Australian news, and some related international items

South Australian Premier and Opposition leader enthuse about nuclear military submarines, and nuclear power, except for the costs.

Premier Peter Malinauskas says SA submarines will help ‘bust myths’ over nuclear power.

Adelaide-based submarine construction will bust “ill-founded” ideological myths about atomic safety – according to the Premier – as he opens the door to nuclear power.

Paul StarickEditor At Large, The Advertiser, December 4, 2022 .

Premier Peter Malinauskas has opened the door to nuclear power, arguing Adelaide-based submarine construction will bust “ill-founded” ideological myths about atomic safety.

In an exclusive interview with The Advertiser, Mr Malinauskas said building at least eight nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact would demonstrate safety concerns were based on decades-old sentiment.

Mr Malinauskas argued people dedicated to decarbonising the electricity grid to tackle global warming should be open-minded about nuclear power, but cost was a prohibitive barrier to Australia embracing the technology at this stage.

Declaring United States and United Kingdom partners had a military nuclear safety record spanning decades, Mr Malinauskas said this emphasised the critical need to ensure Australia had the technical capability to install and maintain submarine reactors, as planned under the AUKUS pact.

“(Adelaide submarine construction) will go a long way to allaying some of the fears that exist around safety. I think it’ll demonstrate that the safety concerns are more based on things from decades and decades ago,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“I think that’ll be good in terms of community sentiment, and help bust a few myths. In respect of my position on nuclear power for civil consumption, or use, I’ve always thought that the ideological opposition that exists in some quarters to nuclear power is ill-founded.

“Nuclear power is a source of baseload energy with zero carbon emissions. So, for someone like myself, who is dedicated to a decarbonisation effort, I think we should be open-minded to those technologies and I think it would be foolhardy to have a different approach.”

Mr Malinauskas said his biggest reservation about nuclear power for Australia and SA was cost.

“We are facing next year, if all the reports are true, one of the biggest price challenges in terms of energy in the history of the nation.

“It would be madness to contemplate sources of energy that are more expensive than the ones that we already have.”

Mr Malinauskas said extraordinary technological advancement would be required for nuclear power to be economic for the state and nation, because of high transmission costs for a dispersed, comparatively small population base and industrial demand.

He argued nuclear power stacked up economically in regions with large cities exceeding Australia’s entire population, with huge industrial demand for electricity.

Seeking to forge a “third-way” position on nuclear power, Mr Malinauskas declared he did not believe the vast capital cost of nuclear power would be recovered through supply volume in Australia.

“I get frustrated with a nuclear debate that has emerged in Australia recently because you’ve got people on the left who seem to be flat out opposed to nuclear power for ideological reasons, despite the fact we’ve got a climate challenge and wanting to decarbonise,” he said.

“Then we’ve got people on the right who seem to be utterly in favour of nuclear power, without any reference to the cost of it.

“It strikes me as starting to become one of these polarised debates that has been consumed by the culture wars, rather than an evidence-based discussion on what is good for decarbonisation, and what is good for price.”

At least eight nuclear-powered submarines will be built at Osborne Naval Shipyard, in Adelaide’s northwest, under the AUKUS pact forged in September last year, with details to be unveiled in March.

This was branded “one of the greatest national endeavours of the Australian story” by Defence Minister Richard Marles, who told the Sunday Mail luring workers to defence was a full-blown crisis keeping ministers “up at night”.

A joint state and federal taskforce formed in September to ensure SA-based defence projects would “have a highly skilled workforce to draw on” is expected to produce a blueprint by next October.

Declaring the nuclear-powered submarine construction would boost industrial complexity, jobs, incomes and skills, Mr Malinauskas amplified previous comments that the 10,000-job boom would make Holden car manufacturing “look like small beer”.

“Modern manufacturing history globally is full of examples where car manufacturing starts and then it stops – comes to a town, leaves the town. That’s not just true of Adelaide but with plenty of places around the world,” he said.

“But when it comes to building nuclear submarines, there is no nuclear submarine supply chain that has ever started and then stopped. They only start and keep going.

So, what we’re talking about here is something that literally could take us well into the next century, at the highest skill level. On every level, Holden pales into insignificance.”

Mr Malinauskas said he had “every confidence” the submarines would be built in Adelaide, as promised, but said he understood scepticism after the French deal to build 12 conventionally powered submarines was torn up for AUKUS.

Opposition Leader David Speirs said the state’s skills transformation for the nuclear submarine supply chain would require serious political leadership from the Premier but vowed bipartisan support, declaring this was not “an overly political thing”.

“It has the potential to be transformational, in every aspect of life in South Australia. The number of workers who will be required, the type of skills that will be needed to be exemplified by those workers and the type of a technological transformation that will be needed is the sort of change that our state would not have seen anything like this since industrialisation,” he said.

“There is an incredible opportunity here. It’s not without its risks but South Australia is well placed to grab hold of that opportunity, as long as we line up various aspects of our workforce, our skills matrix and work out what government’s role is there to drive all of this forward.”

Asked whether developing a military-based nuclear industry should result in nuclear power, Mr Speirs said he believed he and Mr Malinauskas “were quite close on this matter”.

“One of the great ironies of South Australia is that we have these huge uranium deposits, among the largest in the world, and yet we don’t have a nuclear power industry in Australia,” he said.

“There will be growth in this sector across the world. We’re going to have to get in place those skills around safety and technical expertise to have the submarine build in Australia, so there is an opportunity to extend that conversation to power production.”


December 5, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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