If another sign was needed that Australia’s energy policy is dysfunctional, the government provided it in the form of launching a parliamentary inquiry to consider nuclear power. Energy Minister Angus Taylor last week requested a parliamentary committee examine requirements for developing a nuclear power industry in Australia. The country currently has a moratorium on nuclear power and has no reactors, other than a small unit used for medical purposes located near the main city of Sydney. However, Australia is the world’s third-largest miner of uranium, accounting for about 10% of global output of the nuclear fuel. Taylor’s decision to have parliament investigate nuclear power has been broadly viewed in Australia as a sop to the right-wing of his ruling conservative Liberal-National coalition government. Several prominent members of the coalition have been promoting nuclear power as a solution to Australia’s high electricity costs, the ageing of the existing coal-fired fleet and the need to lower the country’s emissions, which are the highest in the developed world on a per capita basis. Whatever the government’s reasoning for pursuing an inquiry into nuclear power, if conducted without bias, it’s unlikely to show what the proponents of atomic generation are probably hoping for. While nuclear power, once built and operating, is emissions free and reliable, the massive capital costs, the need for reliable and large water reserves and the problem of safely disposing of waste will likely make it a non-starter for Australia.
London South East 5th Aug 2019 read more »
While we wait for the committee’s report, past investigations and what we know about the nuclear industry leads us convincingly to two basic conclusions: enriching uranium in Australia is not economically feasible, but storing nuclear waste is. While nuclear power in Australia has a somewhat shaky business case, a much stronger argument can be made for the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle: storing nuclear waste. Australia’s incredibly stable geology offers the opportunity to build a radioactive waste disposal facility similar to the repository under construction in Onkalo in Finland. Pursuing this option would complement Australia’s uranium exports, as nuclear fuel would be taken back once exhausted. Such a repository would in fact give a new marketing edge to the successful yellowcake business.
The Conversation 5th Aug 2019 read more »
The government has formally reopened the highly contentious debate on nuclear power by referring the issue to a parliamentary committee, with it to report by the end of the year. Energy Minister Angus Taylor has asked the House of Representatives standing committee on the environment and energy to inquire into the nuclear fuel cycle – the first inquiry into the use of nuclear power in more than a decade. It will consider the economic, environmental and safety questions involved in nuclear power.
The Conversation 4th Aug 2019 read more »