Pressure is mounting on Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese to reconsider the country’s opposition to nuclear energy as part of the transition to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

The recent commitment by more than 20 countries to triple their nuclear capacity at the COP28 summit in Dubai has reignited the discussion around the role of nuclear energy in Australia. French president Emmanuel Macron (pictured above) has called on Australia to lift its nuclear energy ban. Macron asserts that Australia cannot achieve a net zero power grid without nuclear.

Advocates argue that introducing nuclear power could protect jobs in heavy industries during the shift away from fossil fuels. However, Australia has outlawed nuclear power since 1999. Australia’s nuclear ban was motivated by the government’s desire to protect the nation’s biodiversity.

Despite significant investment in renewable projects and infrastructure, Australia is not currently on track to meet its legislated 2030 climate targets. Greenhouse gas emissions have increased over the past year.

By contrast, Macron’s France cut CO2 emissions by 8.5% in 2022.

Macron has made nuclear expansion a major priority of his administration. Earlier this year, Macron abandoned a previous government’s pledge to cut nuclear’s share of French electricity production from 70% to 50%. In October, Macron traveled to Central Asia in an attempt to obtain uranium for the country’s nuclear reactors.

According to Nikkei, Australia’s Albanese government has approved multiple fossil fuel projects since taking office. At the same time, the government has maintained that nuclear power is not the solution for decarbonizing Australia’s economy.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers dismissed Macron’s remarks on Australia’s nuclear ban. Chalmers told reporters that the economics of nuclear aren’t favorable.

There are also doubts among certain business organizations, like the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group). While Ai Group doesn’t oppose nuclear energy in principle, it believes that nuclear is not economically viable in Australia based on the current evidence.

According to CSIRO, the Australian government’s scientific research body, a major limitation of nuclear power is that it takes a long time to build nuclear plants. The typical nuclear reactor takes 7.5 years to build. CSIRO believes that even if Australia were to start building nuclear plants today, it would be too little, too late to stop catastrophic climate change.

Image Source: Emmanuel Macron