Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who just been re-endorsed as the Liberal candidate for his Sydney seat of Warringah at the next election has called on the Morrison Government to lift Australia’s prohibition on the development on nuclear power.
Abbott told Radio 2GB on Friday that there was “absolutely no reason why, when it’s economic, we shouldn’t have nuclear power generation in Australia” and said it would make a point of differentiation with Labor “when you’re seeking a third term, when you’re defending a one-seat majority…. you’ve got to be prepared to create a contest.”
Australia never developed a nuclear power grid because of a strong anti-nuclear movement which development in Australia during the Cold War Era which included the Nuclear Disarmament Party winning a Senate seat in the 1980s. The fear of nuclear meltdowns and radiation increased with the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters. As a result Australia only has one nuclear power station Lucas Heights in Sydney which is used for research purposes.
Despite the Cold War being over the hysteria and fears over nuclear power continues. The main obstacle to nuclear power stations being built is NIMBYism (not in my backyard) with local residents fearing a fall in their property values if one is built near them. Even agreeing to where to store Australia’s small amount of nuclear waste generated has proven to be a political problem.
Most of the opposition to nuclear power in Australia has come from the Green Left, many Nuclear Disarmament Party members are now part of the Greens. However now that the most pressing environmental issue for the left now is fighting climate change by reducing carbon emissions. But the paradox for them is nuclear power generation provides the cheapest and most reliable source to reach zero emissions. Australia has some of the largest uranium deposits in the world which we are happy to sell to overseas countries and superpowers but not use ourselves.
Nuclear power’s ability to fight climate change was recognized by former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill who held a Royal Commission to investigate the state’s future role in the nuclear fuel cycle.
While reducing carbon emissions was the energy policy priority at the beginning of the decade with the South Australian statewide blackout in 2016 and electricity prices in Australia being the highest in the western world the policy priority has turned to energy affordability. Conservatives in the Coalition government have called for investment in new coal fired power stations and Scott Morrison has declared his new Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s sole job is to bring power prices down.
Tony Abbott was one of the voices calling for new coal investment but has now thrown nuclear energy into the mix. It would certainly wedge Labor and the Greens if the Coalition adopted a pro-nuclear policy as they would be opposing both energy affordability and emissions reductions.
The key question is would the public warm to nuclear power generation which has been its main hindrance in Australia? Where would politicians agree to build nuclear power stations and facilities to store the waste? Let us know what you think of Tony Abbott’s suggestion by voting in our poll below.