Australian coalition urges government to maintain nuclear ban

Sixty Australian groups, including trade unions, NGOs, environmental protection campaigns and public health groups have released a shared statement requesting that parliament refuse to allow nuclear projects in Australia. At present, nuclear energy production is not allowed in the country and Australia has no nuclear power stations, though it does contain around one third of the world’s uranium deposits. Three uranium mines are currently operating and exporting uranium abroad. The statement outlines the numerous risks associated with nuclear energy production and urges the Government to maintain its current position on nuclear power. The report goes further, suggesting that the Australian Federal Parliament should “embrace renewable energy as the cleanest, quickest, cheapest and most credible way to power Australian homes and workplaces, and repower regional communities and the national economy.”

Australia has been in the process of reviewing its energy resources as global energy demand is set to increase over the coming decades. The country has historically relied heavily on coal and natural gas reserves to provide domestic energy and exports to other countries like Japan and India. However, demand for coal imports has been uncertain in these regions, and the Australian Government has received increasing pressure to make the shift to low-carbon energy production. Nuclear power has been a long-debated low-carbon option in Australia, though so far no Australian nuclear plants have been approved. But as energy demand increases and international demand for coal imports decreases, Australian miners have seen an opportunity and encouraged parliament to launch an inquiry into the ban on nuclear power. The industry argues that nuclear energy could provide the cheapest zero-emission power available, and help to diversify Australia’s energy mix.

The signatories of the statement contest these claims, arguing that the risks of nuclear power cannot be ignored. The statement lists the potential risks, including: radioactive and long-lasting nuclear waste, large levels of water consumption, significant construction costs (estimated above $17bn), risks to safety due to human error and/or security threats, and disproportionate impact on Aboriginal communities, among others. The signatories maintain that renewable energy generation is the cheapest, safest and most lucrative way forward and encourage the Government to abandon its inquiry.

The signatories include, but are not limited to: the ACTU, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Smart Energy Council, the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, Greenpeace Australia Pacific and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

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