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Nuclear Energy Taskforce draft report is expected to endorse uranium mining and nuclear power.

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Tues day 21 November 2006

Nuclear Energy Taskforce draft report is expected to endorse uranium mining and nuclear power


TONY EASTLEY: It's expected that Australians will be told today that a domestic nuclear power industry could be viable within 15 years. 


The Prime Minister's Nuclear Energy Taskforce, headed by Dr Ziggy Switkowski, releases its findings today. 


The report is expected to endorse expansions to uranium mining and enrichment. 


The draft report, which is designed to stimulate public discussion before a final document is produced next month, is reported to say that the $573-million worth of uranium oxide exported last year could have been worth $1.5-billion if it had been enriched.  


According to leaks in News Limited papers, the report is expected to suggest that nuclear power will become more viable, especially as coal-fired power stations face carbon emission costs.  


Karen Barlow reports. 


KAREN BARLOW: Over the past five months, the nuclear physicist Dr Ziggy Switkowski and five experts have investigated the pros and cons of an expanded nuclear industry, including nuclear power. 


The Federal Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, says the Government will take the findings very seriously. 


NICK MINCHIN: We've made no decision to have nuclear power in this country. At the moment it is still actually illegal to build a nuclear power station in Australia, but we do think we should ... it would be wrong not to contemplate the possibility of nuclear power at some point down the track. 


KAREN BARLOW: Nuclear power proponents say Australia needs to act now to reap economic and environment benefits.  


Dr Bertrand Barre is the Scientific Director of AREVA; a company that will be vying for contracts in the event of an expanded nuclear industry. 


BERTRAND BARRE: It does take time to build the regulatory environment and to find the site selection and then to build the plant, that is true. 


The question of using a lot of carbon to build the plant, no ... if you make the food and life cycle analysis, nuclear energy, as well as most renewables, is very, very low in terms of carbon emitted by (inaudible), which it will produce. 


So that's not the problem, but the problem of delay is a very serious problem, and that's why some have to start early. 


KAREN BARLOW: Green groups say the taskforce is stacked with nuclear power proponents, and it's not adequately addressed clean, renewable energy sources.  


The Chief Executive of Greenpeace, Steve Shallhorn.  


STEVE SHALLHORN: For the nuclear boosters, the devil will be in the details. What we'll be looking at is looking to see what kind of arrangements they make for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, which are hugely expensive, as well as the storage of nuclear waste. 


The mistake that it's made in other countries can be boiled down to the five Ps; push power plants, postpone problems. 


KAREN BARLOW: The Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, says he's one in the Government who needs to be convinced by nuclear power.  


NICK MINCHIN: One of Australia's great strengths is our access to reliable, cheap sources of power from coal and electricity. 


It gives this country enormous competitive advantages. We would be crazy to wantonly or carelessly throw away that advantage.  


TONY EASTLEY: Finance Minister, Senator Nick Minchin.