The New South Wales Government has been encouraged to support the repeal of the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities Act to help lift Australia’s uranium mining ban.
The New South Wales Legislative Council’s report into the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Repeal Bill 2019 highlights that the ban is impeding the state’s understanding of this resource.
The inquiry looked into a bill put forward by One Nation MP Mark Latham to remove state-based barriers to uranium mining and the construction and operation of certain nuclear facilities.
Australia has the world’s largest uranium deposits, but the use of nuclear power is prohibited in two acts of parliament, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.
The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomed the report’s recommendations. MCA chief executive, Tania Constable said if the bans are repealed, it would help strengthen Australia’s position as a global uranium producer.
“Australia is endowed with the world’s largest uranium resource but is only the third largest producer,” she said.
“Enhancing the knowledge of New South Wales’ potential uranium resource will enhance Australia’s presence in global energy markets.”
If the draft legislation is enacted, it would become legal to mine for uranium in New South Wales for the first time since 1987 – however, a ban on nuclear facilities would remain because of Commonwealth prohibitions.
Liberal MP and inquiry chair Taylor Martin said the bans reflected fears of the 1980s but the safety of nuclear technology has since advanced.
“There are no compelling justifications from an environmental or human safety point of view which would warrant the blanket exclusion of nuclear energy, especially in its emerging small scale applications, from serious policy consideration in New South Wales,” he said.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro has already confirmed that the Nationals will back the bill.
“That will put the focus on the federal government, because without the federal government lifting its ban there’s no way we’ll see a nuclear industry here in Australia,” Barilaro told Sky News on Tuesday.
But the draft legislation has also attracted criticism, with the Australian Conservation Foundation arguing the country doesn’t need to explore “dangerous” nuclear options.
“The state ban on uranium mining has served NSW well and should remain,” Australian Capital Territory nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said in a statement.
“Uranium mining in New South Wales would risk the health of the environment and regional communities for scant promise of return.”