An extract from Adam Creighton’s column in today’s Oz..
“….Any financial adviser worth their commission will tell clients not to eschew entire asset classes. Diversify, they’ll insist. You can never predict the future, and even confident forecasts often prove wrong.
The same principles should apply to energy security. But when it comes to Australia’s power supply debate and our nuclear options in that mix — silence.
As of last year, 30 countries operated 450 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and 60 nuclear plants were under construction in 15 countries, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. That includes 20 in China and the giant Hinkley nuclear station that’s been commissioned by the UK government.
Yet Australia, with up to 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves, lacks one, beyond the small medical facility at Lucas Heights.
South Australia’s blackouts have rightly shifted attention on to Australia’s dysfunctional National Electricity Market, and the absurd prospect of the second-largest LNG exporter in the world facing a domestic gas shortage from next year.
But the interminable slanging over coal and gas on the one hand, and solar and wind on the other, takes place with no mention of our vast uranium reserves.
To the extent Australia’s nuclear ban is moralising, it’s hypocritical. Australia’s uranium exports to India, which hasn’t signed the comprehensive test ban treaty, are ramping up to 1500 tonnes over the next five years.
Australia is probably a better location for nuclear reactors in any case. It has a stable, tsunami-free climate where earthquakes are unlikely. It has a sophisticated workforce, and regulatory institutions of high integrity, and unpopulated regions suited to disposal of waste. Current energy trends will leave Australia with costly and highly intermittent energy from wind and solar providers and with baseload power provided by gas power stations. Gas is both carbon intensive and expensive. Other countries aren’t immune to this silliness either.
Nuclear power would give Australia the opportunity to develop an expertise it doesn’t have. It’s odd for the country with so much uranium to contract out expertise to manage, use and understand it to other countries. The knowledge acquired could have beneficial spill-overs for Australia’s defence manufacturing industries as well.
The politics should not be unsurmountable either. In France, local politicians have long competed to have the next nuclear reactor built in their region because of the jobs and commerce they inevitably foster. The UAE’s reactor under construction employs about 17,000 workers — five times more than the construction of Australia’s next submarines.
Nuclear power is not a short-term solution to Australia’s self-imposed energy crisis. But longer term it could be the stone that hits many birds at once — cutting long-term carbon emissions, bolstering high-income STEM jobs, boosting South Australia’s economy, enhancing Australia’s national security and diversifying our energy supply. It could even give the Prime Minister a meaningful ‘‘nation-building’’ goal…” Why Are We Cold On The Idea Of Nuclear Fission