Tuesday, 28 February 2012 14:20
Australia has no need and no social licence to develop nuclear power, South Australian Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis has said.
The minister told a uranium conference in Adelaide today that while he fully supported uranium mining, the debate over nuclear power was a non-starter.
"It's not just a question of political will," Mr Koutsantonis said.
"The truth is you need a social licence to operate and there is not a social licence for nuclear power.
"The Australian public don't want it.
"I don't think it's economic, I don't think it's viable and I don't think it's politically saleable."
Mr Koutsantonis said that with gas so abundant and so cheap in Australia, only a future energy crisis would lead governments to consider nuclear power.
"But I don't think I would support it and I'm not sure that any government would support it, not even some conservative governments," he said.
The same conference was disrupted by anti-nuclear protesters with a small group calling for a halt to uranium mining.
A lone protester wearing white protective overalls and a mask stood at the back of the Paydirt conference during opening speeches on Tuesday and called for SA's uranium to be left in the ground.
He said South Australians did not want the waste generated by uranium mining.
Several others joined him chanting similar slogans before being removed as SA Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis completed his address.
Mr Koutsantonis said the state government strongly supported the development of the state's uranium resources, including the world's largest deposit at Olympic Dam.
But he also maintained the government's decision to ban all exploration, including the search for uranium, in the environmentally sensitive Arkaroola Sanctuary in the Flinders Rangers was the right one.
The minister said the decision was difficult and controversial but was part of the process to bring the public along with the government and the mining industry in the development of new projects.
"If we had not banned mining in Arkaroola, I think this room would have been full of young protesters," Mr Koutsantonis said.
"I think we would have galvanised a whole generation against uranium mining."
He said he hoped one day that the decision to ban mining in Arkaroola would be seen as benefiting Australia's uranium industry.
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