The pursuit of nuclear power in Australia would increase electricity costs, slow the transition to a low-carbon economy, introduce the potential for catastrophic accidents and present unnecessary challenges and risks associated with high-level nuclear waste management.
Those are some of the conclusions of a new research paper, Wrong reaction: Why ‘next-generation’ nuclear is not a credible energy solution, released today by the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“The pressing need to transition from fossil fuel energy to a low carbon future has seen renewed calls for domestic nuclear power in Australia’s political arena,” said ACF nuclear expert Dave Sweeney.
“Proponents of nuclear power in Australia are not calling for the deployment of existing nuclear reactor technology, which is known to be high cost and high risk. Instead, they promote ‘next-generation’ technology, which simply does not exist in the commercial world.
“Existing nuclear power technology has been plagued by cost overruns and poor economic performance. Every independent economic assessment finds that electricity from small modular reactors would be even more expensive than power from large reactors.
“Small modular reactors have lower thermal efficiency than large reactors, which generally translates to higher fuel consumption and spent fuel volumes over the life of a reactor.
“Globally just two small modular reactors are understood to be in operation. One is in Russia and the other in China and in both cases the cost blowouts have been extensive.”
The report outlines several ‘next-generation’ nuclear projects that have been cancelled over the past decade.
Recent research from CSIRO and the national energy market operator shows renewables are the cheapest energy source in Australia, while nuclear would be the most expensive.
“We cannot afford to waste more time in transitioning to a low-carbon future. Nuclear is a dangerous distraction to effective climate action,” Mr Sweeney said.
“Australia is blessed with amazing clean energy resources, good infrastructure and smart people. Our energy future is renewable, not radioactive.”