Labor to push uranium expansion

Issue 

According to media reports, the federal ALP government intends to proceed with plans to extend uranium mining. The Uranium Industry Framework (UIF), which was set up by the previous government of John Howard and has never been disbanded, has been given a new lease of life. Resources minister Martin Ferguson was quoted in the April 2 Age newspaper as saying: "Some countries see nuclear as part of their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions".

The UIF committee will shortly be churning out publicity putting the "case" for the nuclear industry, to be paid for by the uranium industry.

Uranium exploration is underway all around Australia. Ferguson wants Australian uranium to power nuclear reactors in other countries, and predicts substantial growth in nuclear power outside Australia.

"Labor is using widespread concern about climate change, caused by runaway greenhouse gas emissions, to push nuclear energy", Dr Jim Green, anti-nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth, told Green Left Weekly.

"But nuclear power is no solution to climate change. Doubling nuclear power by 2050 would reduce greenhouse emissions by just 5%. Even apart from its security, safety and environmental impacts — perennial issues for the nuclear industry — on the grounds of economic criteria it offers poor value for money in displacing fossil fuel plants.

"Further, with its high cost, long construction time, high environmental risk and problems resulting from waste management, it is clear that nuclear power does not offer a viable solution to climate change. Rather a mixture of energy efficiency and renewable energy offers a quicker, more realistic and sustainable approach to reducing CO2 emissions," Green said.

Green argued that nuclear power is one of the least effective and most expensive ways to tackle climate change. Australia, which has belatedly signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, should not be promoting such non-solutions. Uranium accounted for one third of 1% of Australia's export revenue in 2005, and just one quarter of 1% in 2006.

"Extending uranium mining beyond the three uranium mines was only marginally approved at the last ALP national conference. Two thirds of Australians oppose new uranium mines. The push to open more mines to fuel overseas reactors is irresponsible and anti-environmental, especially as there are safer, sustainable energy alternatives", concluded Green.

[Dr Jim Green will be speaking in Sydney on April 11 as part of the Climate Change — Social Change conference. See ad on page 5.]

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