It’s interesting that Brendan Nelson’s call for Australia to become a nuclear power producer hasn’t generated more comment. The Science Minister said in the Dame Pattie Menzies Oration in Sydney on Monday that the move could slash carbon emissions and act as a solution to global warming. Deputy Opposition Leader Jenny Macklin responded that the Government needs to first deal with other problems – waste issues from the replacement reactor project at Lucas Heights.

Actually, the problems posed by Nelson’s comments are more likely to land in Labor’s lap. Uranium mining is becoming a bigger and bigger issue.

Labor stands by its fudge from 20 years ago, the three mines policy. That was shaped by two main factors, green superstition and the Cold War. The first remains, the second is over. Ironically, uranium prices are heading up because the supply of material salvaged from scrapped nuclear weapons is becoming scarcer.

The Labor government in South Australia, our main uranium producing state, is keen to see uranium mining expand. Its three most senior figures, Premier Mike Rann, Treasurer Kevin Foley and Legislative Council Leader Paul Holloway, know their state’s rustbelt manufacturing industries are doomed and are pinning their future hopes on minerals, including uranium.

Federal Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Martin Fergusson is seen as sympathetic. Shrubhuggers must still be shaking at Peter Garrett’s comments from earlier this month calling for a debate on nuclear power. “I wouldn’t be doing any of my colleagues a disservice to say that some of the thinking of the Labor Party on the environment needs to come into the 21st century,” he said.

Indeed, the biggest stumbling block for Labor seems to be Shadow Minister for Environment Anthony Albanese – and could that be anything to do with the influence of the Greens in his inner-city Sydney electorate of Grayndler? Look at the voting stats . The shrubhuggers scored more than 20 per cent of the primary vote there.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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