On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated a willingness to at least explore nuclear power’s potential in Australia.
‘What matters is that it’s reliable, it can be contracted, it can be priced at lower than what we’re getting currently, because that’s what brings people’s power prices down.’
Well, let us help run the numbers for you Mr Morrison.
Warning — what follows involves a fair bit of math.
For starters, it is estimated by Daniel Wild from the Institute of Public Affairs that to meet the Paris Climate Agreement emissions reduction target, we would need to spend $52 billion over the next 12 years.
For the same price, we could build at least 11 state of the art nuclear power plants.
This is based on an inflation adjusted price per plant of $4.53 billion — the last official Australian price estimate was $3.5 billion in 2006.
Now, based on US build types (which Australia would likely mimic), an estimated average capacity of 1000 MWe nets you around 8,500 GWh, conservatively.
The total amount of power consumed in Australia last year was 260,154.6 GWh.
So if you have 11 state of the art reactors running, you could generate 93,500 GWh.
This would be more than double our current total amount of power generated from renewables which is 40,711.3 GWh.
The case for nuclear energy in Australia
Fuel makes up only 14% of nuclear power’s total costs over the course of its operation and overnight capital costs (day to day running) are comparable to coal.
What’s more, it would easily link up with the grid and not need massive batteries to store the energy in off-peak times.
As for who would build the nuclear reactors, France would be a good place to start as 72% of their power is generated by nuclear power.
The average household electricity bill in France is about 30% lower than in Australia.
We have recently purchased submarines from them, so we have the necessary relationship to at least borrow some of their expertise.
So Mr Morrison, to answer your question:
- Cost effective considering potential climate change action
- Can be contracted
Finally, it is worth considering that China, a country that heavily relies on coal, is building 12 reactors as we speak.
In total, there are currently 55 reactors under construction.
If nuclear really isn’t viable, why are so many countries expanding their production?
Hopefully, Mr Morrison takes this into consideration when coming up with energy policy.