Question marks around new nuclear reactors

Rebecca Gredley
Ziggy Switkowski led a Howard government review into nuclear power

The top bureaucrat who led a Howard government review into nuclear power concedes there's still question marks around emerging technologies of the energy source.

Ziggy Switkowski led a review in 2006, which found Australia would need about 25 reactors to supply one-third of the nation's electricity supply by 2050.

He supports Energy Minister Angus Taylor's move to establish a new review, which the government wants finalised by the end of the year.

Mr Taylor has flagged interest in small modular reactors, which are factory produced and installed on-site.

Dr Switkowski says the smaller reactors are still being developed, with the US, China, Russia and India considering them.

The small modular reactors could be stored underground and cooled down by gas rather than water, he added.

"There are some very appealing features in the designs of these new reactors, but until you've got a fleet of them somewhere where there's been some history of operation ... there still are question marks around them," he told ABC's Radio National on Tuesday.

Dr Switkowski, who now heads NBN Co, also concedes the "road ahead is almost impossible" without bipartisan support for nuclear power as it would take about 15 years to get up and running.

This covers multiple election cycles, meaning a change in government would put a roadblock to any developments.

Labor opposes removing the moratorium against nuclear, with leader Anthony Albanese describing the inquiry as a "frolic".

Solar and wind power paired with battery storage is the cheapest form of power, Dr Switkowski added.

The Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy is expected to launch the inquiry this week.