Plea for nuclear in Australian energy policy

06 February 2014

Australia should remove barriers to nuclear power so that it can be considered as an electricity generation option inside an apolitical future energy policy, a national think tank has told the government.

The call for the removal of prohibitions on nuclear power is the last in a list of 26 recommendations from the Energy Policy Institute of Australia (EPI), an apolitical energy policy body representing stakeholders in Australia's energy industry, in a report submitted as part of an ongoing consultation on energy policy. The institute's submission looks in detail at issues including energy security, regulatory reform and economic considerations as well as the merits of energy sources and technological developments.

"The continuation of the prohibition of nuclear power generation in Australia is unnecessary and should be removed."

Energy Policy Institute of Australia

In its submission, the EPI says that an "excessive level of politicisation of energy issues", as well as energy industry regulatory shortcomings and the difficulties posed by the country's system of federal government, have contributed to leave the country with an energy policy that is unpredictable and unattractive to investors. It is calling for the government to "level the playing field" in the country which is highly reliant on coal for its electricity generation.

Although Australia is a major uranium producer and has a long history of nuclear technology research, the country has never operated a nuclear power plant. Indeed, nuclear energy use is entirely prohibited by law in some Australian states. The EPI feels that as part of an improved coherent energy policy this situation must be resolved, pointing to nuclear's "almost zero" greenhouse gas emissions and contrasting it with the intermittent nature of renewables. The report points to "significant technological advances" in safe nuclear power generation, suggesting small modular reactors (SMRs) as being particularly suitable for use in mines and towns in remote locations in many parts of Australia.

It also highlights Australia's already strong nuclear regulatory regime, and calls for the powers of the Australian Radiation, Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) to be broadened to cover "all developments" throughout the country.

The Energy Policy Institute of Australia's recommendations have been submitted in response to the Australian government's ongoing process to draw up a new Energy White Paper - an official report setting out government policy - to be released in September. Australia's Ministry of Industry formally launched the White Paper process in early December 2013, releasing an issues paper later that month and opening a public consultation period due to end on 7 February.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News