The world would be a more dangerous place with nuclear weapons. Most of the nations in the world are now capable of converting uranium into gas commercially and are able to enrich that gas for fuel. These same facilities could be used to enrich uranium and to extract plutonium for weapons use. That is the crux of the issue: Is the program of all those nations trying to convert uranium to use commercially, as they claim, entirely peaceful?
While nuclear production is an issue of concern to the public, greater Australian involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle would not change the risks. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, some analysts have been alarmed about the security of spent nuclear fuel produced by the nuclear power reactors. Used — yet still highly radioactive — uranium fuel have been accumulating for decades in cooling pools and dry casks all over the world. Some experts are worried that this fuel could be stolen to make “dirty bombs” or that the cooling pools themselves could become targets for terrorist attacks.
The cost of nuclear power would be substantially higher than fossil fuels, but the attachment of a price on carbon emissions could make the nuclear energy option viable. Nuclear power has a low emissions signature. Although, the priority for Australia should continue to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas.
Australia has suitable locations for deep underground repositories for the safe storage of high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel that makes nuclear power a practical option for Australia. However, exploiting nuclear fuel for civil nuclear activities has also become a clandestine activity that is usually associated to the production of nuclear weapons.