Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Scrutiny on Parliamentary Committee Nuclear Report

Parliamentary Committee Supports Nuclear – But Only If Everyone Is Into It , Solar Quotes, December 19, 2019 by Ronald Brakels

Last Friday the House Of Representatives released a report on nuclear energy in Australia.  They said it’s a good idea — provided everyone is cool with it.

The report is called:

“Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology in Australia”

It gives the country three recommendations :

  1. Consider using nuclear power.
  2. Gather information to support the future use of nuclear power.
  3. End or partially lift the moratorium that prohibits building nuclear reactors.
  4.  
  5. \While nuclear is a low-emissions source of energy,  .I don’t agree with these recommendations because:
  1. There is no point considering nuclear power here until one of the countries that have been using it for decades gets it right and starts building reactors that supply energy at a lower cost than renewables.
  2. There is no point paying people to study nuclear energy until other countries with existing nuclear industries show it can make economic sense.  If it never manages to pay for itself, the research will be a waste.   If it does pay for itself then the cost effective reactors may be very different from existing ones and the effort will, again, have been wasted.
  3. We live in a country where the government is always going to require you to get permission before you can build a nuclear reactor, so saying the magic words, “The moratorium is lifted!” makes no practical difference.  But I figure we may as well say the magic words just to make it clear the reason we don’t have nuclear power isn’t because they haven’t been uttered.

The problem with this report is not that the Committee and I have a difference of opinion.  The problem is, only someone who has been whacked on the head with a graphite rod could look at the problems new nuclear power is experiencing around the world today and recommend Australia go ahead with it.

The problems have nothing to do with safety, nuclear waste, or security.  These issues are irrelevant because nuclear power can not pay for itself.  If it can’t do that, there is no point in worrying about the other issues and it is painfully clear new nuclear power makes no economic sense when renewables are now cheaper than coal power and continuing to fall in cost.

In the United Kingdom — the nuclear power possessing nation that is, embarrassingly, most similar to our own — they will pay 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for electrical energy from the under-construction Hinkley C reactors.  That’s three times its average cost in the Australian National Electricity Market this year and fives times its average price in 2015.

While Australia’s wholesale electricity prices are unusually high at the moment, they are not going to get three miles high on this island.  Thanks to the decreasing cost of renewable energy they are expected to trend downwards from their current high of one-third the cost of new nuclear energy in the UK.

Britain’s not the only place where new nuclear power is extremely expensive.  A similar price is required for it to be constructed in the US.  There have also been huge cost overruns building reactors in other countries, which include France and Finn’s land.  Because Australia doesn’t have an existing nuclear power industry it could be even more expensive here and, last time I checked, we didn’t have any magic pixie dust we could sprinkle on nuclear energy projects to make them cheaper or on our politicians to make them smarter.

To me, it seems this report is an expensive face-saving measure by Parliamentary supporters of nuclear power.  It makes no sense for this country given the current and decreasing cost of renewable energy, but they’re not willing to admit that.  They instead want to pretend nuclear power is a great idea for us but the reason it’s not going ahead is because it’s unpopular.  Hence the title, “Not without your approval”.  In other words, they are saying the Australian people aren’t smart enough to know a good thing when they see it and that’s the only reason why we’re not building nuclear reactors.

Well, I say screw you House of Representatives Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment and the plutonium powered pony you rode in on.  I felt that looking into nuclear power once again was a waste of time, but if you had investigated it and said

“Nuclear power is far too expensive to make sense for Australia.  If this changes and new reactors overseas produce electricity at a lower cost than renewables we can look into it again, but until that happens, forget about it.”

Then at least we’d know the system works.  We would be able to see that Parliamentary committees are able to look at the bleeding obvious and interpret it correctly.  But instead, they only looked at information they liked while avoiding asking the obvious question of — are modern reactors making enough money to cover the cost of their construction and operation?  Rather than do this, they took bits and pieces they picked from around the obvious question, turned them this way and that, and squinted until they were able to announce that it looked good — but the punters wouldn’t appreciate it and they’re the reason why we can’t have nice things.

They did this rather than admit what has been obvious for years now, that new nuclear will not pay for itself in Australia and, given the decreasing cost of renewable energy, it looks impossible for current nuclear designs to ever pay for themselves here.

By choosing to protect their egos rather than admit they were wrong, the nuclear energy supporters have sullied Parliament’s good…  well, they’ve sullied Parliament’s name.  I don’t expect anything run by humans to be perfect, but I really think we need a turn around in the ratio of sullying to pride inducing Parliamentary moments.

It’s A Long Report

The report is 214 pages.  It could have been a lot shorter.  I could have gotten it down to something like:

“Given that:

  1. The UK will be pay around 22 cents per kilowatt-hour in today’s money for electricity from the Hinkley C nuclear power plant, and…
  2. In the United States new nuclear capacity requires a similar price to proceed and nuclear plants have been abandoned while under construction because it became clear they would never pay for themselves.
  3. Australia has no advantages in building nuclear power stations while having the disadvantage of no existing nuclear power industry.

It is therefore not reasonable to believe we can build nuclear generating capacity for less than what it costs in the UK or USA.  Until reactors are built overseas that produce electricity at a cost that is competitive in Australia, the subject does not merit further consideration.

Additionally, given that:

  1. New reactors under construction in France and Finland have had long delays and are far over budget, indicating the high cost of new nuclear capacity is not confined to English speaking countries, and…
  2. No organization is offering to or wants to build a nuclear power station in Australia at a price we would find anywhere close to acceptable.The idea of nuclear power in Australia should be abandoned and only reviewed if there are major improvements in its economic viability.”That’s under 214 words while having the advantage of being correct.  The House of Representatives committee used 214 pages to come to the wrong conclusion.  But arriving at the right conclusion can’t be easy if you have no ability to smell bullshit in your own research…..Parliamentary Committee Supports Nuclear – But Only If Everyone Is Into It , Solar Quotes, December 19, 2019 by Ronald Brakels  

December 19, 2019 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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