The current energy market in Australia is in a state of transition, with major fossil fuel (coal) power generation plants reaching the end of their life and being replaced by other sources of electricity generation. Concerns about climate change and the impact of fossil fuels on carbon emissions, not only within Australia but globally, has driven this shift away from fossil fuels towards variable renewable energy sources. It is this need to shift towards low-emissions power generation that the question of nuclear power has been raised in recent years.
Currently nuclear power plays no role in energy generation in Australia and never has. In fact, since the Nuclear Activities (Prohibitions) Act 1983 (Vic) was enacted, there has been a legal prohibition on the construction and operation of nuclear facilities in Victoria. In addition to the Victorian legislation, Commonwealth laws also prohibit the use of nuclear energy for electricity generation across Australia.
In this report, the Committee makes no recommendations and does not take a strong position on nuclear power as an alternative energy source in Australia, and particularly in Victoria.
The Committee undertook this Inquiry knowing that changes to the Victorian legislation would, in and of themselves, not lead to any significant change in the likelihood of nuclear power in Australia becoming a reality, given the overarching bans that exist at the national level. However, the inquiry has provided useful information that will be available to policy makers into the future.