Joyce’s party, the National Party of Australia (NPA), has been a strong advocate for nuclear, arguing the technological advancements make it a viable, clean and reliable energy source as opposed to solar and wind.
Joyce told Sky News Australia several governments around the world, including the UK and France, had been successfully integrating the power source and suggested Australia should be next.
“If you want to get to zero emissions then listen to what they’re doing in the UK where they’re building new nuclear reactors, listen to what they’re doing in France, listen to what they’re doing in Asia,” he told First Edition host Pete Stefanovic.
Joyce also argued that residents in rural areas would prefer to have a small nuclear reactor in their area than large sections of land dominated by wind turbines and solar farms.
Climate change and energy minister Chris Bowen, a member of the Labor Party, has argued that the Nationals’ proposal for nuclear energy is an investment into the “most expensive form of energy”.
Australia is currently banned from using nuclear energy with a restriction placed on the domestic industry since the former Howard Government introduced a moratorium in the 1990s.
Last year NPA senators called for Australia’s ban on nuclear power to be lifted so the technology can be explored as a clean energy source as the federal government faces increased pressure to set a deadline for net-zero emissions, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
In 2019 a parliamentary inquiry concluded the ban should be partially lifted, but then-energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor said at the time the government had no plans to alter the moratorium, which has been in place since 1998.
Australia Risks Becoming A ‘Dumb Country’
The Minerals Council of Australia has said the moratorium was “horsetraded” for the passage of legislation centralising radiation regulation. It said public debate at the time, flamed by the anti-nuclear movement, centred on the replacement of the Lucas Heights research reactor. “The political fix was to draw a line through the industry,” the MCA said. “After all, the need for nuclear was low – energy was affordable, abundant and with a country full of coal, there was no reason to believe that would change.”
According to the MCA, the decision to ban nuclear “has cost the nation significant global investment and scientific collaboration on new nuclear technologies”.
Australia has an established uranium industry. The country has around one third of the world's uranium resources, and is the world's third ranking producer, accounting for approximately 10% of annual global production.
The MCA said Australia mines and exports uranium, but its self-imposed nuclear power ban means it cannot develop a high value, high tech nuclear industry like which exists in Canada.
Joyce said Australia risked becoming a “dumb country” that sold uranium to other countries for their own use. “Export our uranium, the whole technology behind nuclear energy has changed and we’re living in the past and the Nationals have always wanted us to take the next step,” Joyce said.