Australian news, and some related international items

South Australian government says: “nuclear power remains unviable now and into the foreseeable future.”

We’re fine with solar, wind and gas thanks, SA tells nuclear inquiry

We don’t need nuclear power, SA Government tells federal inquiry. And SA is not alone, with the electricity market’s rule-maker saying it’s not a good fit. Chris Russell, The Advertiser, October 17, 2019

Solar and wind power have closed the window on nuclear energy for Australia, a federal parliamentary inquiry into the technology has been told.

Nuclear is less likely to stack up now than it did when South Australia’s royal commission delivered its findings three years ago, the South Australian Government says.

“Existing nuclear power options remain unviable for SA when compared to current renewable energy, storage and gas generation,” Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said.

SA’s position fits with the view of national rule-setting body the Australian Energy Market Commission which says the electricity market needs generation providing short bursts of power to fill gaps in renewables, not the type of steady power provided by nuclear.

From a technology-neutral standpoint, the commission warns a big, expensive, long-lead time generation plant would carry a high level of investment risk.

In a submission to the federal Environment and Energy Committee inquiry, the SA Government says SA’s royal commission investigated the nuclear cycle — mining, processing, generating and waste.

“Since the Royal Commission, SA’s energy mix has continued to evolve, with a greater interest in generation that better complements a highly variable demand profile and variable renewable energy output,” it says.

“This means that nuclear power remains unviable now and into the foreseeable future.”

It adds that the Royal Commission “suggested that nuclear power may be viable in other jurisdictions in Australia based on different demand scenarios”.

A promising prospect for nuclear power — small modular reactors for remote locations like mining sites or towns like Coober Pedy isolated from the grid — was becoming less likely, SA said.

Conceptually, modular reactors made sense and the Commonwealth should look at removing regulatory barriers but the technology was still in development and social and environmental impacts unresolved.

“At this stage, the timeline for such learnings cannot be demonstrated to a point where it is relevant to current decision-making in SA,” it says.

Renewable energy backed by batteries and hydrogen were being actively explored by SA for regional and remote locations.

In its submission, the Australian Energy Market Commission says its rules “do not benefit, nor discriminate against, any particular technology” with the market designed so the lowest cost energy is used to supply customers at any point in time.

It monitors market trends and says:

– Wind and solar have low operating costs and are displacing coal and gas generation.

– Overall demand is not growing.

– The rapid increase in rooftop solar is affecting the total market.

This leads to the conclusion “flexible technologies, such as peaking gas plants, pumped hydro and battery storage, are likely to be better suited (to the future)

The Commission concludes that technologies such as battery storage are likely to be better suited to the future market’s needs.

The Australian Institute, which is among witnesses being heard by the committee on Friday says nuclear is not only too expensive but also uninsurable.

In the US, power companies can only buy insurance up to a ceiling and if costs from a nuclear accident exceed that “the taxpayer inevitably funds any residual costs or compensation”.

In Australia, insurers won’t cover consumers for nuclear incidents, the institute found.

“Insurance policies from some of Australia’s major insurers — AAMI, CGU, Allianz, QBE and NRMA — contain specific text regarding nuclear disasters,” it said.

“None of these major Australian insurers will insure your home, car or possession against a nuclear event.”

However, the Australian Workers’ Union has told the inquiry nuclear offers “the most viable technological proposition” to address Australia’s “self-induced energy crisis”.

October 19, 2019 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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