Peter Dutton’s push to build nuclear reactors in transitioning coal communities like Collie will give Australians a clear choice at the next election.
It means the energy wars are far from over, and we’ll be asked to choose between Labor’s vision for renewables and storage, and a Liberal policy of renewables and nuclear.
I remain of the view that our environment would be better off if we weren’t producing nuclear waste, and that nuclear reactors come with major safety risks in geologically unstable regions. However, I also respect the International Energy Agency’s view that nuclear has a role in the global fight against climate change.
On its appropriateness for wind, solar and critical-minerals rich Australia, the CSIRO concluded in May that nuclear does not currently present an economically competitive solution. Taking storage and transmission costs into consideration, wind and solar was projected to come in at a maximum of $83 per MWh in 2030, compared to $130 to $311 per MWh for the small modular reactors (SMRs) promoted by Mr Dutton.
The CSIRO also noted that only two SMRs were currently in operation globally, in China and in Russia respectively. Both had experienced cost blowouts and delays.
If the next federal election is fought on cost-of-living issues, Mr Dutton’s nuclear choice may put him on the wrong side of the ledger.
This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.