It is time for Australia to “seriously discuss” the benefits of developing a nuclear power industry, according to the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM).
AusIMM president Janine Herzig, speaking at the International Uranium Conference in Adelaide, said the time had come for Australians to discuss the opportunities afforded by the nation’s nuclear potential.
She believes this includes “professional employment opportunities, reduced carbon emissions and increased base load energy security.”
“Any such industry must be underpinned by the highest professional standards and accreditation,” Herzig said. “When it comes to uranium mining, we already have this knowledge in Australia, from the technical skills and personnel, to the expertise in positive community engagement, health, safety and environmental outcomes.”
AusIMM chief executive officer Stephen Durkin, who also spoke at the conference, said nuclear power had a stigma attached to it that was holding back development of the industry.
“Without pre-empting the findings of any such inquiry, we should at least be capable of having the conversation about possible opportunities,” Durkin said.
“Given Australia’s rising power costs, lower energy security and desire to reduce emissions in power generation, it is time to explore the role that uranium could play in Australia’s energy supply.”
Electricity-generating nuclear power stations do not exist in Australia, and their development is currently prohibited in two acts of parliament, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.
The development of nuclear power in the country remains a topic of strong political debate, despite Australia’s status as one of the world’s premier uranium producers.
Notable former Prime Ministers who have spoken out in support of nuclear power include John Howard, Tony Abbott and the late Bob Hawke. Former PMs who have expressed skepticism about nuclear power include Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.
The world’s largest proponent of nuclear energy is currently France, which generates over three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power stations.