Time For Nuclear Option: Australian Election Blows the Lid Off the Nuclear Power Debate

Nuclear power isn’t an option in Australia, but it damn well ought to be. Banned by Luddites in 1998, Australia has never had a nuclear power generation system, despite being the world’s third largest uranium exporter, with more than a third of the world’s proven reserves.

STT is devoted to pushing the case for nuclear power, for no other reason than it works; safe, reliable and affordable – it wins the power generation trifecta.

Living in a country obsessed with chaotically intermittent wind and solar, STT can only despair at the lack of common sense, logic and reason that permeates what passes for a ‘debate’ on Australian energy policy.

Rent seekers profiteering from heavily subsidised wind and solar, backed up by deluded zealots, have dominated the public arena for far too long. Now things are changing. Fast.

One feature of the Federal election on 18 May was the prominence given to nuclear power generation as an answer to Australia’s future energy needs, during the campaign.

And it wasn’t just the full-page ads taken out by Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, plenty of others in the political domain were talking up the prospects for nuclear power. As well they should.

As Ian Newnham puts it, it’s high time Australia blew the lid off the nuclear energy debate.

Let’s blow the lid off the nuclear debate
Pickering Post
Ian Newnham
25 June 2019

The recent Federal election threw up a number of interesting demographics. Over 2.6M of us on the electoral role in Australia were over 70 years old, however, and more importantly nearly 50% of the electorate have never voted in an election when Nuclear energy was a key issue.

There is no question that energy issues are the biggest single factor in sustaining human development. In Australia we have an enforced Luddite view of one of the key elements in any 21st. Century Energy Mix – and that is Nuclear Power Generation.

We are prohibited by law to affect any meaningful positive result regardless of the wishes of the majority, simply because we do not know what those wishes are.

In 1998/99 The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth) was passed firmly locking the Government of the day and all future Governments into a non-nuclear stance.

Since that time, we have seen the pro-renewables undertake massive subsidised growth and still not effectively provide adequacy in base-load supply for manufacturing development.

We have stood by and watched as our manufacturing base, that thrived on low cost electricity, has been progressively torn apart and cast asunder.

We have seen domestic electricity prices rise alarmingly and impact the lower income recipients unfairly. At the same time, we have maintained high immigration policies, so that population growth can be the catalyst for economic survival.

Because of the gagging of debate this country has gone from a pioneer in the use of nuclear to a country of 25 million that lacks knowledge on the Nuclear alternative. Consequently, we subscribe to the continued demonising of Nuclear power by the vested interests supporting alternatives.

Our collective mind-set has ignored the most important technological advances in Generational growth of Nuclear Power Generators, we still think in terms of failures.

This stance has sent us hurtling into the backwater of irrelevancy well before our use-by date. Exponential growth is applicable to all technologies (Moore’s Law for computers for example) and Nuclear is not excluded.

We as a nation have allowed the debate to whither on the vine and fostered what passes for educated responses, to stay right out of the public domain. It is like comparing a 50-year-old car with a modern-day vehicle.

They are not comparable and true evaluation must be done on the options that are available today. This enforced national positioning has been the underlying reason for decisions involving the largest defence contract that we have ever issued.

Australia has a vast marine jurisdiction, the third largest in the world. In order to ensure safety of these borders we need state of the art equipment in the hands of our forces.

We recently signed an agreement for 35/40 years of Submarines which are not the best for the job.

Submarines are the key available deterrent for our protection around our massive coastline, however, they need to be consistently fast under water and they need to stay submerged for long periods of time in order to enhance their offence and defence capability.

Units that need to snorkel regularly to expunge exhaust and charge batteries do not maximise these features and are vulnerable when in a reduced running stance on the surface.

There has been no economic comparison between the two potential power sources – because the Nuclear option was not an option for us.

Nuclear submarine fleets are maintained by India and China along with the USA and the UK plus others. Some nations including Russia have fleets of both.

Come 2030, when our fleet is assessed, we will no doubt be the only nation with a huge coastline to patrol, that has a fleet made up exclusively of diesel/electric units.

Some legacy we will be leaving for our next generation to manage! There are circa 450 Nuclear Power Generators working around the world. They are spread over around 30 countries. Most of us would think maybe 4/5 countries, three for negative reasons.

It is a fact that some cars are designed and built better than others and it is true some Nuclear Generators are better than others and some are/were situated in the wrong place.

There are currently 60 odd new Nuclear Generating plants under construction around the world.

Whilst it is around 20 years since the gagging legislation was passed, not one of our Governments has been prepared to open up the issue.

Instead we have used our Tax Dollars to subsidise the renewable cry only to see it frittered away in efforts to meet base-load requirements for electricity. A task which it has failed to accomplish.

Most of these subsidies are being funnelled offshore. Because of our failure to accept Nuclear for what it is – which is an option as part of our energy mix going forward – we have closed our eyes and stifled all debate on the subject. That means we are missing big opportunities.

There have been enormous strides made on small modular reactors (SMR’s). A conventional Nuclear Power Generator is in the range of 1000 to 1600 Megawatts. Most smaller reactors range from 50 Megawatts to 200 Megawatts currently however plans are well underway for units in the Micro class of around 4 Megawatts.

A country the size of Australia with spread population incurs tremendous distribution costs. In short, it costs lots of money to get energy from one place to the other.

Options need to be found for alternative ways of doing it – and these tiny nuclear power plants provide a cost effective solution.

To many, the word Nuclear immediately translates in images of World War 2’s man-made need to prevent tyrannical expansionism, morphing into, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima. It is good to consider a few points to provide some context.

Firstly, the nuclear event is not exclusively “man-made”. Mother Nature has been doing it for eons.

Around two billion years ago in Gabon, a number of natural Nuclear Reactors spontaneously began operating “Those nuclear reactors are remarkable because despite their modest power output, they continued to operate in a stable manner for up to one million years.

Further, at the site of the Gabon reactors many of the radioactive products of the nuclear fission have been safely contained for those two billion years in a rock catacomb.

This provides evidence that long-term geologic storage of nuclear waste is feasible.”

Gabon is in West Africa but there are a large number of sites where this has been going on in a stable way for thousands of years.

The late Mr Robert John Hawke was a champion of the Nuclear Waste opportunities for Australia. Unfortunately, he has passed without seeing what perhaps would have been his greatest legacy fulfilled.

The reason given for not entertaining the option of Nuclear for our largest defence contracts was the oxymoronic statement that: “there is not a Nuclear industry in Australia.” Well, there is a simple solution. Create one.

Australia holds around 1/3 of the current terrestrial preferred raw material for Nuclear Power Generation. This is as a result of the structure of our continent and its ageing. Our export of these resources has had a chequered career in the past and will continue to have.in the future.

However, on a world-wide basis Nuclear power is providing the single most sustainable way for millions and millions of people to move out of poverty. There has to be a way of harnessing these issues for the benefit of all.

Australia has been assessed as the optimum site for a large repository of the worlds already large and increasing waste pile of nuclear detritus. This is based on stability of the land mass, political stability and other factors.

If we could start a programme with a cyclical concept of delivering raw material and accepting waste from a number of the worlds power generators, we could establish a sustainable Nuclear Industry in this country and join the real world.

As a catalyst we need to open up the debate on power generation. That is easy to do. All it would take is for an amendment to be passed in the Federal Parliament deleting the four words, “a nuclear power plant” in section 140 A (1) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth).

Any Nuclear development would of course be subject to All of Australia’s stringent environmental and safety requirements.

Nuclear energy is a readily deployable, zero emissions, base-load energy supplier and it shouldn’t be excluded from Australia’s energy mix.

It has met energy challenges around the world and will continue to do so. Do not allow our irrelevancy to continue. Consider what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you.

Now, that sounds familiar. Talk to your local member now and ask them to move the above amendment as a private members bill.
Pickering Post

China puts the lid on another nuclear power plant.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Peter Pronczak says:

    We’re apparently having a nuclear energy debate in AU between ALP/NLP politicians Keith Pitt and Senator Murray Watt. Pitt with LNP Senator James McGrath have written to Prime Minister ScoMo advocating for a Senate feasibility study. Based on our Senate inquiry into the APRA Crisis Management Bill (short title, now legislated by the Queen’s ascent), it’d be akin to whether a horseless carriage traveling at night should have a man walking in front with a lantern.

    Watt says plants need to be built near water and Pitt is saying regional Queensland is prone to earthquakes.
    Watt may think workers need water to wash in and Pitt may not know what modern science and engineering are capable of.
    New generation high temperature pebble bed reactors are fail-safe with no waste and are helium gas cooled. The fuel is contained in a graphite ball that is safe to be hand held, with what little unspent fuel remains being reprocessed. Plants are size scalable to fit on the back of a truck or barge.

    It’s coincidental that our antiquated Lucas Heights processing plant (medical isotopes) irradiated a couple of workers; some hypocrisy existing there. Britain has nuclear plants being built (the Queen doesn’t mind) by China and launched two of the biggest aircraft carriers ever built each able to desalinate 10,000lts of water a day. Guess what powers them? AU as an honorary NATO, member should be frightened to be anywhere near them as our warships might get contaminated and bring it home with a dose of flu.

    We should be more scared of being on the road, so why aren’t cars banned? There’s some room in my back yard for a nuclear plant.

  2. Jeff Walther says:

    Fusion power is a part of the anti-nuclear tool kit. “Oh, just wait a while and this sooooo much better thing will be available.” In other words, an argument to do nothing.

    The fact is that the reactors built in the 60s are vastly safer than generating energy any other way — safer even than wind and solar, from the heights of which many folks fall every single year.

    There’s no need to wait for newer technology. Certainly, use the latest, best designs available, but balance that with the knowledge that building anything for the first time is more expensive and takes longer. If you can hire a management team that has experience building a 20-year-old reactor design, or start from scratch with an up to the minute design, you are vastly better off with the experience and the older design.

    Small modular reactors may offer opportunities to some isolated communities — certainly better than trucking in diesel fuel for generators, but their cost per unit electricity produced will be considerably higher than the cost from a good old fashioned gigawatt reactor.

    • Spot on Jeff. No matter what technology go for a design with a proven history of safe, reliable and economic operation. The folly of adopting “new” unproven technology is exemplified in the current renewables disaster, technology that will never be reliable, will never be economic and would/will not exist without endless mandates and subsidies.

    • Alan Short says:

      Yes, understand the anti-nuclear”s fear of disaster and greed to take market share. Also, after reading STT its clear Aussies are getting stir crazy having waited for what amounts to be a non-answer with renewables.
      So okay pay the billions and build a gig fission reactor. But I would suggest that you understand the following:
      1) Compare the time and cost to build ten 100 MW fusion reactors (several daisy-chained together if necessary) vs. a 1000MW fission reactor.
      2) Additional considerations:
      a) personnel necessary to oversee operations
      b) cost of routine maintenance of facilities.
      c) cost for leu or heu handling
      d) cost for water cooling or whatever means used to cool reactor
      3) I mentioned allowing 10 years for fusion reactor developers to produce 100MW units producing energy. From what I have read, it will require a 10 mega amp machine. Then, it is projected to take a 20 meg amp machine to produce more energy than it uses. That’s the so-called Holy Grail. And, since Aussies are innovative, shouldn’t they be in on the brain-storming and breakthroughs in so many areas that result from the fusion achievements? Looking forward to that.

  3. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  4. Alan Short says:

    Yes nuclear, but as you survey the advancements taking place in the nuclear industry, why would not Australians want to be keen to the upcoming nuclear fusion technology for energy. Yes it may take 10 years from now, but the cost and benefits of it will far exceed the low enriched uranium or the high enriched uranium fission reactors.
    Yes, Australia has the reserves of uranium. But not necessarily only for nuclear purposes; especially now that future fusion reactors will run on an isotope of hydrogen derived from ocean water.

    • Terry Conn. says:

      One of the problems with ‘fusion’ power is that it is not ready yet. In this sense it is like all the talk about ‘renewables’ being great, next year, next decade, next century. As STT often says ‘useful electricity is a here and now thing’ not a dream or a just around the corner thing, you need it when you turn the switch. We need to support the current nuclear power industry if for no other reason than to get past the ‘carbon emissions’ reduction obsession.

  5. Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

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