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Parliament to look at small nuclear reactors as future energy source

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A parliamentary inquiry into an Australian nuclear industry will look at the fast-changing technology of small modular reactors.

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Energy Minister Angus Taylor says he’s requested the Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy to investigate nuclear as a power source for Australia.

“We have a moratorium on nuclear. There is absolutely no plan to change that moratorium,” the minister told ABC Radio on Monday.

“But over the long-term we need to look at these alternative technologies and that’s why we’re doing this.”

The minister says the technology behind small modular reactors is changing quickly, insisting they are very different from traditional nuclear power stations.

“Over the long-term it is clear we need access to baseload generation that is low-emissions, affordable and can continue to support industry and ensure that we have affordable power for households and small business.”

Small modular reactors are factory produced and installed on-site.

Director of the Australian National University’s Energy Change Institute Kenneth Baldwin says wind and solar paired with battery storage will continue to be the cheapest form of power.

“These costs will decrease and who knows, in 10-15 years, it may simply be uneconomic to look at nuclear power,” he told ABC News.

Baldwin says such reviews need to be done periodically to understand the current technologies and costs.

It would take at least a decade before nuclear is realistically part of the energy mix, he added.

“You need the social licence to operate such a system, and to gain public acceptance may take many years,” he said.

“Add to that the fact that you have to then build a regulatory system – let’s say that it takes five years to do that, five years to build a public acceptance – that’s ten years.”

A federal review into nuclear energy was last conducted under the Howard government, with a report finding 25 reactors would be needed across Australia to supply one-third of the nation’s electricity supply by 2050.

-AAP

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