18/11/2008 - 09:14

Support for lifting of WA's uranium ban

18/11/2008 - 09:14

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The nation's nuclear science chief says lifting the ban on new uranium mines in Western Australia will prove a positive step for the cause of nuclear energy, although the federal government will ensure any moves are closely regulated.

Support for lifting of WA's uranium ban

The nation's nuclear science chief says lifting the ban on new uranium mines in Western Australia will prove a positive step for the cause of nuclear energy, although the federal government will ensure any moves are closely regulated.

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology (ANSTO) chairman Ziggy Switkowski said politicians may still take some years to realise that nuclear power was a large part of the answer to climate change.

"Until now we've been a bit inconsistent," he told ABC Television on Tuesday.

"We've agreed with the rest of the world about the gravity of global warming, and we export uranium, but not from every state."

The ANSTO boss described as a "positive step" the WA cabinet's decision to lift the previous Labor government's ban on new uranium mines.

"The more uranium we export and the more nuclear power that's used around the world, the less the challenge becomes of the evolution away from fossil fuels.

Mr Switkowski said he respected the Rudd government's view on nuclear energy, but the the rest of the world did not take the same position as Australia.

"I think in the next several years, we'll get an alignment ... between communities being supportive of nuclear power, and politicians realising that it really is a large part of the answer to our climate change strategy."

Meanwhile, Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says he will not speculate on whether Australia will boost the number of uranium mines.

The West Australian cabinet's decision makes way for dozens of deposits across the state to be exploited if capital can be raised.

But Mr Garrett said the federal government's responsibility was to ensure proper regulatory issues were applied.

"We knew that Western Australia had a policy for opening up its uranium mining - that's a decision that the West Australian government has taken," Mr Garrett told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

"Our responsibility is to take whatever decisions are made by the West Australian government - if there are any appropriate regulatory issues that have got to be addressed - then we'll address them in the same way that we're doing in the Northern Territory and South Australia.

"I'm not going to start speculating on the number of mines. Our job is to apply the proper regulatory approaches under EPBC Act (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) and that's what we'll do.

"We will, as we always have, wait until any specific proposals come through to us for consideration under the EPBC Act. That's our requirement as regulators."

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