Barilaro to push the nuclear power button
Acting NSW Premier John Barilaro will declare nuclear power “inevitable” in a speech today that slams “ignorant, 1970s” thinking for preventing development of the nation’s uranium reserves and condemning residents to blackouts.
The speech by the state Nationals party leader, seen by The Australian yesterday and to be delivered tonight at an energy policy forum in Sydney, calls for small modular reactors, likely imported from the US, to reduce dependence on high-emission coal and gas-fired power over the next five to 10 years.
“Renewable energy is very welcome, and should remain part of the ‘mix’, however it is intermit- tent, has its limits and can’t deliver energy security on its own,” the speech says. “There has never been a better moment to include nuclear energy in Australia’s energy future,” it adds, just days before the Council of Australian Governments’ Energy Council is to meet in Melbourne to bed down details of the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee.
“More and more people understand the hypocrisy of Australia being the world’s third-largest exporter of uranium, but banning its use at home,” Mr Barilaro will say. Australia exported uranium worth more than $900 million in 2016.
Mr Barilaro, who recently returned from an Advanced Reactor Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, spoke out in favour of nuclear power a year ago, prompting Premier Gladys Berejiklian, currently in India on a trade mission, to declare she was open-minded on the issue. “I’m in the camp of the jury’s still out,” she told the ABC then.
“Australia is heading in the same direction as South Australia — with no clear plan or policy on how to remedy the situation,” Mr Barilaro will say, suggesting Australia will be at “constant risk of statewide blackouts”.
Renewable energy proponents are pushing for higher renewable energy targets as a way to reduce dependence on high-emission coal and gas power stations, which make up the bulk of the country’s energy supply.
“While acceptance of nuclear as a solution is increasing among the general population, the political classes have continued to avoid the issue bizarrely on environmental grounds, based on ignorance and lack of political courage,” the Barilaro speech will say.
Australia is the only G20 country with a federal ban on nuclear energy, legislated in 1998 by the Howard government.
The Minerals Council of Australia, a proponent of nuclear power, said the federal nuclear ban could be reversed “with a single amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. “The removal of four words — ‘ a nuclear power plant’ — would allow nuclear industries to be considered for development in Australia,” it said.