SOME of Australia's biggest nuclear power advocates have given up the cause, believing Australia has ''missed the boat'' on embracing the energy source.
A month ago, three businessmen - Ron Walker, the chairman of Fairfax Media; Robert Champion de Crespigny and Hugh Morgan - applied to deregister their company, Australian Nuclear Energy, in recognition of the Government's hostility towards nuclear power.
As the debate about nuclear power refuses to die amid the broader argument of climate change, it is understood that even if the Government changed its mind today, it would be at least 14 years before a plant could be built.
This is because the demand for nuclear power has accelerated worldwide and there is a growing waiting list for the equipment to build a reactor.
The company was established in June 2006 with the aim of building the country's first nuclear power station should the go-ahead be given.
Days later, the then prime minister, John Howard, began pushing nuclear power in earnest by commissioning a review.
The Rudd Government vehemently opposes nuclear power and killed off the process - but the debate has resurfaced.
Last week the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, called for the adoption of nuclear power as part of a low-carbon energy future.
On the weekend, the Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce called for local councils to hold referendums to canvass levels of support for reactors in their jurisdictions. Residents who accepted a reactor could be given cheap power, he said.
The Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, said yesterday it was a worthy debate to have but pointless unless there was broad support. ''You will never have nuclear power in Australia until you have widespread community support and bipartisan political support and we are a very, very long way off having that,'' he said.
The Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, said Senator Joyce should explain where to bury all the radioactive waste.