17 April 2024
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Push for nuclear to be part of the ABC of future power generation escalates

Peter Switzer
1 March 2024

ABC TV’s business and finance commentator and significant influencer, Alan Kohler, has come out siding with those who see the nuclear option as the future for power generation, especially if you’re a concerned climate change worrier. This is a critically important revelation as the world is becoming more rational about the role that nuclear power generators could play in killing off our dependence on fossil fuels, which clearly aren’t a positive for the climate and even air quality.

What’s even more important about Alan’s story in the New Daily is that this publication is owned by Industry Super Holdings, which means it has strong roots with the union movement and, ultimately, the Labor Party.

Right now, Opposition leader Peter Dutton plans to run with the need for nuclear as an election issue to contrast his position on how we move to alternatives for fossil fuels, without having to live with power outages and huge hip pocket-killing energy bills.

Meanwhile, Labor is staunchly against nuclear, which Kohler explains is more political rather than rationally economic. “There’s nothing particularly wrong with nuclear energy, plenty of countries do it, and Australia happily sells uranium to them,” Kohler wrote. “Also, it has no carbon emissions, which is good.”

He explained how the nuclear ban links to a deal made between the Coalition Howard government and the Greens in 1998, where it was a trade-off to allow a nuclear research reactor being built at Lucas Heights near Sydney.

“And here we are a quarter of a century later still pointlessly arguing about it,” Kohler wrote. 'What’s more, the argument has a tinge of religion about it, with evangelists, unbelievers and agnostics.”

The arguments against nuclear in countries with unstable geology, such as Japan or New Zealand, might make sense, but not in a place like Australia with a very stable land mass and a good supply of uranium.

By the way, as of January 2022, despite the tragic Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011, Japan had 33 operable nuclear reactors, of which 10 were in full operation. Meantime, France had 56 reactors in 2022 and 62.2% of that country’s power comes from uranium-powered nuclear reactors!

Historically, the local Greens oppose nuclear power for reasons such as “…the burden of Australia’s nuclear supply chain and proposed waste storage is disproportionately borne by First Nations peoples. It significantly and negatively impacts on their culture, connection to country, well-being, and their right to manage land, natural resources, and water.” They also want to kill off nuclear weapons.

However, global greens are changing their minds on nuclear.

The Guardian reported the following in March last year: “On 21 May 2022, after hours of impassioned debate, members of Finland’s Green party voted to make theirs the first in the world to back nuclear power. Greens in Finland would now campaign not only for the lifespan of current reactors to be extended but also for new plants, with the technology recognised by their manifesto as ‘sustainable energy’.”

Right now, Energy Minister Chris Bowen is saying nuclear is too expensive, but he knows that with all things in economics, the bigger the commitment to an operation, the bigger the economies of scale that bring down average costs.

Labor’s opposition is political. They need the Greens. Lots of Labor voters and ABC viewers would disagree with Alan, for more social and political reasons rather than economic ones.

This is Kohler’s reasonable and rational view, given that both solar and wind can be a part of our overall power supply story or, if you like, the ABC of future power generation without fossil fuels. “Geothermal, biomass or wave power are all possible, but a couple of small modular reactors might be worth having in the mix as well, because they can operate night and day,” he wrote. “Nuclear might be a small but useful addition to Australia’s electricity generation, but only with some government money behind it.”

Recently I interviewed Cris Talacko, CEO of the Coalition for Conservation, about the changing attitudes towards nuclear after she returned from the COP 28 conference in Dubai. See my interview here: https://switzer.com.au/the-experts/switzer-tv/cop28-is-nuclear-becoming-more-popular-and-is-australia-seen-as-a-bad-boy-polluter/



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