Australia is trying to build a reliable, affordable and low emissions electricity system with one hand tied behind its back.
Nuclear power is off the table in Australia – literally banned.
This is despite the fact it is a proven technology.
This is despite the fact it continues to be rolled out in key trading partner countries like China and India.
This is despite the fact that it has a clear track record of underpinning an extremely low emissions electricity system in several industrialised, urban economies in France, Sweden, Switzerland and the Canadian province of Ontario.
Analysis released today by the Minerals Council of Australia shows Australia tied one hand behind its back as recently as 1998, when political horse-trading saw a prohibition on nuclear power quietly slipped into legislation centralising radiation regulation. A similar prohibition with even greater effect was inserted into federal environmental legislation the following year.
With Australia’s current energy challenges, the country can no longer afford this outdated prohibition. The country deserves to have all energy options on the table to consider in future.
And in the area of nuclear energy development, exciting opportunities are available.
Last year, Australia became the 14th member of the Generation IV International Forum. This collaboration is a leader in the development of new reactor technologies.
In addition, a new generation of venture-capital backed nuclear start-ups are coming through, with innovative new designs for smaller reactors which significantly reduce upfront costs and have wider application ranges including off-grid and load-following capability for grids with high intermittent renewable energy generation.
Many of these new nuclear innovators seek international collaboration. Australia’s long history of reliable uranium production and supply, its world class research reactor in Sydney, and its strong non-proliferation reputation provides a base of expertise and experience with which international nuclear innovators would dearly like to work.
The removal of the prohibition will mean nuclear will be properly considered on merit and before any project is built, it would need to satisfy stringent environmental and regulatory standards and be approved by the federal government.
For Australia to open itself up to these new opportunities in nuclear science research, development and innovation, leading to new industries and opportunities with key trading partners, the prohibition of nuclear power must be removed.
The good news is: it isn’t that hard to do.
‘Australia could be at the vanguard of nuclear technology but instead these anachronistic laws leave us languishing. Any objective science-based discussion, devoid of hyperbole and emotion invariably finds that nuclear power is clean, economic and reliable, that it plays a vital role in the world today, will continue to do so in the future, and that it makes no sense for it to be banned in Australia.’ Mike Young, CEO Vimy Resources Limited and Chair of the MCA Uranium Forum.
‘Advanced nuclear reactor developers are looking for international collaborators to partner with for research, testing, and deployment. Australia's experience with uranium mining combined with a world class research reactor and educated workforce could make Australia a great partner.
‘The advanced nuclear industry is moving fast, and the reactors available today may be a much better fit for Australia's economic, environmental, and industrial needs than the large, traditional designs. But Australia can't participate in this innovation revolution unless Canberra first changes the legislation.’ Jessica Lovering, Director of Energy, The Breakthrough Institute.
Further information: MCA Policy Paper Removing the Prohibition on Nuclear Power