Australia’s nuclear future analysed at industry conference

A nuclear energy conference has heard Australia needs to start having a serious discussion around the implementation of the technology.

The president of the Academy of Technology Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), Dr Alan Finkel, told delegates at the conference that Australia has hidden from the idea of developing its nuclear industry for too long.

"This is all the more disappointing because, as a huge and reliable supplier of uranium to the world's reactors, Australia has a moral responsibility to address issues of how the uranium is used and disposed of," he told the ATSE conference on Thursday.

"There is also a pressing environmental reason for Australia and other countries to actively consider nuclear electricity generation."

Finkel said nuclear power represented a "transformational opportunity" for the nation to reach its clean electricity goals while ensuring there was a reliable energy source, Herald Sun reported.

Finkel noted a strong regulatory system was needed, and said despite public perceptions, the nuclear industry had an enviable safety record.

Natalie Wasley, co-ordinator of the Beyond Nuclear Initiative said the concept of nuclear power in Australia had previously been tested and rejected by the Australian public.

However Ben Heard, director at ThinkClimate Consulting, said achieving community support for nuclear power required “an informed, determined effort at a sufficient scale designed to respond to community concern”.

“As a former opponent of nuclear power I have now spoken in favour of nuclear power in front of two thousand Australians,” Heard told the conference.

Heard said Australians were not wholly anti-nuclear.

“Polling from October 2012 suggests 39% of Australian support Australia developing nuclear power plants for the generation of electricity, with 41% opposing this proposition and 21% undecided,” Heard said.

“Rather than asking how community nuclear support can be achieved, we also need to ask how community nuclear support can be activated.”

Heard said sharing knowledge around nuclear technology, tackling misconceptions around the industry and showing the positive side of the sector were all ways public support could be bolstered.

He said bad information must be called out and corrected or disallowed, and wants the industry to present a positive narrative around what nuclear power could mean for the nation in order to develop and frame the nuclear discussion.

Earlier this year The Australian Uranium Association chief Michael Angwin said while there had been positive steps made in the industry, more needed to be done.

"I think there has been a political fear there will be a public backlash party if there is any support for the uranium industry," Angwin said.

“Now it’s time to treat uranium as any other commodity, because the safety standards in Australia are among the best in the world."

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