NSW govt may reconsider uranium mining ban

·2-min read

The NSW deputy premier and Nationals leader says he hopes to reintroduce legislation to state parliament to overturn a ban on uranium mining.

One Nation MP Mark Latham in 2019 introduced legislation to lift the uranium mining ban in NSW, a position long supported by John Barilaro.

A subsequent parliamentary inquiry into the legislation recommended the NSW government repeal state bans on uranium mining and nuclear facilities but was criticised by the Greens and environmental groups.

The coalition government ultimately declined last year to support Mr Latham's bill and considered introducing its own legislation overturning the uranium mining ban, but declined to proceed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the ban on uranium mining is a matter for the NSW government, only the federal government can overturn a ban on nuclear electricity generation.

Australia's only nuclear reactor - at Lucas Heights, 40km south of Sydney - is used solely for the production of nuclear medicines.

Mr Barilaro on Friday said he hoped to soon reintroduce legislation overturning the state's uranium mining ban and argued Australia should look towards building small modular nuclear energy reactors.

He said this could help Australia decarbonise its economy.

"Every time you talk nuclear someone will throw Chernobyl at you or Fukushima or Three Mile Island," Mr Barilaro told 2GB radio.

"There were issues in the past but it's not where the landscape is unfolding."

Uranium mining has been banned in NSW since 1987 and Labor, the Greens and environmental groups do not support a repeal of the ban.

They argue nuclear energy options are dangerous and excessively costly and uranium mining will cause permanent environmental damage.

About a third of the world's uranium stocks are situated in Australia.

Mr Barilaro's declaration comes days after a NSW productivity white paper endorsed a reversal of the ban on small nuclear reactor electricity generation.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet admitted at the white paper's launch that some of its proposals would be controversial, and unlikely to become public policy.

Nationals MPs at the federal level, including Barnaby Joyce, have also previously backed the establishment of small modular reactors in Australia, saying they could replace decommissioned coal-fired power stations.

In a mid-2020 poll conducted by market research platform Glow, more Australians supported the use of nuclear power to tackle climate change than opposed the idea.

That survey found almost two in five people were pro-nuclear, with 31 per cent against the technology and the same proportion of people unsure.

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