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Coalition Senators move to remove the nuclear ban

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The Hon. Matthew Canavan, Senator for Queensland, The Hon. David Fawcett, Senator for South Australia, The Hon. Richard Colbeck, Senator for Tasmania, The Hon. Gerard Rennick, Senator for Queensland, The Hon. David Van, Senator for South Australia, The Hon. Ross Cadell, Senator for New South Wales, The Hon. Alex Antic, Senator for South Australia, The Hon. Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Senator for The Northern Territory, The Hon. Matthew O’Sullivan, Senator for Western Australia, Joint Media Release, 28 September 2022

Nine Coalition Senators have moved today to remove the ban on nuclear power in Australia by introducing a Private Senators Bill.

Australia is unique among large, developed nations with a legislative ban on nuclear power. Australia only ended up with a ban because the Howard Government needed to trade it off to get Parliamentary support in 1998 for the construction of a new, nuclear reactor for medical purposes at Lucas Heights.

“Australia’s unusual legislative ban against nuclear power was moved and debated with less than 30 minutes of debate in the Senate. But the nuclear ban may cause decades of pain if we continue to deny our country reliable power alternatives.

“Australia has made it almost illegal to build baseload coal or gas power stations. We cannot continue to deny our country all reliable power options, including nuclear” said Senator Canavan.

The legislation moved by the Coalition Senators will not immediately lead to the construction of a nuclear power station in Australia. A nuclear power station would require a licence under the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 and a permit under the Nuclear Non Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987. Any plant would also need to comply with other state or territory laws.

“Our bill does not remove the nuclear trigger from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act so any proposal would require the Environment Minister’s approval. However, removing the legal ban on nuclear power would be an important first step in declaring that Australia is ready to have a fact-based analysis of nuclear energy options.

“The world is turning back to nuclear power and there are game changing developments in small modular reactor technology. With the world’s largest uranium reserves, Australia cannot afford to be left out of global nuclear progress” said Senator Canavan.

Senator Fawcett said “The 2022 OECD NEA report on meeting emissions targets highlights that wind and solar will not get us to net zero and will send us broke trying. The report highlights recent facts that show nuclear power is the most affordable long term-option, reliable, safe and can be installed in a timely manner.

Over the past year, Germany and California have delayed the closure of nuclear power stations, the United Kingdom and France have announced ambitious plans to build a fleet of new, nuclear power stations and Japan is accelerating the reopening of nuclear plants.

Senator Price said “If we truly as a nation want the cleanest and most reliable energy source there is available, then nuclear power is the logical option. The cost of doing business will only continue to rise, which will result in rising cost of living for already struggling Australians.”

Senator Cadel said “We need to have a fact-based discussion considering all the energy options available. When families flick the switch we need to ensure the lights come on.

“This legislation is a step to ensuring that we do just that.”

Senator Van added “This is a simple change to legislation that allows Australia to discuss how we transition our energy grid.”

“We need to be having the discussion on nuclear, we export it to the rest of the world for their energy, it’s time we started using it here to secure our own energy grid and ensure that we have reliable power into the future.” Senator Rennick said.

There are a range of benefits for Australia that make nuclear power important to at least consider:

  • Nuclear power is safe. Nuclear energy has resulted in far fewer deaths than that from dam failures, oil rig explosions and even, on some measures, the number of people that fall when installing solar panels.
  • Nuclear does less damage to the natural environment than other energy options. Wind energy takes up 250 times more land than nuclear power and solar takes up 150 times more land.
  • Between 1965 and 2018 the world spent $2 trillion on nuclear compared to $2.3 trillion for solar and wind, yet nuclear today produces around double the electricity than that of solar and wind.
  • Support for nuclear power is growing. A Lowy Institute poll last year found a majority would support removing the ban on nuclear power for the first time. In 2011, only 35% were in favour of nuclear power.

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