Wake Up Australia: Ban On Nuclear Power Plants Must Go Right Now

Australia’s legislated ban on nuclear power is beyond embarrassing; it’s positively idiotic.

But don’t expect the weak and petty Scott Morrison (Australia’s PM for the time being) or Angus Taylor (his Energy Minister for the time being) to mutter a peep about getting rid of Australia’s most hypocritical and ludicrous energy policy as the next Federal election looms in May.

Australia holds the world’s largest uranium reserves and, despite its shifting policy of limiting the number of mines and states that have banned them, is the world’s third-largest uranium exporter. Happy to export it, but too dim to use it ourselves.

That Australia, among the world’s largest uranium exporters, doesn’t rely on nuclear power astonishes those from the 30 countries where you’ll find nearly 450 nuclear reactors currently operating – including the French, Americans, Canadians, Japanese and Chinese. Another 15 countries are currently building 60 reactors among them. Nuclear power output accounts for over 11% of global electricity production. But not a lick of it in Australia.

In 1998, the Federal government enacted legislation that 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.

The Australian’s Adam Creighton quite rightly bemoans the fact that it’s a policy that deprives Australia of the only stand-alone power generation source that works 24 x 365 and doesn’t emit carbon dioxide gas during the process. That relationship is one that Morrison and Taylor ought to be using to whip the anti-reliable-energy climate change ideologues, who steadfastly refuse to even discuss the use of nuclear power in this country.

Speak truth to power: nuclear ban has to go
The Australian
Adam Creighton
31 January 2022

It was a pity Scott Morrison appeared to rule out civilian nuclear power after the AUKUS security agreement with the US and Britain emerged in September last year.

The prospect of our own nuclear submarines should be an oppor­tunity to dump a ban on nuclear energy that’s looking increasingly bizarre and damaging to our interests as other governments, including our AUKUS partners, rush to extend the life of nuclear reactors, build new ones and encourage development of small modular reactors.

For all the hype and billions of dollars poured into solar and wind energy power, they still provide less than 5 per cent of the world’s energy while oil, gas and coal make up about 80 per cent.

The climate conference in Glasgow last year produced little in the way of new collective pledges to slash emissions because governments have realised meeting current ones is difficult enough, and impossible without significant increases in nuclear power.

Australia needs nuclear power not only to meet our ambitious emissions targets but also to contribute to US and allied efforts to reassert scientific and technological leadership in nuclear power that rapidly is being lost to China.

Westinghouse, once in the vanguard of nuclear energy expertise, filed for bankruptcy in 2017, overwhelmed by the costs, twice its original $US14bn budget, and delays in building reactors in Georgia and South Carolina.

Robert “Bud” McFarlane, Ron­ald Reagan’s national security adviser, says letting nuclear programs stagnate in the West has ceded a powerful technical and geopolitical advantage to China, which is planning to build more than 100 nuclear reactors in the next 15 years.

“I’m embarrassed to say that they’re using a methodology that we have prided ourselves on here for decades: using soft power to help solve other nation’s problems,” he tells The Australian. “China’s taken on our approach and corrupted it substantially.

“AUKUS should be a launch pad for Australia and the US to work together urgently to reverse the trend.” In other words, Australia should develop the expertise to build nuclear power stations for poorer countries, gaining the economic and geostrategic benefits in the process.

The Biden administration has allocated billions of dollars in its most recent budget to extend the life of more than 90 reactors that still provide 20 per cent of electricity supply in the US.

“Carbon-free nuclear power is an absolutely critical part of our decarbonisation equation,” US Energy Secretary Jennifer Gran­holm said late last year.

In Britain, Rolls-Royce has submitted designs for regulatory approval to install about a dozen small modular nuclear reactors across the UK. Canada has ordered SMRs – the smaller, more mobile, cheaper reactors that produce about a third of the power of traditional nuclear power plants – for 2028.

Former US Navy rear admiral Mike Hewitt says Australia has the potential to “lead, not lag, in the field of civil nuclear power”.

“From its vast uranium reserves and natural resources to the manufacturing and industrial capacity which it would attract, the timing and opportunity should be explored and embraced with urgency,” he tells The Australian. “I know the US Department of Energy and industry (are champing) at the bit to discuss nuclear possibilities in Australia.”

France late last year reversed a decision to cut its dependence on nuclear energy from 75 per cent to 50 per cent, announcing €30bn ($47.7bn) for six new reactors. The EU looks set to designate gas and nuclear power as “green energy”.

The Netherlands has allocated €500m to extend and upgrade nuclear capacity to 2025. “Nuclear energy can complement solar, wind and geothermal energy in the energy mix, and can be used to produce hydrogen,” the Dutch government said in December. “It also makes us less dependent on gas imports.”

Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear reactors is looking increasingly foolish, tying its hands in a looming showdown between NATO and Russia over Ukraine’s future.

It should be obvious nuclear is no longer toxic for other democracies yet Australia, alone among G20 nations, maintains an outright ban despite sitting on one of the largest uranium reserves.

US defence experts, including former Obama administration officials, express a mix of frustration and surprise that Australia maintains an outright ban on nuclear energy. How can a country oppose nuclear energy for moral reasons yet export uranium and rely on nuclear energy to power a future fleet of submarines?

The claim that nuclear power is unsafe, a legacy of accidents in the old, poorly run reactors at Chernobyl and Fukushima, still resonates, unfortunately, especially in Australia without a history of civilian nuclear power generation. Deaths from air pollution and accidents from power generated by fossil fuels dwarf those from nuclear power.

And arguments that nuclear is too expensive ignore basic economics: without a strong pipeline of new projects, costs inevitably will be high. Moreover, many costs have been artificially created by governments imposing excessive regulatory requirements and environmental, social and gov­ern­ance groups that won’t permit investments in nuclear projects.

Renewable subsidies have long made a mockery of a free market in energy supply.

For now, advocates for SMRs talk up their benefits as a transition capability, wary of the enduring popularity of renewables among the public and investors. But it’s far from clear renewables and batteries will ever provide the baseload supply needed to power a modern economy.

“It would require 1000 years of production to make enough batteries for two days’ worth of US electricity demand,” Mark Mills wrote in a fascinating 2019 Manhattan Institute analysis on the limits of wind and solar power as baseload power sources.

Assuming battery technology will improve in leaps and bounds is naive.

Federal elections typically aren’t fertile ground for starting conversations about important policy questions. Whoever wins urgently needs to bring Australian attitudes to nuclear power into the 21st century. Developing a domestic nuclear power industry won’t happen overnight.
The Australian

There’s stuff down there that could power us forever.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. It’s another reason to ignore the major parties when voting.
    The list is getting really long.

  2. Peter Pronczak says:

    RE zealots, rent seekers, politicians & electricity suppliers have a new logic in absolutes: IF AN AIRCRAFT ENGINE FAILS IT CAN PARK ON A CLOUD AND BE FIXED!

    ‘If the lie is big enough and told often enough it will be believed’ but nobody has used that sort of public manipulation for about 80 years have they?

    Does anyone really think Malthusian philosophy, in all its aspects including plastic hormonal imbalance creation (BPA, etc), does not exist?
    Has it also been forgotten that at the Copenhagen meeting that ideology pusher Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (1992), said ‘the science’ proved the carrying capacity of Earth was 2 or less billion people?

    ‘For the common good’ is an anathema to RE.

    With France intending to “build 14 next-generation nuclear plants, adding to the 56 plants currently operating” (STT 2022/02/13) that Germany relies on, President Emmanuel Macron does not think, he knows.

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