Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


Matters of Interest

Nuclear Energy

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (15:27): I rise today to speak about the fundamental need to secure our energy future in South Australia. More than ever, it is my firm belief that members of parliament at both state and federal levels have the responsibility to consider all options before them of energy production to alleviate the burden upon our constituents of spikes in our electricity prices in particular.

Just last week, we learnt that South Australian households and businesses could expect an increase of 7.2 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively in these costs. There is evidently an increasingly urgent need for pragmatism in how we approach the issue of energy supply in our jurisdiction, and it is my view that South Australians deserve to have reliability and cost-effectiveness prioritised in their energy needs.

Members in this place may recall that, in my Address in Reply speech, I touched on my belief that we should be seriously looking at nuclear energy as a means of contributing to South Australia's base load energy requirements. I reiterate that nuclear energy has the potential to be the key to our future energy security. Despite misconceptions of nuclear power that would suggest otherwise, this form of energy is currently used safely and effectively in many nations. In fact, nuclear power plants are in operation in 32 countries around the world, generating approximately a tenth of the world's electricity supply from over 400 reactors currently in operation.

Although nuclear energy will almost certainly always have its detractors, many experts contend it is amongst the most affordable, cleanest and safest source of energy available, most notably due to significant technological advances and innovations over the past few decades. Indeed, our own state's Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission considered major incidents and issues regarding reactor safety and was nevertheless satisfied that there was sufficient evidence of safe operation and improvements within the industry to warrant further consideration of nuclear power looking forward. This suggests that nuclear power may be a viable option for South Australia, and we certainly should not dismiss the concept of nuclear energy without first considering its probity as a solution to our energy demands and suitability.

France is the perfect example of what Australia could expect by moving towards nuclear power production. That nation now acquires approximately 70 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power plants due to its longstanding policy founded upon energy security as its priority. In February this year, the French government announced plans to construct six new reactors and to consider building a further eight, in addition to those that are already in existence. Because of France's considerably low cost of energy generation, the country has become the largest net exporter of electricity in the entire world, gaining over three billion euros revenue annually as a result.

Interestingly, when I was in France some years ago I had a discussion with a French delegate regarding local electricity costs. I queried how much his monthly power bill was and I discovered that it was approximately one-tenth of what I am paying here in South Australia. The reason their power bills were so impressively low in France was, quite simply, they had embraced nuclear power as their primary source of energy.

South Australia is particularly well positioned for the potential development of a nuclear industry. Not only does our nation have a third of the world's known uranium reserves, it is also the third largest producer of uranium globally. With abundant uranium deposits at our disposal we have been content to export the natural resource to be utilised for nuclear power purposes overseas, yet we refuse to use it here in the same manner for our own benefit. This really is nothing short of stupidity in my view, not to mention absurdity, and perhaps even hypocrisy, and we should be seeking to use such an obvious opportunity to our advantage to help lower our cost of living and energy costs in Australia.

Reluctance to accept nuclear power as a credible energy option can arguably be attributed to the environmental movement, which has unfortunately gravitated too far to the political left by adopting agendas that abandon the nuclear option regardless of its advantages. Although I may personally have differing views pertaining to the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, I do agree that we have an inherent responsibility to be good caretakers of our environment, of course. However, I am also of the opinion that this should be tempered with the recognition of the important need for reliability and cost-effectiveness when it comes to developing energy policies.

Nuclear power is unique in the sense that it boasts the attributes needed to satisfy all of the aforementioned considerations; that is, it uniquely provides necessary base load energy without producing carbon emissions. I strongly believe that nuclear power could well be the best way forward for South Australia, and indeed our nation. I urge the current state government to investigate this situation as a matter of urgency as power bills continue to rise and show no sign of abating.