Submission to the inquiry into nuclear energy

Download: Submission to the Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia (PDF, 150 KB, 16 September 2019)

See all the submissions on the inquiry website.

Nuclear power is one of many low-carbon energy generation methods that should be on the table as we strive to decarbonise our economy. Is it currently expensive to build? Yes. Is that a reason to ban it? No.

We therefore recommended in our submission to lift the well-intentioned ban. Nuclear power should have the opportunity to compete on its merits as an energy source, with safety as the prime consideration.

Further, we recommended:

  • Clarifying that the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) would be responsible for regulating any nuclear power installations;
  • Ensuring ARPANSA is properly resourced to maintain nuclear safety;
  • Reviewing relevant legislation to ensure that any nuclear power installation that would prejudice national security is disallowed; and
  • Pricing greenhouse gas emissions (which is good policy in any case).

Australia should also reaffirm its commitment to a world without nuclear weapons.

The state of the nuclear power debate

It's said that nuclear power in Australia sits outside the energy debate and sits instead in the realm of the culture wars. The long debate over atomic energy in this uranium- and thorium-rich country includes a history of riding roughshod over communities affected by mining.

Nuclear energy has been banned since the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (ARPANS Act) and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) were passed with specific prohibitions against it.

The impacts of mining of nuclear fuel, building of reactors, and storage of waste must be safe and acceptable to the communities they affect — this is not unique to nuclear power. But should a well-tested technology, in use in many countries, be illegal in Australia?

Research is caught in the ban

As long as nuclear power installations are banned, Australian scientists cannot conduct research to improve these energy technologies. The ban logically extends to practical experiments in nuclear fusion, the clean energy source that is creeping ever-closer despite dismal funding.

Nuclear power will be expensive and will produce radioactive waste only until we find a way to change these things. Some researchers are looking at shooting lasers at nuclear waste to make it safer — what a time to be alive.

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