19 August 2014 – BRIEF: A coalition of church groups in Western Australia has rebuked WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion for urging fast tracking of uranium mining in the state.

The minister told the 10th annual Uranium and Rare Earths Conference in Perth, that, “An increasing number of rational people across the world are seeing nuclear energy, with its low carbon emissions and base-load power capacity, as a fundamental part of the response to climate change.”

The church groups, including Anglican EcoCare Commission, Catholic Earthcare Australia, Justice Ecology and Development Office Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, Society of Friends Western Australian Regional Meeting and Social Justice Board Uniting Church in Western Australia, have described Mr Marmion’s comments as “ill-informed and dangerous.”

In a joint media statement, church groups expressed “deep and abiding concerns” about the social and environmental costs of uranium.

Church group spokeswoman Rosemary Hudson Miller, associate general secretary justice and mission, Uniting Church in Western Australia said, “Nuclear technologies that utilise non-renewable resources such as uranium, while at the same time producing toxic by-products that have been proven to interfere with human and ecosystem health, are not a sustainable way of providing energy for human consumption. Renewable energy technologies need to be given primacy instead.

“Given Western Australia’s vast renewable energy resources, broad community support for renewable energy, the rapid development of renewable technologies – including baseload capabilities – and the continued decline of renewable technology prices, it makes social, environmental and economic sense for WA to become a leader in renewable energy rather than in the unsustainable, unpopular and dangerous uranium and nuclear industries.”

Mr Marmion said Australia had recently signed a uranium supply agreement with the United Arab Emirates, and was in talks with India, where 25 nuclear reactors were currently operating, six are under construction and a further 35 were planned. Major trading partner China was in the process of tripling nuclear capacity by 2020, with 29 reactors currently operating and a further 29 under construction.

Ms Hudson Miller said, “There is no guarantee that Australian uranium will not find its way into contributing towards weapons proliferation, despite our safeguards. Uranium holds numerous risks that we just don’t need to take. The safest energy future for Western Australia is renewable energy.”