire a large chunk of South Australia, like it consficated a chunk of New South Wales to put Canberra on, and establish the Australian Nuclear Territory. This could be served by a purpose built deepwater port distant from existing population centres and secured by genetically engineered super-soldier penguins.


Jenny said...

1. Do we only take back the waste from the stuff re originally sold? Or are we going to take care of every ones waste?

2. Wouldn't the Australian Nuclear Territory (or ANT) be better taken out of WA or the Northern territory as less occupied areas. Hmm, WA - further away from me :)

3. Selling nuclear material to China reminds me of selling iron to Japan..just before they used it in their warships in a war we were on the opposite side of.

Heh we could call it the ANT Hill

Dave said...

I believe that South Australia is traditionally favoured for nuclear waste stuffing due to it containing the most geologically stable part of the most geologically stable landmass. And I think that if we're going to take back the waste of uranium we export, we might as well accept (treated) waste from anywhere else as well. At least we know where it is, then, and in the absence of a better, shooting-it-into-the-sun-in-rockets based management scheme, I don't have a problem with it.

I *do* think it's a bad idea to trade potential nukes to countries with repressive tendencies and a history of less than sterling safety records (China, India and now Taiwan, I hear), so I like the sound of Clam's enrichment plans as well.

I dislike the idea of depending on nuclear energy, but until we get those solar mirrors set up in the desert and start beaming microwave power directly from orbit, I don't see too many viable options.

Marco said...

I posted (a long time ago) with glee that we were the worlds Uranium Saudi Arabia. In hindsight perhaps my glee was completely misplaced. Being rich in any particular commodity is a poisoned chalice. I felt that such a strategically important resource was in the absolute best possible hands. Easy money corrupts, however, and I no longer think Australia will be immune from this tendency. Moral hazard will rear its ugly head all the way along the nuclear cycle, poised to bite. Even worse due to its current very high value. Probably better to be the "rule makers", than the "rule followers"

Dave said...

Sure, except, you know, I have my doubts that it's really in the Australian character to be "rule makers". I think we just have too much of the post-colonial, big-brother-dependency about us to ever be the firm, morally stalwart alpha nation.

The first time the Yanks (or our next best friend China) leans on us hard, we'll fold like a pack of cards and give them whatever the hell they want. Support for stupid wars, voting against human rights sanctions, you name it. We just do not have the backbone to bear the weight of this particular poisoned chalice, I reckon

Marco said...

I kind of agree. The oil rich gulf states don't exactly make the rules about the use of oil just because they've got so much of the stuff. In some ways, they are under the power of the oil rather than the other way around. Ditto with diamonds in Africa.