Honesty needed in nuclear debate

I have an open mind about nuclear power. I recognise the greenhouse gas emissions the world avoids through its existing nuclear power stations. And that, without the vast wind, solar and gas resources Australia has, some countries need new nuclear to decarbonise and contribute to the global fight against climate change.

Environmentally, it also makes sense to me for Australian uranium to be used as feedstock internationally, rather than uranium from Kazakhstan - the world’s largest uranium producer.

But, as we warm up for a debate about nuclear power for Australia, let’s set a few ground rules for the debate.

To those on my left, let’s avoid an old-school scare campaign on safety. With nuclear subs set to berth in Australian ports under AUKUS, this won’t be credible. And, let’s not pretend the mining, processing and infrastructure required to support renewables and batteries comes without environmental impact.

To those on my right, please compare apples with apples on energy prices. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the CSIRO have calculated the comparative and all-inclusive costs of new energy options in Australia, including nuclear. Their GenCost work should be mandatory reading for anyone wishing to participate in the debate, particularly the sections on why nuclear is currently the most expensive technology on offer.

And, please be clear eyed about the next 15 years under any coal to nuclear strategy. Existing coal fired power stations will continue to emit greenhouse gas emissions. And we’ll need plenty of new generation capacity for our growing population before nuclear arrives, as well as new transmission infrastructure if this is to be met by renewables.

Open minds deserve honest debates.

This article also appeared in The Nightly.


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