And what of nuclear energy?

Adam Creighton is right that Australian taxpayers and consumers have unwittingly subsidised foreign companies large sums to install solar and wind power. Adam notes that the solar farm at Moree has 100 jobs at a cost of $1.5 million each. And the vast amounts spent on ‘renewable’ energy could have built multiple small nuclear reactors providing reliable, low cost and low emission power. Nuclear is the ultimate renewable power and yet we continue to eschew its use.

For a country like Australia with its abundance of uranium and coal surely we should have an electricity network unpinned by coal and gradually adding nuclear power – replace ageing coal power stations with modern nuclear power stations. That would be visionary, it would be cost effective and it would ensure Australia has access to reliable power.

Australia has no need for wind power and limited need for solar power.

In his remarks to the Minerals Council of Australia annual dinner, the Prime Minister said

And so I’ve said for many years – nearly a decade at least consistent, on this point – I would welcome a new HELE coal plant in Australia – we are after all the world’s largest exporter of seaborne coal. Surely we have a vested interest in demonstrating high efficiency, low emissions coal technology in Australia.

Indeed he is right. Coal is fundamental to Australia and should not be pushed out until technology develops an alternative which is as low cost and as reliable.

Now we know the Prime Minister is an enthusiast for new technologies as he said at the same dinner

So as you all well know, I’m a great enthusiast for any new technologies …

And he hinted at a role for nuclear

Now that is why we gave an ‘all of the above’ energy policy – one that includes all the technologies that are available in Australia today: solar, wind, hydroelectricity, gas and of course coal.

One of the technologies that is available in Australia is nuclear energy. It is to be found at Lucas Heights. It’s about time that we built Australia’s capacity as a nuclear energy producer.

Some will wish to parse the PM’s remarks by saying that the Lucas Heights reactor is not generating electricity and hence is not an ‘all of the above energy’ source. Yet that would be wrong. For the Lucas Heights reactor (while small) does split uranium and create lighter elements converting some matter into energy according to Einstein’s formula e=mc2.

Yes, that reactor is used to create nuclear medicine – a vital part of our medical system. Yet it could be used to generate electricity using basic technology already in Australia. It is trivial to convert the heat from a critical but controlled nuclear reaction to electricity.

The point is not that Lucas Heights should be converted to a nuclear power station – it is too small for that – but that the technology of using nuclear energy to create electricity is already available in Australia. We have the raw material – uranium – we have the technology and we have the space to dispose safely any nuclear waste. The only thing missing is the political will.

 

About Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

I'm a retired general who occasionally gets called back to save the republic before returning to my plough.
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60 Responses to And what of nuclear energy?

  1. duncanm

    For a country like Australia with its abundance of uranium and coal surely we should have an electricity network unpinned by coal and gradually adding nuclear power – replace ageing coal power stations with modern nuclear power stations. That would be visionary, it would be cost effective and it would ensure Australia has access to reliable power.

    too right.

    It would also revitalise the Aluminium industry here.

  2. Botswana O'Hooligan

    When a nuclear anything blows up the area is unusable for a very long time. If a coal fired plant blows up it can be rebuilt on the same spot as soon as the site is cleared, and furthermore the same switch yard and distribution system can stay in place which is not so with a nuclear accident.

  3. Baldrick

    We have the raw material – uranium – we have the technology and we have the space to dispose safely any nuclear waste. The only thing missing is the political will.

    We also have an abundance of rabid Green Left, and that’s just in the Liberal Party.

  4. OldOzzie

    As Chris Mitchell in The Australian – “Power price debacle illustrates lack of understanding” said

    “Our energy policy is mad for a country with the world’s largest supplies of high-quality steaming coal, among the best natural gas reserves on the planet and 40 per cent of the world’s uranium. Oh, and we are the world’s No 1 exporter of all three commodities.”

  5. cui bono

    If that’s a Prime Ministerial hint at nuclear, he’s going to have to be less subtle.

  6. min

    Unfortunately even though higher energy bills are coming in , the average Barry Battler and even SFR with a few more pennies to spend than a pensioner , still think that more solar panels and wind turbines with batteries will supply base load power. What they do not comprehend is that the cost, area needed to produce equal mgw to HELE plants are huge . Perhaps these figures need to be promoted . I heard 20 billion and land the area of Tasmania .

  7. Let’s see the Australian Conservatives translate their “agnostic on energy sources” policy into an all out war against the Uniparty and Greens.
    What a delicious fantasy – Bernardi stands candidates in all seats at the next Federal election with coal/nuclear power the centre of their campaign.
    There is a chance the AC could cause enough damage to make a real impact on energy policy. Voters who suffer from blackouts and skyrocketing electricity prices could be swayed by a positive and vigorous attack against the climate warming scam.

  8. DavidH

    Matter does not convert into energy in a fission reactor.

    The energy we get from nukes is the release of atomic binding energy when the atoms fission. Einstein’s equation comes into play in explaining that the atoms have slightly more mass than the sum of their component sub-atomic particles. That’s the mass represented by “playing E = mc^2 backwards”, that is m = E/c^2. The binding energy is the strong force overcoming the electrostatic repulsion between the protons in the nucleus. Large atoms like uranium can fission because the strong force operates over a range of the order of a nucleus. With random motion of the particles, some parts separate just enough for the repulsive force to dominate; the atom fissions and the fragments fly apart with huge velocity – binding energy has been converted into kinetic energy. But no mass is lost (just dispersed) and certainly no matter disappears.

  9. jupes

    And the vast amounts spent on ‘renewable’ energy could have built multiple small nuclear reactors providing reliable, low cost and low emission power.

    Who gives a fuck about CO2 emissions?

    Australian CO2 emissions have no effect on global temperature. None.

  10. Rob

    Adam Creighton is on the money although his article deserved far more prominence.
    Of course the future is nuclear power.
    Ten or twelve nuclear power stations, strategically located across the Australian mainland and assisted by hydro or gas peaking generators – nirvana!
    The existing fleet of problematic and horrendously expensive wind and solar installations can be left to life expire – most will be dead in 25 years anyway.

    We need an Australian politician who can envisage a uranium mining and extraction industry, a refinery for fuel rod production, world class nuclear powered and emissions free electricity generation, and a reprocessing / waste storage facility to complete the cycle.
    Is there a visionary politician in sight?

  11. Joe

    Who gives a F about Uranium, It’s Thorium that’s the ticket for nuclear energy. Specifically Liquid Thorium Fluoride Reactors (LFTR). You will never get agreement on Uranium plants because they are firmly connected in the public’s psyche as nuclear bombs. Thorium is new and whats more can not be made into a bomb.

    Time to update our thinking for the 21st century.

  12. Andrew

    Nucular is filthy expensive. It cannot be built without massive subsidies. See Hinkley C.

    If anyone was stupid enough to build one without subsidies, guaranteed FIT and other distortions, fine. But it can never happen.

  13. Who gives a fuck about CO2 emissions?

    Foresters,
    more CO2 makes our tress grow faster, and use less water.

  14. destroyer D69

    Please compare the” whole of life “costs of nuclear energy before rushing in. That is, from mining the ore to the time that ALL of the components of the system have been removed .This will involve a timeline of thousands of years continual expenditure to isolate and control the radioactive remains of the cycle.Include the costs of fuel rod manufacture and re-processing needed approx. three times in the” life” of the rod. America recently expects to spent 50 billion dollars to make the WW2 development site safe for public access as an historic site. (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Aug 26 2008 Page A8) When all the costs of nuclear power are totalled it is probable that the returns are less than the total costs of the excercise as a whole by a commercially unviable margin.

  15. Andrew

    Time to update our thinking for the 21st century.

    More like 22nd century thinking.

    LFTR has never been built. Anywhere. No one is even attempting it. Just like wind, we should stand aside until someone figures how to do it economically.

  16. Rabz

    There is zero chance of a nuclear reactor ever being built in this country within the lifetime of anyone who comments here.

    Zero, Buckley’s, nada.

  17. Mike of Marion

    Rabz
    #2494257, posted on September 11, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Agreed.

  18. Bill

    Unfortunately, there are too many little marxist trolls who would fight the very idea of nuclear power plants in Australia being implemented. The extreme left of the Labor party and of course the loony greens will see to that. We clearly need a set of politicians with balls to go the distance and also legislate that any opposition to these energy security initiatives will be long goal terms for the usual “activists”.

  19. Joe

    LFTR has never been built. Anywhere. No one is even attempting it. Just like wind, we should stand aside until someone figures how to do it economically.

    See China and India and USA whilst we – who sit on one of the world’s largest Thorium deposits – do NOTHING.

    Please compare whole of life costs of wind farms and solar plants including their production to whole of life costs of nuclear you hypocrites.

    No wonder Australia is going backwards – won’t even entertain doing something for ourselves – just let someone else do it and we will pay them for the results. Pathetic bunch of mewling fools.

  20. Gavin R Putland

    Nuclear is the ultimate renewable power and yet we continue to eschew its use.

    Nuclear power has its advantages, but renewability definitely isn’t one of them.

  21. A Lurker

    The only thing missing is the political will.

    The political will be absent whilst our politicians keep drinking Green Kool-Aid.

  22. Gavin R Putland

    Joe @ #2494242:

    Thorium… can not be made into a bomb.

    So greenies hate it all the more, because it deprives them of one of their favourite arguments against nuclear power.

  23. RobK

    Remove all subsidies. Allow all technologies (subject to reasonable safety regulations). Guarantee access to competitive market. Diversity.

  24. Joe

    Nuclear power has its advantages, but renewability definitely isn’t one of them.

    Thorium has a half life of 14 BILLION years or the current estimate of the life of the universe. It is ubiquitous, normal everyday soil contains 6 PPM (parts per million) of Thorium. We will literally never run out of the stuff.

  25. RobK

    Australia could develop a vertically integrated nuclear industry. It has many desirable attributes and skills. Just the public opinion/politics stands in the way.

  26. BoyfromTottenham

    Reading this post and the comments, it seems to me that we are failing to communicate the basic facts about the importance of stable, affordable energy to the whole country, and to maintaining our (relatively) comfortable way of life. The alternative, of destroying many of our industries (see the list of ‘energy intensive trade-exposed industries’ in the RET legislation) and thereby reducing Australia to third world conditions, is clearly unacceptable to even the most disinterested voter. Surely we can find a few politicians and hopefully some senior businessmen and women who can articulate this simple concept?

  27. RobK

    HELE coal and nukes are the only path to rid ourselves of the CO2 conjecture. Present wind and solar are shown to be non-runners.

  28. struth

    the Prime Minister said

    And so I’ve said for many years – nearly a decade at least consistent, on this point – I would welcome a new HELE coal plant in Australia – we are after all the world’s largest exporter of seaborne coal. Surely we have a vested interest in demonstrating high efficiency, low emissions coal technology in Australia.

    The truth in this statement is “I’ve said for many years”

    Yes the prime minister has talked for many years, and probably some of it wasn’t even lies.
    So?

    He’s a U.N. puppet.
    It really isn’t the greens or the labor voters he is trying to please.
    It’s just that they have the same plan for Australia as the U.N, through the same means.
    There is a distinction to be made there, though.

    If we understand it, we will know his hands are tied.
    His masters won’t allow him to fix this problem.

    So on this issue, (as with so many others) what Malcom says is irrelevant.

    Agenda 21, the Paris Agreement and multiple other “agreements and treaties” some in writing , some not, where our politicians are “obedient to a foreign power”( the U.N.) due to the voter never being asked with regard to any of it, means Malcom will never be anything but part of the problem.
    A very big part.
    No matter what he says.

    The attack is on the west by the U.N.
    It openly states this.
    It openly states that the wealth should be taken from the wealthy countries (not the likes of Saudi Arabia of course, who even sat on the U.N’s women’s rights knobfest) and transferred to “developing” (read corrupt, substandard cultured) countries.
    China’s Australian coal burning doesn’t create climate change.
    India’s Australian coal burning doesn’t seem to have a flee’s dick of an influence on global temperature.

    Only the west causes glowball warmening.
    Funny about that.
    Only the west must open it’s borders or the U.N’s socialist world domination can’t occur.
    Funny about that.
    Saudis don’t let in one Muslim refugee to their rich Islamic country.
    Saidi’s know they are not refugees.
    The Saudi dominated U.N knows they are not true refugees.
    We are being attacked and plundered by the U.N. and you quote their lying lapdog Malcom?

    This is where our true problems lie.

    Our power problem is caused totally by our involvement with the corrupted U.N.
    From it’s environmental bullshit in our schools to power generation, we are being attacked from within our borders by foreign socialist and very corrupt foreign powers, that our politicians are subservient to.

    While we adhere to U.N. policy talking about fixing our power grid is pointless.

    It’s like people don’t truly understand how this problem came about in the first place.
    If you do, then you would never embarrass yourself with quoting what Malcom has to say on the issue.
    It’s pointless.

    To fix our power grid we must first at least pull out of the Paris agreement, like Trump did.
    Everything else you hear from U.N. pollies supporting coal burning are pure lies.

  29. Remove the subsides, remove the taxes (e.g. RETs), remove the mining constraints and use the cheapest available energy source for electricity.
    In Australia, you will use mainly coal and some gas and some hydro. End of chapter 1.
    When nukes compete on cost, then use nukes. End of Chapter 2.

  30. Speedbox

    Never going to happen. Australia lacks the maturity for a debate and the Left have a firm foothold in this country.

    Alternatively, imagine the years of rioting in the streets – is ANY Government going to risk it? Plus, by the way, we don’t have any legislative framework (years arguing over this), the construction takes at least a decade after a somewhat shorter period of design. Then we have the NIMBY’s………

    Seriously folks, it is never going to happen or at least, as Rabz says, not in our lifetime.

  31. Joe

    Seriously folks, it is never going to happen or at least, as Rabz says, not in our lifetime.

    So basically what you are saying is that the only way to achieve energy reliability in the current environment is via revolution – because it’s “impossible” to innovate in the current system.

  32. Boambee John

    Rob at 0840

    We need an Australian politician who can envisage a uranium mining and extraction industry, a refinery for fuel rod production, world class nuclear powered and emissions free electricity generation, and a reprocessing / waste storage facility to complete the cycle.
    Is there a visionary politician in sight?

    This was the vision of RFX Connor, a minister in Whitlam’s government.

    No-one in the current Liars Party would even consider it.

  33. So basically what you are saying is that the only way to achieve energy reliability in the current environment is via revolution – because it’s “impossible” to innovate in the current system.

    Horrible to contemplate, but basically, yes.
    A benevolent dictator with full military backing is about the only hope for us now.

  34. Speedbox

    So basically what you are saying is that the only way to achieve energy reliability in the current environment is via revolution – because it’s “impossible” to innovate in the current system.

    Basically, yes. Unpalatable and a tragic indictment on Australia but ………..

  35. gabrianga

    “Hint at nuclear”? You ARE joking aren’t you??B

    Both mines would have provided hundreds of jobs, mining royalties to local land owners and the Land Councils providing advice to the Aboriginal Land Owners.local small business and additional health facilities.100’s of millions of dollars just left in the ground because the Left ob both sides of the House were anti nukes.

    Just how far have we moved from the Hawke Government’s “Three Uranium Mine Policy”

    Just how many $billions have been lost because our Governments kow towed to the Green and Left opposition to mining uranium?

    Just how many visited Paris and regional France without a whisper of disapproval at the French use of nuclear power

    “Hint of nuclear” has been and gone for both major parties.

  36. Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible, so nuclear will never happen in this country, at least not in a meaningful life time or three.
    Why would anybody want nuclear in a country so blessed with other energy resources, cheaper ones at that, I’ll never know.
    French electricity was the most expensive in Europe for a long time because of its nuclear origin. The rest of Europe (and the World) has caught up to France because of the renewables canard.
    Stick to coal, brown and black. It’s cheap, it’s widely available and it’s plentiful.

  37. Bruce

    Follow the money!

    How much “spillage” of this particular round of “foreign investment” was trousered by any number of “cut-outs” and “facilitators”?

    Never happen here?

    YEAH! ……..RIIIIIIGHT!

    (As they say in one of the greatest phrases in the English lexicon, (a double positive indicating an extreme negative)

  38. IDefender of the faith

    There might well be dumb taxpayer money paid in subsidy to foreign companies supplying renewable kit. But it would not come near the windfall gifted to foreign companies through the shocking mismanagement of Australian gas. Where global prices have fallen, notably in the US but also in Europe and Asia, Australian domestic producers prices for industry have gone from 2.50 to about 9$ a gigajoule in a very short time. Largely because the Gladstone lng exporters obtained permits to sell gas they did not have and which is now diverted from local supply.

  39. Art Vandelay

    French electricity was the most expensive in Europe for a long time because of its nuclear origin. The rest of Europe (and the World) has caught up to France because of the renewables canard.
    Stick to coal, brown and black. It’s cheap, it’s widely available and it’s plentiful.

    Spot on. Coal is much cheaper than nuclear.

  40. old bloke

    Baa Humbug
    #2494528, posted on September 11, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Stick to coal, brown and black. It’s cheap, it’s widely available and it’s plentiful.

    Yes, this is the most efficient and cost effective method of generating electricity, and we have over a thousand years of supply in the ground. I would also support more hydro electricity on the eastern seaboard, to alleviate flooding and provide more water for irrigation, in addition to generating electricity.

  41. PeteD

    We already mine Uranium at Olympic Dam in the SA Desert.
    This is linked to the Port of Whyalla, which also happens to have the Arrium Smelter.
    If Australian Conservatives, or God forbid, the Liberals, want an issue to run on in the SA election, then approving and encouraging the development of a Nuclear Power Plant in this part of South Australia, to be built following a global tender process (factoring in National Security and Safety Concerns), would have to be a winner.

    And if needed, any Federal legislation to support the development would likely be achievable through a Coalition, NXT and One Nation block in Federal Parliament.

    And SA could rebuild with guaranteed baseload power.

    Win, Win, Win.

  42. gbees

    “Australian taxpayers and consumers have unwittingly subsidised foreign companies large sums to install solar and wind power”

    Not for me. Have been aware of the scam for a very, very long time. Have written to my local member (Liberal), no interest in fixing this. The political class is stuffed. Politicians are morons really. Typical response is “expert’s have told us blah, blah, blah …..”. If one is a senior executive in a company you are expected to be sceptical and to be across the material being presented to you. Making uninformed decisions will cost a company and a director big time. There is no excuse for a politician not be to up on this subject, yet they defer to so-called experts. It’s criminal really.

  43. NuThink

    Is the technology for Lucas Heights from Argentina?

    The Argentine company INVAP was fully responsible through a turnkey contract, signed in June 2000, for the delivery of the reactor, performing the design, construction and commissioning. Local civil construction was performed by INVAP’s partner, John Holland-Evans Deakin Industries.[1]

  44. Dr FredLenin

    Solution ,build some new state of the art coal fired stations , up date Hazelwood and get it back online,even if we have to compulsory purchase from the green rentseekers at AGL pay them what they paid for it . Then stop all subsidies to “Scam Energy” scrub the green communust imposts on coal fired power . Then investigate state of the art nuclear energy , to ensure our grandkids will enjoy the high standard of living Australia deserves . When the renewables fail .as they will with fair competition ,compel the rentseekers to restore sites to pristine condition, and dispose of the ugly things responsibly ,confiscate assets if need be ,including personal ,no one should be allowed to profit from a criminal fraud . The prosecute the career politicians who helped th Scammers leave them broke with no pension pr family assets ,

  45. manalive

    The sort of rhetoric that got us where were are today:

    “… Far from being in front of the world in action to reduce emissions, we start way behind because our per capita emissions are so large, because our sources of energy are so overwhelmingly dependent on burning coal …”.

    (Malcolm Turnbull after crossing the floor to vote with Labor on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bills in 2010).

    Those are Malcolm’s principles, but ’if you don’t like them he has others’.

  46. DM of WA

    DavidH
    #2494223, posted on September 11, 2017 at 8:24 am
    Matter does not convert into energy in a fission reactor.

    The energy we get from nukes is the release of atomic binding energy when the atoms fission. Einstein’s equation comes into play in explaining that the atoms have slightly more mass than the sum of their component sub-atomic particles. That’s the mass represented by “playing E = mc^2 backwards”, that is m = E/c^2. The binding energy is the strong force overcoming the electrostatic repulsion between the protons in the nucleus. Large atoms like uranium can fission because the strong force operates over a range of the order of a nucleus. With random motion of the particles, some parts separate just enough for the repulsive force to dominate; the atom fissions and the fragments fly apart with huge velocity – binding energy has been converted into kinetic energy. But no mass is lost (just dispersed) and certainly no matter disappears.

    That explanation is only partly correct.

    The total mass of the products of a nuclear fission reaction is strictly less than that of the reactants.

    The reduction in total mass and the nuclear binding energy released are related by Einstein’s formula.

    The lost binding energy is converted to kinetic energy of the nuclear fragments as well as electromagnetic radiation (gamma rays).

  47. Nerblnob

    Nucular is filthy expensive. It cannot be built without massive subsidies. See Hinkley C.

    It’s been made that way by crazy over-regulation.

    I don’t claim to be an expert but I was once involved in a project in Caithness proposing drilling holes for safe burial of nuclear waste.

    The actual volume is tiny. Less than what would fill the empty beer barrels in a pub’s back yard on a holiday weekend.

  48. Andrew

    Nucular is filthy expensive. It cannot be built without massive subsidies. See Hinkley C.

    It’s been made that way by crazy over-regulation.

    It’s costing $30bn just to build Hinkley. That’s too much to be viable.

  49. Tel

    Nucular is filthy expensive. It cannot be built without massive subsidies. See Hinkley C.

    That does help explain why electricity is so expensive in France… and also why they export so much of this expensive electricity to other European nations. Those generous French want to subsidize everyone!

    What I can’t understand is which very profitable industry the French government is using as the source of these subsidies… it must be their 4 hour working days and plenty of public holidays that generate so much wealth.

  50. Andrew

    That does help explain why electricity is so expensive in France… and also why they export so much of this expensive electricity to other European nations. Those generous French want to subsidize everyone!

    You know a modern Gen 4 reactor isn’t built like the Chernobyl plant?

    Regardless of design changes, you (like everyone else in the world) have missed the point on what drives electricity pricing.

  51. Andrew

    That explanation is only partly correct.

    The total mass of the products of a nuclear fission reaction is strictly less than that of the reactants.

    I’m happy to accept that mass-energy is the same thing and energy isn’t “created” any more than ice is “destroyed” and water “created” when it comes out of the fridge. But E=mc^2 is a very useful shorthand.

  52. Tel

    https://www.ovoenergy.com/guides/energy-guides/average-electricity-prices-kwh.html

    Hmmm cheapest electricity in the world: India, China, Canada, Russia, USA in that order.

    Good thing none of those are using nuclear. Wouldn’t want it to be subsidized or anything.

  53. Andrew

    Keep posting – you can be wrong some more.

  54. Tel

    https://www.statista.com/statistics/477995/global-prices-of-electricity-by-select-country/

    This one ranks Australia as worst in the world… I think perhaps some of the data on Statistica is a bit rough. However, even with that in account, countries like China and India can come in extremely cheap. Also Thailand somehow comes in cheap while running on imported oil and coal.

    Anyway… point is we could certainly do better.

  55. Combine Dave

    Any screen caps of the required stats, not sure I want to pay to view.

  56. Tel

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_pricing

    Wikipedia could be a last resort, they have a global comparison list but the years are not consistent.

    Most of the big nuclear users are cheaper than Australia : India, Canada, Russia, USA, Ukraine, even Pakistan is better than Australia in electricity. France is only a fraction cheaper, but still cheaper, but France is also a huge exporter.

    If Ukraine is running on subsidies you really have to wonder where those are supposedly coming from… given the state of the rest of their economy.

  57. Combine Dave

    So basically if you want cheap reliable power you need coal?

    If you want cheap reliable green power and there’s no water available for hydro you need nuclear?

  58. JohnA

    Combine Dave #2496369, posted on September 13, 2017, at 11:31 am

    So basically if you want cheap reliable power you need coal?

    If you want cheap reliable green power and there’s no water available for hydro you need nuclear?

    Cheap/Reliable/Green = you may have any two, but you cannot have all three.

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