Nuclear power in Australia to be examined by multi-party parliamentary inquiry
3rd August 2019
The potential for nuclear power in Australia is set to be examined by a parliamentary inquiry, requested by Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor.
- Angus Taylor has asked for the first inquiry into nuclear power in over a decade
- The committee will consider waste management, transport and storage and security implications
- The inquiry is expected to be finished by the end of the year
Mr Taylor insisted Australia’s moratorium on nuclear energy would remain in place but asked the Environment and Energy Committee to look at what would be needed for “any future government’s consideration” of the technology.
“This will be the first inquiry into the use of nuclear power in Australia in more than a decade and is designed to consider the economic, environmental and safety implications of nuclear power,” Mr Taylor said in a letter to committee chair and LNP member Ted O’Brien.
“I am confident that your committee — involving all sides of politics — is the best way to consider this issue in a sensible way.”
Several Coalition backbenchers had been pushing for an inquiry into nuclear energy, with former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce suggesting residents living near a reactor could be offered free power.
Mr O’Brien acknowledged there were “passionate views” on either side of the debate and said the committee would consider a range of evidence.
“There are new and emerging forms of nuclear energy technology that are very different from the old smokestack reactors people tend to picture when they think nuclear energy and it’s on these newer technologies that we’ll focus,” he said.
“Our job will be to determine the circumstances under which future Coalition or Labor governments might consider nuclear energy generation.”
Opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler said the inquiry was a sign the “extreme right” of the Liberal Party was dictating the Government’s energy policy.
“[Nuclear energy] is dangerous, expensive and consumes vast amounts of precious water at a time Australia faces increased water security threats,” he said.
“A nuclear power inquiry is the Liberal’s 15th energy policy, and just the latest sign of energy policy desperation and chaos.”
Mr Taylor asked the committee to look at a range of considerations including waste management, transport and storage, health and safety, security implications and environmental impacts.
He said Australia’s energy systems were changing with new technologies and shifting consumer demand patterns but that it had no plans to lift the ban on nuclear energy.
“Successive Labor and Coalition governments have maintained a bipartisan moratorium on nuclear electricity generation in Australia,” he said.
“Australia’s bipartisan moratorium on nuclear energy will remain in place.”
A 2006 report on nuclear power led by Ziggy Switkowski suggested Australia could have up to 25 reactors providing over a third of the country’s electricity by 2050.
Mr Taylor asked the committee to consider that report as well as South Australia’s 2016 royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle.
The inquiry is due to be finalised by the end of the year.