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Last Updated: Friday, 29 December 2006, 09:40 GMT
Howard backs nuclear power shift
Australian Prime Minister John Howard
Mr Howard wants a ban on new uranium mines lifted
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has backed a controversial report which calls on the country to start building nuclear power stations.

Mr Howard said the report, released last month, showed that nuclear power was "part of the solution" to Australia's growing energy needs.

It said Australia could have a nuclear power industry in 10 to 15 years.

Critics say Mr Howard is using the nuclear issue to build his green credentials ahead of 2007 elections.

Mr Howard said nuclear energy was not a "silver bullet" to solve global warming or energy security.

But a nation like Australia - which has the world's largest known uranium deposits - would be "crazy in the extreme if we didn't allow for the development of nuclear power", he said.

Most of Australia's energy needs at present are met by coal and gas, bestowing on the country the highest per capita greenhouse emissions in the world.

A shift to nuclear energy would also help the country tackle pollution and cut greenhouse emissions.

"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.


But the move towards nuclear has been questioned by Mr Howard's political opponents.

The opposition Labor Party, which introduced a ban on any new uranium mines while in power in 1983, has asked him to explain where the nuclear reactors would be built and where the radioactive waste would be dumped.

Mr Howard has called for the ban on new uranium mines to be lifted.

His backing of nuclear power has also been opposed by the environmental and coal lobbies.

Critics argue that Australia does not need nuclear power because of its huge coal resources.

Australia is one of only two major industrialised nations not to have signed the Kyoto agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the other being the US.

Australia faces international pressure to reduce emissions, and experts say nuclear power could be one way to do it.

Australia currently has one small research reactor, located at Lucas Heights in Sydney.

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