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  • Rikki Lambert

Strong SA community backing for a nuclear conversation

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

Concept art for one of Rolls Royce's three proposed small-modular reactor factories released in July 2022

South Australians surveyed by the state's peak resources body have indicated strong support for a conversation about nuclear energy, the same week as the federal Liberal-National Coalition formally endorsed a national conversation occurring.

A survey of community sentiment conducted in July of 600 South Australians from metropolitan and regional areas showed 60 per cent support having an "informed and balanced conversation about having a nuclear energy industry in South Australia", with the number rising to 75 per cent when told the majority of South Australians hold that view.

SA Chamber of Mines and Energy CEO Rebecca Knol spoke with Flow on Wednesday about what the survey data means for a nuclear conversation for South Australia:

A True North survey for the Menzies Research Centre in 2021 showed nationwide support for nuclear power is 55 per cent, rising to 62 per cent among South Australians, 72 per cent of Liberal voters, 50 per cent of Labor voters and 52 per cent of Greens voters.

A Lowy Institute Poll in 2022 found 52 per cent of Australians support removing the federal ban imposed in 1998 by the Democrats and Greens on nuclear energy. Australia is the only G20 nation with a ban on nuclear energy, with the remaining 19 either having nuclear power themselves, or planning to introduce it - or, in Italy's case, relying on nuclear energy imports.

Around 440 reactors are operational in 31 nations with 56 more under construction, 96 at the planning stage and 325 proposed worldwide.

Small modular reactors that would be fit-for-purpose in South Australia are not only far smaller than conventional reactors, but could deployed within 3-5 years at a cost of approximately $1-3 billion USD and, critically, provide baseload energy.

Federal opposition leader Peter Dutton announced on Tuesday review that the Coalition would officially adopt a policy to have a 'nuclear energy conversation', with a review to be led by Mr Ted O’Brien MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy. Mr Dutton declared:

"It is high time that Australia had an honest and informed debate on the benefits and costs of nuclear energy.
"The current energy crisis has shown the importance of getting more dispatchable power into the grid. The average wholesale electricity price in the second quarter this year was three times higher than the same time a year ago – a situation described by the Australian Energy Market Operator as ‘unprecedented’.
"While renewables will play an important growing role in Australia’s energy mix, they need to be balanced by sufficient investment in dispatchable generation."

National Party leader David Littleproud described Mr Dutton's announcement after a joint party room meeting on Tuesday as a 'win' for the Nationals:

“The Nationals have driven the need for this debate to happen and today’s news is a clear victory for common sense.
“Australia is faced with an energy crisis and The Nationals are not afraid to ask questions and find solutions that will keep the lights on and save Australians from increasing cost pressures.

Mr Littleproud expressed disappointment that Prime Minister Albanese had rejected the offer for the government to lead a national conversation on nuclear energy as part of a National Energy Summit.

The southern Queensland-based member for Maranoa told Flow on 1 July his National party were strong supporters of advancing the case for nuclear energy:


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