Environmentalists have rejected a claim by the World Nuclear Association that the world needs 20 times as many nuclear power plants to avoid the disastrous effects of global warming.
Continued opposition to nuclear power has restricted the number of uranium mines to three and the number of nuclear reactors to one, on the outskirts of Sydney, which is used only for research purposes.
Howard urged state governments controlled by the opposition Labour party to lift barriers to uranium mining as soon as possible, saying it was in the interest of their states.
The prime minister said: “The report demonstrates clearly that there are no sound reasons to prevent uranium mining in Australia and that the global growth in uranium demand provides a timely opportunity for Australia.
“I call upon state governments to end their bands on uranium mining and exploration, which stand in the way of investment, jobs and exports.”
The federal government-commissioned report found that export sales of the radioactive fuel could double by 2015 and Australia may have up to 25 nuclear power plants by 2050.
Not everyone was impressed by the findings.
Jim Peacock, Australia’s government-appointed chief scientist and a known advocate of nuclear power, questioned the report’s time-frame, saying it “underestimated the challenge that will confront Australia if it should choose to expand the scope of its nuclear activities”.
Christine Milne, a senator from the Greens party, said on Friday: “The government is now scrambling to create a perception that it is doing something, knowing full well that nuclear power is too slow, too expensive and too dangerous to provide any answer to global warming.”
She said that contrary to reports that nuclear energy is environmentally friendly, “additional mining activity will increase greenhouse gas emissions”.
Asked whether he would mind living near a nuclear reactor, Howard said: “I wouldn’t have any objection, none whatsoever.”