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Canadian Innovation Minister Supports Australia’s Nuclear Expansion Bid

Canada’s centre-left Liberal innovation minister says the country is ready to sell nuclear technology to Australia as part of the centre-right opposition’s plan

Canada’s innovation minister has thrown his support behind the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition’s nuclear policy and suggested his country could give Australia a hand in building power plants.

The comment came amidst heated debate between the Labor government and opposition over the prospect of including nuclear power in Australia’s energy mix, as the country seeks to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

On June 22, François-Philippe Champagne of the centre-left Liberal Party said Canada was ready to sell nuclear technology to Australia as a cost-effective energy source.

“The world is looking at three things—it’s really around food security, energy security and supply chain resiliency,” he told Sky News Australia.

“And so, for us, talking to our Australian friend is the key because I think if you look at the challenge of the 21st century, I think energy generation is going to be at the heart of that.”

Nuclear’s Impact on Electricity Prices

Like other advanced economies such as France and Germany, Canada has decades of experience and expertise in nuclear power.

Canada’s first nuclear station started operation in 1962, and the country currently has four active power stations with 19 reactors.

Nuclear power produces about 15 percent of Canada’s electricity and accounts for 60 percent of electricity produced in the southern and most populous province of Ontario.

Ontario, which houses three nuclear power stations, has the cheapest electricity prices in Canada.

According to the Ontario Energy Board, the average electricity price in Ontario is C$0.13 (US$0.095) per Kilowatt-hour as of November 2023.
In comparison, data from the financial comparison website Finder showed that the average electricity price of the Australian Capital Territory, which has the lowest rate in the country, is around $0.24 (US$0.160) per Kilowatt-hour—nearly 1.7 times higher than Ontario’s electricity price.

On average, South Australia and New South Wales have the most expensive electricity prices in the country, at $0.45 (US$0.30) and $0.34 (US$0.23) per Kilowatt-hour, respectively.

Currently, Australia is one of three G20 countries that do not have nuclear power. The other two are Saudi Arabia and Italy.

While Saudi Arabia is building a nuclear power station, Italy imports most of its electricity from France, which gets 60 percent of its electricity from nuclear.

Labor Government’s Strong Response to Dutton Plan

In a surprising move, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton on June 19 announced the Liberal-Nationals Coalition’s plan to build seven nuclear reactors across Australia if it wins the next federal election.

The Coalition aims to repurpose retiring coal-fired power stations for nuclear facilities.

Under the plan, the Coalition will first develop two projects by 2035-2037, and a full roll-out is expected to occur in the 2040s, in order to reach net zero by 2050.

The Tihange nuclear power plant is seen in Huy, Belgiumon, on April 27, 2024. (Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)
The Tihange nuclear power plant is seen in Huy, Belgiumon, on April 27, 2024. (Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

As he unveiled the plan, Mr. Dutton criticised the Labor government’s renewable-only policy, saying it was not fit for purpose.

“No other country in the world can keep the lights on 24/7 with the renewables-only policy,” he said.

“We need to ensure hospitals can stay on 24/7, we need to ensure that cold rooms can stay on 24/7, we need to make sure that our economy could function 24/7 and we can only do that with a strong baseload power.

“We want to utilise existing assets that we have got, and the poles and wires that are used at the moment on the coal-fired power station sites can be utilised to distribute the energy generated from the latest generation nuclear reactors.”

In response, Centre for Radiation Research Director Tony Hooker also sought to assuage concerns about radioactive energy, noting it was safer than wind and solar.

“I think radiation has always been one of those topics which polarises people. We have not done a very good job, and I say ‘we’ including myself, in explaining radiation risk,” Mr. Hooker told The Epoch Times.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called the Opposition’s plan “a fantasy“ while describing renewables as “the cheapest form of new energy.”

Mr. Albanese noted that his government had approved 50 major renewable energy projects around the country.

Labor has set an ambitious target of reaching 80 percent of renewable electricity generation by 2030.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Penny Wong stated that the plan was “a risky and expensive gamble that won’t work.”

Treasurer Jim Chalmers argued it would take longer and cost more to build nuclear power plants, effectively pushing up energy prices for Australians.

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