We need to have another look at nuclear generation in South Australia.
More than 10 per cent of the world’s electricity is produced by nuclear power plants in 31 countries.
The US is the largest producer of nuclear energy, which made up about 19 per cent of the country’s power grid last year. France is the second-biggest producer, with nuclear generation accounting for around three quarters of the country’s electricity.
Yes, it’s controversial and most people don’t like the idea of radioactive materials being used to create power. But I think that attitude is mainly due to a fear of the unknown.
The 2016 Citizens’ Jury showed two-thirds of those involved did not think SA should adopt new policies for nuclear-power generation. The main reason was a “lack of trust”.
And I get it, the unknown can often be scary.
But we need to take fear and negative perceptions out of the debate and stick to the facts to have a rational conversation about nuclear generation.
Nuclear generation is a good base-load power and it is better for the environment than coal and even some forms of renewable energy.
Nuclear power plants don’t produce greenhouse gases and have emissions on par with wind, and less than solar.
Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released a couple of weeks ago showed that nuclear generation played a vital role in limiting global warming to 1.5C.
Of course, we can’t talk about nuclear energy without considering the environmental factors.
The waste from a nuclear power plant can remain radioactive for thousands of years so it would need proper planning and regulation to ensure safe storage and disposal.
But this is proven by the large nuclear industry in the US, which is highly regulated and has considerable safety systems and barriers in place.
At the moment, though, even if SA was to consider a nuclear power plant it could not be implemented because of federal legislation, passed 18 years ago, that prohibits it.
Australia is the only G20 country with a ban on nuclear energy and it must be repealed. The royal commission into SA’s future role in the nuclear-fuel cycle recommended the prohibitions be lifted and Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will consider removing the ban if research proves it can be done on a commercial basis and bring power prices down.
Well, he may now have that research. Nuclear scientists, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have prepared a white paper for Australian Conservatives Senator Cory Bernardi on possible SA involvement with the nuclear fuel cycle.
Senator Bernardi says nuclear energy could be a game-changer for our state.
He estimates a nuclear power plant would have a hefty price tag of $4 billion, but they are cheaper to run than coal and gas-fired plants and have a fairly long shelf life... 20-40 years.
Plus, our country is uranium-rich. Australia has one of the largest uranium reserves in the world and the biggest deposit is in SA at Olympic Dam.
The Marshall Government remains open to the idea.
The nuclear debate is one that’s been going on for years and, it seems, so have our country’s energy problems. It’s time to revisit this option.
To read Stacey Lee's full article, click here.
To download the white paper, click here.
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