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THE SUSTAINABILITY OF COAL VS. URANIUM IN AUSTRALIA. THE SOCIAL

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					  THE SUSTAINABILITY OF COAL VS. URANIUM IN AUSTRALIA.
   THE SOCIAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC FACTORS


                                      Chris Chesworth


The investigation into The Sustainability of Coal vs. Uranium in Australia aims to provide
an insight into the contribution these two minerals will make to Australian society. The
analysis was made in two parts: firstly, that pertaining to coal followed by that concerning
uranium. In addition, weighting was also given to analysis of external influences such as
the Kyoto Protocol and the potential relevance of Government policy. These areas were
examined and scrutinised with a view to establishing the relative strengths and weaknesses
of these minerals and identifying the potential future opportunities for Australia in the 21st
century. Fundamental themes and issues addressed include society and cultural issues,
past, present and future economic conditions, environmental performance and
accountability, morality and modern technology, the conflicting social, environmental and
economic ideologies, and the long-term sustainability of the coal and uranium industries.

Analysis of the coal industry focussed upon industry practices, industry trends and
potential opportunities for coal industry development and community well-being.
Consideration was given to global environmental initiatives, particularly the Kyoto
Protocol and evaluation made of the impact that such initiatives will have on Australia’s
domestic power generation industry and more specifically the coal industry.

In terms of uranium, focus was directed toward mining and milling practices and the
remaining segments of the nuclear fuel cycle. Particular emphasis was given to the issues
of radiation on the health of individuals, flora and fauna and the natural environment;
disposal of radioactive mine tailings and the long-term environmental impact; and the
concerns of society and outlook for uranium. Important areas of consideration included the
impact on the social fabric of Aboriginal culture arising from uranium mining activities
and the preservation of Aboriginal lands.

In the process of the analysis of the various perspectives and comparative cases presented,
it was concluded that over the medium term coal will continue to dominate Australia’s
energy generation and export commodity markets. This is primarily because of its natural
abundance and Australian society’s long founded dependence on the power that it
generates, its use in steel manufacture and the derived income from the extraction of coal
and indirect support industries. Opportunities do exist for expansion of Australia’s
uranium industry in a conducive political environment, however, this industry will
continue to remain a small component of Australia’s export industry due, in part, to its far
reaching social impacts.

				
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