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Federal MP happy to talk nuclear

Tuesday, 28th January, 2020

Mark Coulton Mark Coulton

By Callum Marshall

Parkes MP Mark Coulton has said he’s “more than happy to have the discussion” around support for more uranium production in the country.

Mr Coulton’s comments come after mining company Boss Resources voiced confidence in restarting uranium production at Honeymoon Mine following a positive feasibility study.

Honeymoon is currently only one of four uranium mines in Australia with an export licence.

In the past, the company has told the BDT they’re “open-minded” to the potential of uranium exploration in the Far West of New South Wales if that ever occurred.

With the state government currently exploring a repeal on uranium mining and nuclear facilities across New South Wales in an Upper House inquiry, Mr Coulton was asked what his thoughts were about uranium during a trip to Broken Hill on Wednesday.

“I think we’ve actually come a long way in looking at nuclear power,” said Mr Coulton.

“Obviously 15-20 years ago, not a snowball’s chance in hell that Australia would’ve looked at nuclear energy.

“There’s been a lot of development in nuclear reactors.

“My understanding is that they are much safer, they’re more compact, they’re actually much easier to construct than in earlier days.

“So putting nuclear power stations in is not the issue it once was 20 years ago.”

He said community perception was starting to change about it.

“I think obviously as people are having more concerns about carbon emissions, and obviously, the topic of discussion in Australia now is climate change and reducing emissions, there is more of an opportunity to look at the nuclear option,” he said.

“I don’t know if it’s on the agenda in the next year or so but I think those discussions are happening.

“I know the Deputy Premier in New South Wales (John Barilaro) is putting support behind investigating nuclear energy.

“I know a lot of people in Canberra and my colleagues certainly are supportive of it.

“I’ve got an open mind on it. More than happy to have that discussion.”

When the Upper House inquiry first emerged in June last year, the BDT asked local geologist Wolfgang Leyh of Eaglehawk Geological Consulting whether he saw any potential in it in both the Far West and the rest of the country.

 “In the district immediately around Broken Hill and the outcrop areas there’s very little potential (for uranium exploration),” he said at the time.

He said there wasn’t a significant demand for it as well.

 Climate and Energy Program Director at The Australia Institute Richie Merzian also voiced his concern at the time. 

“Back in 2006, the Howard Government called for a ‘full-blooded’ debate on the establishment of a nuclear power industry and the respective taskforce found the hurdles were numerous,” he said.

“Now, 13 years later, the hurdles are even greater.”

“We need to have a sensible, fact-based conversation about nuclear power.”

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