Taylor rejects call for partial lift of nuclear power ban
By Mike Foley | Sydney Morning Herald | December 13, 2019
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has poured cold water on calls to partially lift Australia’s moratorium on nuclear power to allow investigation of emerging technologies.
A Coalition-dominated parliamentary inquiry found next-generation technologies such as small modular reactors should be explored by experts for use in Australia.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the government had “no plans” to lift the nuclear moratorium, which has been maintained by Labor and Coalition governments since 1998.
“If we’re serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we can’t simply ignore this zero-emissions baseload technology,” committee chairman and LNP MP Ted O’Brien said. “Australia should say a definite ‘no’ to old nuclear technologies but a conditional ‘yes’ to new and emerging technologies such as small modular reactors.”
But Mr Taylor said the government had “no plans” to lift the moratorium, which has been maintained by Labor and Coalition governments since 1998. “Any changes to the moratorium would need bipartisan support and broad community acceptance,” he said.
The House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on the Environment And Energy acknowledged public controversy around the nuclear debate in the title of its report – Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology.
“Rather than a total and immediate lift of the moratorium, only a partial lift for new and emerging technologies is proposed, subject to the results of a technology assessment and a commitment to community consent as a condition of approval for nuclear facilities,” it said.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor insists there are no plans to lift the ban on nuclear power generation in Australia but says an inquiry is needed for future consideration.
Labor committee members issued a dissenting report saying there was “no basis” for lifting the prohibition and no need for additional investigations into the science or economics of nuclear energy.
Macnamara MP Josh Burns said it was “madness” to consider nuclear power given small reactors were not yet available, renewable energy was becoming cheaper and existing technology would need to be located in populated areas.
“The only technology that is available now is the large nuclear reactors, which require an abundance of water to keep the reactors cool. And the only viable water supply is along the coastline,” Mr Burns said. “Australian experts have warned against being the first country to buy new nuclear technology. We don’t have the capability for nuclear energy now. We need to upskill and that comes with serious risk and cost. To do that with technology where we’re not confident in the safety would be negligent.”
Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman David Sweeney said lifting the ban would start a “conga line of supplicants to Canberra promising low carbon energy and seeking high public subsidy”.
The Minerals Council has called for the moratorium to be lifted, arguing the public wants nuclear energy considered in the energy mix.