Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen has rubbished opposition calls for Australia to embrace nuclear power in the form of small modular reactors.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton has injected his idea of a nuclear renaissance into the energy debate, suggesting he might change the Coalition’s official opposition to nuclear power, saying Labor was putting ‘party interests ahead of the national interest’.
According to the former head of the Australian Nuclear Scientific and Technology Organisation Dr Ziggy Switkowski who chaired a federal review of nuclear power that ‘on paper, they (SMRs) look terrific’, but that we won’t know their costs ‘until the SMRs are deployed in quantity’.
Bowen told a Canberra press conference: “Since the last election, the party which spent ten years telling us we didn’t need to worry about climate change says they’ve found a solution for climate change and it’s nuclear.
“They didn’t bother for their ten years in office to promote a nuclear agenda, but as they desperately search around for an alibi for their hatred of renewable energy, they settled on this since the last election.”
Dutton made a nuclear plan the centrepiece of his Budget reply, but Bowen said there was actually no policy and nothing costed.
“Peter Dutton said at a speech earlier this year that it’s easy, you just plug and play nuclear in to replace coal. Well if it’s so easy, Mr Dutton, where is your plan?”
Bowen released cost estimates of $387 billion to replace Australia’s 21.3 gigawatts of coal-fired power with nuclear.
This would involve the construction of 71 nuclear reactors spread across Australia.
Given the public pushback on even low level waste disposal sites, any plan to build 71 nuclear power plants would likely be political suicide for any government.
”Now, if Mr Dutton and Mr O’Brien (Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Ted O’Brien) say they have a different set of numbers or a different plan, they should front up to the Australian people and come clean.
“They say they want a conversation, that conversation has so far not included any detail, any costings, any locations.
“…Mr Dutton spent a lot of time talking about nuclear in his Budget reply, but he hasn’t revealed the costs, so we’ve revealed the costs for them.”
Bowen said the Liberals were saying that government was too focused on renewables
“They say they would have a slower and less forward-leaning renewables plan, they say their answer is nuclear.
“They think the answer is to put the most expensive form of power available into our grid when we have no nuclear industry, we have no regulations in place, it would cost even more than replacing other countries and around the world where it’s facing cost blowouts and time blowouts.”
Manufacturing – the Nuclear Option
Picture: Chris Bowen