• John McDonnell

Nuclear energy is more sustainable than renewables

Keeping the lights on in Melbourne and nationwide - what's the best way?

There have been constant claims by the media and climate activists that renewables are the cheapest and best form of power generation. Practical experience indicates that this may not be the case.

Britain has been forced to resort to coal-fired power to meet the demand for electricity when renewables have failed.

California, which is the climate star among American jurisdictions, has been obliged to commission four gas-fired peaking plants to meet shortfalls from renewables.

Now, a report has been released that shows that nuclear energy is more sustainable than renewables.

SMR Technologies is a company with expertise in small modular reactors. It has been exploring the case for nuclear energy as part of climate change mitigation strategy for the last decade.

SMR Technologies has prepared a useful comparison of the sustainability of SMR’s, large scale solar and wind.

In a nutshell, the comparison shows the following:

  • A small modular reactor has a life of more than sixty years compared with less than 25 years for large-scale solar and wind;

  • The land use requirement is low compared with high and very high for solar and wind;

  • The life cycle CO2 emissions for nuclear power are as low as for wind power and much lower than solar;

  • The energy intensity for a small modular reactor is very high compared with low for renewables. This is important for industrial processes.

  • When it comes to critical materials an SMR uses half of those required for solar and a fifth of those materials required for wind.

In addition to these advantages, nuclear power is a direct replacement for coal, it provides much greater stability for the grid than renewables, is not weather dependent and has lower systems costs.

Given these advantages, it is likely that most of the countries in the Asia Pacific region will move to nuclear power when they cease to use fossil fuels.

This means that the green energy pipe dreams promoted by people like NSW energy minister Matt Kean are likely to turn to dust. Australia will not be a leading exporter of renewable technology or green energy produced by renewables.

Super funds and other investors who have taken a punt on the green economy are likely to be left with a lot of stranded assets.

On the other hand, if Australian governments insist on maintaining the moratorium on nuclear energy, then it is likely that Australia will find itself at a severe competitive disadvantage when it comes to energy-intensive exports like aluminium, steel and cement.

It is ridiculous that Australia is one of the biggest uranium producers in the world but we don’t have any commercial nuclear power plants.

Barnaby Joyce and Keith Pitt are demanding that Scott Morrison outline an alternative industrial plan for the future development of Australia. They do not see a long term future for gas as a mainstream source of energy and are pressing for recognition of uranium as the replacement for coal in the long term. In this case, the Nationals are right.