The issue

Nuclear advocates in Australia often blame the Greens for the complete lack of nuclear energy in that country. They may argue that the Greens are obstacles to climate action in general, and try and prove this by saying the Greens opposed the first Carbon pricing scheme.

A1) Greens are not that powerful

The main problem with this argument is that the Greens are not that powerful.

While the Greens do oppose nuclear energy, because they think problems with it (such as waste, rare but massive accidents) have not been solved, if the two major parties wish to ignore them, then the Greens are ignored, as is the case with economic policy, or coal mining.

The Greens do not own or control any media, they don’t have regular spots on media, and generally cannot even get their policies reported, other than with denigration and inaccuracy. They have close to no public propaganda force, they can use, unlike the other parties (particularly the Coalition).

Neither the Coalition nor Labor have a pro-nuclear policy which is disrupted by the Greens. The Coalition has been in government a long time, and nothing has happened. During their time in power there has been zero levels of research into nuclear energy generation, zero nuclear energy generation, and zero plans for nuclear energy generation. Lucas Heights does not count; it primarily exists for small experiments and medical isotope generation. The Greens cannot be blamed for this ongoing situation. If either of the major parties wanted anything different, then it would have happened.

If you want to blame anyone blame the Coalition or Labor, or the electorate in general for worrying about where the reactors would be placed.

A2: Carbon Pricing

Greens also get blamed for the failure of carbon pricing in Australia. This story is not entirely accurate. Again the Greens where the minor party. If Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull could have agreed on a carbon trading scheme then it would have gone ahead. They did not. Turnbull lost the support of his party, probably because of its cheerful connection with fossil fuel companies. Can’t blame the Greens for that.

Rudd refused to negotiate with the Greens. He just told them to take it or leave it. Can’t blame the Greens for rejecting that strategy either.

Even so, the Greens also took note of Treasury modelling which implied the Rudd policy was extremely expensive and would not reduce carbon emissions for a long time. Given Rudd’s failure to get the Coalition to support a policy similar to the one the Coalition went into the election proposing, the Greens cannot be blamed for his failure. The Coalition was the obstacle.

Furthermore, the Greens worked with Gillard to get a system which did not rip off ordinary taxpayers and which lowered emissions almost immediately. It was not perfect, but it was much better. It also shows what Rudd could have achieved, if he had chosen to work with the Greens, rather than against them and with the Coalition.

The Gillard scheme was destroyed by the Coalition. Not the Greens. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that the Coalition would not have destroyed any form of carbon pricing, given their love for fossil fuel companies.

Again the Greens cannot be blamed for this.

Failings of nuclear Advocates

It may be personal experience bias, but I more often read nuclear advocates arguing against renewables than I read them arguing against fossil fuels. Just as I read them opposing declarations of climate emergency or emissions targets. So I’m not sure I agree about the innocence of nuclear advocates. There is certainly no attempt to win allies in the Greens, just lecture them and blame them.

It is also extremely hard to evaluate nuclear plans that do not exist in reality, which almost no one has any enthusiasm for, and for a kind of truly enormous project which Australia has no commercial experience with. Current total energy generation in Australia is about 265 TWh per year; Hinkley Point in the UK is supposed to be able to generate 3,260MW (not sure over what time period, the text is ambiguous, but I presume a year). That is a reasonable number of reactors to build from scratch, in time to mitigate climate change, and there are no local companies which could be expected to carry out such a project.


Green obstacles to climate action are trivial when compared to the Coalition. It would be more practical to try and get the Coalition onside for nuclear climate action if anyone useful was really serious about nuclear power, but we all can be pretty sure that is not going to happen. And I’m reasonably sure there is no real attempt by anyone with any capacity to build nuclear power, to get it going.