Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke has given his public support to the development of Australia's nuclear resources, as well as to the storage of related radioactive waste material.
While addressing at a Cooperative Research Centres Association Conference in Perth, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said the development of nuclear power in Australia could bring both economic and environmental benefits.
“This is a case where in doing good for the rest of the world, we can, in the process, do enormously well for the Australian economy,” he said.
Hawke said nuclear power could play a critical role in reducing the impact of anthropogenic climate change and that Australia was in a position to make a major contribution to its global development given that it holds around 40 per cent of the world’s uranium deposits.
The former Labor leader added that Australia bore a responsibility to assist with the safe disposal of radioactive waste, given the ample space the country possesses.
“If Australia has – as we do – the safest remote locations for storing the world’s nuclear waste, we have a responsibility to make those sites available for this purpose,” he said.
Hawke based this conclusion on a 25-year old report made by Ralph Slayter, whom the former prime minister appointed as Australia’s first chief scientist back in 1989. According to Slayter’s report, some of the remote reaches of the Northern Territory and Western Australia could provide apt dumping grounds for radioactive waste.
“It would, of course, be entirely appropriate that before any action is take along the lines I am suggesting, another expert scientific investigation be undertaken to confirm the accuracy of the information,” Hawke said.
His remarks arrive just as some of Australia’s largest developing neighbours, including India and China, step up the development of nuclear power in order to sate their surging burgeoning energy needs and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels which generate copious amounts of pollution.
Tony Roulstone, course director for nuclear energy at the University Cambridge, described China and South Korea’s pursuit of nuclear energy as “single-minded,” pointing out that both countries are building third-generation reactors with greater speed and fewer cost blowouts than industrialised countries in the West.
China in particular is pushing hard for the adoption of nuclear power domestically, as the use of coal-fired power plants results in hazardous smog levels in the country’s major cities, threatening to foment popular unrest.