IT IS TIME TO END THE BAN ON NUCLEAR POWER IN AUSTRALIA
In light of 11 Coalition MPs calling for nuclear power to be considered for Australia’s energy mix, here are five reasons to support the removal of the blanket ban.
- Nuclear power is reliable: In the United States, nuclear power provides around 20 per cent of the country’s electricity needs. America’s almost 100 reactors have been operating on average at over 90 per cent of their rated capacity. In early 2014, US nuclear power plants were instrumental in supplying power during an extreme polar vortex when gas electricity generation was disrupted due to frozen pipelines.
- Nuclear power has close to zero carbon emissions: Analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US – the country’s main laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development – concluded that the emissions of nuclear (12 gCO2-e/kWh) are lower than solar PV (18–50 gCO2-e/kWh) and equivalent to wind (12 gCO2-e/kWh).
- Nuclear power is proven: Nuclear power underpins electricity supply in many countries. Thirty countries operate nuclear power plants today. France produces over three-quarters of its electricity via nuclear power and as a consequence has amongst the lowest emissions per kWh in the industrialised world.
- Nuclear power is affordable: While large nuclear power projects are capital intensive, countries have and are successfully investing in these assets with 59 reactors under construction today that will that generate large amounts of power for 60 years at a stable cost. Plus, small modular reactors (SMRs) are close to commercialisation in the US. A Nu-scale 50MWe SMR, for example, is projected to cost around US$250 million. Three of these would cost and produce around the same amount of power as the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere – and it would be reliable, synchronous, on-demand power.
- Nuclear power is safe and produces little waste that is managed appropriately. Studies repeatedly show that nuclear power is safe. Even a study commissioned by Friends of the Earth in the UK concluded that ‘Overall the safety risks associated with nuclear power appear to be more in line with lifecycle impacts from renewable energy technologies’. Of the three well-publicised accidents in almost four decades, two resulted in no radiation related fatalities. Nuclear waste is low in volume, completely contained and managed safely. The South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission ‘found that there are now advanced programs in a number of countries that have developed systems and technologies to isolate and contain used nuclear fuel in a geological disposal facility for up to one million years. The most advanced of these will commence operation in the 2020s’.
Australia needs affordable, reliable and low emissions electricity. As Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce said – ‘It would be wise to plan now … Action taken now to settle policy for the delivery and operation of nuclear power would enable it to potentially contribute to reducing carbon emissions’.