The Energy Minister has put nuclear power back on the table, ordering a government committee to assess the controversial technology.

The inquiry “will be the first inquiry into the use of nuclear power in Australia in more than a decade and is designed to consider the economic, environmental and safety implications of nuclear power,” Mr Taylor said in a letter to Environment and Energy Committee and Queensland LNP member Ted O’Brien.

“I am confident that your committee — involving all sides of politics — is the best way to consider this issue in a sensible way.”

There is strong opposition to nuclear power in Australia, where it is officially banned as a source of power. It is also hampered by extremely high costs, long lead times, immense water requirements and dwindling economic viability compared to renewable energy systems. 

Reports say that several Coalition backbenchers support the idea, though many are unwilling to nominate their own electorates as sites for power stations or other facilities.

Barnaby Joyce has suggested residents living near reactors could be offered free power.

“Clearly there are very passionate views on either side of this debate,” Mr O’Brien said.

“There are new and emerging forms of nuclear energy technology that are very different from the old smokestack reactors people tend to picture when they think nuclear energy and it’s on these newer technologies that we’ll focus.

“Our job will be to determine the circumstances under which future Coalition or Labor governments might consider nuclear energy generation.”

The Environment and Energy Committee should complete its inquiry by the end of the year.

The effort is highly aspirational, seeking only to identify options and issues for “any future government’s consideration” of nuclear power.

Some have suggested that Mr Taylor has raised the controversial and conversation-worthy topic as a distraction from allegations relating an $80 million water sale or illegal clearing of grasslands.