Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s legal ban on nuclear power will remain, says Environment Minister Sussan Ley

Environment Minister Sussan Ley refuses to consider an amendment to nuclear power ban in Australia The West Australian, 29 July 2019

Environment Minister Sussan Ley has quashed a push to lift the moratorium on nuclear power, saying she will not consider the ban as part of an upcoming review of Australia’s environmental protection legislation.

Speaking to The West Australian, Ms Ley gave the Federal Government’s strongest comment yet on the issue, indicating the settings would remain the same on nuclear power and a moratorium would not be lifted.

“I will not be looking to change the moratorium on nuclear power as part of that review,” Ms Ley said.

Ms Ley also said she would not be reviewing the decision by her predecessor — West Australian Melissa Price who was dumped from Cabinet — to approve the Yeelirrie uranium mine 500km north of Kalgoorlie a day before the May 18 Federal election.

“I don’t propose to review decisions that were already made before I became minister,” Ms Ley said, despite advice the mine could lead to the extinction of up to 12 native species.

As part of her portfolio, Ms Ley will have carriage over the 10-year review of the Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act, which needs to begin by October.

The Act recognises the protection of the environment from nuclear actions as a matter of national environmental significance and specifically prohibits nuclear power generation in Australia.

A group of Coalition MPs, including Craig Kelly, James McGrath and Keith Pitt, want the Act to be amended to allow nuclear power generation to be permitted in Australia as a way to supply reliable, low-emissions base load power.

The move is backed by the Minerals Council of Australia and industry with Prime Minister Scott Morrison handed a draft terms of reference into a nuclear power inquiry last month. Ms Ley’s stance also comes as Labor tries to wedge the Government on power prices.

Shadow energy minister Mark Butler will today say average wholesale energy prices in the States connected to the National Energy Market — of which WA is not a participant — have risen 158 per cent since 2015.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan said it “makes sense” to see if nuclear power was a worthwhile option in the current environment but that he was not convinced it would be good for Australians struggling with higher power prices.

“It may not meet our present needs given we have a desperate need to reduce power prices and nuclear power is on the more expensive end of the scale,” he said.

Former deputy prime minister and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, who wants an inquiry into nuclear power, said last night he believed it was the only way to achieve zero emissions power.

“If this absurd zeitgeist believes that Australia singlehandedly contains the temperature of the globe by reason of them using coal fired power – as much as I disagree with that based on science – I’ll take the next alternative for baseload power which is nuclear power,” he said.

“Although we send uranium all around the world for zero-emissions power, there is an exceptional paranoia about it in Australian politics,” he said.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor told Question Time last week the government had an “open mind” on nuclear power generation but that there was no current plan to lift the moratorium.

“We always approach these things with an open mind, but we do not have … a plan to change the moratorium,” he said.

Opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler said nuclear power would not bring price relief for Australians.

“Based on the advice of industry and experts, it is clear nuclear power is not a viable option for Australia… The economics do not stack up and it would just mean higher power bills,” he said.

Nuclear power generation in Australia was pushed by John Howard while Prime Minister, with the Coalition running on a pro-nuclear platform at the 2007 election.

In 2006 former Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski chaired a Commonwealth government inquiry into nuclear power which concluded Australia was well placed to consider adding nuclear to its energy mix.

An energy Green Paper by the Coalition government in 2014 suggested nuclear energy was a “serious consideration for future low emissions energy”.

Australia is home to a third of the world’s uranium deposits and is the third largest producer behind Kazakstan and Canada.

Uranium accounts for around a quarter of Australian energy exports.

July 29, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

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