Australian Senate Report on nuclear energy ban released - Nuclear for Australia

Australian Senate Report on Australia's nuclear energy ban released

Australian Senate Report on nuclear energy ban released

Recently the Australian Senate Committee investigating the ban on nuclear energy released its report. Below is an article written by our founder Will Shackel in response. 

Australia’s nuclear ban doesn’t stack up to common sense

Will Shackel, Founder of Nuclear for Australia

In his election victory speech, the Prime Minister issued a bold vision to “end the climate wars”. Yet after more than a year holding office, an unavoidable new fight has emerged as the government ignores the commonsense opportunity that nuclear energy presents to the nation.

Recently, the government-controlled Senate Environment and Communications Committee released a 105 paged report which concluded that the nuclear energy prohibition should not be lifted. I had the privilege of being involved in the committee process, making a submission as well as witnessing and providing evidence in person representing my youth campaign, Nuclear for Australia, as a 17-year-old nuclear energy advocate.

However, despite the overwhelming evidence for the ban to be lifted, the government insisted on defending the undefendable: the outdated and unjustifiable nuclear prohibition.

The committee’s report for not lifting the nuclear ban contained eight reasons for their conclusion.

Their first four points were that ‘nuclear energy is expensive’, ‘next generation nuclear technology is unproven’, developing a nuclear industry would take too long and that ‘nuclear power is inflexible’. Even if nuclear energy was too expensive, next generation nuclear was unproven, reactors took too long to build and nuclear was inflexible, why ban it?

Supposedly, if those points were true (which many experts who made representations to the committee reject) no one would want to build a reactor.

 The evidence provided to the committee to justify these arguments was baffling with Friends of the Earth arguing against lifting the ban as it would ‘mislead the public into thinking that nuclear energy might be a realistic alternative for Australia’.

This position would rightly lead many to question since when was it sensible justification to ban something because it creates the perception of an alternative to government policy?

So, what about safety?

On this issue the government-backed report decided to ignore the science and instead listen to fearmongering arguments many of which debunked.  

In the conclusions it was conveniently omitted that nuclear despite the events of Chernobyl and Fukushima is the second safest form of energy generation.

The report also mentions the ‘issue’ of spent fuel management. Yet, the nuclear industry is the only industry able of managing its waste and has successfully managed it for decades and these days it is capable of being reprocessed/recycled. If waste was an issue why not ban fossil fuels for producing waste that is released into the atmosphere that we breath in every day or renewables where that waste currently ends up in landfill?

A final argument the report makes against lifting the ban is that there is no social license for nuclear reactors in Australia. This ignores the fact that Australians were never asked if they wanted to ban nuclear energy.

Further, the ONLY evidence – the polls- clearly illustrates Australians do support nuclear. As I referred to in my evidence to the Committee, Compass Polling in May found that 70% of Australians want to at least consider nuclear energy in order to reach our emissions and energy security targets and only 18% of people identify as anti-nuclear with polls from Essential Research, the Lowly Institute and even Q+A on the ABC corroborating the fact a majority of Australians support nuclear.

This report is just one element of the shallow talking points being used to justify Australia’s nuclear ban.  

For instance, why is Australia the only member of the G20 that bans nuclear?

Then there are the double-standards.

For instance, in response to a letter I wrote the Prime Minister, a department official said that ‘the government reiterates the role that nuclear energy can play, globally in the net zero transformation’. If this was true, why wouldn’t nuclear have the same benefits in Australia?

Australia isn’t new to nuclear either.

For seven decades, we’ve had a research nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights 30km from the Sydney CBD which has been safely operated with low and intermediate waste stored at the facility. Yet, as a result of the ban which extends to the fuel cycle, despite our vast uranium reserves much of this is outsourced abroad.

And then there’s AUKUS. The contradiction in this case is profound. The government’s current policy stipulates that floating nuclear reactors are perfectly legal and worth spending hundreds of billions of dollars on, but that land based nuclear reactors are strictly illegal. AUKUS also requires that the government stores the high level waste produced so why would it be an issue for land based civil nuclear power reactors.

For a 17 year old none of this makes sense.

If politicians wanted to end the climate wars they would ditch their political prejudices against solutions like nuclear and embrace a holistic, evidence guided approach to the energy transition.

At very least, the ban on nuclear energy should be lifted.  

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