Reshuffle and nukes

Tim Wilson has been appointed assistant minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction – yes – the Tim Wilson who argued when Policy Director of the Institute of Public Affairs for the abolition of the Climate Change Authority, the federal Renewable Energy Target and the defunding of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. 

The PM says Wilson will

…. ‘bring a great deal of advocacy and skills to that portfolio as we continue to articulate and bring people together around our plans for emissions reduction on Australia’s energy future, the transmission to the new energy economy.’

This will be news to the National Party who still think there’s no plan!

Anyway, Tim Wilson is now apparently all for a zero net emissions target.

Melissa Price has been given science and technology (vacated by Christian Porter) to add to her defence industry ministry. She’ll be working with ANSTO and the CSIRO in addressing nuclear capabilities that will be necessary for our new 8 nuclear-powered submarines.

The PM says this gives Price responsibilities for operational defence purposes and ‘civil uses as well’

This sounds horribly like the anti-renewables class seeing a fresh opportunity to push the nuclear power barrow. The Minerals Council of Australia (which gave $125,000 to the major parties in 2019) said: 

This is an incredible opportunity for Australia’s economy – not only will we develop the skills and infrastructure to support this naval technology, but it connects us to the growing global nuclear power industry and its supply chains.

Now that Australia is acquiring nuclear submarines which use small reactors, there is no reason why Australia should not be considering [small modular reactors] for civilian use.

Here’s why that’s such a bad idea:

It costs too much. Ian Lowe, in his new book Long Half-life: The Nuclear Industry in Australia, points out that global average prices for new power last year were: 

3.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for large solar, 4.1 cents for wind, 11 cents for coal and 16 cents for nuclear.

Reactors take too long to build – at least 10 years – and only a handful of countries, mostly supported by Russia, are building new ones

There are 250,000 metric tonnes of highly radioactive solid fuel waste from nuclear power plants worldwide and millions of litres of radioactive liquid waste from weapons production, all of it dangerous for thousands of years and much of it corroding its storage containers. The US spends $6 billion a year on above-ground storage. Deep geological repositories are the only safe option but the first of these will be in Finland but not be ready until 2023. Cost to construct is over AU$3 billion.

The cost of decommissioning reactors and moving the radioactive waste is astronomical which is why so many countries are putting it off by extending the life of these reactors. The UK government will pay an estimated AU$250 billion to decommission most of its eight nuclear reactors and it will take 120 years!

Photo by Nicolas HIPPERT on Unsplash

Share this: