Canberra’s obsession with nuclear appears to be catching, with the Victorian Parliament set to hold its very own inquiry into the feasibility and suitability of the nuclear power for the southern state.
News emerged on Wednesday that a Liberal Democrats motion for an inquiry into the potential for nuclear power in Victoria had passed the state’s upper house.
The 12-month inquiry will explore lifting the state’s ban on nuclear in the name of fighting climate change, and will consider such factors as waste management, health and safety, and possible industrial and medical applications.
“If we have these issues with climate change we need to look at all the options available to us and at the moment we’ve got laws prohibiting certain options and we think that those options should be on the table,” said Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick in June, when the cross-benchers tabled the motion.
“The young people of today no longer fear nuclear holocaust. Today’s young have a new fear – global warming,” Limbrik told the Legislative Council this week.
“There is a demand, both here and throughout the world, for new ways to generate energy that emit lower levels of carbon dioxide.”
But Victorian Greens MP Tim Read said said the inquiry was a waste of the state’s resources and time, and made “absolutely no sense” for Victoria, with its 50 per cent by 2030 renewable energy target being written into law.
“Dredging up the tired old debate on nuclear will only delay the urgent work needed to end our reliance on coal and gas and transitioning to clean and safe renewable energy,” Read said.
The news from Victoria comes less than two weeks after Australia’s federal energy minister ordered the Environment and Energy Standing Committee to launch an inquiry into nuclear energy, including its costs and issues of waste, with a report due in four months.
Dr Jim Green, national anti-nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia, said nuclear power had become part of Australia’s culture wars driven by conservative ideologues – especially considering the fact it had priced itself out of any serious discussions about the future energy mix.
“The 2006 Switkowski report estimated the cost of electricity from new reactors at $40–65 per megawatt-hour. That’s one-quarter of current estimates.
“In 2009, Dr (Ziggy) Switkowski said that the construction cost of a 1,000-megawatt power reactor Australia would be $4‒6 billion. Again, that’s about one-quarter of the $17‒24 billion cost of all reactors under construction in Europe and the United States.
“The Victorian Parliamentary inquiry will be a waste of time unless its terms of reference are broadened to include issues associated with transitioning to a clean, safe, reliable energy system based on renewables and energy efficiency,” Dr Green said.