Australia looks at nuclear power
Jun 6, 2006, 14:49 GMT
Sydney - Australia is to look again at the nuclear option as oil prices soar and worries increase about the greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired electricity plants it relies on for almost 90 per cent of its power.
Prime Minister John Howard said Tuesday that a fresh look was needed because uranium prices were surging and Australia holds 40 per cent of the nuclear feedstock's easily recoverable reserves.
'Now's the time to begin to have the debate,' Howard told reporters in Canberra. 'A lot of recent developments in global energy markets have renewed international interest in nuclear energy as a technology that over time might meet growing demand for electricity without the fuel and environmental costs associated with oil and gas.'
The prime minister appointed the former head of Telstra, the country's biggest phone company, to lead an inquiry into uranium mining, processing and nuclear generating plants. Nuclear physicist Ziggy Switkowski's panel will report before the end of the year.
'There is significant potential to increase and add value to our uranium exports,' Howard said. 'It's foolish to see ourselves simply as an exporter of uranium.'
Australia, which has a small research reactor in Sydney, has previous ruled out taking the nuclear road. The opposition Labor Party is against nuclear power plants, as are the minor parties.
Greens member of parliament Bob Brown, speaking last month after Howard first broached the subject, alleged the government had already made up its mind to build nuclear power plants.
'His talk about a public debate is a complete sham,' Brown said. 'We are going headlong into becoming a major agent in the nuclear proliferation right around the world.'© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur