From STOP THESE THINGS
The fact that those pushing net-zero emissions targets aren’t talking seriously about nuclear power, says it all.
If energy policy is left in the hands of the wind and sun cult – and other weather-obsessed lunatics – it won’t be long before we’re all left sitting freezing or boiling in the dark.
Those with financial skin in the game keep pushing for the purported elimination of carbon dioxide gas emissions, even if only at a fictional accounting level. A balance sheet somewhere will eventually claim that Nation ‘X’ has reached a (supposedly virtuous) target of net-zero emissions.
Digging into the net-zero narrative always returns to the same question; viz, if eliminating carbon dioxide gas emissions in the electricity generation sector is the object, then why, oh why, does this crowd ignore the only stand-alone power generation source that does not generate carbon dioxide gas in the process?
Nowhere is that question more obvious than in Australia, where lunatics really have taken over the asylum.
Australia is the only OECD country to not have the benefit of nuclear power; it banned nuclear power generation back in 1998 and has never had a nuclear power plant. Notwithstanding that Australia holds the world’s largest uranium reserves and, despite its shifting policy of limiting the number of mines and states that have banned them, is the world’s third-largest uranium exporter.
In those circumstances, it beggars belief that Labor’s Energy Minister – the witless Chris Bowen – can maintain an argument that Australia (apparently unique amongst all nations) can reject nuclear power generation and somehow meet his net-zero carbon dioxide gas target using nothing but wind and solar.
As the Australian’s Judith Sloan points out below, if Australia wants to meet its suicidal net-zero target, then the only path is nuclear power generation.
Nuclear resistance casts Australia as energy laggard nation
22 August 2023
Judged by the reaction to my column last week, many readers share my concerns about the planned transition of the energy system outlined by Energy Minister Chris Bowen. It’s already clear that the vision of an electricity grid powered almost entirely by renewable energy by the end of the decade and linked by many kilometres of new transmission lines is unachievable.
As for the proposition that electricity prices will fall, it’s similarly clear that the modelling on which this appealing idea was based is fundamentally flawed. In particular, the work undertaken by the CSIRO bizarrely assumes all the capital costs of transmission and distribution associated with the transition are simply written off at the end of the decade. The reality is the investors will continue to earn guaranteed returns on these investments and these will feed into higher consumer prices.
It’s anyone’s guess what Bowen will be up to in 2030 but it’s odds-on to a dollar that he won’t be the climate change and energy minister. But the point is that the fate of the electricity grid, and energy generation more broadly, is too important to be left to day-to-day politics; it requires careful planning and implementation by those who really understand how the system works.
Sadly, the leadership and staff of the Australian Energy Market Operator appear to be incapable of this task given the faulty and impractical Integrated System Plans the agency releases. The incompetence of state government ministers and bureaucrats, in combination with starry-eyed fantasies of renewable energy zones, simply adds to the developing nightmare.
The features of the failing transition are obvious already. Snowy 2.0 is behind schedule and now it is predicted that the pumped-hydro project alone will cost $10bn – the original estimate was $2bn. Many billions of dollars for additional transmission will also be needed.
The Marinus Link between Tasmania and Victoria increasingly looks unlikely to go ahead as its cost blows out from $3.1bn to $5.5bn and the fiscally fragile Tasmanian government baulks at bearing the higher figure. Absent this link, the slew of renewable energy projects in Tasmania envisaged as part of the transition is unlikely to proceed. This setback also exposes Victoria’s energy transmission plans.
As for Queensland’s energy transition plans, the inclusion of two large-scale pumped-hydro projects increasingly looks absurd, both in terms of costs and feasibility. There is strong local opposition to the project outside Mackay. The only upside to Queensland’s plan is the intention to keep its (relatively new) coal-fired plants going until renewable energy plus storage can provide guaranteed electricity.
One of the most worrying aspects of this unfolding tragedy is Bowen’s closed mind when it comes to other options to achieve a reliable and affordable grid as well as meeting decarbonisation goals. His muted objection to gas is part of the problem and the fact this energy source is not part of the national security mechanism, the capacity mechanism to provide back-up power to the grid in the event of power shortfalls, is close to incomprehensible. But his fierce and ongoing opposition to nuclear power as the greenest form of 24/7 generation simply beggars belief. His unfounded assertion that nuclear is simply too expensive must be tested by the market on the basis of the government lifting the completely unjustified ban on nuclear power.
There are more and more countries that beg to differ with Bowen’s assertion. France, Sweden, Finland, Britain, Canada, South Korea, the US and others are all ramping up investments in nuclear energy. If nuclear power is too expensive, it’s news to these economic powerhouses. We really run the risk of being left at the starting gate unless we make this shift.
The turning point for Labor is the signing of the AUKUS deal and its commitment to the use of nuclear-powered submarines. As part of this agreement, we are required to ramp up the nuclear-related workforce substantially and to deal with the waste on our shores. It is the perfect correlate to the establishment of a domestic nuclear power industry.
The lessons being learnt by other countries will prove useful and should allow us to short-circuit some of the lengthy delays that have plagued the nuclear industry. Indeed, there is clear evidence that the high expense of nuclear has been partly the result of massive over-regulation and a tendency for heel-dragging by the authorities. The comparison between the US and Canadian regulators is telling in this context, with the Canadian regulator much more efficient and cooperative.
There are several technology choices we could make, including simply using the tried-and-true ones. The South Koreans, for instance, are finalising several plants using the current principal technology. In Australia, these plants could be easily located where coal-fired plants exist or have existed: the sources of water and their proximity to transmission lines make them perfect sites.
There is also the option of providing a pilot site for TerraPower, the new form of nuclear generation promoted by Bill Gates.
Work is proceeding in Wyoming, US; the plant will generate 350 megawatts to 500MW. While the cost of this plant is estimated to be $US4bn ($6.2bn), the expectation is the next ones could cost as little as $US1bn. This form of nuclear generation doesn’t require significant amounts of water or auxiliary power. Interestingly, there was fierce bidding to have the plant located at the various possible sites.
If it were not for Bowen’s, and Labor’s, ingrained opposition to nuclear power that has little justification in the current climate, it could be exciting times for the electricity industry in Australia.
Small modular reactors will also likely be part of the mix; after all, we currently have them floating around the oceans. The Canadians have made a major commitment to their development and Rolls-Royce is working day-and-night to achieve SMRs as a commercial option for that company. In time, Australia may be simply be able to buy them off the shelf.
Of course, the renewable energy industrial complex is likely to arc up because the most sensible thing to do, if decarbonisation is the paramount concern, is simply to go with nuclear and forget short-lived, unreliable intermittent wind and solar, even with the fanciful addition of batteries.
In the short term, it is possible to make nuclear and renewable energy complementary. But as the turbines and panels reach the end of their short lives, it won’t make much sense to replace the landscape-scarring installations. But the key now is to get on with it.