Naoto Kan tells Australia risk with nuclear is too great

AS Queensland prepares for a return to export uranium mining, a former Japanese prime minister caught in the Fukushima nuclear disaster warned about the dangers of nuclear power.

Naoto Kan was prime minister in 2011 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake trigged a tsunami that caused a triple nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Mr Kan concluded nuclear power could never be considered safe, switching off all of Japan's nuclear power plants.

Uranium is commonly used to fuel nuclear power plants around the world.

Mr Kan, a guest of Australian anti-nuclear action groups, said on Thursday there were issues related to storing and disposing of the waste from uranium mining, particularly radioactive contamination concerns.

But he said, speaking through a translator, he was most concerned about how the uranium would be used.

"Of course the uranium that would be mined is used as fuel in nuclear power plants and if asked on the issue of the safety of nuclear power plants my experience in the Fukushima nuclear disaster has taught me that the issue is not when or where an accident might occur but an accident is certain to occur if this risk is faced and the risk is enormous," he said.

"Considering this, it is impossible to say that nuclear power itself is safe.

"Of course the decision on whether to mine uranium in Australia and ... where to is a decision to be made by the Australian people.

"However, of course, in the case of nuclear power in Japan or anywhere in the world it poses such great risks and also there is the issue of how to manage the spent fuel which comes out of this and the burden it leaves to future generations.

"I personally hope we can have policy in Japan and globally which does not contribute to the further expansion of nuclear power but in the opposite direction."

Uranium has not been mined in Queensland since the Mary Kathleen mine, in the state's north-west, closed in 1982 and a ban was introduced seven years later.

The Newman government flagged a return to uranium mining in 2012 and announced on August 1 it would accept applications.

A spokeswoman for Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said no applications had been received yet.

She said nuclear energy production was not allowed in Queensland and uranium only could be exported to countries with a bilateral safeguard arrangement with Australia.

Mr Kan said while nuclear power was once considered cheap, the disaster had taught him otherwise. - APN Newsdesk


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