Nationals' nuclear flare-up on energy bill

·2-min read

The Nationals have gone nuclear on energy policy, flagging another amendment to their own government's plans.

The bill at the centre of it all allows Energy Minister Angus Taylor to direct Australia's green bank to invest in gas and loss-making energy projects.

The government wants the bill to pass parliament next week so a raft of projects go ahead.

Former Nationals leader turned backbencher Barnaby Joyce has already wedged his colleagues by introducing an amendment which would allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in coal-fired power stations.

Now the Nationals Senate team wants the green bank to invest in nuclear power as well as carbon capture and storage.

The five Nationals senators led by Bridget McKenzie and Matt Canavan fronted a media conference promoting their plan.

"We compete against the world with one hand behind our back while other nations avail themselves of cutting edge, low emissions technologies," Senator McKenzie said.

There is a longstanding moratorium on nuclear energy generation which has been maintained by both Labor and coalition governments.

The coal and nuclear-pushing Nationals are putting renewed pressure on current leader Michael McCormack.

By introducing amendments to the government's own bill they are forcing their colleagues to either vote for or against the original plan.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Mr McCormack has been a resilient leader, having already batted off an attempt from Mr Joyce to snatch back the party's top job.

Mr Frydenberg said the Nationals and Liberals had so far worked effectively on energy under the current leaders.

"It's a pretty complex area, as I know," he told reporters in Canberra.

"If I took off my jacket I could show you the scars from being the energy minister."

Mr Frydenberg was the minister behind the previous coalition government's National Energy Guarantee, which played a role in Malcolm Turnbull's downfall as prime minister.

Mr Joyce claims small modular nuclear reactors are ideal to replace decommissioned coal-fired power stations and reduce emissions.

"Nuclear reactors can do it," he told reporters in Canberra.

"Why not, if you want zero emissions."

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said nuclear energy in Australia doesn't stack up.

"What we are witnessing here is just a part of the chaos that is the coalition when it comes to energy policy," he said.

The Nationals argue the $1 billion grid reliability fund to be run out of the CEFC should support small nuclear energy projects and get involved in developing the technology.

The Australian Conservation Foundation says there's nothing clean about nuclear, coal or gas.

"Nuclear is not a credible climate response and has been repeatedly rejected by the market and the community," ACF spokesman Dave Sweeney said.