Because of the complexity of the personal, moral, emotional and practical considerations, Christians are not in agreement as to whether uranium mining should be extended and increasing use made of nuclear energy within our present society. While individual Church members will rightly take their place, according to their persuasions, in the ongoing public debate of this issue, the Church as a whole cannot and ought not become part of a pressure group on either side of the debate.
The Church must continually and consistently affirm the Gospel and bring to bear in any public debate the ethical and practical considerations which stem from that Gospel. The following Christian principles and practical considerations are important in the debate on uranium and nuclear energy –
(a) Uranium is a part of God’s creation for which we have stewardship (Gen. 1.26ff; Ps. 8.3ff). In itself, therefore, it is neither good nor bad. The ethical considerations only arise in relation to the manner and effects of its use.
(b) Our stewardship implies responsibility. Man is a creature capable of moral choice. He is also a sinful creature who by nature and practice denies “the image of God” in which he was created.
(c) There is no resource or gift of the Creator which may not in its use involve danger. The Church does not call on men to walk away from moral choice. God has trusted us with this resource. The questions are – on the one hand, should its use continue to be developed and encouraged? and on the other, what principles should underlie its use? The Church’s role is to call men to recognise their moral failure and to submit to the Lordship of Christ.
(d) Our society tends to be based on material rather than spiritual values. As Christians we must be called to reconsider our own values and lifestyle within such a society (note Matt. 4.4; 6.24ff). On the other hand, we acknowledge that the livelihood and welfare of many within our society in fact require energy use, and that massive lifestyle changes within society would create significant hardship. We also acknowledge, and call on Government to recognise, the need for development of energy resources within the poorer nations of the world.
(e) The environmental impact of mining (both immediate and long-term), the need for nuclear safeguards and questions of the safe disposal of radioactive waste are important practical considerations. So too are the health risks of mining, the impact of mining on all aspects of Australian society and the needs of future generations. These considerations are not unique to uranium mining, however, but have their place in relation to other forms of mining. They need to be kept before Governments, not only when uranium decisions are being made but also when uranium mining and nuclear energy use are proceeding.
(f) New alternative energy forms should be sought whatever is done about immediate energy needs. However, we need to recognise that development of the technology required for massive use of, say, solar energy, may well make possible new forms of military use rivalling nuclear energy in potential destruction. The need for the call to repentance and faith and for obedience to the ethical demands of the Gospel will always be laid upon us.
Peter J. Blackburn June 1979