Government Confirms No Nuclear for Australia, At Least Any Time Soon

Government Confirms No Nuclear for Australia, At Least Any Time Soon

Back in July, the CSIRO published a report that declared renewables were the cheapest new-build electricity generation option in Australia, and that it didn’t see any prospect for nuclear reactors this decade.

At the time, the GenCost report from the CSIRO cited commercial immaturity and high cost for the reason it wasn’t heading down the nuclear path.

The view expressed in that report was that there was very limited to no prospect that nuclear reactor technology would be viable before 2030, given the relative immaturity and high costs associated with those forms of generation.

While the country’s peak science body said it wasn’t interested, chatter was still going on in the wake of Australia’s soaring petrol prices. Addressing Senate Estimates on Friday, representatives from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet put this to bed.

Summarising the government’s position, the department’s acting deputy secretary for the economy, industry and G20, James Chisholm, said the cheapest form of new energy for investment is renewable energy. We’ve got too much sun and wind to not make the most of it.

“That is because it has zero marginal cost,” he said.

“By that I mean there’s a cost associated with building it, seeking approval for it and its initial construction, but once that happens it doesn’t have the same costs associated with it that traditional base-load generation, whether it’s coal-fired or nuclear, has.”

There are a lot of costs associated with those forms of energy, with the CSIRO forecasting that small nuclear modular reactors would have a levelized cost of energy of between $136 and $326 per megawatt hour in 2030. Whereas the levelized cost of energy such as renewable energy is a lot lower.

“It would be estimated to cost between something like $53 to $82 per megawatt hour,” Chisolm explained.

“Really importantly, that includes firming costs.

“Often what happens is people look at these figures and say, ‘Yes, but with renewables you’re not factoring in firming and integration costs.’ But the CSIRO work does factor that in. According to CSIRO, and this is consistent with other analyses, it comes in way cheaper. And that flows through to bills.”

Although this report was published a few months ago, Chisholm said as time goes on, that cost comparison becomes more stark.

“We’re seeing it play out in other markets. If you look at those markets where nuclear power is a significant proportion of the generation mix, nuclear is experiencing the same challenges that coal-fired generation has experienced, simply because of how high the cost is. When it comes to competitive markets for energy, it is difficult for those forms of energy to compete with renewables, particularly for firmed renewables,” he said.

Well, there you have it.

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