Mining sector pushes for nuclear option to lowering Australia’s energy costs and emissions
The mining sector has called for nuclear options with hopes a high-level review could end a ban on the prohibited energy source.
The Minerals Council of Australia has seized on the upcoming review of environmental protection laws under which nuclear power is banned.
Chief executive Tania Constable said removing the four words — “a nuclear power plant” — in one section of the law would allow the industry to be considered for development.
Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price said while the extent of the review had not yet been determined it must examine the full operation of the laws.
“The review will involve extensive consultation and will consider all ideas put forward by industry, environment and community groups to improve and strengthen national environmental law,” she said.
Ms Price said under law the review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act had to begin by October.
But Opposition leader Bill Shorten ruled out any changes under a Labor government.
“Labor has no plans to build nuclear power plants, full stop. We will deliver more renewables and cheaper power for Australians, and we will do it without building nuclear power plants in our cities and towns,” he said.
Ms Constable said that along with upgrades to existing coal-fired generators, nuclear power was a “commonsense approach” to lowering power prices and also reducing emissions.
In December, Labor signed off on its new national platform which states “Labor will … prohibit the establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle”.
About 30 countries rely on nuclear power, with France generating nearly 75 per cent of its electricity that way.
The World Nuclear Association lists Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine as generating more than half from nuclear, while Belgium, Sweden, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Finland and the Czech Republic use it for more than one-third of their power.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was open to changing the law but wanted to be sure of the economic case.
“I’m not too much into an ideological debate about from what source it comes, I just want to make sure it turns up and that it brings power prices down,” he said. “The only work I have seen on that … is that (lower prices) is only achieved with very significant government subsidies.”