Aussie PM Willing to Consider Nuclear, to Reduce Australia’s Green Electricity Prices

Susquehanna steam electric nuclear power station

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Australian PM Scott Morrison has suggested he would allow nuclear reactors to be constructed, to curb Australia’s soaring electricity prices – but he doesn’t think the economics adds up.

Whatever it takes: ScoMo prepared to go nuclear if it cuts power prices

GREG BROWN
OCTOBER 8, 2018

The Prime Minister said he would do “whatever it takes” to make electricity cheaper, and he would have no issues allowing nuclear reactors to be built if it would make lower household bills.

But warned the investment case to build a nuclear reactor did not “stack up”.

“You’ve got to make the investment stack up,” Mr Morrison told 2GB radio.

[Opposition leader] Bill Shorten has slammed Scott Morrison saying he would overturn a ban on building nuclear power plants if there was proof it would reduce power prices.

“At the same time as the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster transforms into a massive solar farm, Morrison thinks it’s time to take Australia nuclear,” the Opposition Leader tweeted.

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

Read more (paywalled): https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/climate/whatever-it-takes-scomo-prepared-to-go-nuclear-if-it-cuts-power-prices/news-story/1193fd298fb3ff1d57b4e48accea3ee1

Electricity prices are heating up as a political issue. The Australian Labor Party, like the US Democrats except deeper green and more left wing, have a significant chance of winning the next Federal Election. Their position, supported by Australia’s mainstream media, appears to be that greater government investment in renewables will lead to lower electricity prices.

Instead of challenging this dubious narrative head on, Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears to be attempting to find a political middle ground, by offering a watered down version of the extreme green policies which got Australia into its current mess.

I doubt this tentative shift in nuclear policy intentions will actually lead to the construction of an atomic power plant; even Australian coal plants are struggling to stay open, thanks to Australia’s hostile domestic politics.

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66 thoughts on “Aussie PM Willing to Consider Nuclear, to Reduce Australia’s Green Electricity Prices

  1. The political-economic environment in the west is simply hostile to energy production. Similarly the reduction and elimination of “sustainable” energy incentives leave long term investors with only short term empty promises.
    Consequently all form of energy production investments are increasingly regarded as “toxic” !
    Investment in almost all form of energy production in the west is as a consequence stagnant.
    (Invest in something else / anything else.)
    Only when we are all sitting in the dark – “cold, hungry and shivering” might we wake up to the monstrous con-job that has been perpetrated against mankind.
    I despair.

    • You are correct Ken Irwin. The lunatics are running the energy asylum.

      “Australian PM Scott Morrison has suggested he would allow nuclear reactors to be constructed, to curb Australia’s soaring electricity prices – but he doesn’t think the economics adds up.”

      PM Scott Morrison – the solution for Australia’s electrical energy is as follows.

      Situation Analysis:
      1. CO2 is NOT a pollutant. If you believe that, and that is your planning basis, then you are wrong.
      2. Australia has abundant reserves of cheap coal and natural gas.
      3. Green energy schemes are typically too intermittent and expensive to be practical for grid applications.

      Australia’s Energy Policy should be:
      A. Use coal and natural gas (and hydro where available) to supply grid electricity, depending largely on transportation and distribution infrastructure.
      B. Get rid of ALL subsidies and use mandates for grid-connected green energy, and set aside funds for reclamation and abandonment as they go out-of-business.
      C. Use wind and solar energy for off-grid applications, where economically competitive.
      D. Build nuclear plants when they become competitive with coal and natural gas. This may take a while.

      Below is an earlier post on this subject.

      https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/09/08/an-open-letter-to-nuclear-for-climate/#comment-2452126

      TO ALL AUSTRALIANS, FROM AN ENERGY EXPERT:

      Why go nuclear when your magnificent country has huge quantities of coal?

      Coal-fired power is cheap and clean – contrary opinions are held by certified imbeciles, who worry about CO2 emissions, the basis of all life on this beautiful blue-water planet.

      • “Why go nuclear when your magnificent country has huge quantities of coal?”

        Exactly what I was trying to work out. Instead of selling it all to China, try burning some at home.

        Time to call time on the insane war on coal, before the ecologists ruin our planet.

        • The problem is no company will build one because they end up being vilified by the leftist media and labour if it got into power would immediately overturn any contract. The same thing is going to happen in a close election even if labour gets in, no company will build expanded renewable capacity because if the Libs get back in they will tear up whatever agreements are made.

          Nothing will change in the Australian landscape until there is an absolute landslide that would take the other side 2 elections to recover or the two main parties agree on something.

          • LdB wrote:
            “The problem is no company will build one because they end up being vilified by the leftist media and labour if it got into power would immediately overturn any contract.”

            Governments, opposition parties and industry has utterly failed to defend the interests of stakeholders, especially the public and shareholders.

            In Canada, the anti-pipeline thugs have cost our country $120 billion in lost revenues. Canada has also spent many billions more on green energy frauds.

            The analysis of pipelines vs oil transportation alternatives like rail can be done on a Post-It Note – pipelines are cheaper and safer for humanity and the environment.

            Globally, green energy fraud has cost society many trillions of dollars. We should sue these green fraudsters into the ground, individually and collectively.

            http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/06/24/uk-met-fastest-decline-solar-activity-last-ice-age/#comment-1972538

            PROPOSAL – SUE THE WARMISTS IN THE USA UNDER CIVIL RICO

            I have been considering this approach for several years and I think it is now time to proceed..

            Civil RICO provides for TRIPLE DAMAGES. Global losses from the global warming scam are in the trillions, including hundreds of billions on the USA.

            We would sue the sources of warmist funding and those who have significantly profited from the global warming scam..

            The key to starting a civil RICO action is to raise several million dollars to fund the lawsuit, which will be protracted and expensive.

            If serious funders are interested, please contact me through
            https://energy-experts-international.com/

            Regards, Allan MacRae
            Calgary

          • No such laws In Australia, our law works in reverse to USA and I assume Canada in that we have no rights it just says what you can’t do. So no it won’t fly under Australian law.

    • Agreed. In UK greens threaten to blockade the movement of mud from building site Hinkley to the South Wales Coast, claiming the mud might have plutonium in it. Which is actually impossible. Still greens threaten, egged on by many people, in positions of influence, who should know better. The same people who say they care about climate change. Same people who say they support the latest IPCC report. The same report which says all-of-the-above (renewables plus nuclear power) is the only energy policy.

      They are sociopaths.

  2. Love the way they like to bring up the spectre of Chernobyl as if there has been no progress in technology and processes since then. They never say gee look at nuclear powered France , generating affordable and stable power while propping up surrounding countries.

    • The problem is that French reactors were built when we had a sane approach to nuclear safety before the insane culture of blame and litigation and COULD BE took over. Nukes could be thrown together at 1/4 the price IF we weren’t so pissy about regulatory trivia.

      All these redundant safety circuits to prevent a core meltdowm? Let it melt down. Its no big deal if the secondary containment is there.

      3MI ?

      Three Mile Island Unit 2 was too badly damaged and contaminated to resume operations; the reactor was gradually deactivated and permanently closed. TMI-2 had been online only 13 months but now had a ruined reactor vessel and a containment building that was unsafe to walk in. Cleanup started in August 1979 and officially ended in December 1993, with a total cleanup cost of about $1 billion.[14] Benjamin K. Sovacool, in his 2007 preliminary assessment of major energy accidents, estimated that the TMI accident caused a total of $2.4 billion in property damages.

      $2.4 billion is about the cost of ONE small cheap reactor. Stripped of redundant safety circuits. If every other reactor meted down and cost that, its still only £4.8 billion total cost per reactor, but new nuclear with the safety is coming in at $20-$40bn.

      In short the cost of the safety is exceeding the cost of potential accidents by a factor of 3-5:1.

      What about human lives? Well no one has died from radiation from a nuclear power plant accident except at Chernobyl.

      Which had no secondary containment.

      • Leo,
        That looks like a classic case of the “precautionary principle” trumping economic sanity – and we can all think of another on a global scale!
        I had this debate with a green (albeit a bit soft in shade) who has just retired from, of all things, the insurance industry. His idea was that we could simply NOT afford to ignore AGW at ANY COST. I pointed out that if one of his former corporate clients had a £1bn maximum liability, it absolutely wouldn’t spend £2bn insuring it. That made him think but he isn’t won over yet.

        • Ian –

          Ask him why are insurance companies not charging astronomical premiums for insuring beach front….surely climate change will cause the sea to rise 🙂

          Also, ask him why beach front is still expensive when it surely will be under water 😉

      • Leo Smith

        About 33,000 excess deaths occur in the UK each year caused by chronic cold. A significant, possibly major fraction (I am being very cautious about the number) were directly caused by expensive electricity.

        Discussion about nuclear power has to move beyond the pressurised light water reactors built by France and the US. Ontario uses CANDU reactors, and so does China now. Gen 2 is now being rolled out. It can accept high level waste from light water reactors as fuel, if they pay us enough to take it off their hands. 🙂

        Nuclear technology is not limited to breeders or fusion.

  3. In 2025 SMR Designer Seaborg.co will release IAEA blueprints for 250 MW Therma Molten Salt Reactor 30-ton 20-foot shipping container good for a city of 200,000.

    • This sounds just the thing we SHOULD be after.

      PS: Seem to spending most of my time plonking in my email address if I want to do anything on line. Any way of setting up an auto key?

  4. Jeff Kennett was the conservative/liberal premier who sold Victoria’s public utilities to capitalist predators under pressure from the IPA.

    I saw Kennett buying booze last week in my suburb, so I launched a torrent of abuse at him for his treasonous and very expensive legacy. I felt much better for it too.

    Australia is awash in cheap hydrocarbons and has no need for nuclear reactors.
    Australia has no need for corporate power companies, given that the public “socialist” system worked perfectly well. I’m old enough to remember that.
    Americans will despise me for pointing out that fact. but I simply don’t care.

    If socialism was so bad, the US of A wouldn’t impose sanctions and/or military violence on nations having the audacity to try it.
    e.g.:
    https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/venezuela.aspx
    e.g.:
    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=confessions+of+an+economic+hitman

    • ditto and we should be taking it all BACK under govt not bloody OS cos who screw us over!
      we built a new reactor for med supplies at Luca heights
      paid megabucks and the damned thing cant even supply our own needs for med rad?
      and we got someone like venezueal?? some sth am place to build it
      we have enough coal and the land to build spiffy new emissions controls on em
      scomos just signed his pass out of office!
      meanwhile the scummy NBN being rolled out here has subbies working 7days a week(lotsa motza) driving us nuts with machinery and over 90% of the town doesnt want it!
      2 people have died in aus because of simple landlines going down, no power no phone unlike before -thanks to NBN setup, so their emergency alert systems cant contact help.

    • Well done Khwarizmi.
      I’ve vowed to do the same if I ever see him!
      I’m a true-blue (AU) conservative but Jeff is just another sucker politician with no practical skills.
      All bluster and bravado . . . now we’re paying for his ego.
      We need to have ‘hunt-down an egomaniac politician day’ in Australia.

  5. Australia should stick with the green plan ( No nuclear, no coal, no oil ) & stop whingeing about cost, we need someone to show us the way into the brave new world…. so Aussies will have to sacrifice for the good of the political elite.

    Aus could be a poster child for Gaia, the world will see how good it is to have very little, very expensive energy & follow your example…….or not !!!

    • “Aus could be a poster child for Gaia” Please don’t ruin Australia before I get a chance to visit. Hey, let’s see if Canada is up to the task. I hear Trudeau is easy to sway.

      • I think Australia could be a very entertaining place to visit once all the cities are swept away and it goes back to nothing but dingoes, roos, and abo’s. Maybe they could make the whole thing a giant Mad Max theme park.

      • Another Paul

        Trudeau, like all before him going back to Big Potato, relish in the constancy of Big Nuclear and Big Hydro.

        Québec has masses of hydro power to sell and lots more where that came from. I heard they sell it to NY for one cent per kWh. I pay more than ten times that in peak hrs. It is in part because of that difference that Little Potato can afford to be Green with other people’s green.

      • “Another Paul October 8, 2018 at 4:26 am

        Please don’t ruin Australia before I get a chance to visit.”

        Too late!

  6. The PM is on very safe ground here. There have been numerous investigations into nuclear power for Oz, starting in the 1960’s, and all have arrived at the same conclusion- It is prohibitively expensive, and unlike other forms of power, getting more so by the year as new safety and redundancy requirements are added.

    With new wind coming in at about 8c per kwh and a contract signed for for solar plus (molten salt) storage over 10 years for 8c kwh (all without subsidy), neither new coal (HELE), nor nuclear is remotely competitive. Why on earth would you choose nuclear, as only gas is more expensive, and it is extremely unpopular? I know nuclear is a favorite of WUWT readers, but the economics do not add up.

  7. Wait, you mean to tell me that there’s already a large-scale, economical, low-carbon/carbon free energy with a small footprint that can provide reliable power, and with which we have half a century of experience?

    • Stop that common- sense nonsense and put on your thermals. Do you think they will end the most successful brainwashing campaign in the history of humanity for one nation state?

  8. re: “government investment”.
    In other words, hiding the true costs by spreading it around in the form of unrelated taxes and fees. “Look, though your taxes went up, your utility bill didn’t increase as much as we originally estimated!”

    Then on the other side of the ledger, as others up-thread have observed, government has deliberately hobbled the nuclear industry by regulation and multiple layers of redundancy. Yes, nuclear technology becomes real expensive when 4/5ths of the costs are keeping the regulators feeling empowered.

    Then yet one more attack on the industry: Creating an uncertain market since the government keeps interfering in the energy business by threatening taxes, new regulations, permit denials, retroactive design changes (after permits have been secured), wrecking the money supply by endlessly jacking with interest rates – pretty much polticizing every single aspect of long-term investments forcing investment houses to take the “safer” and far more short-term positions.

  9. Look I know the predilections of this list (right wing, pro fossil fuel/nuclear power) , so I don’t want to be too contrary. But neither the large power companies in Oz, nor the big power users (think smelters, mining ops, governments) are interested in anything other than solar/wind, for the simple reason it is cheaper. There are many GW of projects underway, and despite the best efforts of the Oz govt to encourage a privately funded coal plant, no takers. So, are you suggesting we spend billions of dollars on things (HELE coal, Nuclear power) that Australians don’t want. If so, why?

    • No, I don’t think they censor someone with a different opinion. You’ll simply be ridiculed like most green zealots, and have the real facts pointed out to you.

      The interest in solar and wind is simply because of subsidies and other preferential treatment of renewables, and the media’s witch hunt of fossil and nuclear power. In a level playing field, none of that “green” stuff would be built.

    • Better still do it 50 years ago, i.e. build exact copies of the reactors that flourished after WW2, and that worked fine for 50 years.

  10. Their position, supported by Australia’s mainstream media, appears to be that greater government investment in renewables will lead to lower electricity prices.

    Say What!

    We have sufficient experience with renewable energy over the last few decades and all over the world. We know that renewable energy invariably raises prices, no matter what the government does.

    The required technological breakthroughs in storage haven’t happened and can’t be expected. We need politicians who are well briefed and who have sufficient guts to call out the renewable bull crap.

  11. The major (traditional, light water) nuclear builders nowadays are the Chinese, Korean and Russian. Russia is particularly oriented towards building in foreign countries and often finances the nuclear plant themselves.
    Pay no attention to the ridiculous costs of Westinghouse in this country. The Chinese and Russians typically build a gigawatt+ reactor for around $4 ro $5 billion, or rouhly $4 – $5 million per MW
    or $4 ro $5 thousand per KW.
    But one can also wait for the molten salt SMR reactors to show up – my favorite and one which cleverly uses existing proven components is Moltex Energy, an English company. A very smart design that beats them all for low cost and can be prototyped and in production before the others.
    Cost estimates for levelized energy production costs are less than 4 cents per KWhr. They will be built in factories, require no cooling bodies of water, can load follow (eliminating most needs for peak level generators), are inherently,walk away safe – cannot physically experience a meltdown, reactors are not under any significant pressures, a leak from the reactor means nothing, require minimal site preparation, sre extremely proliferation resistant (uranium is dissolved in molten salt) can be located ANYWERE – in cities, towns, etc. A very small environmental footprint. There is nothing about these reactors that any sane person can object to.

    • From the manager of the first naval reactor:

      http://ecolo.org/documents/documents_in_english/Rickover.pdf
      1953

      An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following
      basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is
      cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is
      very flexible in purpose (“omnibus reactor”). (7) Very little develop-
      ment is required. It will use mostly “off-the-shelf” components.
      (8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now.

      I would have thought almost 70 years of over promising might have made WUWT readers a tad skeptical.

    • Kent,

      You wrote…

      ” There is nothing about these reactors that any sane person can object to.”

      Which means the greens will be screaming against them !

  12. Australia, the home of the biggest incompetent, corrupt energy policy idiots.

    They allowed the gas cartel to build three huge export terminals in Queensland when there was not enough gas for local east coast consumption. Now the gas cartel want to build import terminals which will lead to the gas round trip ticket clipping as described by Houses and Holes of Macrobusiness;

    “LNG imports will set the new marginal cost of gas on the east coast which will be the Asian price for the gas plus the cost of the import plant and a margin. Today that will deliver a spot gas price of…wait for it…$18.60Gj. The spot gas price today under the ADGSM domestic reservation policy is $9-10Gj so we are talking doubling the price which will also cause, of course, a massive surge in electricity prices because gas generation sets the marginal cost of power. Obviously to make this staggering gouge viable, the ADGSM will have to be destroyed.
    But that’s only where the fun starts. It will be both unnecessarily costly and bothersome for the import/export cartel to actually bring in foreign gas. It will make much more sense to import Australian gas.
    Victoria especially will then enjoy its own gas after it has done a rather amusing round trip. It will be extracted from Bass Strait, piped north to QLD export terminals, frozen for transport, sailed out to the reef for a bit, then motor south to the Victorian LNG import terminal. There it will be unfrozen and distributed into the same pipeline network that carried it north and sold to Victorians. Along the way it will have added costs of:

    massive overcharging for the original gas via the BHP/Exxon Gippsland cartel;
    $2Gj to pipe it north;
    $2Gj to freeze it and ship it south;
    $3Gj to unfreeze it and release into the “market”.

    That’ll give you your $18Gj gas which came out of Bass Straight down the road at $1Gj or similar. At this point the molecule of gas might be used to make, cook or heat something. Or, it might be bought again by the gas cartel and make the same round trip a second time for some more ticket clipping.

    Exactly why this amusing form of national suicide is “inevitable” is not obvious to me”.

    • I am sorry it is not the companies fault for the Australian situation, the various State government own all the oil, coal and gas in their state and set the rules. Western Australia made all contracts have to allocate a percentage to the domestic market bit other States argued they didn’t need to make such provisions.

      The State has sole control of this so take it up with your local State political morons and stop blaming innocent parties.

  13. What a shabby coward.

    reinventing / install nuclear projects 40 years.

    Reboot coal just needs some five years.

    He does not mean that seriously.

  14. When the great Australian people find their guts and mojo and think about who and why they are voting for a bunch of weak kneed socialists, they will get some politicians who understand facts and put their Country first.

  15. More election cycle BS. This govt didn’t even have the spine to buy nuclear subs, but we’re to believe they’ll build reactors for the power bills?

    Not a chance!

    They’re chumming and baiting, as usual.

  16. Come on. Let’s have some real good news stories.

    The pressure water reactor companies are going bankrupt so the entire nuclear industry is breaking up and reforming around the no brainer conservative best ‘alternative’ reactor design.

    This is the most important energy breakthrough in the last 100 years.

    10 times cheaper to construct

    10 times cheaper to fuel

    Rediscovered by NASA engineer in the 2000s

    Fundamental elimination (these problems do not exist for the ‘new’ reactor design) of china syndrome, gas cloud release, reactor cracking, and so on primary safety risks behind the fears of pressurized water reactors and all of the past problems.

    Unbelievably superior in terms of costs, safety, flexibility than pressure water cooled, solid fuel type reactors.
    It is unbelievable how much better the ‘new’ reactor design is. This is an interesting stupid, stupid, swamp story, as much as it about nuclear engineering.

    No kidding.

    Reactor is ten times lighter and five times smaller so it can be mass produced in a factory and shipped to site.

    Why did we wait 60 years to re-discovery this breakthrough? First liquid salt reactor designed and tested in the 1960s.

    Can easily turn a reactor on and off for large scale load control. Pressure water reactors cannot be turned off as they produce Xeon gas which damages the fuel tubes. In a liquid salt cooled reactor, the reactants are carried in suspension in the salt. Xeon gas that is produced in the reactor floats on top of the liquid salt and is removed.

    Primary liquid salt coolant is not explosive, freezes if released.

    The liquid salt reactor can and is absolutely competitive with coal including operating, construction, and waste handling, and decommissioning costs.

    Terrestrial Energy May be the First Commercial Mass Produced, Low Cost, Fourth Generation Reactor

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/609194/advanced-nuclear-finds-a-more-welcome-home-in-canada/

    Terrestrial Energy unveils SMR licensing plans

    Terrestrial included the status of the design, analyses, testing, licensing, and project planning for its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), which is a liquid-fuelled, high-temperature, 400 MWt advanced reactor power plant design.

    Meanwhile, fourth-generation-reactor companies such as London-based Moltex Energy and Advanced Reactor Concepts of Delaware have also opted to pursue early regulatory approval in Canada.

    There are certainly efforts under way in the United States to pursue molten salt and other advanced nuclear technologies, including projects at the MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory and the university’s spinout Transatomic (see “Nuclear Energy Startup Transatomic Backtracks on Key Promises”). But so far, no known molten-salt projects have submitted a design certification application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (although NuScale is pursuing approval for a small modular reactor).

    Terrestrial is examining four sites for its first commercial plant, which include the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and additional sites east of the Mississippi River.

    Last year, New York-headquartered Terrestrial Energy USA’s parent, Canada’s Terrestrial Energy Inc, announced its plans to engage with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in a pre-licensing design review, a first step towards an eventual licence application.

    https://www.zmescience.com/ecology/what-is-molten-salt-reactor-424343/

    Since former NASA engineer Kirk Sorensen revived forgotten molten salt reactor (MSR) technology in the 2000s, interest in MSR technology has been growing quickly. Since 2011, four separate companies in North America have announced plans for MSRs: Flibe Energy (started by Sorenson himself), Transatomic Power (started by two recent MIT graduates), Terrestrial Energy (based in Canada, which recently partnered with Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory), and Martingale, Inc., which recently made public its design for its ThorCon MSR.

    Why this sudden interest in a nuclear technology that dates back to the 1950s? The answer lies in both the phenomenal safety of MSRs and their potential to help solve so many of today’s energy related problems, from climate change to energy poverty to the intermittency of wind and solar power. In fact, MSRs can operate so safely, they may alleviate public fears about nuclear energy. Before looking at the potential of MSRs, though, it is useful to first take a high-level look at what they are and how they work.

  17. Scott Morrison is smarter than Mal Turnbull and significantly more cunning.
    Electricity prices will continue to rise under his Machiavellian regime.
    The green industry indirectly ‘owns’ Morrison & Co; this we know!

    • Not sure about that Warren, if he wants to win the election then Morrison must take the Coalition to the right and that means new coal fired power stations.

      He may surprise us.

  18. Nuclear has always been the only availablev technology capable of replacing fossil fuels for electricity generation. The only reason it has not been adopted is because of unreasonable fear created by the green lobby. A recent study found that if Germany had spent the same amount of money on nuclear power instead of renewables, it would now have 100% of its electricity from nuclear with actually more capacity than they currently have. As it is, they still get 36% from coal, 13% from gas, and 1% from oil.

  19. It’s quite something to watch Aussie pollies run around like a chook without a head (And probably could do a better job) trying to resolve what is now a political election issue; Energy costs.

    They created the problem and now all they are doing, in the 8 months or so away from a federal election, are hand waving.

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