Friday, May 26, 2006

Australian Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop visited the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in Lucas Heights, New South Wales today. The purpose of her visit was to inspect progress on Australia’s newest nuclear research reactor – OPAL. Whilst at the facility, she received a report on the economics and safety of a nuclear power industry in Australia.

OPAL, which stands for Open Pool Australian Light water reactor is expected to become fully operational by early 2007 and is in its final stage of development.

The reactor, which will replace Australia’s sole nuclear reactor – HIFAR will be used to research microbiology, biotechnology and gene therapy in addition to the production of agents used in nuclear medicine.

The report presented to Ms Bishop at ANSTO was written by Professor John Gittus and discussed the economics and safety of nuclear energy in Australia.

The major conclusion of the study was that new generation nuclear power plants would be as competitive as newer types of coal power plants in Australia. The report also found that nuclear energy is “the safest, most secure way of generating electricity with greater price stability in comparison to gas or coal power generation” according to Ms Bishop.

Prof Gittus’ report found that when the cost of environmental damage and carbon dioxide emissions from coal or gas fired power stations were considered, nuclear power becomes more attractive.

Speaking on the report, Ms Bishop said she wishes for an evidence-based debate about nuclear energy in Australia. “I welcome this report as a useful contribution to what I hope will be an evidence-based debate about nuclear power in Australia. The debate must focus on the facts and not be biased by emotion.” she said.

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