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Tuesday, 16 February 1971
Page: 118

Mr Jacobi asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:

(1)   Has Australia, since 1953, become increasingly aware that its natural water resources are limited and that within the next 30 years the south-east of the continent will face a severe water shortage.

(2)   Is it a fact that the population of Australia in the last census was 12 million and by the year 2000 it will be approximately 23 million when the average water consumption ner head of population will reach 150 gallons per day.

(3)   If so, should nuclear power installations be designed not only for electricity production but also for the production of- additional fresh water.

(4)   Are there any reasons why it would not be better to invest in an experimental dual purpose reactor for the desalination of water as well as the production of electricity instead of the Jervis Bay plant designed only for industrial and domestic power production.

Mr Swartz - The answer to the honour able member's question is as follows:

(1)   I am not aware that concern in Australia regarding water resources can be related to any particular date. Nor have I seen' any authoritative evidence to indicate that there will be a severe water shortage in the south-east of Australia within the next 30 years. There is no doubt that increasing care will be required in the management of our resources but this is not the same thing as facing a severe shortage.

(2)   I would not think that any prediction of Australian population by the year 200J could be regarded as a fact, but the suggested figures seem reasonable.

(3)   On the basis of present estimates of costs of water from nuclear desalination plants and from conventional sources, .there does not appear to be any economic justification for use of such plants in Australia for desalination put poses in the immediate future.

(4)   There is little merit in the -proposal for Australia's first nuclear power station to be a prototype nuclear power/desalination complex. No desalination plants have yet been constructed anywhere, which would be of sufficient size to contribute to large-scale water needs. When desalination technology has developed overseas, the Government will Be anxious to ensure that advantage is taken in such technologies where appropriate.

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