Australian news, and some related international items

Coalition nuclear power bill “dead on arrival,” but somehow the debate lives on.

Australia’s atomic culture warriors are now focused on promoting ‘advanced’ nuclear power and small modular reactors. A new report debunks – yet again – the propaganda. The post Coalition nuclear power bill “dead on arrival,” but somehow the debate lives on appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Coalition nuclear power bill “dead on arrival,” but somehow the debate lives on — RenewEconomy

RenewEconomy, Dr. Jim Green 5 October 2022, Australia’s nuclear power debate refuses to die. The phenomenon was neatly summarised by Bernard Keane in Crikey in August:

“Nuclear power has to be the single most boring and ossified ritual in Australian public policy. Someone on the right will call for a “debate” on nuclear power. Critics will point out that nuclear power is ludicrously expensive, takes decades to build, and is prone to multi-hundred per cent cost blowouts.

“The right will then invoke, reflexively, small modular reactors, which aren’t operating anywhere in the world despite having been promised for 30 years. Someone else will then ask which electorate the proponents propose to put a reactor in. Rinse, repeat.”

As repetitive as the debate has become, there are interesting contributions from time to time. 

Dr Ziggy Switkowski led the Howard government’s nuclear review in 2006 and was arguably Australia’s most prominent champion of nuclear power.

But, to his credit, Switkowski has been following the dramatic cost reductions of renewables and the equally dramatic cost escalations of nuclear power. In 2019, Dr. Switkowski dropped an atomic bombshell, stating that “the window for gigawatt-scale nuclear has closed” with renewables winning on economic grounds.

Former NSW Premier Bob Carr is another former supporter who has been swayed by the facts. Carr noted in The Australian last November that “nuclear is lumbering, subject to breakdowns and cripplingly expensive” and that “the contrast with the surge to renewables is stark.”

Conservative commentator Paul Kelly poured cold water on the Coalition’s nuclear crusaders in The Australian last November.

Kelly’s column pointed to the “popular pull of renewables” and their falling costs. He noted that “nuclear plant construction remains poor in advanced OECD nations, the main reason being not safety but its weak business case”.

Kelly also questioned the rhetoric around small modular reactors given that “none has so far been built in developed nations”.

On the politics, Kelly wrote that 

“The populist conservatives have form. Before the 2019 poll, they campaigned on the mad idea that Morrison follow Donald Trump and quit the Paris Agreement. Now they campaign on the equally mad but more dangerous idea that he seek to split the country by running on nuclear power… As for those conservatives who say Morrison’s job is to fight Labor, the answer is simple. His job is to beat Labor. That’s hard enough now; vesting the Coalition with an unnecessary ideological crusade that will crash and burn only means he would have no chance.“

Some Coalition MPs seem incapable of understanding the politics. On September 28, nine ultra-conservative Coalition Senators introduced a private members bill to Parliament calling for the repeal of Howard-era legislation banning nuclear power.

But the Liberal and National senators don’t even have the support of their own parties, so their private members bill was dead on arrival.

Matt Canavan was among the group of nine Senators. He claims to oppose policies that will drive up power prices but supports nuclear power even though he has himself noted that it would increase power bills.

Perhaps he should read Paul Kelly’s column in The Australian. And he should read the work of CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator which dispels any notion that nuclear power is economically viable in Australia.

“Advanced” nuclear power

A 2019 federal parliamentary Environment and Energy Committee inquiry was controlled by Coalition MPs who were, in principle, exceedingly enthusiastic about nuclear power.

However the Committee’s report argued that the government should retain legal bans prohibiting the development of conventional, large nuclear power reactors. Committee chair Ted O’Brien said “Australia should say a definite ‘no’ to old nuclear technologies”.

The Committee’s report called for a partial repeal of legal bans to permit the development of “new and emerging nuclear technologies” including small modular reactors, but that was quickly ruled out by the Morrison government.

Nonetheless, propaganda about ‘advanced’ nuclear power persists and the Australian Conservation Foundation has released a new briefing paper debunking that propaganda……………………………………………….

Australia’s energy future is renewable, not radioactive

The pursuit of SMRs or ‘advanced’ nuclear power in Australia would be expensive and protracted. The South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission stated in its 2016 report:

“Advanced fast reactors and other innovative reactor designs are unlikely to be feasible or viable in the foreseeable future. The development of such a first-of-a-kind project in South Australia would have high commercial and technical risk. Although prototype and demonstration reactors are operating, there is no licensed, commercially proven design. Development to that point would require substantial capital investment.”

The federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources expects 69 percent renewable supply to the National Electricity Market by 2030. The Albanese Government’s target is 82 percent renewable supply to the National Electricity Market by 2030.

State and territory governments (including Liberal/Coalition governments) are focused on the renewables transition. Tasmania leads the pack thanks to its hydro resources. South Australia is another pace-setter: wind and solar supply 64 percent of local power generation and SA could reach its target of net 100 percent renewables within a few years.

The pursuit of nuclear power would slow the transition to a low-carbon economy. It would increase electricity costs. It would unnecessarily introduce challenges and risks associated with high-level nuclear waste management and the potential for catastrophic accidents.

The pursuit of nuclear power in Australia makes no sense whatsoever. Australia’s energy future is renewable, not radioactive.

Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and co-author of the ACF’s briefing paper, ‘Wrong reaction: Why ‘next-generation’ nuclear is not a credible energy solution’.


October 6, 2022 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

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