The Victorian government has shot down any prospects of lifting a prohibition on nuclear power, with a parliamentary committee finding that nuclear power remained cost prohibitive, risky and needing a substantial subsidy to stand any chance of being viable in Australia.
The final report of the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into nuclear prohibition was released on Thursday, declaring that there was no serious case for lifting the current prohibition.
While the committee found that it was too hard to accurately quantify the exact costs of nuclear power in Australia with a ban in place, the inquiry found that there was substantial evidence that the costs were prohibitive and that nuclear power was unlikely to be viable without government subsidy.
“Notwithstanding the ambiguities of the costings, the Committee received substantial evidence that nuclear power is significantly more expensive than other forms of power generation and it is recognised that, currently, nuclear is at the high end of the cost-range across all technologies,” the committee found.
“Without subsidisation a nuclear power industry will remain economically unviable in Australia for now.”
The Victorian Greens said that the committee’s report was further evidence that nuclear power was not still an effective option as a source of energy in Australia.
“There isn’t a business case for nuclear power because the argument has already been lost – years ago,” Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said. “The debate about nuclear power is a distraction perpetuated by those who cling to a world view that is last century.”
“There is good reason we have a prohibition on nuclear energy. Because everyone already knows it’s a bad idea. Expensive, risky and unnecessary. I hope this is the last time we have to entertain an inquiry into nuclear power. It’s a relic that belongs in the past.”
The committee concluded that there was no good arguments for repealing a prohibition on nuclear power in Australia, saying that any potential advantages presented by nuclear power did not outweigh the known and substantial risks.
“Those who propose a policy shift have not presented any argument, data or proof in support of their position that cannot be nullified by those arguing against. Any advantages are speculative in nature, and do not outweigh the identified and proven risks,” the committee said.
However, the Victorian Liberal opposition submitted a dissenting report, calling for a repeal of the nuclear prohibition. The Liberal party committee members cited testimony made to the inquiry by pro-nuclear advocate Michael Shellenberger, who argued that there was a role for nuclear power in a low emissions energy system.
The Victorian state parliament has maintained a ban on nuclear activities since 1983, which also prohibits uranium mining, nuclear power and storage facilities being established within the state. Even if the state ban was repealed, nuclear activities would largely remain prohibited as a result of federal environmental laws.
The Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed the findings of the inquiry, saying that nuclear power remains unviable and that the current Andrews Labor government was justified in maintaining the prohibition.
“This long-standing protection has served Victoria well and its retention is prudent and positive,” ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney said.
“Nuclear power is high cost and high risk and a distraction from the real energy choices and challenges we face. Our energy future is renewable, not radioactive.”
The latest cost estimates produced by the CSIRO suggest that nuclear power would be substantially more expensive than other options available in Australia, more than five times the cost of wind and solar power, and more than double the cost of renewables firmed by energy storage.