The newly-elected federal member for Hughes in NSW, the Liberals’ Jenny Ware, said in her maiden speech to the Parliament that nuclear power should be an essential part of the nation’s energy transition, while Queensland Liberal Colin Boyce used his first speech to raise concerns about the level government support for hydrogen.
Meanwhile, the Nationals’ freshly-minted member for Dawson Andrew Willcox used his maiden speech to also back nuclear energy, and to support the use of carbon capture and storage technologies.
Ms Ware said that hybrid models of renewable energy that include the use of nuclear are necessary to transition the economy away from fossil fuels while maintaining affordable and reliable energy for households and businesses.
“Hughes has the only nuclear reactor in Australia. Because of that, I am committed to approaching how we can utilise the technology and innovation developed at Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO, with nuclear medicine to answer our energy questions,” Ms Ware said.
“Whilst my 15-year-old self, with a bedroom full of Midnight Oil posters and records, would be shuddering, the nuclear of 2022 is a very different thing to the nuclear of the past. Going into the future, as we develop an energy policy that will produce sufficient base load power, the research already undertaken and the development of innovative solutions at ANTSO should then become part of our national solution to our current energy crisis.”
The nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in South Sydney is used to produce medical isotopes and not for the production of electricity. The construction of nuclear power plants is currently banned in every Australian state and territory.
The former general counsel at Georges River Council also said the government should address environmental concerns through “traditional conservative pathways”, meaning the use of “markets to incentivise small businesses to innovate and embrace high-tech manufacturing”. Ms Wares said it is “important to encourage and embrace cutting-edge technology”.
Mr Boyce, the Liberal member for the seat of Flynn in Queensland, has moved from state politics after five years as the member for Callide in the state’s Legislative Assembly. He also backed nuclear energy, but denounced hydrogen as “extremely dangerous” and said the production process was overly cumbersome.
“It is extremely flammable and has specific qualities that make industrial quantities of hydrogen very difficult to produce, store, transport and use,” Mr Boyce said.
According to a ‘back-of-the-envelope’ calculation, Mr Boyce highlighted his belief that the cost of producing green hydrogen is gargantuan. He also expressed concerns around the large volume of land that would be taken up by wind farms powering electrolysers, the huge volumes of water needed to produce hydrogen, and the potential damage to the Great Barrier Reef caused by waste brine dumping.
Mr Boyce said he supports the development of new technology, including hydrogen, but has raised questions about the “huge amounts of government subsidies that have been allocated to such proposals” compared to other social issues.
“I have no doubt that a hydrogen industry will be developed in Gladstone. However, the practical and economic realities of doing this on a huge, industrial scale have not been investigated or understood. It should be the market that provides the bulk of the investment to such proposals, not the government,” Mr Boyce said.
Mr Boyce is also concerned about the economic impacts of net-zero emissions targets, renewable energy targets, and environmental constraints on residents of Central Queensland as its industries are “heavy carbon emitters”. He noted that around half of the revenue of the Central Highlands Regional Council is paid by the coal and resource sector.
There are currently several hydrogen supply chain projects being developed in Queensland, including a $4.7 billion green hydrogen and ammonia plant in Gladstone.
Andrew Willcox, Nationals member for the seat of Dawson in Queensland, delivered his first speech on Wednesday, expressing support for “all energy options” including new “high efficiency” coal-fired power stations with carbon capture and storage as well as nuclear.
Mr Willcox, who spent the last six years as Mayor of the Whitsunday Regional Council, also said there would be a “sovereign risk” if a domestic space launch capability is not developed.
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