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Nuclear issues and the ALP government

by Jim Green
Friends of the Earth, Australia

The election of the ALP is a major circuit breaker in Australian nuclear politics, especially in relation to the previus government's promotion of nuclear power and its plan to impose a nuclear dump in the NT. However there is still much to be done: uranium mining will be a huge issue under the ALP government; radioactive waste management will be contentious, all the more so if (as expected) the ALP government allows the continued production of nuclear waste at the Lucas Heights reactor; public pressure will be necessary to get the government to seriously pursue non-proliferation and disarmament initiatives such as the Nuclear Weapons Convention; and a number of other issues are unresolved including Maralinga veterans' issues and the plutonium contamination at Maralinga.

There are a number of key drivers that have converged to push the current strong pro-nuclear moves in Australia, including:
  • bipartisan support for the expansion of uranium mining; and the sharp increase in the global uranium price in recent years.
  • corporate drivers with the world's largest resource group (BHP Billiton) assuming control of the worlds largest uranium deposit (Roxby Downs). This has legitimised the sector e.g. an alarming number of 'ethical' investment companies continue to promote BHP Billiton even after BHP Billiton's entry into uranium with its acquisition of WMC Resources.
  • the international nuclear industry PR push, including linking nuclear power and climate change.
  • mainstream media acceptance of much of the industry’s PR push and subsequent positioning on nuclear issues eg. The Australian’s pro-nuclear campaign.
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