Victorian Inquiry into Nuclear

The Victorian Inquiry into Nuclear has concluded that there is no justification to remove the prohibition on nuclear power or invest in any further review of nuclear power. Below are the key findings for the inquiry.

The report notes “The (Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act recognises the protection of the environment from nuclear actions as a matter of national environmental significance…The EPBC Act specifically prohibits approval of actions involving the construction or operation of a nuclear fuel fabrication plant, a nuclear power plant, an enrichment plant, or a reprocessing facility.” This Act is also under review at a national level – the review committee to remove has not recommendation this prohibition be removed, aka the prohibition should remain, this is a key outcome of state and national reviews on nuclear power.

Parliament of Victoria
Inquiry into nuclear prohibition
Legislative Council Environment and Planning Committee
November 2020

FINDING 1: Regardless of technology development, priority should be given to the security, stability and accessibility of energy supply and the need to lower carbon emissions due to climate change and to ensure affordable energy.

FINDING 2: Current estimates of the cost of nuclear energy in Australia are unreliable and accurately costing the full cost is not possible without a detailed business case being undertaken.

FINDING 3: Notwithstanding the ambiguities of the costings, the Committee received substantial evidence that nuclear power is significantly more expensive than other forms of power generation and it is recognised that, currently, nuclear is at the high end of the cost range across all technologies.

FINDING 4: A business case is unlikely to be undertaken, given its costs and resources required, while a prohibition of nuclear energy activities remains and there is not likelihood of a plant being able to be built.

FINDING 5: Without subsidisation a nuclear power industry will remain economically unviable in Australia for now.

FINDING 6: Discussion about Victorian participation in the nuclear fuel cycle is entirely theoretical while the Commonwealth prohibitions remain in place.

FINDING 7: Until there is a change in the Commonwealth position, detailed discussions about emerging technologies in Victoria related to the nuclear fuel cycle and power generation are unlikely to advance.

FINDING 8: The success of any radioactive waste strategy relies on a level of acceptance and confidence across government, industry and the broader community of its legitimacy, effectiveness and integrity in its ability to deal with all facets of waste management, storage and disposal, including the long-term health and safety of workers, affected communities, particularly First Nations Peoples, and the environment.

FINDING 9: Those who propose a policy shift have not presented any argument, data or proof in support of their position that cannot be nullified by those arguing against. Any advantages are speculative in nature, and do not outweigh the identified and proven risks.

FINDING 10: The nuclear medicine industry is not hindered significantly by the current prohibitions against uranium or thorium exploration and mining. Current legislative prohibitions only prohibit mining and the construction or operation of certain nuclear facilities, such as nuclear reactors. This does exclude Victoria from hosting a nuclear research reactor or other nuclear facilities which could be used to increase supply of radioisotopes for medical or industrial purposes. The Committee notes that if Victoria did seek to establish a research reactor, Victorian and Commonwealth prohibitions would need to be repealed to allow this to happen. Therefore, a repeal of just Victorian legislation would not be sufficient to expand
our involvement in nuclear medicine beyond what is currently permissible.

FINDING 11: The current market for this material is receiving enough supply from international import and the OPAL reactor at Lucas Heights. The Committee does not believe that fully repealing the Nuclear Activities (Prohibitions) Act 1983 would have a material influence on the nuclear medicine sector, as it is unlikely Victoria’s involvement would increase beyond its current capacity.

FINDING 12: The Committee is not convinced that thorium exploration and mining is economically or technologically viable.