Issues for Australia
Australia should look squarely at Nuclear Power. Right now we have no Nuclear Power generation facilities at all. There are genuine risks involved in ignoring Nuclear Power.
Our electricity consumption is forecast to rise by 50% over the next 15 years. Meeting this demand will, on average, require bringing 1 GW of generating capacity online every year until 2020. If we do not build this capacity and our demand grows as it has historically we will be faced with blackouts. Meeting this demand with only renewable resources will be very expensive and because of the diffuse distribution of solar and wind energy, will require large amounts of land.
Meeting this demand through Fossil Fuel production will increase our Greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the World community is focused on reducing these. We already produce more Greenhouse Gas per Capita than every other OECD country
. Long term CO2 sequestration will increase the cost of Fossil Fuel based power and appears significantly more difficult than geologic disposal of Nuclear Waste. We have traditionally used our low-cost electricity as a competitive advantage for our nation. We may lose this in the future.
If the next generation of nuclear power plants live up to the promises of the Industry, Nuclear Power will be the cheapest form of new electricity production. These will be even cheaper than our current non-sequestered, Coal-Fired base-load generators.
However, if we decide to employ Nuclear Power, we must do it right.
There have been many mistakes in the development of nuclear power. These include: unsafe reactor designs
, lackadaisical safety awareness
, unthoughtful operator training
, over-selling of benefits, poor cost control through unstandardised designs
, changing regulatory frameworks
, poor environmental procedures
and ignoring community concerns
. Yet where these mistakes have not been made or where they've been corrected, Nuclear Power has provided environmentally clean
and cheap electricity
. Nuclear Power works if World Best practices are followed.
If Australia pursues Nuclear Power we recommend that:
- We should take advantage of economies of scale and deploy a significant number of reactors (more than say, six 1 GW reactors) so that the costs of waste disposal and fuel enrichment can be shared.
- An Australian Nuclear Industry must be pro-active in engaging with the World Community and employ World Best Practice levels of Safety and operations.
- We would need an independent and pro-active regulatory framework to oversee the operations of a Nuclear Industry.
- The activities of the Regulators and the Industry must be open to the public and all decisions should be fully transparent.
- We must invest in research to find and build a suitable site for geologic disposal of waste.
- We must decide on appropriate means of transporting the waste to the site.
In short, going the Nuclear route would require a significant consensus
that this is the best way forward on the part of Australian Society.