Nuclear Politics

Australia / Government Announces Inquiry Into Nuclear Energy

By David Dalton
2 August 2019

Government Announces Inquiry Into Nuclear Energy
The Opal research reactor at Lucas Heights is Australia's only nuclear unit. Photo courtesy Ansto.
The Australian government has announced an inquiry into nuclear energy and the nuclear fuel cycle – the first in more than 10 years – at the request of energy minister Angus Taylor.

MP Ted O’Brien, chair of the standing committee on the environment and energy, will lead the inquiry.

“This will be the first inquiry into the use of nuclear energy in Australia in more than a decade and I believe it’s the first time the Australian Parliament has ever undertaken such an inquiry,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Clearly there are very passionate views on either side of this debate,” he said.

“Like any inquiry, it will be important that we hear all views, take into account all expert opinions and dispassionately assess all evidence put before us.”

He said the committee, which consists of government, opposition and cross bench MPs, will try to establish whether nuclear energy would be feasible and suitable for Australia, taking into account economic, environmental and safety issues.

“There are new and emerging forms of nuclear energy technology that are very different from the old smoke stack 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 governments might consider nuclear energy generation.”

Mr O’Brien added that the government’s moratorium on nuclear energy generation in Australia remains and the current government “has no plans to change that.”

The prospect of nuclear power in Australia has been a topic of debate since the 1950s. Australia has never had a commercial nuclear power station, but does have a research reactor at Lucas Heights, near Sydney.

It also hosts 33% of the world's uranium deposits and is the world's third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada.

A resurgence of interest in nuclear power was prompted by prime minister John Howard in 2007 in response to the need to move to low-carbon methods of power generation to reduce the effects of global warming on Australia.

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