Atomic Reaction: Australia’s Renewable Energy Debacle Prompts Push for Nuclear Power

Nuclear just does the work, while wind just puts on a ‘show’…


If CO2 gas really is the existential threat it’s made out to be, then nuclear power is the only solution. That’s if you want to provide reliable and affordable electricity to all comers, rather than destroying businesses and punishing households?

In 2018, with debacles like wind ‘powered’ Germany, South Australia and Victoria on show, for all the World to see, anyone still talking about windmills, pumped hydro, mega-batteries and CO2 emissions can’t be taken seriously. And not only their motives, but also their sanity, has to be taken as suspect.

Australia is the only G20 Country to a place to ban on the use of uranium as a power source. Notwithstanding that it’s the largest uranium exporter, in the World.

Anyone still banging on about CO2 emissions in the electricity generation sector, ought to be banging on about nothing other than nuclear power.

Nuclear power is the only, stand-alone generation source that can deliver reliable, affordable power without generating CO2 gas, in the process.

For the record, STT isn’t alarmed by tales that man-made carbon dioxide gas (apparently it’s not the naturally occurring stuff?) is about to cause this Orb to incinerate in an eye blink. But that purported prospect is driving energy policy everywhere, wrecking once prosperous, energy-rich countries like Australia. So, while coal-fired power plants will continue to energise the world for generations to come, STT is more than happy to promote nuclear power; not simply because it’s the perfect foil to hyped-up climate alarmists, but principally because it works.

The fact that, up to now, politicians in this Country are happy to talk about anything but nuclear power as a solution to Australia’s unfolding energy crisis, speaks volumes.

The meme goes that the Chinese character for ‘crisis’ doubles as the character for ‘opportunity’. Well, so it is, with Australia’s self-inflicted renewable energy power pricing and supply calamity.

Finally, as the crisis bites hard – crushing households, businesses and whole industries – a few journalists and politicians gifted with common sense, and the temerity to challenge their witless peers, have broken ranks. Here’s a trifecta from The Australian, detailing a nuclear reaction to Australia’s deepening energy crisis.

Solving power problems is a piece of yellowcake
The Australian
Adam Creighton
16 April 2018

The Monash Forum, the ginger group of Coalition MPs pushing for a new coal-fired power plant, would have been more constructive and credible if it had come out in favour of nuclear power. Championing the diversification of Australia’s energy supply to include nuclear energy makes a great deal of environmental, economic and strategic sense, yet curiously few politicians say so.

This is strange because less than half the public is “against” nuclear energy according to a survey of households conducted last year by the Australian ­National University. It showed more than 41 per cent of voters were in favour of nuclear power plants to generate electricity, only a quarter were “strongly opposed”.

Having at least one nuclear power station, capable of providing to the grid emissions-free, reliable power, wouldn’t be a repudiation of solar, wind or even coal power. It would be a sensible outcome for a country with 30 per cent of the world’s uranium with vast tracts of uninhabited land that wants to lower its carbon emissions.

A Monash Forum pushing for nuclear energy might have even attracted bipartisan support. Intelligent MPs in the Labor Party also see the advantages in nuclear ­energy. Energy policy needs to be above partisan politics. The Greens’ blanket opposition to nuclear power should be an ­embarrassment for a party that claims it supports “science”.

“Modern designs of nuclear ­reactors are small, hyper-efficient, and radically safe. They can’t melt down (and) are often a tenth or less the size of conventional light-water reactors,” wrote US environmental expert Ted Nordhaus, of the Californian Breakthrough Institute, last year. A report for the Howard government in 2006 by former ­Telstra and NBN chairman Ziggy Switkowski envisaged 25 large ­nuclear reactors that would cut electricity generation emissions in half.

The Australian Taxpayers ­Alliance lists lifting the ban on “clean and cheap” nuclear energy as the first of its six recommendations to make electricity less ­expensive.

“Initial set-up costs can be high, but once a nuclear power station is online running costs are low, and the initial set-up costs can be spread over a power plant’s lifespan — nuclear power plants can produce energy for 50 to 70 years,” it says. “The closure of coal-fired power stations has …. Increased ­reliance on natural gas — an ­expensive fossil fuel, with much of its domestic reserves out of reach due to anti-fracking regulations,” it adds. The Australian reported last year the Victoria government had proposed to shut off exploration of gas reserves in the Gippsland and Otway basins, enough to supply the east coast of Australia’s gas needs for almost 40 years.

The Monash Forum would need to draw attention to the fact Australia alone in the G20 has a legislative ban on nuclear power.

Can you even imagine such ­behaviour in the Middle East: “We have much of the world’s oil but we are going to ban using it”. A kilogram of uranium can produce two million times the energy contained in a kilogram of coal. Olympic Dam in South Australia, the single largest deposit of uranium in the world could, on one estimate, power our planet emissions-free for 4000 years.

Pro-coal advocates need to recognise it doesn’t matter what they think of climate change, or even whether the science of climate change is correct. Enough people do believe in it to ensure private ­investment to build coal-fired power stations won’t be forthcoming. Even if the forum succeeded in charging Coalition policy, a future Labor government could reverse it.

Even the cleanest fossil fuel power stations generate greater carbon emissions than nuclear. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a nuclear power plant’s carbon footprint is barely 25 per cent of even a solar energy plant.

Critics typically cite the cost or the length of time it takes to build. Certainly, building a single nuclear power station would costs billions. But taxpayers are already shovelling billions on implicit subsidies to solar and wind farms. Surely it makes sense to direct some of these to a totally reliable, emission-free technology.

The biggest battery in the world, built by Tesla in South Australia, can supply power for 30,000 homes for an hour. Surely prudence dictates a state would need enough battery power to supply all its needs for days?

As for the lead time, the Japanese and South Koreans have built nuclear power stations in fewer than four years. To assuage any hurt feelings from Australia awarding a $50 billion submarine contract to a French firm, the government could consider contracting a Japanese company to build our first nuclear power station.

Snowy 2.0 is a great sound bite, but hardly a solution to what is ­becoming an energy price and ­reliability crisis. A nuclear power plant could be eligible to participate in a national energy guarantee, which is technology agnostic.

These days safety fears are overblown. Even the most recent problem in Fukushima was ­because of a devastating tsunami hitting Japan, an unlikely event here. With among the highest desert-to-suburbia ratios in the world, disposal of nuclear waste wouldn’t be a long-term impediment either.

The renewable energy brigade should drop its self-serving opposition to nuclear energy. How is it credible to switch off coal and gas power stations when battery technology isn’t remotely advanced enough to compensate for the ­vicissitudes of the wind and sun?

Australia is well placed to make use of nuclear energy for peaceful electricity generation. Aboriginal leaders should also get behind the idea, as former ALP president Warren Mundine already has. The extraction and use of uranium could help create jobs in the ­regions where many indigenous Australians live.
The Australian

We commend to those with subscriptions to The Australian the hundreds of comments to Adam’s brilliant article – available here – which demonstrate the depth of support for the nuclear power option in this Country, debunking the myth promulgated by renewable energy zealots that ‘the public will never accept nuclear power in Australia’.

At about this point, wind and sun worshippers start banging on about the purportedly ‘appalling’ safety record of nuclear power generation.

The wind industry has been flapping about for not much more than 20 years (producing a trickle of unreliable power, even today) and has killed more than 180 people – including the two Dutch wind turbine mechanics incinerated by a self-immolating Vestas, depicted above.

There have been thousands of ‘accidents’ causing hundreds of serious injuries and 184 have been killed, of those:

112 were wind industry and direct support workers (divers, construction, maintenance, engineers, etc), or small turbine owner /operators.

72 were public fatalities, including workers not directly dependent on the wind industry (e.g. transport workers). 17 bus passengers were killed in one single incident in Brazil in March 2012; 4 members of the public were killed in an aircraft crash in May 2014 and a further three members of the public killed in a transport accident in September 2014. This includes several suicides from those living close to wind turbines.

Contrast that with nuclear power, which has been a serious power generation contender for over 50 years and (in a single accident at a military facility, Chernobyl) killed 56, most of whom were fire or rescue workers (see our post here).

Despite the frenzied reaction to the Fukushima incident – a result of damage caused when a monster tsunami knocked out the power plant’s power supply – not one single soul was lost during the incident or in the 5 years since.

That Australia does not have any nuclear power plants astonishes the French, Americans, Canadians, Japanese and Chinese; just to name a few of the 30 countries where you will find nearly 450 nuclear reactors currently operating – their combined output accounts for over 11% of global electricity production – with another 15 countries currently building 60 reactors among them.

Australia has the largest uranium reserves in the world and is among its largest exporters. However, it not only has failed to develop a nuclear power industry, it has legislation which prohibits nuclear power generation in any form.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act, specifically prohibit nuclear fuel fabrication, power, enrichment or reprocessing facilities.

A couple of New South Welshman are determined to force Australia to join the rest of the adult world, starting by scrapping the legislation that treats their constituents like infants. One of them is NSW’s Deputy Premier, John Barilaro.

John Barilaro to push the nuclear power button
The Australian
Adam Creighton
17 April 2018

Acting NSW Premier John Bari­laro will declare nuclear power “inevitable” in a speech that slams “ignorant, 1970s” thinking for preventing development of the nation’s uranium reserves and condemning residents to blackouts.

The speech by the state Nationals party leader, seen by The Australian and to be deliv­ered on Wednesday night at an energy policy forum in Sydney, calls for small modular reactors, likely imported from the US, to reduce dependence on high-emission coal and gas-fired power over the next five to 10 years.

“Renewable energy is very welcome, and should remain part of the ‘mix’, however it is intermittent, has its limits and can’t deliver energy security on its own,” the speech says. “There has never been a better moment to include nuclear energy in Australia’s energy future,” it adds, just days before the Council of Australian Governments’ Energy Council is to meet in Melbourne to bed down details of the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee.

“More and more people understand the hypocrisy of Australia being the world’s third-largest ­exporter of uranium, but banning its use at home,” Mr Barilaro will say. Australia exported uranium worth more than $900 million in 2016.

Mr Barilaro, who recently returned from an Advanced Reactor Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, spoke out in favour of nuclear power a year ago, prompting Premier Gladys Berejiklian, currently in India on a trade mission, to declare she was open-minded on the issue. “I’m in the camp of the jury’s still out,” she told the ABC then.

“Australia is heading in the same direction as South Australia — with no clear plan or policy on how to remedy the situation,” Mr Barilaro will say, suggesting Australia will be at “constant risk of statewide blackouts”.

Renewable energy proponents are pushing for higher renewable energy targets as a way to reduce dependence on high-emission coal and gas power stations, which make up the bulk of the country’s energy supply.

“While acceptance of nuclear as a solution is increasing among the general population, the political classes have continued to avoid the issue bizarrely on environmental grounds, based on ignorance and lack of political courage,” the Barilaro speech will say.

Australia is the only G20 country with a federal ban on nuclear energy, legislated in 1998 by the Howard government.

The Minerals Council of Australia, a proponent of nuclear power, said the federal nuclear ban could be reversed “with a single amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. “The removal of four words — ‘a nuclear power plant’ — would allow nuclear industries to be considered for development in Australia,” it said.
The Australian

John Barilaro directs his State to the Promised Land:
safe, reliable and affordable nuclear power.


The other New South Welshman pushing the nuclear option is Federal Senator, David Leyonhjelm aka ‘Captain Common Sense’.

Australia is the only G20 country without nuclear power. Why?
The Australian
David Leyonhjelm
20 April 2018

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is in the headlines for acknowledging a simple fact: nuclear energy is inevitable in Australia.

Hysterical opposition from those with little knowledge about nuclear power has already begun.

The problem with any discussion on nuclear power is that it is fraught with misinformation promoted by frenzied nuclearphobes. Nuclear power evokes fear of the unknown because we don’t have nuclear power here. We’ve also been told repeatedly that it’s scary and something to fear.

We may live in an age that values feelings over facts, but psychologists tell us the best way to tackle a phobia is to confront it; to take a closer look and to understand the details, thus removing the mystery on which irrational fears rely.

Those willing to do that find nuclear power is no big deal. In much of the rest of the world it’s just a normal means of energy production, growing from 3.3 per cent of global electricity generation 40 years ago to 10.6 per cent today. It is a significant energy source in countries such as South Korea and Sweden, while in France it provides 75 per cent of electricity generation. The US, Britain and China are expanding their use of nuclear power by developing small modular reactors that are cheaper, safer, more flexible and generate little waste.

There are 450 nuclear reactors in the world, and there will be more than 500 within 10 years. More than 60 are under construction and China plans another 200 by 2050. This global growth in nuclear power is occurring despite the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japan, where an earthquake and tsunami killed 20,000 people. It’s often forgotten that the resulting meltdown of an old and poorly located nuclear power plant, while it prompted significant upheaval, killed no one.

It may contradict the beliefs of the flower-power generation, but the nuclear power industry is significantly safer than other large scale energy-related industries. Fossil fuel power, hydro power and wind power are deadlier, both in absolute terms and relative to the power they produce. A 2006 review commissioned by the Howard government came to that conclusion and it remains true today.

An Australian nuclear industry also has the potential to create a secondary industry based on the safe storage of waste products. With vast uninhabited, geologically stable land, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory could become world leaders in the field of nuclear waste storage. If a small country such as Sweden can safely generate nuclear power and provide for the safe disposal of waste, so can Australia.

Australia has about half the world’s known uranium deposits. We export uranium to other nations that reap the benefits of nuclear energy, and there are more export opportunities to come, yet we are rejecting the benefits ourselves.

Meanwhile, our household energy bills continue to rise.

Australia is the only G20 country with a blanket ban on nuclear energy. If we are genuine about tackling the energy gap, the soaring cost of electricity and our commitment to emissions reduction, we need to dispel the myths and let the nuclear industry flourish.
The Australian

NSW Senator for Common Sense: David Leyonhjelm


This post wouldn’t be complete unless STT dealt with the other classic furphy attached nuclear power: namely, the hackneyed claim that nuclear is much more expensive than wind and solar. True it is that wind power is ‘cheap’ – when the wind stops blowing (it can’t be bought at any price); the same can be said of solar power when the sun drops over the horizon, as it tends to do, every single day. So, ‘comparing’ nuclear power with wind and solar doesn’t really involve a ‘comparison’, at all.

The USA, the world’s largest nuclear power generator, has 99 nuclear power reactors in 30 states, operated by 30 different power companies, and in 2016 they produced 805 TWh. Since 2001 these plants have achieved an average capacity factor of over 90%, generating up to 807 TWh per year and accounting for about 20% of total electricity generated.

Is it any surprise then, that average retail prices across the US are 1/3 of those in wind and sun powered SA?

Earlier this year, the State of Pennsylvania sent a delegation to Australia to lure energy hungry businesses, with a promise of power prices, a mere fraction of those paid here.

Commercial users in Pennsylvania are paying 8.85 cents per KWh, equating to US$88.50 per MWh. Industrial users are paying 6.67 cents per KWh, equating to US$66.70. Depending on the State they’re in, Australian commercial users are paying upwards of A$0.35 per KWh, or A$350 per MWh hour, in SA it’s A$0.47 per KWh, or A$470 per MWh.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2016, Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation in electricity generation from nuclear power, which supplied 39% of the state’s net electricity generation, more than from any other source.

In France the average retail power price is $246.30 per MWh (24.63 cents per KWh) which compares rather favourably with the average retail power price in South Australia $471.30 per MWh (47.13 cents per KWh) – a snicker under double the price paid by French power consumers (see below).

The French have 58 nuclear reactors, which provide them with roughly 75% of their power.

South Australia is one of the world’s largest uranium miners, with two of Australia’s three operating uranium mines: Olympic Dam and Beverley North/Four Mile, exporting their output to the French, among others. SA also holds uranium reserves that will last the world for a millennia or more.

While there might be other arguments against a nuclear powered future for Australia, the cost of the power produced clearly isn’t one of them. Ask the French, the Americans, South Koreans, Swedes, Slovakians, Hungarians, etc, etc…

4 thoughts on “Atomic Reaction: Australia’s Renewable Energy Debacle Prompts Push for Nuclear Power

  1. Its been about a year (April ’18) since the original article written by STT on advocating nuclear. Full disclosure: I am responding as a nuclear fusion advocate based in the US.
    If there is a reason for lack of interest in Australia and elsewhere for nuclear, first, it could be the technology was “sold” and had to be proven out for its merit or lack of it. Secondly, the amount of innovation resulting from R&D from numerous companies solving and bringing advanced nuclear to commercialization stage will provide compelling reasons for even politicians to reconsider their original objections.
    You posted remarks by Michael Shellenberger and I have watched videos of his presentations advocating nuclear fusion. He laid out the benefits of nuclear fusion. And it is acknowledged that many nuclear fusion companies have 10+ years to go before commercialization. Some might but not all.
    But to you at STT and to your readers with interest who hear reports of developing situations in nuclear fusion, I am going to point out MIFTEC Laboratories ( for your review of its stage of readiness: to build a prototype reactor, gain certification and by 2-3 years from now produce nuclear fusion reactors that produce medical isotopes for nuclear medicine imaging departments. It will be modular, have a diameter of 3 meters and fit into a large room in a hospital. It will be fueled by an isotope of hydrogen derived from ocean water. Zero uranium. Zero toxic waste.
    The next reactor built will scale up to 100 MW to generate electricity. It will take up to 7 years from now to be ready for commercialization. This technology is stackable as it scales up energy production.
    I hope you are encouraged by what lies ahead in energy.

  2. It may be tempting to think that the various ways of dealing with energy and environmental issues are dictated by geography, geology and rational analysis. Australia and Ontario (Canada) are prime examples of this not being the case. Until not too long ago Australia was set to go on forever with coal, and we in Ontario had 30% of our needs met by Niagara Falls and other hydro sources. A further 50 % was met by nuclear generation built in the 1970’s and recently completely overhauled. That left only 20% which was coal-generation.

    Then Global Warming gave one political party a chance to run against coal, pretending that renewables would fill that 20%. That’s when everything went off the rails. Compared to Australia, we were in an enviable position that offered choices, but that 20% had to be backed up. Natural gas was available. We could have been sitting in clover, but now, with over 5000 wind turbines, our electricity rates are among the highest in the world, industry and capital is leaving at alarming rates and, if the elections in June don’t alter the situation, we will have done ourselves in for purely ideological and political reasons.

    So it’s not your coal or our waterfalls, but a mistaken voting public, uninformed politicians too lazy to do the due diligence or too scared to tell people the facts, that have taken us both into the doldrums. Our ship can be righted by going back to reliable nuclear, backed up with natural gas. So can yours.

  3. The number of media mentions of nuclear power are steadily increasing and the general public’s awareness of its potential and ultimate inevitably is growing.
    The sooner constructive progress is made on this front the better.

    1. Absolutely. The Environment Movement was originally largely pro nuclear – and in those days to reduce pollution. It changed when an anti nuclear lobby took it over – depriving the world of the rational science based Environment Movement it desperately needs. Had nuclear power been successfully promoted decades ago there would be no Climate Change problem!

      A rabid ant nuclear lobby WITHIN the modern “Environment Movement” is a major part of the problem, and the source of silly ideas such as using intermittent sources to supply baseload power. Juvenile idealism and pseudo religious faith in populist propaganda have replaced Reason.

      But there are signs worldwide that the Movement may be coming to its senses, as more people realise that for renewables to work they must be part of a hybrid electricity generation structure that is Intermittent/Fuel based

      Which Fuel is the real question – the rest is poppycock

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