Make nuclear power free, Barnaby Joyce says


Mr Joyce said nuclear technology had come a long way in the past few decades and rejected claims that even if Australia’s nuclear ban was overturned, communities would refuse to host reactors over safety and environmental concerns.

“You just have to come up with the right policy settings and they will accept it … People will think with their wallets,” he said.

Mr Joyce floated a potential policy whereby “if you can see the reactor [from your house], your power is for free. If you are within 50 kilometres of a reactor, you get power for half price.” Discounts would scale down to 25 per cent for those living 75 kilometres from a nuclear facility.

Such a policy would trigger a rush of proposals for “hills in the middle of towns that people want a reactor on”, Mr Joyce said.

In NSW, the association also identified sites in Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s seat of Hume and Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s seat of Farrer. Proposed Victorian sites include those in the seats of Wannon and Gippsland, held by ministers Dan Tehan and Darren Chester.

Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien, whose Queensland electorate is also on the list, said he was “not enthusiastic” about the prospect of a parliamentary probe into nuclear power.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce believes communities would support nuclear power, under the right policy settings.Credit:Gareth Gardner

“We need to focus on bringing down power prices and bringing more supply into the market … which can be done a lot quicker than legalising nuclear energy and then building the infrastructure needed,” he said.

“It seems to be a distraction from the very real issues at hand.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during the election campaign that his party had “no plans” to change its nuclear power stance and Mr Taylor told this publication on Sunday “the business case has got to stack up”.

A government minister told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that “there’s no desire to go down this path” in the broader Coalition.

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“Financially it doesn’t stack up and … there’s also the not-in-my-backyard issue, which is a very difficult one,” the minister said.

Labor’s climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler said Mr Morrison had allowed Mr Taylor and backbenchers to “pursue their nuclear power fantasy” as power prices rose.

Consultancy SMR Nuclear Technology promotes the benefits of small, modular nuclear reactors. Technical director Tony Irwin said about ten community groups and others had expressed interest to his firm in hosting such a reactor, should the ban in Australia be lifted.

People are now concerned about climate change and they can see that renewables aren’t the total answer and we need everything that we’ve got,” he said.

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