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Image: Courtesy Nuclear for Climate Australia.

Nationals go fission for power

Geoff Helisma|

When One Nation’s Mark Latham made his maiden speech in the NSW Legislative Council, he said he would pursue “lifting the ban on uranium mining and nuclear power, as per the Deputy Premier [John Barilaro]’s policy”.

Subsequently he tabled a private member’s bill for this purpose – last week, a parliamentary inquiry led by Liberal MP Taylor Martin found that “the existing prohibition on uranium mining is a barrier to knowing the extent of uranium resources in New South Wales”.

Based on this finding the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Repeal Bill 2019 “seeks to remove all State-based impediments to uranium mining and the construction and operation of nuclear facilities in New South Wales”.

The Independent sought comment from Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, regarding his thoughts and/or support for his leader John Barilaro’s longstanding support for nuclear energy.

“From my perspective I think we need to have a debate to determine whether we need to look at the benefits of nuclear energy,” he said.

“Bear in mind, irrespective of what the state government does, there is a Commonwealth prohibition on building any nuclear reactors in the country.

“As a state we can’t override the Commonwealth legislation.

“As a community, as a society, we need to have a mature debate on this.

“It certainly won’t go ahead if it doesn’t have a social licence and, at the moment, that social licence is based on people’s reactions to Chernobyl, Fukushima and Homer Simpson running the Springfield nuclear power plant.

“I’m being serious; quite frankly they are my opinions of it as well.

“If technology hasn’t progressed any further than that, then of course we shouldn’t have it, because it’s not safe or reliable and it’s probably expensive.

“Unless we’ve got the community behind us, it will never go ahead – they’ve got to be convinced that it is safe, cost-effective and reliable.

“Until we have a debate I don’t think we’ll ever know that.”

On the political front, NSW Labor’s shadow minister for climate change and energy and shadow minister for the North Coast, Adam Searle, said that an elected Labor government “will maintain a ban on uranium exploration, extraction and export”.

“Nuclear is the most expensive form of power and its waste is a disaster for the environment,” he said in a media release.

“Regional and coastal communities now face the grim prospect of becoming a nuclear power plant wasteland.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and the Nature Conservation Council (NCC) of NSW have weighed in on the debate.

“New moves in state parliament to get rid of long standing and prudent protections against radioactive risk should sound alarm bells around the Clarence region, particularly in the office of state member Chris Gulaptis,” the ACF’s media release states.

“Australia is blessed with outstanding renewable resources.

“We do not need to explore dangerous nuclear energy options.”

The NCC’s media release challenges Mr Gulaptis by asking: “Will Chris Gulaptis MP back his leader with a nuclear power plant in the Clarence region?”

“The Clarence region is one of 12 identified by nuclear lobby group Nuclear for Climate Australia as suitable for nuclear reactors.

Nuclear for Climate Australia’s website “outlines a proposed study … [which] is intended to provide a clear direction for decarbonising sections of Australia’s primary energy system … through the use of nuclear energy”.