A parliamentary inquiry has recommended the NSW government support repealing state bans on uranium mining and nuclear facilities, but critics have warned of danger and risk.
The NSW upper house committee says “outdated” arguments for prohibiting nuclear on a safety basis were becoming “increasingly difficult to defend”.
The committee, which released its report on Wednesday, was considering a bill from One Nation MP Mark Latham, seeking to remove all state-based barriers to uranium mining and the construction and operation of certain nuclear facilities.
The report’s recommendations include that the state government support the repeal of the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act 1986 in its entirety.
Liberal MP and inquiry chair Taylor Martin said the bans reflected fears of the 1980s but the safety of nuclear technology has since advanced.
“There are no compelling justifications from an environmental or human safety point of view which would warrant the blanket exclusion of nuclear energy, especially in its emerging small scale applications, from serious policy consideration in NSW,” Mr Martin said in a statement on Wednesday.
If Mr Latham’s draft legislation is enacted, it would become legal to mine for uranium in NSW for the first time since 1987 – however, a ban on nuclear facilities would remain because of Commonwealth prohibitions.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro has already said the Nationals will back the bill.
“That will put the focus on the federal government because without the federal government lifting its ban there’s no way we’ll see a nuclear industry here in Australia,” Mr Barilaro told Sky News on Tuesday.
But the draft legislation has also attracted criticism, with the Australian Conservation Foundation arguing the country doesn’t need to explore “dangerous” nuclear options.
“The state ban on uranium mining has served NSW well and should remain,” ACT nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Uranium mining in NSW would risk the health of the environment and regional communities for scant promise of return.”
Opposition Climate Change and Energy Spokesman Adam Searle said Labor supported a ban on uranium exploration, extraction and export.
“Nuclear is the most expensive form of power and its waste is a disaster for the environment,” Mr Searle said.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the inquiry’s recommendations were dangerous for the climate, land and water, the state and household budgets.
Meanwhile, Independent MP Justin Field called on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to rule out supporting the bill.
“This is an expensive distraction from the urgent need to re-power the NSW and Australian economy with renewable energy that we know is cheaper and quicker to deliver without the risks of uranium mining and nuclear power,” Mr Field said.
Ms Berejiklian during question time on Wednesday said the government had until September to respond to the committee’s report on the bill.