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Why We Need a Debate on Nuclear

Nuclear debate

1. The history and ban on nuclear energy in Australia

The history of banning nuclear power, goes back much further than the latest bout of climate alarmism. In fact, no other country the size of Australia is WITHOUT nuclear energy! We have the uranium and thorium, yet don’t use it for our own energy production. Instead it is shipped around the globe to be used in other nations’ nuclear power plants.

“It can be concluded that nuclear power replacement of fossil fuel-fired electricity generation has a substantial scope to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, although nuclear power generation is not entirely a zero-emissions option. Nuclear power may pose other risks related to the safe disposal of highly radioactive wastes for many thousands of years, but it is certainly not a greenhouse risk.” (1)

Nuclear as an energy power source was banned in 1998 under the Howard Government, and has cost the nation a huge energy advantage on the international stage.

In 1998 the ARPANS Act passed into law. Horse trading with the Greens and the Australian Democrats resulted in the ‘prohibition on certain nuclear installations’ included in the Act.  While the prohibition on nuclear power exists in two Acts of Parliament, only one needs immediate reform to allow the development of a nuclear industry to be considered – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. (2)

Australia is behind many other nations in the use of nuclear energy. Surely the time for debate is overdue?

2. The scare tactics against nuclear

There have been many scare campaigns about nuclear energy, especially from the Climate Council of Australia. They maintain:

  1. Nuclear power stations are highly controversial, can’t be built under existing law in any Australian state or territory, are a more expensive source of power than other forms of renewable energy, and present significant challenges in terms of the storage and transport of nuclear waste, and use of water.
  1. Nuclear power stations also present significant community, health, environmental, and cost risks associated with potential impacts from extreme weather events and natural disasters, such as occurred in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. Nuclear power stations leave a long-term and prohibitively expensive legacy of site remediation, fuel reprocessing and radioactive waste storage.
  1. Australia is one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world, with enough renewable energy resources to power our country 500 times over. When compared with low risk, clean, reliable and affordable renewable energy and storage technology in Australia, nuclear power makes no sense. (3)

 

nuclear debate fukushima

The above scare tactics are misleading, out of date, yet highly effective at alarming an uninformed public.
Holding an honest and open debate can address the misinformation and encourage a consensus on nuclear energy. 

3. The politics of nuclear

 Nuclear is now (apparently) a political-right-wing issue because of those who support a serious debate. No longer based on science, nuclear energy has now entered the ‘culture wars’. (4) We agree that nuclear energy is more expensive than other forms of energy, but it is a reliable source of baseload energy with a long-term lifespan, with zero emissions, and power plants that can be modulized and scaled to suit demand.   It should come as no surprise that those promoting wind and solar and enjoying generous subsidies, would also oppose nuclear energy.  Wind and solar are the preferred methods of renewable energy. They cannot, however, supply enough energy to power our nation’s industries and cities, without backup. Coal and gas have become ‘politically incorrect’ forms of energy from people espousing the virtues of wind and solar.

Calls to close coal-fired power stations in Australia to ‘fix global emissions’ come from those who also refuse to debate nuclear energy. The latest cabal of political terrorists who glue themselves to roadways and disrupt people and clog city centres using climate-change as an excuse, not only want to close all fossil fuel generation, but also to dismantle our democracy and civil society.   The politics of nuclear is as powerful as the energy it can produce!

Is climate change action about ‘fixing global emissions’ lowering power prices, delivering reliable energy to power the nation, or a politically motivated vehicle for civil unrest?

nuclear debate stop adani

4) Wind turbines are now proven environmentally damaging and unreliable

Wind turbines have finally been shown as environmental vandals after they received a ‘bad rap’ from the Grandfather of the Greens, Bob Brown, who ‘belled the cat on birds killed’. (5) Greens leader, Di Natali, then supported Bob’s NIMBY resistance to a new wind farm on Tasmania’s pristine Robbins Island. (6) . Wind turbines in other locations, however, have not received the same bad press!

At the end of their lifespan, calculated to be between 12 and 15 years, (7) turbines stand rusting; scars on the landscape, as the cost of removal and disposal is high, and the many businesses that have built and installed them, long gone.

 

Infigen

Wind turbines have killed thousands of birds for years – including endangered species, and all are unnecessary and tragic victims. Their carcasses lie rotting and stinking at the base of the turbine that cut short their lives.
Wind turbines in Australian are supported by taxpayer-funded subsidies, with money going to overseas companies, e.g. Singapore based ‘Infigen’ in which Alex Turnbull (son of Malcolm) is a shareholder (8)

Australians should now be asking; “Should taxpayer- funded subsidizes for wind turbines continue”? (9)  Wind turbines are an unacceptable risk to wildlife, damaging to the environment and provide limited and intermittent energy.  Bravo Bob Brown for belling the cat! 

5. Why wind and solar dominate as favoured energy sources

Subsidies and incentives have played a critical role in the roll-out and domination of wind and solar power in the renewables sector. Large overseas corporations take advantage of generous taxpayer-funded subsidies for their own benefit.  It is frequently argued that wind and sun are free sources of energy (and in bountiful supply in Australia) and while that is correct, the harnessing of this ‘free energy’ is not free – nor environmentally friendly.  Energy produced from wind and solar is intermittent and unreliable due to the vagaries of the weather and require backup battery storage.  The environmental impact of production for these renewables is not discussed, and the large areas of arable land impacted by solar farms, not quantified. Wind and solar have a place in our energy supply but should NOT dominate a market propped up by huge subsidies. These forms of renewable energy are either commercially viable without subsidies, and environmentally sustainable in supply, operation and disposal – or not!

Battery storage is necessary for any renewable energy source that is subject to weather variables. (10) We are told the cost of battery storage and renewables is decreasing; energy costs, however, continue to rise.  There is a strong disconnect between rhetoric and reality! Not discussed are the toxic chemicals used in the production of storage batteries, that also have environmental disposal challenges.

Renewable energy still requires the back-up of fossil fuel generated electricity to provide supply-deficiencies to households and heavy manufacturing in inclement weather conditions, otherwise load-sharing and blackouts are inevitable outcomes!  (11) This was the experience of 200,000 households in Victoria hit with rolling power outages this January 2019.  (12)  We note that 17% of Victoria’s energy is from wind and solar and the outage was blamed on coal and gas plants. The remedy: build more wind farms! (13) Another experience of renewable intermittency and fragility was in South Australia where 850,000 homes went without power for days after storms affected transmitters and wind turbines were damaged or shut down.

Wind and solar enjoy heavy taxpayer- funded subsidies to help build a renewable energy market, reduce emissions and meet Australia’s UN Paris commitments. Wind and solar are given ‘special financial and political status’ through subsidies and, therefore, dominate the renewables market in Australia with the exclusion of other zero- emission sources of energy. Australia needs to be open to other forms of ’low- or- no- emissions’ energy.

6. What is the case for a nuclear debate?

case for nuclear

Starting with the facts: (14)

  • Australian taxpayers will pay more than $60 billion through federal renewable energy subsidies by 2030 to wind and solar, enough to build about 10 large ­nuclear reactors.
  • The wholesale cost of electricity has trebled in Victoria from $20 a megawatt hour to more than $60. In South Australia it has risen from $50 a MW/h to $110, leaving consumers paying the highest electricity costs in the world.
  • Nuclear reactors emit no greenhouse gases during operation.  Over their full lifetimes, they result in comparable emissions to renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar.
  • Today, nuclear-generated electricity powers electric trains and subway cars and autos. It has also been used in propelling ships for more than 50 years.
  • India plans to triple its nuclear capacity by 2024 to wean Asia’s third-largest economy off polluting fossil fuels
  • As at November 2016 there are 186 nuclear power plants in Europe with a further 15 under construction

The cost of electricity has now become unaffordable for thousands of Australian households. In an energy- rich nation, it can be deduced that the energy market is either mis-managed or manipulated by vested interests. Reliable and affordable energy, like water, fuel, and food security, should be treated as an essential service.

Nuclear power is a low-emission technology. Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power are more than ten times lower than emissions from fossil fuels and are like emissions from many renewables. Nuclear power has low life cycle impacts against many environmental measures. Water use can be significant in uranium mining and electricity generation depending on the technology used. (16)

  • Coal is strongly opposed by a large cabal of ‘climate alarmists yet is still necessary to power the nation
  • Gas exploration and supply is being restricted
  • Hydro and geothermal power are not suitable for Australia
  • With 33% of the world’s uranium and vast supplies of thorium, nuclear energy is the natural extension.
  • Reactors are now smaller and modular.
  • Waste from reactors has been greatly reduced and storage is safer and easier to manage.
  • Many European nations rely on new nuclear technology for their power generation. E.g. France is 75% powered by nuclear energy. (15)
  • If, as we are advised, wind and solar are now commercially viable, renewable subsidies could be directed to fund new nuclear power plants.
  • In 2006, the Federal Parliament commissioned the Dr. Ziggy Switkowsi Report on nuclear energy in Australia. (16) This report should now be updated and the advances in nuclear technology since 2006, debated
  • Nuclear fuel recycling is now possible converting spent plutonium and uranium into a “mixed oxide” that can be reused in nuclear power plants to produce more electricity. (17)

If the government is serious about lowering emissions, meeting our UN Paris commitments and delivering additional affordable baseload electricity (apart from existing and planned new coal and gas plants), adding nuclear into Australia’s energy mix, has many benefits, and therefore, should be openly and honestly debated.

 So, what can YOU do to help start a debate on nuclear energy??

  

References: 

  1. https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Browse_by_Topic/ClimateChangeold/responses/mitigation/emissions/nuclear
  2. https://minerals.org.au/sites/default/files/180605%20Removing%20the%20prohibition%20on%20nuclear%20power.pdf
  3. https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/nuclear-power-stations-are-not-appropriate-for-australia-and-probably-never-will-be/?gclid=CjwKCAjwmtDpBRAQEiwAC6lm4yYHB2zN8ZdB7-EZaDSATgUhaHzefNTzdjcEb4dwGJT_a655_N3VhxoCEy0QAvD_BwE
  4. https://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-power-exits-australias-energy-debate-enters-culture-wars-47702/
  5. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/wind-farm-new-franklin-dam-bob-brown/news-story/3510c7eb5368ce113167a29eee3a3811
  6. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/richard-di-natale-defends-bob-brown-over-wind-farm-opposition/news-story/90ff3f72368b50ad3c802344cd4cd987
  7. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/windpower/9770837/Wind-farm-turbines-wear-sooner-than-expected-says-study.html
  8. https://stopthesethings.com/2017/03/13/born-lucky-stars-align-perfectly-for-pms-son-with-mammoth-bet-on-wind-power-outfit-infigen/ https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-alex-turnbull-hedge-fund-mystery-20190124-p50th2.html
  9. https://www.riteon.org.au/wind-turbines-are-they-worthy-of-being-in-our-renewable-mix/
  10. https://www.windpowerengineering.com/business-news-projects/whats-new-in-energy-storage/
  11. https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/renewable-energy/victorias-renewable-energy-targets
  12. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/blackout-ahead-for-130-000-homes-as-power-system-falters-20190125-p50tn7.html
  13. https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/final-report-reveals-the-causes-of-south-australias-statewide-blackout/news-story/d5499231749c6a858cdc3b4a78f5c7e1.
  14. https://www.riteon.org.au/why-not-nuclear/
  15. https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/france.aspx
  16. https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Browse_by_Topic/ClimateChangeold/responses/mitigation/emissions/nuclear
  17. https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/10/01/why-doesnt-u-s-recycle-nuclear-fuel/#249aa032390f

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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