Julia Gillard's weakened leadership needs a power surge.
No one knows this better than her Minister for Energy and Resources, Martin Ferguson.
Ferguson, an outspoken proponent of nuclear energy, is in Washington this week for talks with US Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
A Nobel laureate in physics, Chu supports America's expanding nuclear program, saying it "is going to be an important part of our energy mix."
For Chu and many others, nuclear power is critical to a more sustainable energy and environmental future.
If our Prime Minister is to stay true to her promise and make 2011 the year of "delivery and decision", she needs to take the lead and initiate a comprehensive discussion about nuclear power, which happens to be the only carbon-neutral baseload energy source.
Failure to do so ignores the informed views of a long list of technical experts, environmentalists and many of Gillard's Labor colleagues.
So, why is it time for Australia to have the nuclear debate?
And why is it, in the words of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, "intellectually unsustainable to rule it out as a possibility"?
The answer is threefold.
As a leading source of uranium, Australia has a competitive advantage; as a clean form of energy, nuclear power is better for the environment; and as the only advanced economy not embracing it as the answer, it is time we caught up.
The facts are compelling.
Australia is home to 38 per cent of the world's known recoverable reserves of uranium, and we export uranium to more than 10 countries.
As I said in my first speech to parliament last year, Australia is in a curious moral, economic and environmental position where we are prepared to export uranium, but not use it.
Today, 31 countries host 440 nuclear reactors, providing two-thirds of the world's people with electricity.
More than 55 new reactors are under construction, nearly half of them in China.
The European Union generates more than 30 per cent of its energy from nuclear power.
The US figure is 20 per cent and rising.
In each of these countries the decision to go nuclear was a practical one, cutting across the partisan divide.
In Britain, it was Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, not a Tory, who described nuclear power as "a fundamental pre-condition of preparing Britain for a new world".
In the US it is Barack Obama, a Democratic President, not his Republican predecessor, who has committed more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees for the next generation reactors.
Only in Australia does entrenched ideological opposition prevail.
Only in Australia is the Prime Minister looking back down the time tunnel.
But, looking to the future, if Australia is going to be serious about meeting its carbon emission reduction targets, we must contemplate the nuclear option.
It is a message the International Energy Agency's executive director Nobuo Tanaka recently carried to Canberra: "If you don't use nuclear, totally renewable energy is very, very expensive, and also it is fragile in terms of its productivity."
It is a message that has for a long time resonated in Tanaka's native Japan.
With a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by an ambitious 80 per cent by 2050, Japan plans to build 9 new nuclear reactors by 2019 on top of the 55 already in place.
For the leadership in Tokyo nuclear power is a proven winner and indispensable to a greener, cleaner future.
While Japan and many of our other regional neighbours including India, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and China have already embraced the nuclear concept, Australia can catch up.
The pre-eminent voice in the Australian debate, Ziggy Switkowski, chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, believes Australia can have its first reactor operating by 2020 and 50 in place by 2050, providing 90 per cent of the nation's energy needs.
Such a move would propel us a long way towards meeting our emissions targets by 2050.
Developments in reactor technology are also occurring so fast that the construction phase is likely to shrink from 60 to 30 months in coming years.
New generation reactors will also be considerably smaller, built underground, and with the potential to be gas cooled, so they would not need to be located close to large sources of water.
Incidentally, Australian companies like Worley Parsons are involved in the construction of new reactors as in Egypt, where they are gaining an international reputation for their project management expertise.
Huge strides are also being made to dramatically reduce the amount of nuclear waste.
Fourth generation reactors will burn most of the fuel, with the surviving waste having a half life a fraction of that produced by today's reactors.
Today's reactors are also significantly safer than their predecessors.
The explosions at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island were decades ago and since then there have been thousands of reactor hours without incident.
A comprehensive and informed debate about a nuclear power industry for Australia is long overdue.
It will require our Prime Minister to overcome the ideological bogies of the past and think of the benefits that will accrue to future generations.
If Gillard started to listen to Hawke and other senior voices on the Labor side, the pathway ahead for Australia would soon become abundantly clear.