(dpa) - Both of Australia's major political parties have now come out against the development of a nuclear power industry.
"We cannot envisage any circumstance under which Australia will have a nuclear power industry," opposition Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson said Thursday in a policy backflip.
Labor, which took government after November's general election, has always been implacably opposed to nuclear power, which would threaten the jobs of 28,000 coal miners.
Nelson, who took over the party leadership from John Howard after November's crushing defeat by Kevin Rudd's Labor Party, rejected the policy of his predecessor.
Howard, prime minister for almost 12 years, had touted nuclear power as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and commissioned a report which envisaged 25 nuclear power stations meeting a third of the nation's electricity demand by 2050.
Howard said that "political platforms that seek to constrain the development of a safe and reliable Australian uranium industry - and which rule out the possibility of climate-friendly nuclear energy - are not really serious about addressing climate change in a practical way that doesn't strangle the Australian economy."
Australia has 36 per cent of the world's easily recoverable reserves of uranium - the feedstock of nuclear plants - but has fought shy of building its own nuclear power industry largely because of its huge reserves of coal.
Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter and relies on it for over 80 per cent of power generation. Australia, which now only has a small research reactor, has also turned its back on building a safe repository for spent nuclear waste. Currently, spent rods are shipped for reprocessing in France.