Peter Dutton calls for Australia to consider nuclear power

Is it time for Australia to start building nuclear power plants? Major push is launched to transform the country’s energy market to help cut emissions and make electricity cheaper

  • Peter Dutton has urgently called for an ‘honest discussion’ into nuclear energy
  • The opposition leader slammed the govt for being ‘ideologically opposed’ 
  •  Australia has banned nuclear power since 1998 under Commonwealth laws
  • In Government for nine years the Coalition made no moves to repeal the ban
  • But now Liberal leader Peter Dutton has launched an internal policy review 

Opposition leader Peter Dutton has urged Anthony Albanese‘s government to have an ‘honest discussion’ about nuclear energy as power bills continue to surge.

It comes as the government’s climate change proposal setting a carbon emissions cut target of 43 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050, passed the lower house on Thursday.

Labor also wants to increase the share of renewables in Australia’s National Electricity Market to 82 per cent, up from about a third today.

But Mr Albanese wants to achieve these aims by expanding solar, wind and hydro power without needing nuclear. 

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (pictured) has made an urgent call for there to be an 'honest discussion' about implementing nuclear power

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (pictured) has made an urgent call for there to be an ‘honest discussion’ about implementing nuclear power

Despite being emissions free, nuclear power has been banned in Australia since 1998 under Commonwealth laws. 

Mr Dutton urged the government to look to other nations that have implemented nuclear power plants as part of the energy mix to help reduce emissions, rather than just relying on solar, wind and hydro technology.

‘The latest [nuclear] technology provides zero emissions, it’s a cheap technology. The nonsense that Chris Bowen is carrying on with about nuclear being expensive compared to wind and solar – it’s a nonsense argument.

How do nuclear power plants work? 

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

2. Nuclear reactors fuelled by uranium pellets produce atom-splitting nuclear fission.

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

4. The chain reaction creates heat that warms a cooling agent such as water or liquid metal.

5. Steam is produced that powers turbines which feed energy to generators that produce electricity. 

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‘We have to stick to the facts instead of the emotion on this issue, and we’re going to lose industry, there are going to be smelters, and others are closed down under this government, the jobs will go offshore, and the emissions will still go into the air.

‘If we want a situation where we are going to have blackouts and brownouts and rationing like we are seeing in Germany, then keep going down the path the government is taking us.’

His comments come after energy prices soared due to rising demand for coal and gas prompted by the early onset of winter and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

‘Sixty per cent of the capacity of our coal-fired generators is expected to leave the market by 2030,’ he said in a statement.

‘This will leave Australian households and businesses vulnerable to a re-run of the chaos we are now seeing under Labor.

‘If we are serious about reducing emissions, while at the same time maintaining a strong economy and protecting our traditional industries, all technologies need to be on the table.

Mr Dutton said that an ‘honest discussion’ about nuclear power was urgently needed but that the government was unwilling to listen.

‘The Coalition will show Australians that we are prepared to undertake this honest and informed debate, which has alluded our country for too long.’

‘The fact we can’t have a discussion about nuclear in our country in the 21st century when France is investing more into nuclear, when the United Kingdom is, when Germany is, when Italy is, China, Asia – it’s nonsense.’ 

He added that nuclear energy would provide zero emissions and is a ‘cheap technology’ that would steer clear the country clear of the energy crisis.

Mr Dutton said the government has avoided even entertaining the idea of using nuclear energy, which he claimed would provide zero emissions and is a 'cheap technology' (pictured, a power station in La Trobe valley)

Mr Dutton said the government has avoided even entertaining the idea of using nuclear energy, which he claimed would provide zero emissions and is a ‘cheap technology’ (pictured, a power station in La Trobe valley)

Anthony Albanese slammed the Coalition for being 'obsessed' by nuclear reactors while ignoring the biggest nuclear reactor of all - the sun.

Anthony Albanese slammed the Coalition for being ‘obsessed’ by nuclear reactors while ignoring the biggest nuclear reactor of all – the sun. 

Mr Dutton said the prime minister was ‘ideologically opposed’ to nuclear energy.

‘Bob Hawke was strongly in favour of it, I’ve spoken to John Howard who is strongly in favour of it.

‘If you look around the world, Justin Trudeau – one of the great left wing heroes for this Prime Minister – they can’t meet their emissions targets without nuclear,’ he added.

While the Coalition now discusses backing nuclear, Labor remains opposed, insisting that solar, wind and hydro-electric power are cheaper and faster forms of low emissions energy. 

Mr Albanese slammed the Coalition for being ‘obsessed’ by nuclear reactors while ignoring the biggest nuclear reactor of all – the sun. 

Nuclear power has a PR problem following 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 counts on nuclear power for 75 percent of its electricity, and earns three billion Euros a year as a net exporter to other European nations because of its low cost of generation.

The French made the decision to embrace nuclear technology way back in the 1970s, after the OPEC oil crisis.

The US, Russia, China, the UK and Canada all include 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, producing about 10 per cent of the world’s exports worth over $730million a year.

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

SMRs generating up to 300 megawatts of power are cheaper and quicker to build, helping nuclear compete with more economical renewables such as solar and wind. 

They can also be built underground and cooled with air rather than water, enhancing safety in their operation. 

SMRs also ‘load follow’, meaning the reactor adjusts output based on demand. 

But the technology remains under development, with its 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 examine the potential for 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 room.

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

The current energy crisis has shown the importance of getting more dispatchable power into the grid. The average wholesale electricity price in the second quarter this year was three times higher than the same time a year ago – a situation described by the Australian Energy Market Operator as ‘unprecedented’.

While renewables will play an important growing role in Australia’s energy mix, they need to be balanced by sufficient investment in dispatchable generation. That is 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 leave the market by 2030. This will leave Australian households and businesses vulnerable to a re-run of the chaos we are now seeing under Labor.

If we are serious about reducing emissions, while at the same time maintaining a strong economy and protecting our traditional industries, all technologies need to be on the table.

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

Australia is already a nuclear nation. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has operated a nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights for over 60 years. A national conversation about 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. 

The UK Government, for example, has outlined plans to triple the size of its nuclear generation by 2050, providing 25 percent of its projected energy demand.

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

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