Nuclear Power in Australia - dead, but not quite buried

It’s time to forget nuclear power. After a half-century of development nuclear energy has failed to survive without heavy subsidy and insurance from central governments.

Free markets have not and never will back nuclear power.

Gas turbines, wind farms, co-generation, and end-use efficiency are all substantially cheaper sources of energy than nuclear power, to name just a few. Furthermore, nuclear power is not the carbon free panacea that its proponents claim. Per dollar spent it displaces far less carbon emissions than almost all alternatives (such as those mentioned above).

Finally, nuclear power plants take many years to construct and are operationally unreliable once commissioned. Did I mention the risks of mining and refining nuclear fuel, and the disposal of nuclear waste? Forget nuclear power.

American physicist Amory Lovins has been saying this for over 30 years. And now his predictions of a 'soft energy path' are being proven correct.

 

 

Aerial view of the 1800MW Koeberg Nuclear Power Station - Cape Town, South Africa

 Aerial view of the 1800MW Koeberg Nuclear Power Station in Cape Town, South Africa

Nuclear power generation continues its decline in 2011

Nuclear’s share of global energy usage fell to around 5 percent in 2010 (source). This is after having peaked at 6 percent back in 2001 and 2002. Given ever rising global energy demand, this percentage can in fact fall while capacity continues to rise (at a slow rate).

However, even installed capacity is now in decline. Global installed nuclear capacity - the potential power generation from all existing plants - declined to 367 gigawatts (GW) in 2011, from 376 GW at the end of 2010.

All this, and our politicians still love Nuclear Power

Despite the writing being on the wall for nuclear, it seems our politicians are just discovering it.

The Labor Party in Australia recently voted to overturn its long-standing ban on uranium sales to India. This is despite India not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and defence Minister Stephen Smith have been scrambling to defend the decision. Today, ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has waded into the debate saying that the decision is simply "dead wrong."

Not wanting to miss out on the action, the Premier of New South Wales Barry O'Farrell recently reopened the door to uranium exploration. There has been a ban on uranium exploration in New South Wales since the 1970s.

For a far more in-depth anaylis on Nuclear Power, see “Forget Nuclear” by Amory B. Lovins, Imran Sheikh, and Alex Markevich: www.rmi.org

- Ryan McCarthy

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