Australian Government under pressure to reveal nuclear sites

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Australian nuclear debate

The Australian Labor Party has placed pressure on the federal government to reveal potential sites for nuclear power plants. The pressure comes after the release of a report by The Australia Institute, which identified several locations on the East Coast of Australia as "ideal" nuclear power sites.

Speaking in the Australian House of Representatives on Wednesday, opposition leader Kim Beazley (Brand, Labor) asked Australian treasurer and acting Prime Minister Peter Costello (Higgins, Liberal) to name potential nuclear sites.

"As part of the government’s intention to consider nuclear power in Australia, will it nominate the proposed sites of its nuclear reactors and their associated high-level nuclear waste dumps?" Mr Beazley asked.

Mr Costello replied by attacking Labor's policy on limiting Australia to three uranium mines, supporting uranium exports while being opposed to an Australian nuclear energy industry. Mr Costello said "It would be a funny kind of a policy if Australia was prepared to mine uranium and to sell it to other countries but was so opposed to the nuclear industry".

Labor member, Maria Elliot (Richmond, Labor asked Mr Costello to rule out nuclear reactors and waste dumps in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales (part of which falls into Mrs Elliot's electorate) and the adjoining region of South-East Queensland. Mr Costello gave no assurances that there were no plans to build a reactor in the region.

During an interview whilst in Ireland, Australian PM, John Howard took the opportunity to attack Labor's nuclear policy. He said Mr Beazley's opposition was "hypocritical". "I’m also in awe of his hypocrisy on the issue. Apparently it is alright to export uranium to other countries that will then produce nuclear power with all the problems he says are unacceptable in Australia. Well in my view if nuclear power is unsafe, unacceptable and anti the environment, you shouldn’t export uranium to any other country" he said.

State Labor leaders have voiced their opposition to nuclear energy.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said he would fight strongly against any plans for a nuclear reactor in his state.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said that NSW had laws prohibiting the building of a nuclear power plant in NSW. Under NSW law, the mining and enrichment of Uranium and construction of nuclear reactors is illegal unless unless the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) operates those reactors. The only nuclear reactor in Australia, HIFAR is owned by ANSTO and is situated in Lucas Heights, South of Sydney in NSW. HIFAR's replacement OPAL is due for completion in 2007, and will operate alongside HIFAR for six months.

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said he was strongly opposed to the construction of nuclear reactors in Victoria despite many locations in the state being identified as ideal. As with NSW, Victoria also has laws prohibiting nuclear power generation.