Australian news, and some related international items

Minerals Council of Australia again pushing pro nuclear propaganda

Mining industry renews push for nuclear option,, By Nick Toscano

September 16, 2019 Australia’s mining sector has launched a fresh push to lift the prohibition on nuclear energy arguing new-look compact nuclear reactors could provide the “cheapest, zero-emissions” baseload power to replace retiring coal-fired power stations.

As the resources industry prepares for a transition away from fossil fuels in coming decades, the Minerals Council of Australia has told a federal government inquiry that nuclear power must be explored as part of the future energy mix to address the worsening problem of rising power prices and deteriorating energy grid reliability.

“Only a commitment to restore energy affordability and reliability will reverse this drift, and nuclear power – especially innovative small modular reactors – will go a long way to providing clean, reliable and lower-cost power for Australian homes and businesses,” said Tania Constable, chief executive of the lobby group which represents mining giants including BHP and Rio Tinto.

Touted by some as the next generation of nuclear power, small modular reactors (SMRs) can be built in factories and assembled on location.

Their deployment is under consideration in a number of countries including the United States and Canada although their cost is not yet known as none are yet commercially available.

Apart from existing run-of-water-hydro, the Minerals Council said, nuclear was the only energy source capable of providing affordable, continuous and zero-emissions power at industrial scale.

“It is a mature, proven and safe power generation … yet Australia’s ban on nuclear power means that our communities and businesses are denied its many benefits,” Ms Constable said.

Australia has a third of the world’s economically recoverable uranium, which is mined and exported for use around the world, but domestic nuclear energy is banned under federal legislation.

The mining group’s calls for nuclear are contained in a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry launched by Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor to investigate the potential for nuclear as a future power source for Australia.

At the inquiry’s first public hearing, prominent business leader and nuclear physicist Ziggy Switkowski, who headed a 2006 review of nuclear power for the Howard government, said while the window for large, gigawatt-scale nuclear power plants had closed,  SMRs could provide opportunities in regional towns and mining sites for generation of “clean, safe baseload power”.

But, he added, it would likely be more than a decade until it was known whether small modular reactors were suitable for Australia and about 15 years to bring such a plant online.

Dr Switkowski said nuclear power was comparable to renewable energy in its low level of greenhouse gas emissions but was not weather-dependent in the same way as wind and solar generation.

The challenges to supporting a nuclear energy strategy, he said, included that the lack of political and public support and the fact that the risk of a catastrophic nuclear failure such as Chernobyl in Ukraine or Fukushima in Japan was not “negligible”.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last week voiced the opinion of many critics, saying it was obvious that nuclear power was more expensive than renewables and battery storage and describing the push for nuclear power as “loopy” and a “distraction” for politicians.

September 16, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

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