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Australia to Consider Nuclear Power Options


Monday, 21 November, 2005


Australia to Consider Nuclear Power Options as Chinese Interest in Uranium Increases.

SYDNEY, November 21, 2005 -- Australia, with 41% of global uranium reserves, will assess nuclear power development at the Australian National Forum on Nuclear Power Options, being held in Sydney over the 20th and 21st of February, 2006. The consideration comes at a time of rapidly increasing oil prices, uncertainty over international energy security and concerns about global warming. The Forum will be watched closely by industrial leaders such as the United States and Japan, nations hungry for energy resources.

Developing nations will also be paying keen attention. China's interest in Australian uranium has increased dramatically as it looks to secure its energy future. South Korea is also moving rapidly to a greater reliance on nuclear power as it develops hydrogen based systems. Moves by Australia to develop a civilian nuclear power program would likely be accompanied by a significant expansion of uranium mining and calls for greater supply to world markets.

The Forum has been prompted by concerns over energy, as well as Australia's need to address critical infrastructure challenges and water resource management. The Forum will consider a range of issues, including the risks and rewards of exploitation of uranium resources for domestic and export use, nuclear power applications and the development of a global waste repository.

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs (Secretary of State equivalent) Alexander Downer, is presenting the keynote address. He has recently advocated increased uranium mining.

"As the holder of the world's largest uranium reserves, we have a responsibility to supply clean energy to other countries, even if so far we've chosen not to use nuclear energy ourselves," he said in September. The Minister has previously been flagged by the US as their preferred candidate to head the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The National Forum is being opened by nuclear power advocate Dr Dennis Jensen, a member of federal parliament and leader of a group of MPs calling for informed debate, based on the best science, on nuclear power development in Australia.

The potential for Australia to contribute significantly to global energy needs has also encouraged related proposals. Former Rhodes Scholar and Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, recently proposed development of an international nuclear waste repository in Australia, arguing the concept on moral, environmental and economic grounds. The opposition Labor Party has rejected the proposal, although there are members on the shadow benches supportive of consideration of nuclear power and the idea already has currency in a number of quarters.

The issue of nuclear power development in Australia, while still contentious, has seen a significant change in positions over the last few years. This has occurred at a time when noted environmentalists, such as Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore, have made calls supporting considered use of nuclear power as the only practical way of reducing greenhouse gas emission volumes.

"Nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand," Dr Moore told the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Resources in Washington, DC earlier this year.

"The time for common sense and scientifically sound leadership on the nuclear energy issue is now," he said.

Other environmental scientists such as Professor Hugh Possingham of the University of Queensland and Dr Robert Hunter, president of Scientists for Global Responsibility, have called for consideration of nuclear power to be undertaken.

Whilst that sentiment is shared by many in Australia there are concerns over economic and environmental outcomes, as well as the issue of security associated with uranium development. Supporters of uranium export have called for nuclear fuel to be leased to other nations and then returned at the end of its life for waste deposit in Australia's geologically stable, remote desert interior.

The National Forum is being chaired by Dr John Saunders. Dr Saunders is highly respected by industry and government internationally and has special expertise in the energy and investment sectors, notably throughout Asia.

National and international CEO's, policy makers and leaders in industry, finance, environment, science and engineering are taking part in the National Forum. Announcement on legislative intentions is expected and the forum is seen as a turning point in Australia's approach to energy policy, infrastructure development and investment considerations.


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