Acting NSW Premier John Barilaro will declare nuclear power “inevitable” in a speech that slams “ignorant, 1970s” thinking for preventing development of the nation’s uranium reserves and condemning residents to blackouts.
Mr Barilaro's position is Australian Conservatives policy and has been commended by Australian Conservatives’ leader Cory Bernardi who has been advocating South Australia's adoption of a nuclear fuel cycle to strengthen the state's economy.
The Australian newspaper reports the speech 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.
“Renewable energy is very welcome, and should remain part of the ‘mix’, however it is intermittent, has its limits and can’t deliver energy security on its own,” it says.
“There has never been a better moment to include nuclear energy in Australia’s energy future,” it adds.
The speech will be delivered 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's speech says.
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.
The speech continues, “Australia is heading in the same direction as South Australia — with no clear plan or policy on how to remedy the situation,” suggesting Australia will be at “constant risk of statewide blackouts”.
“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,” it says.
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.
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