Nuclear power on the backburner as ALP awaits review THE AUSTRALIAN JULY 18, 2015 Rebecca Puddy and Michael Owen
A national push within Labor ranks to change decades of opposition to nuclear energy has been shelved while South Australia conducts a royal commission into the controversial power source.
Gary Gray, the federal opposition’s resources spokesman, told The Weekend
Australian a move within the ALP to end the party’s opposition to nuclear energy was on hold until the royal commission reported to the Weatherill Labor government next May.
This means that delegates at the ALP national conference in Melbourne next weekend will move a motion unopposed for Labor to continue its prohibition of the “establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia”.
Mr Gray said yesterday he was among senior Labor figures in favour of Premier Jay Weatherill’s inquiry into establishing a nuclear energy industry for the state, which is desperate for a so-called “new” economy to boost its worsening unemployment situation.
“We had considered the possibility of making the platform more sympathetic (to nuclear) but thought it was better to wait for the report of the royal commission so we can do it with the full knowledge of what we are dealing with. The royal commission is the right way to proceed,” he said.
Mr Gray said his original draft amendment to the party’s national platform sought changes to Labor’s strong anti-nuclear stance, but he dropped the push to change the party’s position after the South Australian Labor government announced its royal commission in February.
The state government’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission is headed by former Defence figure and state governor Kevin Scarce, who has argued South Australia should consider developing a nuclear industry to compensate for a downturn in manufacturing.
With rising unemployment in South Australia, which at 8.2 per cent is the highest of all the states, Mr Weatherill has pointed towards the potential for nuclear enrichment, exports and storage to provide an economic boost.
South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, a strong advocate for a nuclear industry, referred questions yesterday to the Premier’s office.
A spokesman for the Premier said there would be no comment.
In May, Scott McDine, the national secretary of the Right-aligned Australian Workers Union, backed the “all but inevitable” conclusion that nuclear energy would play an important role globally, saying Australia needed to consider its natural advantage.
While Bill Shorten is opposed to the nuclear industry, senior Labor figures including Bob Hawke and former energy minister Martin Ferguson have lent their support to the expansion of the nuclear industry as a low-carbon energy source.
Labor has maintained consistent opposition to the establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. It is also strongly opposed to the importation and storage of nuclear waste sourced from overseas.
South Australia hosts four out of five of Australia’s uranium mines: Olympic Dam, Honeymoon, Beverley and Four Mile.
ERA’s Ranger mine in the Northern Territory is the fifth. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/nuclear-power-on-the-backburner-as-alp-awaits-review/story-fn59niix-1227446391784