SYDNEY – Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan has urged Australia to help wean the world off uranium instead of increasing its already considerable exports of the radioactive metal, local media reported over the weekend.
Kan, who was prime minister during the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, is on a weeklong visit to Australia.
“I hope that Australia can be exporting not uranium . . . but electricity created through renewable sources,” Kan was quoted Saturday as saying by the Australia Broadcasting Corp.
He lamented that by exporting uranium, Australia, which does not have any nuclear plants itself, has been making it easier for more countries to rely on nuclear power to meet their energy needs.
“All countries including Australia should be making efforts to do what can be done to reduce such dependence on nuclear power,” Kan said, adding that the world is moving away from nuclear power and Australia should not hinder that.
On his website, Kan said he arrived in Darwin, the capital of uranium-rich Northern Territory, on Friday and planned Saturday to visit a mine that supplied some of the fuel for the Fukushima plant.
During the coming week, he said, he will meet with members of the Australian Greens party who encouraged him to go to Darwin and give an address at the Northern Territory’s parliament. He will also inspect a wave-activated power station and visit other renewable energy facilities in the territory.
Local media quoted Kan as saying he is keen to learn firsthand about the situation at the Ranger uranium mine. He said he would meet Saturday with the site’s traditional owners, the Mirarr people, who have long been opposed to the mine, which opened in 1980, about 250 km east of Darwin near Kakadu National Park.
Australia, with more than one-third of the world’s known uranium ore deposits, is the world’s third-largest uranium producer and has supplied the nuclear industries of such countries as Japan, South Korea, China, Britain, France, Germany and the United States.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is due to soon travel to India to finalize a deal to sell it Australian uranium for the first time.
In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan initiated policies to wean the country off nuclear power. But this policy was overturned after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in 2012.