Shadow energy minister Ted O’Brien floats 10-year timeframe to get nuclear up and running in Australia

Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Shadow Climate Change and Energy Minister Ted O’Brien said unnamed global experts were advising the Coalition that Australia could have nuclear “up and running” by the mid-2030s.
Shadow Climate Change and Energy Minister Ted O’Brien said unnamed global experts were advising the Coalition that Australia could have nuclear “up and running” by the mid-2030s. Credit: LUKAS COCH/AAPIMAGE

The Federal Opposition is suggesting Australia could have nuclear power within a decade as it insists there is no “credible pathway” to net zero without the controversial energy source.

Shadow climate change and energy minister Ted O’Brien said unnamed global experts were advising the Coalition that Australia could have nuclear “up and running” by the mid-2030s.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen scoffed at the time frame, saying it took an average of 19 years to build a nuclear power plant in the US – a country where the industry already exists.

Sign up to The Nightly's newsletters.

Get the first look at the digital newspaper, curated daily stories and breaking headlines delivered to your inbox.

Email Us
By continuing you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

“Tell him (Mr O’Brien) he’s dreaming,” Mr Bowen told the ABC’s Insiders program.

“I don’t know what experts he’s talking to.”

The nuclear debate is intensifying as the Coalition prepares to unveil its election policy for the power source ahead of the May Budget.

After spending months spruiking the merits of small modular reactors, the Opposition now appears more focused on the prospect of replacing retired coal-fired power stations with larger nuclear power plants.

A future Coalition government would need to clear multiple hurdles before that could happen, starting with lifting the ban on nuclear power in Australia, setting up a regulatory regime and training up a specialised workforce.

In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, Mr O’Brien challenged the suggestion that a nuclear industry couldn’t be set up before 2040 or 2045.

“The best experts around the world with whom we’ve been engaging are saying Australia could have nuclear up and running within a 10-year period,” he said.

As critics maintain nuclear power is financially unviable for Australia, Mr O’Brien doubled down on claims the energy source was essential to reaching net zero and keeping prices down.

“I stand with our peers – the UK, the US, with Japan, with Canada and others – who have made it crystal clear: If you want to get to net zero and make sure energy is still affordable and reliable then you must have zero emissions nuclear in your mix,” he said.

“In the absence of that, you don’t have a credible pathway to net zero and we’ll see in Australia prices continue to go up and up.”

Meanwhile, Mr Bowen said the Federal Government wouldn’t be “bullied out of” its proposed fuel efficiency standards as the car lobby and the opposition campaign against the plan.

The proposal would impose a cap on emissions across a car markers’ fleet of vehicles from January 1. It is designed to force manufacturers to send more of their cleaner cars – such as EVs – into the local market, creating more options for buyers and preventing Australia becoming a dumping ground for dirtier vehicles.

The Coalition has dubbed the standards a “ute tax” and claimed it could drive up the cost of larger passenger vehicles, such as the Toyota Hilux.

Mr Bowen rejected those claims, arguing car prices hadn’t shot up in other countries.

Australia are Russia are the only countries in the OECD without vehicle emissions standards.

Mr Bowen indicated the Federal Government was open to tweaking the proposed model - but was committed to the policy.

“We are not going to be sort of bullied out of proceeding with a policy which is in the best interest of the Australian people,” he said.

Comments

Latest Edition

The front page of The Nightly for 15-04-2024

Latest Edition

Edition Edition 15 April 202415 April 2024

Justice Lee finds Lehrmann ‘hell-bent on having sex’ with Higgins and ‘didn’t care if she knew what was going on’