Is nuclear power the best policy for Australia?


It looks like nuclear energy may be back on the table again in Australia.

Australia has had a nuclear technology ban in place since 1998, banning the construction of nuclear reactors for power generation. The Liberal Party (Australia’s centre-right, now opposition party) has announced that it is looking at it in the energy mix as a viable way to reduce carbon emissions.

No policy has been written yet, but this should result in them adopting a nuclear-promoting policy until the next election and advocating an end to the ban.

In the past, nuclear power was seen as a political poison, but a lot has changed in the last 20 years and Australians may be more receptive to it. Nuclear technology has lost its mystical nature, and the fictional tales of the nuclear holocaust and radioactive fallout that were so much talked about during the Cold War now live on only in select sci-fi dystopias.

While there are nuclear disasters that fall prey to anti-nuclear campaigns, nuclear propulsion campaigns have a wealth of relevant and concrete evidence.

Politicians can tour plants in other countries, even nuclear waste depots, without wearing face masks. They can interview lifelong nuclear industry workers who have lived to old age. You can view maps of all hundreds of generators around the world.and they can compare electricity price From France to the rest of Europe.

The time has come for deregulation, and the private sector is considering this additional option to achieve the energy ‘trilemma’ of reduced emissions, price and availability.

thinking about nuclear power

Whether nuclear power is the best answer for Australia remains to be seen. This issue is an interesting one, and several important factors should be considered.

First, there’s a transition that has to happen. Australia does not have an established nuclear industry. We have part of the nuclear industry (mining), we have pockets of the nuclear industry (research), but no nuclear industry. Considerable work is required to develop all the infrastructure, skills, regulatory frameworks and standards to ensure the safe conduct of processes from refining to waste storage.

Epoch Times photo
This photo taken on July 27, 2018 shows decommissioning work between reactors 2 and 3 at the tsunami-impaired Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Foreign journalists receiving information about (background). (Kimimasa Mayama/AFP via Getty Images)

Then there is the issue of “base load” and “flexible” power. A few years ago, this was the main argument against nuclear power. At the time, the problem facing our power grid was not the lack of baseload power, but the lack of flexible generation. In contrast, nuclear power has a reputation for being an inflexible power source and is more commonly used to provide baseload power.

However, both sides of this equation have changed in recent years. In fact, the recent energy shortage on Australia’s east coast was due to a loss of baseload power. And the most problematic forecast shortfall in power supply comes from the loss of aging coal infrastructure that provides baseload power.

Moreover, nuclear technology is losing its reputation for being inflexible. A more modern form of nuclear power generation, called a small modular reactor, is making a name for itself and is intended to provide highly flexibly dispatchable power on demand. Both the US and the UK have started processes to adopt them.

The third question is what to do with nuclear waste. The answer is simple, it creates unnecessary airtime. Please save. Nuclear waste contains the world’s least safe plutonium, and Australia is the best place in the world to store it. Australia is a vast, geologically stable desert surrounded by moats 1,000 kilometers wide. I think we should offer to store other people’s nuclear waste.

Moreover, a little-considered fact about nuclear waste is that it is not necessarily waste. We still have nuclear energy left. In the future, technology may be developed to recover the remaining energy. Australia would then become another vast reservoir of nuclear energy (it already has the world’s largest uranium reserves).

coal option

That said, it may surprise you to say that nuclear power is not the preferred solution for Australia. The country already has an established coal industry with a skilled workforce, safety standards, infrastructure and still plenty of coal buried.I’d rather just keep using coal and have the courage to build new coal plants to replace the old ones. cheapest Power Solutions for Australia.

Epoch Times photo
Aerial view of an open pit coal mine at Muja near Corry, Western Australia. (Philip Schubert/Adobe Stock)

But I’m no expert on climate warnings. I am also realistic about the relative impact on his CO2 levels between rapidly or slowly reducing coal use and exporting coal. We would rather use it and enjoy energy security.

But for those worried about the climate, nuclear is a very obvious compromise. This has many wondering why climate activists don’t advocate it.

There are several reasons why nuclear power is not a big part of the international decarbonization debate.

One reason is that many countries in the international community do not want to possess nuclear weapons. For example, the idea of ​​building nuclear infrastructure in every country in the Middle East and Africa will not allow all other world leaders to sleep peacefully at night.

Australia’s energy needs

A second, less obvious reason is that the supply of nuclear energy is also finite and the supply chain is limited. It is common to assume that there is enough uranium around to survive for “millions of years”. This usually comes from a true but misleading anecdote about how much energy you would get if you could turn an orange into energy.

In fact, according to Australia’s Atomic Energy Agency’s Uranium 2020 report, at current consumption rates there are about 135 years of supply from “reasonably assured recoverable uranium resources”.

If uranium was used as fast as coal, the supply might only last a few decades. But similar things have been said about oil in the past. With improved nuclear recovery technology, “unconventional resources” could significantly extend their supply life.

Nuclear power is definitely an option to consider for Australia’s pressing energy needs.

Even for the Liberal Party, this is a politically wise move. If the last election was a referendum on action on climate change, the results (Green, Labor and Teal independents) show that many Australians want emissions cuts. This policy shows that liberals are listening.

From a long-term perspective heading into the next election, this is a win-win position. If Labor’s energy policy works (which is unlikely in my opinion), this issue is not an issue. What works is invisible in elections. On the other hand, if Labor’s energy policies failed and electricity and gas prices reached record highs, putting Australia’s energy security in jeopardy, the Liberals were early differentiated from those policies. will be

Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Epoch Times.

peter castle


Peter Castle is a mechanical engineer with extensive experience in the oil and gas, energy, and other process industries.