THE resource industry has welcomed the Australian Government’s call for a ‘sensible debate’ on future nuclear energy developments, reopening the debate on nuclear power and flagging potential opportunities to expand South Australia’s emerging uranium mining sector.

Though current legislation outlaws the development of nuclear power in Australia, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Fairfax Media last week the technology was a clear option for reducing carbon emissions.

“It’s an obvious conclusion that if you want to bring down your greenhouse gas emissions dramatically you have to embrace a form of low or zero-emissions energy and that’s nuclear, the only known 24/7 baseload power supply with zero emissions,” she said.

“It’s a big call for our leaders to engage in this debate, but a good one because it will take some time for communities and industries to get comfortable again with the current and future generations of nuclear technology,” she said.

“I always thought that we needed to have a sensible debate about all potential energy sources and, given that Australia has the largest source of uranium, it’s obvious that we should at least debate it.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott also voiced his support on the matter.

“If we are to dramatically reduce emissions we have to remember that the one absolutely proven way of generating emissions-free baseload power is through nuclear,” he said.

“Nuclear energy is a very important part of the energy mix of many countries – (including) Japan, and it’s coming back in Japan after the Fukushima problem.

“If someone wants to put a proposal for nuclear energy generation here in Australia – fine.”

Reigniting the debate for nuclear power earned some dissent from the opposition, with Labor’s Jenny Macklin calling it an unnecessary consideration for Australia.

“It’s both not necessary in Australia and I’d like Julie Bishop to tell those Australians where she thinks she’s going to put those power stations,” she said.

Despite warning that such developments would not earn government subsidies, the South Australian business community urged the federal government to move ahead on nuclear energy discussions. The call, led by Business SA, was backed by AMMA.

“South Australia is an important global hub for uranium mining, but domestic investment in nuclear energy could also see local communities benefit from its expansion,” AMMA executive director Scott Barklamb said.

“Investment in this important commodity will see new jobs created and greater returns poured into our national economy, placing Australia in a prime position as a top exporter for uranium to the rest of the world.

“It is encouraging to see the government acting to embrace new possibilities that no only supports resource industry growth, but also offers significant new energy options for the Australian community.”