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Thursday, 24 March 1966

Mr FAIRBAIRN (FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for National Development) - A sub-committee of the Water Resources Council looked at the question of desalination very closely and arrived at a decision which will appear in a report by the Council which will be published very shortly. I will see that the honorable member gets a copy of it. The Council came to the conclusion that in the foreseeable future - within a period of about 20 years - it will be much cheaper to obtain water in Australia by conventional methods than by the use of giant nuclear plants. I think that basically all the authorities in the States who are associated with water problems would agree that this is correct. Perhaps there is a requirement for desalination on a very small scale but not on a scale which would involve the installation of giant nuclear plants. As to the use of nuclear power generally, Australia is in the fortunate position of having plentiful supplies of cheap conventional fuel. At the same time, however, atomic energy plants are becoming more competitive throughout the world. I think that at present about 60 plants in various countries are producing electricity by the use of nuclear power.

There is no doubt that in the foreseeable future there will be areas in Australia where nuclear power will be able to compete with conventional power. When that time comes, or at some earlier time, the Government will undoubtedly give consideration to this matter.

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