Citizens' jury puts nuclear on the table
Infrastructure NSW chairman, Nick Greiner. Photo: Rob Homer
A ''CITIZENS' JURY'' has recommended the government start a discussion about nuclear power stations in NSW as an issue that ''should not be dismissed''.
The jury of about 25 people from Sydney was one of two invited by the Parliament's public accounts committee to participate in an inquiry into alternative energy. The other was from the New England area.
The juries were chosen by the New Democracy Foundation whose members include the chairman of Infrastructure NSW, Nick Greiner, and the former premier of Western Australia Geoff Gallop.
Its founder is the executive director of Transfield Holdings, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis.
The Sydney jury's report, released yesterday, urges the government to initiate ''informed public discussion'' into ''emerging nuclear technologies'' such as thorium as an energy source. ''The unanimous view of the jury was that the proposed issue of nuclear power generation should not be dismissed,'' the recommendation - one of five - says.
''A minority view (10 per cent) supported starting deployment in the immediate future. While this view was not shared, the jury was in agreement that the topic should be discussed in greater detail with the Australian public.''
The government is preparing to proclaim legislation that will overturn a 26-year ban on uranium exploration.
The Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, and the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, have been at pains to deflect opposition claims that this could lead to nuclear power.
Mr Hartcher has previously said the decision was not about providing an alternative energy source to electricity generation.
Unlike uranium, there is no ban on exploration or mining of thorium in NSW.
In its report, the New England jury said the community had no confidence in uranium-based power. But it also said the same applied to coal seam gas and neither should be pursued until that improved.
In an awkward recommendation for the government, it says the electricity distribution businesses, or ''poles and wires'', should be kept in public ownership. Mr O'Farrell has ruled out selling the poles and wires this term but has left the door open to taking it to the next election to raise infrastructure funds.
The chairman of the public accounts committee, Jonathan O'Dea, said the reports, which will be included in the committee's final report, would be discussed on Thursday.
A spokeswoman for Mr Hartcher said he would await the final report before considering any recommendations.