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Peter Dutton to consider proposing nuclear energy in Australia

Liberals will consider ending Australia’s nuclear ban, believing it could increase energy security and lower power prices.

Leader Peter Dutton has launched an inquiry into whether the party should support nuclear power in the 2025 federal election.

Despite being zero-emission, nuclear power has been banned in Australia under Commonwealth laws since 1998.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton addresses coalition members and senators at a coalition party meeting on Tuesday

Opposition leader Peter Dutton addresses coalition members and senators at a coalition party meeting on Tuesday

In government, the Liberal-National coalition said bipartisan support from both sides of politics was needed to overturn the ban.

While the coalition is now discussing support for nuclear power, Labor remains opposed, stressing that solar, wind and hydro are cheaper and faster forms of low-emission energy.

Announcing his internal policy review on Tuesday, Mr Dutton said nuclear power could provide the ‘reliable, zero-emission, baseload electricity Australia needs’.

It comes after energy prices rose due to rising demand for coal and gas due to the early onset of winter and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“It is expected that 60 percent of the capacity of our coal-fired generators will be off the market by 2030,” he said in a statement.

This leaves Australian households and businesses vulnerable to a repeat of the chaos we are now seeing under Labour.

Pictured: A nuclear power plant in Neckarwestheim, southern Germany

Pictured: A nuclear power plant in Neckarwestheim, southern Germany

“If we want to take emissions seriously while maintaining a strong economy and protecting our traditional industries, all technologies need to be on the table.

“The coalition will show Australians that we are prepared to have this honest and informed debate, which has alluded to our country for too long.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has pledged to cut Australia’s emissions by 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Labor also wants to increase the share of renewable energy in Australia’s national electricity market to 82 percent, from about a third today.

How do nuclear power plants work?

1. Producing electricity from nuclear energy requires splitting atoms to release the energy.

2. Nuclear reactors fueled by uranium pellets produce nuclear fission.

3. As they split, atoms release particles that cause other atoms to split, causing a chain reaction.

4. The chain reaction creates heat that heats a coolant such as water or liquid metal.

5. Steam is produced that drives turbines that supply energy to generators that produce electricity.

But Mr. Albanian wants to achieve these goals by expanding solar, wind and hydro power without nuclear power.

Key National Party figures such as former leader Barnaby Joyce and leader David Littleproud have spoken out about the benefits of nuclear energy.

Last year, Mr Joyce described the nation as “living in a cave” when it comes to the nuclear issue and has called for laws blocking its implementation to be repealed.

“I believe we should have nuclear power… and if people want zero emissions, well, this, this is it,” he said.

“I mean, you’ve got your wind, you can have your solar, but if you want baseline, deliverable, 24/7 zero-emission power, nuclear will do.”

But opponents, including Labor and the Greens, say nuclear power takes too long to build and is too expensive, with a large factory costing $40 billion.

They also call it dangerous and bad for the environment, because it produces waste that must be buried.

Nuclear power has a PR problem after incidents at reactors such as Three-Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011).

But in 31 countries around the world, more than 450 nuclear power plants are connected to the grid.

France relies on nuclear energy for 75 percent of its electricity and earns three billion euros a year as a net exporter to other European countries because of the low generation costs.

The French took the decision to embrace nuclear technology as early as the 1970s, after the OPEC oil crisis.

The US, Russia, China, UK and Canada all have nuclear power in their energy mix, some of their reactors powered by uranium from Australia.

Australia is home to a third of the world’s uranium and produces about 10 percent of the world’s exports worth more than $730 million a year.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanian has pledged to cut Australia's emissions by 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030

Prime Minister Anthony Albanian has pledged to cut Australia’s emissions by 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030

Options more suited to Australia’s smaller population could lie in next-generation Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), or by following the example of the larger one-gigawatt plant with four reactors built by Korean company KEPCO in Barakah. in the United Arab Emirates.

SMRs generating up to 300 megawatts of power are cheaper and faster to build, allowing nuclear power to compete with more frugal renewables such as solar and wind.

They can also be built underground and are cooled with air instead of water, increasing safety during operation.

SMR’s ‘load follow’, which means that the reactor adjusts the output based on demand.

But the technology continues to evolve, with the use of new materials, innovative safety features and advanced construction techniques yet to be approved by most international regulators.

Peter Dutton’s full statement on nuclear energy

Today, I initiated a formal internal process to explore the potential of advanced and next-generation nuclear technologies to contribute to Australia’s energy security and reduce power prices.

This review will be led by Mr Ted O’Brien MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, who will report to the Coalition Policy Committee, chaired by Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and the Coalition Party Chamber.

It is high time Australia had an honest and informed debate about the benefits and costs of nuclear energy.

The current energy crisis has shown how important it is to get more switchable power on the grid. The average wholesale electricity price in the second quarter of this year was three times higher than the same time a year ago – a situation described as ‘unprecedented’ by the Australian energy market operator.

While renewables will play an important growing role in Australia’s energy mix, they must be balanced by adequate investment in shippable generation. That’s why the coalition, when in office, supported projects like the Hunter Power Project.

Sixty percent of the capacity of our coal-fired generators is expected to exit the market by 2030. This will leave Australian households and businesses vulnerable to a repeat of the chaos we are now seeing under Labour.

If we want to take emissions seriously while maintaining a strong economy and protecting our traditional industries, all technologies must be on the table.

Nuclear power is a mature, proven technology. It can provide the reliable, zero-emission, base load electricity Australia needs. Estimates show that it would cost the world $1.6 trillion more to meet the Paris targets without nuclear power.

Australia is already a nuclear nation. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization has operated a nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights for more than 60 years. A national conversation about the potential of nuclear energy is the logical next step.

Many of Australia’s international partners, including France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the United States of America, have adopted nuclear energy technologies.

For example, the UK government has outlined plans to triple the size of its nuclear generation by 2050, covering 25 percent of projected energy demand.

The coalition will show the Australians that we are ready to have this honest and informed debate, which our country has alluded to for too long.

THE CASE FOR AND AGAINST NUCLEAR ENERGY

IN FRONT OF

* Clean energy: Compared to coal and natural gas, nuclear power is a zero to low-emission energy source that could reduce our reliance on carbon more quickly, improving our emissions outlook towards the 2050 Paris Agreement target

* Cheap, reliable power: As coal becomes unprofitable and older coal plants are decommissioned, Australia’s need for cheaper, reliable power is growing. Nuclear power could complement renewable sources such as wind and solar, while avoiding any variability in supply associated with those technologies (the ‘when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining’ argument)

* Long lifespan: Some plants are expected to last 100 years, offsetting the high initial construction costs. In contrast, renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines should be replaced every 10-20 years.

* Advances in technology: New generation reactors, such as small modular reactors, are designed to be smaller, safer, more efficient and faster to build.

AGAINST

* Expense: Many studies of the possibility of nuclear power in Australia have concluded that the business case is not being made. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has previously estimated the cost of creating nuclear power at an exorbitant $16,000 per kilowatt.

* Delay: Most experts agree that even if Australia agreed to develop nuclear power, our first reactor would still be a decade from concept to construction and commissioning.

* Waste: New technology allows nuclear waste to be stored before being reprocessed into new forms of fuel. Until then, burial in a geological deposit remains the most likely option for an Australian facility. Waste from the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney, a facility that produces medical isotopes, is currently shipped to France and then returned as a by-product to be stored in cement canisters at the facility.

* Accidents: Incidents at nuclear power plants such as Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011 continue to be bad advertisements for nuclear energy, but as Barry Brook, an Australian environmental scientist who supports the development of nuclear energy in Australia, points out: ‘It is not possible to design [a nuclear power plat] that’s without risk… but that applies to any form of energy source or to any major infrastructure we need.’

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