3 May 2007 - 08:35
  • News Code: 103756

Australia is to repeal laws that prevent it establishing a nuclear industry, paving the way for the adoption of atomic power and uranium enriching ventures.

John Howard, the Prime Minister, announced the move as Kevin Rudd, the opposition leader, convinced Labor’s national conference in Sydney to abandon its opposition to uranium exports and agree to new mines in the Outback.

Australia has 36 percent of the world’s low-cost uranium reserves and is expected to become the world’s largest uranium exporter once new mines are built and existing ones expanded.

Howard told a weekend conference of his Liberal Party that a 1999 law which bans nuclear power stations in Australia and constrains the expansion of its uranium mining industry was no longer compatible with the need to act on climate change. He said that Australia would need progressively to wind down its reliance on traditional coal-fired power stations and adopt nuclear power generation.

“Policies or political platforms that seek to constrain the development of a safe and reliable Australian uranium industry--and which rule out the possibility of climate-friendly nuclear energy--are not really serious about addressing climate change,“ he said.

Howard, who is expected to call a general election in the autumn, has long opposed the adoption of firm targets for the reduction of greenhouse emissions in Australia. He said that he would not “adopt a European solution for an Australian problem“.

The timing of the announcement was widely seen as calculated to embarrass Labor, which went through a fractious debate before lifting its opposition to uranium mines after 23 years.

Opposition to the move was led by Peter Garrett, the party’s environment spokesman, a lawyer who was also the singer of the Midnight Oil rock group, whose hits included antinuclear songs.

Labor’s adoption of greenhouse gas reduction targets was ridiculed by Howard, who said: “We should not, as Labor has done, pluck a target developed by the Europeans for European circumstances out of the air and say we’re going to commit to that.“

Howard, who has in the past appeared to favor a national referendum on the building of nuclear power stations in Australia, said he believed that was no longer necessary because opinion polls had firmed in favor of the nuclear option.

He said that the Government would not build or own nuclear power stations.

They would instead be owned by private power generation companies. The Government has set a target of having 25 nuclear reactors by 2050

PIN/ TIMESONLINE.COM

News Code 103756

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