BHP urges nuclear risk embrace for Australia

Energy giant BHP Group is calling for Australia to lift its longstanding ban on nuclear power as the country continues to travel down the path towards carbonisation.

Australia has one nuclear plant in Lucas Heights, Sydney, but is not used to produce nuclear power, but instead is used to produce medical radioisotopes

Nuclear “must be part of the conversation” in Australia, LauraTyler, chief technical officer at the world’s biggest miner, said in an interview with Bloomberg.

“To make sure we have that safe, reliable energy mix, we need to be able to mix it up” with nuclear complementing wind, solar, batteries and other sources of electricity, she said. “Everything needs to be on the table.”

The bulk of BHP’s earnings come from its Australian iron ore and coal mines, but the company also produces uranium, the fuel for nuclear reactors, at its Olympic Dam site in South Australia.

After being shunned due to safety concerns, nuclear energy is enjoying a resurgence in global popularity due to a shortage of natural gas following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The need to decarbonise electricity grids and the development of smaller and cheaper reactors is also making it more attractive.

Australia has never had nuclear power and there’s been a prohibition on its use in place since the 1990s. The Labor government supports the ban, arguing the country’s wealth of renewable resources means it’s not needed.

However, the opposition Liberal-National coalition wants it overturned, on the grounds that wind, solar and batteries can’t provide reliable baseload power to replace coal plants that are being phased out.

BHP aims to achieve to net zero across its operations by 2050, but warned last week that its emissions might rise in the short term.