Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Australian PM says country 'crazy' if it does not go nuclear

AFP , SYDNEY

Australian Prime Minister John Howard yesterday called for the immediate expansion of uranium mining and the development of nuclear powered energy.

Unveiling a final report on the nation's future energy requirements, Howard backed the controversial findings first revealed last month and said nuclear energy should feature in any plan for Australia's future needs.

"The reality is we won't have nuclear power stations tomorrow, but over time if we are to have a sensible response, we have to include nuclear power," he told reporters in Sydney.

"It is foolish and backward-looking and old fashioned of people to say `Well, we will always oppose the use of nuclear power,'" he said.

No silver bullet

Howard said that while nuclear energy was not a "silver bullet" solution to global warming or energy security, a nation such as Australia would be "crazy in the extreme if we didn't allow for the development of nuclear power."

"If we are interested in the future, if we are looking into the future and not looking back over our shoulders to the past we have to factor in nuclear power as part of the solution," Howard said.

Australia has the world's largest known deposits of uranium, but continued political opposition to nuclear power has restricted the number of mines to just three.

The country has one nuclear reactor, at Lucas Heights on the southern outskirts of Sydney, and that is used only for research purposes.

Howard urged state governments controlled by the opposition Labor Party to remove the barriers to uranium mining as soon as possible.

"I ask Labor governments around Australia not to wait until a conference in April of next year, but act now in the interests of the country and the interests of their own states to remove the existing restrictions," he said.

Howard said nuclear power would likely be introduced gradually because it is currently more expensive than fossil fuels but would become cheaper over time.

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