“While these question marks remain about the pathway to zero carbon emissions into the future, I don’t want to have one arm tied behind my back. I wouldn’t be able to consider all options,” she said.
Queensland LNP MP Ted O’Brien, who represents the Fairfax electorate on the Sunshine Coast, chaired a parliamentary committee which last year tabled a report titled Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology, calling for a partial lift in Australia’s 20-year-old nuclear moratorium.
“Rather than a total and immediate lift of the moratorium, only a partial lift for new and emerging technologies is proposed, subject to the results of a technology assessment and a commitment to community consent as a condition of approval for nuclear facilities,” it said.
Mr O’Brien said without lifting the moratorium the government could commission assessments recommended by his committee into “economic, technological and readiness assessments” for nuclear energy.
“Let’s continue the approach we’ve taken to date which is to assess new and emerging nuclear technologies in a calm and dispassionately independent fashion,” he said.
Among the Coalition MPs on the government-dominated committee who endorsed the report were Trent Zimmerman, from inner-city electorate North Sydney, Bridget Archer from Bass in northern Tasmania, Nationals MP for Lyne David Gillespie, West Australian MP Rick Wilson and North Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt, who was this week promoted to cabinet as Resources Minister.
Former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has also promoted nuclear energy.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor have said they’re not considering lifting the nuclear moratorium due to lack of bipartisan support for nuclear energy.
Mr Taylor said the government is “taking the time to thoroughly consider the [committee’s] recommendations” and it had “no plans to lift the longstanding moratorium”.
Advocates argue nuclear power production costs can fall with new technology, highlighting the emerging technology of small to medium-sized reactors. However, there are no commercial examples of the new technology in operation.
Labor MPs issued a dissenting report which said the inquiry heard from experts who argued renewable energy offered better prospects to replace fossil fuels and the safety record of nuclear energy made it too risky to consider.
“In fact the events [like Fukushima], innovations and advances in renewable energy, and emerging climate and energy system developments of the last ten years have made nuclear power even less relevant and appropriate in the Australian context at a time when nuclear power is already in decline elsewhere,” the report said.
Mike is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.