Growing-Up: Australians Get Serious About Serious Energy, Demanding Nuclear Power, Now

All of a sudden, Australians are talking about a nuclear powered future, like there’s no tomorrow. Having recognised that climate alarmists will never relent in their crusade against carbon dioxide gas – being a proxy for eradicating cheap, reliable and affordable coal-fired power – anyone interested in a future where hot showers and cold beer aren’t long forgotten luxuries, is advocating for nuclear power – like their lives depended upon it.

Coal-fired power is responsible for around 85% of the electricity that shoots around its Eastern Grid (a grid that connects Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia). And, despite concerted efforts to destroy that system, coal-fired power will be powering Australians for decades to come. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not under threat by RE rent seekers and zealots and a raft of suicidal policies, not least the Federal government’s Large-Scale RET.

Which brings us to nuclear power.

As the only stand-alone power generation source that does not generate carbon dioxide gas emissions during that process, nuclear power is the perfect foil to climate alarmists fretting about CO2 gas and the weather. We’ll leave the stoush about CO2 to others.

But, while they’re slugging it out, STT will keep advocating for reliable and affordable electricity, wherever it comes from. And that includes nuclear.

In the piece below, The Australian’s Graham Lloyd pulls together a neat little essay on the state of the debate in this Country; a country which has never had a nuclear power generation plant and which banned that prospect with legislation back in 1998. We’ll hand over to Graham.

The nuclear energy option
The Australian
Graham Lloyd
3 July 2019

In the opening scenes to The Smartest Guy in the Room, a documentary that traces the collapse of US energy trading giant Enron, there are several accounts of what went wrong.

Enron was a $US63 billion company that grew quickly but imploded in an instant after making profits from gaming the Californian energy squeeze two decades ago.

One excuse was that executives at Enron had been “blinded by the money and didn’t see they were sinking their own lifeboat”.

The fatal flaw? “If there was one you would say it was pride, but then it was arrogance, intolerance and greed.”

Enron is a cautionary tale for governments trying to remake their electricity systems to meet the demands of climate change.

The volatile conditions exploited by Enron are similar to what has been experienced in Australia’s National Energy Market.

Patient capital
The lesson from Enron is that corporations appreciate volatility and will exploit regulatory weakness to make quick profits.

Patient capital and governments must work to safeguard the lifeboat.

A discussion paper prepared for the union-backed Industry Super Australia provides a blueprint for patient capital in the energy sector.

Superannuation is a natural fit for long-term infrastructure investment and has been a big supporter of renewable energy projects with mixed results.

The discussion paper seeks to strip away the ideological baggage to set out an over-the-horizon view of where Australia’s energy market may be heading.

It is critical of the chaotic nature of government policy and sets out where governments should have started with efforts to de­carbonise the energy system.

The document is technology neutral.

Controversially, it says nuclear must be considered part of the mix.

Energised debate
The super fund discussion paper does not set out to push nuclear but it has arrived as the issue is gaining renewed traction in Australia’s energy debate.

Its findings undermine the claim that nuclear power is more about culture wars than electricity generation.

The view globally is that nuclear power provides the best emissions-free hedge against a failure of renewables to satisfy more than about one-third of a nation’s energy requirements.

The Prime Minister is being urged to give his blessing to a review of the potential for nuclear energy in Australia.

Queensland MPs Keith Pitt and James McGrath have proposed terms of reference for an inquiry that will review advances in nuclear energy including small nuclear reactors and thorium.

The NSW parliament will conduct its own review.

One Nation MLC Mark Latham has legislation before parliament to legalise uranium mining and nuclear facilities.

“The climate change challenge is real but a renewables fetish can’t solve it,” he says.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has called for a national vote to end the ban and says the northern cities of Tamworth or Armidale could be the site of a new nuclear power station.

Scott Morrison says he won’t oppose nuclear if the economics stack up but no one is offering to build a reactor in Australia.

Advocates of the nuclear option are playing a long-term game.

In April, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency director general William Magwood made his first official visit to Australia. He met the energy ministry, the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Energy Policy Institute of Australia.

Australia has no nuclear power plants but is the world’s third largest uranium producer and holds about 30 per cent of the world’s identified resources.

Magwood’s discussions highlighted uranium resource issues but also focused on NEA analyses related to the decarbonisation of electricity systems and radioactive waste management.

While Australia has no plans to build nuclear plants, in 2016 the country joined the Generation IV International Forum, for which the Nuclear Energy Agency acts as technical secretariat.

Magwood’s talks with Australian authorities included the latest research and development on advanced nuclear systems.

Discussion thwarted
Nuclear energy is still controversial in Australia and has proved difficult for governments even to discuss.

Environment group Friends of the Earth continues to run an active anti-nuclear campaign team. It says Australia does not need nuclear power.

The group favours renewable energy sources such as bioenergy, geothermal hot rocks, solar thermal electricity with storage and sometimes hydro-electricity to provide baseload power.

The group says nuclear power is the only energy source with a direct connection to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It says nuclear reactors are vulnerable to disasters.

And while it would take 15 years or more to develop nuclear power in Australia, clean energy solutions can be deployed immediately, it says.

But after studying the evidence, Industry Super Australia chief economist Stephen Anthony has produced recommendations in his discussion paper that he says go against conventional wisdom and assumptions.

“No attempt is made to avoid this,” he says. “Our aim is to provide the best analysis possible. It is not to simply run with the herd.”

He says the inclusion of nuclear energy has caused some alarm but: “It does not mean we are pro-nuclear any more than not excluding solar means we are pro-solar.”

The conclusion, however, is that it is difficult to see Australia decarbonising its energy sector without the use of nuclear power.

Mainstream misleading 
One of the themes of the discussion paper is that mainstream thinking on the energy market may be misleading in many areas.

It is often based on a partial analysis of the problem that ­ignores its economy-wide implication. The assessment of technologies is sometimes weak and based on time horizons that are too short.

Critical to the report is how it deals with the real cost of renewables and storage and the difficulties of managing increasing amounts of variable power generation.

As the amount of variable electricity increases, its value to the system declines. At times of high production, there is more chance that solar and wind projects will be curtailed.

Ultimately, there is the prospect that some wind and solar projects themselves may become stranded assets.

The problems of intermittency are at the heart of global concerns. Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor is trying to address the issue with a reliability obligation for generators.

Magwood says there is a need for strategies that more accurately reflect the costs and attributes of renewables. “As it becomes clear that the amount of baseload supply needed in the future is not zero, each country will need to decide how it will meet its future electricity supply needs,” he says.

Expensive option
One criticism of nuclear is that it is expensive, but costs vary widely depending on where projects are being built. They can be as high as $US7bn ($10bn) per gigawatt in Europe and as low as $US2bn a giga­watt in China. At its most expensive, nuclear is double the cost of onshore wind.

But nuclear has advantages that intermittent sources of energy cannot provide.

And a recent OECD report assesses the levelised cost using a 3 per cent interest rate at $US100 per megawatt hour for commercial solar, $US70 per megawatt hour for onshore wind and $US50 a megawatt for nuclear.

The OECD says “a cost-effective low carbon system would probably consist of a sizeable share of variable renewable energy, and at least an equally sizeable share of dispatchable zero carbon technologies such as nuclear energy and hydro-electricity and a residual amount of gas-fired capacity to provide some added flexibility alongside storage, demand-side management and the expansion of interconnections.

“What nuclear energy and ­hydro-electricity, as the primary dispatchable low-carbon generation options, bring to the equation is the ability to produce at will large amounts of low-carbon power predictably according to the requirements of households and industry.

“For the right decisions to be made, these factors must be understood and addressed.”

For Australia, Anthony says the likely energy mix will include renewable technologies such as solar, wind, hydro and battery storage, with some pumped hydro and combined-cycle gas generation as a back-up.

But this is unlikely to be good enough for the long term.

Gas produces significant emissions and this may operate as a strong inhibiting factor on its long-run value without carbon capture and storage. Coal seems increasingly risky unless carbon capture and storage becomes an option.

“It is difficult to see how these problems can be resolved without some nuclear in the mix and the principles of optimality, fairness and merit would suggest it should not be discounted,” Anthony says in his report.

Australia lagging
It was noted that Australia is one of the few First World economies without nuclear power and experience in managing a nuclear plant.

The Industry Super paper says: “This seems to be undesirable. It pre-empts the ability to make decisions between all major options for emission reduction.’’

Not considering nuclear puts Australia in the minority of First World economies. It is also lagging several Second and Third World economies in our region and elsewhere such as Argentina, Mexico, Bangladesh and Turkey and geographical neighbours such as ­Indonesia and Vietnam.

The industry super paper says this exposes the economy to considerable risk since it is far from obvious that solar and wind can provide all primary energy in any feasible combination.

A recent Australian National University report calculates that there is enough storage capacity to provide back-up for a solar and wind system that provides all primary energy in Australia.

But the industry super discussion paper says “capacity is not the same as feasibility”.

It says to provide 1½ days’ energy storage, Australia would need about 100 Snowy Mountain 2.0 schemes at a total cost of $700bn. This is enough to build about 100 to 150 nuclear reactors, which would provide more than half of Australia’s current primary energy needs.

The economics of batteries are assessed as being much worse.

Based on the Tesla battery in Adelaide, achieving 1½ days’ energy storage would cost $6.5 trillion, enough to build about 1000 nuclear reactors.

For household batteries, it would cost about $US7000 per household every 10 years to provide back-up for 36 hours.

A switch to electric vehicles may provide an increase in ­storage capacity but there may be other impacts on peak-time loads.

The discussion paper says: “The key takeout is that intermittent technologies may not provide the best means of delivering all primary energy.

“It is also doubtful whether they are the best means of providing all electricity at current levels of demand.”

Industry Super says the assumption that climate scientists are wrong and that large-scale changes will not be necessary in the medium term is a serious mistake and a bad bet for investors.

Enron provides a lesson on leaving things to chance. And without the ability to consider nuclear, Australia could be making a difficult dilemma all but impossible.

Industry Super says it would be desirable for Australia to spread its technological options.

One important step would be to build some capacity to operate a nuclear facility.

This would provide insurance against failure in alternative options or rapid change in technology.

It says a single reactor would be a relatively small investment.
The Australian

Big Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party might have fizzed out at the last Federal election, but STT would like to think that his saturation advertising supporting a nuclear-powered future opened some eyes and minds to that prospect. [Note to Ed: the $80 million Clive threw at print and broadcast advertising clearly cruelled Labor’s chances and his preferences most certainly helped the Coalition pick up seats in Queensland].

Clive’s advertising was pretty hard to miss, but, whether or not it had any impact, the discussion isn’t going away. If anything, it appears as if the infants that pass as leaders in this country have instantly matured. With the notable exception of our good friends the Greens, as detailed in The Australian’s Cut & Paste.

Greens desperate to save Gaia, as long as salvation isn’t nuclear
The Australian
Cut & Paste
4 July 2019

First with the news. Jeff Sparrow, Guardian Australia, June 24:

What do Clive Palmer, Tony Abbott, Cory Bernardi, Barnaby Joyce, Mark Latham, Jim Molan, Craig Kelly, Eric Abetz and David Leyonhjelm have in common? … they all support nuclear power. Jim Green from Friends of the Earth Australia (says) that nuclear energy now functions more as a culture war troll than a serious policy, not least because the people who want an atomic solution to climate change are usually the same people … who don’t believe climate change requires a ­solution at all.

Arts journo Ben Eltham, Twitter, July 1:

Back in 2012 I did a major investigation of energy policy … One of the first things an energy analyst said to me was “baseload is a myth”. 2012.

Chemist and nuclear tech wonk Oscar Archer, Medium.com, July 2:

Outside of social media and partisan energy commentary (baseload) means that (electricity is) there to serve demand when there’s demand … So why does “baseload” get dismissed as a myth? Predominantly, because it has also long been used to describe nuclear energy. Some people really don’t like to hear anything positive about nuclear energy, and this includes the idea that it’s practically always on, constantly serving demand. Why is this so important? Because other people can point at nation-size electrical grids and immediately see a) a slab of nuclear “base­load”, and b) dramatically low emissions intensities.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Guardian Australia, June 5:

Talk of overturning the ban on nuclear power in Australia is crackpot stuff … Aside from being a dangerous technology, nuclear power is wildly expensive …

University of NSW nuclear engineer Ed Obbard, Twitter, June 5:

… if #nuclear is nonviable because it’s expensive, why do we need to ban it?

Event hosted by Students for Nuclear Energy, July 1:

Members of Women in Nuclear Australia will be joining us at UNSW for a panel style event to talk about their kick-ass careers …

Sign up. UNSW nuclear engineering masters program:

Nuclear engineering continues to be a growing field. In addition to the increasing number of “new build” proposals in the Western world, existing reactors require maintenance, servicing, operations and eventual decommissioning; waste needs to be managed and the fuel cycle requires servicing and handling.

Political scientist Joshua S. Goldstein and energy engineer Staffan A. Qvist, The Wall Street Journal, January 11:

Although costs have dropped dramatically for solar and wind energy, they are not a direct, reliable replacement for coal and gas. When the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, little or no energy is collected. And when nature does co-operate, the energy is sometimes wasted because it can’t be stored affordably. Bill Gates, who has invested $1 billion in renewables, notes that “there’s no battery technology that’s even close to allowing us to take all of our energy from renewables”. If substantially expanded, wind, solar and hydropower also would destroy vast tracts of farmland and forest. What the world needs is a carbon-free source of electricity that can be ramped up to massive scale very quickly and provide power reliably around the clock, regardless of weather conditions — all without expanding the total acreage devoted to electric generation. Nuclear power meets all of those requirements.
The Australian

One power source delivers chaos, whereas the other just delivers.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Jeff Walther says:

    Describing “Friends of Earth” as an Environment Group is inaccurate. They are an anti-nuclear group, first and foremost. They don’t really care about the environment, as long as they collect their pay checks for opposing nuclear.

  2. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  3. such an exhaustive article, mark latham triggered me when he submitted to the globalists, first,there is no climate change and second, carbon does not exist in the atmosphere.

  4. Reblogged this on Climate- Science.

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