House Of Reps Report Supports Nuclear – But Only If Everyone Is Into It

Sizewell A and B nuclear power stations

It’s not about safety – it’s about cost. Nuclear power is just too damn expensive for Australia.

Last Friday the House Of Representatives released a report on nuclear energy in Australia.  They said it’s a good idea — provided everyone is cool with it.

The report is called:

“Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology in Australia”

It gives the country three recommendations :

  1. Consider using nuclear power.
  2. Gather information to support the future use of nuclear power.
  3. End or partially lift the moratorium that prohibits building nuclear reactors.

While nuclear is a low-emissions source of energy, I don’t agree with these recommendations because:

  1. There is no point considering nuclear power here until one of the countries that have been using it for decades gets it right and starts building reactors that supply energy at a lower cost than renewables.
  2. There is no point paying people to study nuclear energy until other countries with existing nuclear industries show it can make economic sense.  If it never manages to pay for itself, the research will be a waste.   If it does pay for itself then the cost effective reactors may be very different from existing ones and the effort will, again, have been wasted.
  3. We live in a country where the government is always going to require you to get permission before you can build a nuclear reactor, so saying the magic words, “The moratorium is lifted!” makes no practical difference.  But I figure we may as well say the magic words just to make it clear the reason we don’t have nuclear power isn’t because they haven’t been uttered.

The problem with this report is not that the House of Representatives committee and I have a difference of opinion.  The problem is, only someone who has been whacked on the head with a graphite rod could look at the problems new nuclear power is experiencing around the world today and recommend Australia go ahead with it.

The problems have nothing to do with safety, nuclear waste, or security.  These issues are irrelevant because nuclear power can not pay for itself.  If it can’t do that, there is no point in worrying about the other issues and it is painfully clear new nuclear power makes no economic sense when renewables are now cheaper than coal power and continuing to fall in cost.

In the United Kingdom — the nuclear power possessing nation that is, embarrassingly, most similar to our own — they will pay 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for electrical energy from the under-construction Hinkley C reactors.  That’s three times its average cost in the Australian National Electricity Market this year and fives times its average price in 2015.

While Australia’s wholesale electricity prices are unusually high at the moment, they are not going to get three miles high on this island.  Thanks to the decreasing cost of renewable energy they are expected to trend downwards from their current high of one-third the cost of new nuclear energy in the UK.

Britain’s not the only place where new nuclear power is extremely expensive.  A similar price is required for it to be constructed in the US.  There have also been huge cost overruns building reactors in other countries, which include France and Finn’s land.  Because Australia doesn’t have an existing nuclear power industry it could be even more expensive here and, last time I checked, we didn’t have any magic pixie dust we could sprinkle on nuclear energy projects to make them cheaper or on our politicians to make them smarter.

To me, it seems this report is an expensive face-saving measure by Parliamentary supporters of nuclear power.  It makes no sense for this country given the current and decreasing cost of renewable energy, but they’re not willing to admit that.  They instead want to pretend nuclear power is a great idea for us but the reason it’s not going ahead is because it’s unpopular.  Hence the title, “Not without your approval”.  In other words, they are saying the Australian people aren’t smart enough to know a good thing when they see it and that’s the only reason why we’re not building nuclear reactors.

Well, I say screw you House of Representatives Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment and the plutonium powered pony you rode in on.  I felt that looking into nuclear power once again was a waste of time, but if you had investigated it and said:

“Nuclear power is far too expensive to make sense for Australia.  If this changes and new reactors overseas produce electricity at a lower cost than renewables we can look into it again, but until that happens, forget about it.”

Then at least we’d know the system works.  We would be able to see that Parliamentary committees are able to look at the bleeding obvious and interpret it correctly.  But instead, they only looked at information they liked while avoiding asking the obvious question of — are modern reactors making enough money to cover the cost of their construction and operation?  Rather than do this, they took bits and pieces they picked from around the obvious question, turned them this way and that, and squinted until they were able to announce that it looked good — but the punters wouldn’t appreciate it and they’re the reason why we can’t have nice things.

They did this rather than admit what has been obvious for years now, that new nuclear will not pay for itself in Australia and, given the decreasing cost of renewable energy, it looks impossible for current nuclear designs to ever pay for themselves here.

By choosing to protect their egos rather than admit they were wrong, the nuclear energy supporters have sullied Parliament’s good…  well, they’ve sullied Parliament’s name.  I don’t expect anything run by humans to be perfect, but I really think we need a turn around in the ratio of sullying to pride inducing Parliamentary moments.

It’s A Long Report

The report is 214 pages.  It could have been a lot shorter.  I could have gotten it down to something like:

“Given that:

  1. The UK will be pay around 22 cents per kilowatt-hour in today’s money for electricity from the Hinkley C nuclear power plant, and…
  2. In the United States new nuclear capacity requires a similar price to proceed and nuclear plants have been abandoned while under construction because it became clear they would never pay for themselves.
  3. Australia has no advantages in building nuclear power stations while having the disadvantage of no existing nuclear power industry.

It is therefore not reasonable to believe we can build nuclear generating capacity for less than what it costs in the UK or USA.  Until reactors are built overseas that produce electricity at a cost that is competitive in Australia, the subject does not merit further consideration.


Additionally, given that:

  1. New reactors under construction in France and Finland have had long delays and are far over budget, indicating the high cost of new nuclear capacity is not confined to English speaking countries, and…
  2. No organization is offering to or wants to build a nuclear power station in Australia at a price we would find anywhere close to acceptable.

The idea of nuclear power in Australia should be abandoned and only reviewed if there are major improvements in its economic viability.”

That’s under 214 words while having the advantage of being correct.  The House of Representatives committee used 214 pages to come to the wrong conclusion.  But arriving at the right conclusion can’t be easy if you have no ability to smell bullshit in your own research.

One Solar Panel Does Not Cause 0.8 Tonnes Of CO2 Emissions

Take a look at this table included in the report, taken from a publication that advocates nuclear power:

lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions

Casually looking at that you might think CO2 emissions for both nuclear energy and solar PV are pretty low.  But if we stop for one minute and use basic mathematical ability that’s available to anyone who doesn’t have to take their socks off to count to 20, then we can see that a Parliamentary committee saw fit to include a table in an official report that gives ridiculous results.

Looking at their minimum figure for Solar PV (Utility scale), I see they are claiming a large solar farm will result in at least 18 grams of CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour generated.  While generating electricity from PV doesn’t result in any emissions, they are involved in the manufacture of solar panels, so they aren’t completely emissions-free.  However, they are a lot bloody closer to emission free than this table suggests.

These days a typical standard sized solar panel is around 300 watts.  In a solar farm in Australia on a fixed mount it will generate around 12,300 kilowatt-hours over 25 years.  This means they are saying the solar panel will result in a minimum of 222 kilograms of CO2 emissions.  If we use their maximum figure it will result in 2.22 tonnes of CO2, all for a panel that weighs about 18 kilograms.   So they are saying manufacturing and installing one solar panel results in emissions equal to burning 80-800 or more kilograms of coal.

Jinko Solar, the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, has a figure from 2017 of just 2.19 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour generated by a solar farm.  As this has been decreasing year by year it will be even lower now.  However, this is just for the solar panel and doesn’t include emissions from the construction of its ground mount or inverter, so I’ll double it to 4.4 grams.  This means the actual emissions per kilowatt-hour are probably less than the best figure on the table and more than 40 times less than the worst figure.  Even if we triple the Jinko figure it still comes to less than their median emissions for nuclear energy and less than 4% of their maximum figure for PV.

It’s clear the committee had no ability to detect figures that were bullshit — or they simply didn’t care.

Renewable Energy Increases The Cost Of Nuclear

Here is section 1.50 of the report:

Committee notes on renewable energy

I note the committee has failed to understand the economics of nuclear power if they think it works well with solar and wind energy.  This is because if a nuclear power station produces half the energy its capable of, it almost doubles the cost of that energy.  This is due to nuclear fuel being very cheap1 per kilowatt-hour, so very little money is saved by ramping down, while nearly all other costs remain the same.

This means nuclear power, which is already too expensive when operated in the most economical way — almost continuously at full normal power — becomes even more expensive when used in a grid with a significant amount of solar energy and/or wind power capacity.  Australia already has more than enough to adversely affect the economics of nuclear energy and, even if we approve and build a nuclear power station in one quarter the average time it has taken overseas this century, things will be much worse for its economics by the time it’s complete.

Coal power roller coaster

If we already had nuclear power in this country, it would be suffering the same way coal power is.

They Don’t Even Know Who Buys Our Coal

The report suggests South Korea could build nuclear power plants for us at low cost.  It’s a very strange conclusion because South Korea is the third largest importer of Australian coal.  You’d think if they could build nuclear reactors cheaply they wouldn’t get nearly three times as much energy from flammable rocks:

South Korea total primary energy consumption

If you try breathing the air in South Korea you’ll soon wish they could build nuclear reactors at a lower cost than coal power, but unfortunately they can’t, and — as I’ve probably mentioned in other articles — Australia can build renewable generating capacity that supplies electricity at a lower cost than new coal power.  This includes the cost of firming the renewable energy so supply is always available.

It is amazing we have a Parliament dominated by a party obsessed with coal, but this committee can’t even get their head around the fact that the country that imports more of our coal per capita than any other nation isn’t likely to be in possession of the secret of cheaper than coal nuclear power.

Smaller Is Not Cheaper

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are suggested in the report as a way of making nuclear power economically viable.  The problem with this is they cost more per kilowatt than large ones.  This fact should not be a surprise to anyone.  The engineers who designed the large nuclear reactors in the world today are not idiots who are currently slapping their foreheads, saying, “I’m so stupid!  If only I had thought of making them smaller instead of bigger!”  Modern reactors are very large to keep their cost per kilowatt down.  Going small has the opposite effect.

That small reactors are not cheap is made obvious by the fact Britain, which has the longest history of nuclear power generation of any country, decided to power their new aircraft carriers with kerosene and diesel rather than small nuclear reactors because of they are so expensive.  This is despite the alternative being expensive oil products rather than much cheaper solar and wind energy.

An advantage given for SMRs is they will supposedly suffer from fewer cost overruns.  But that sales pitch is not enough to make nuclear energy economically attractive — pay for a more expensive product so you’ll have less of a chance of unpleasant surprise expenses down the line.2

They Want Money Wasted On More Reports

The report suggests we get people to write another report on how much nuclear power will cost here:

But I have a different suggestion.  A much cheaper one.  We just wait for another country to build and operate a nuclear power plant at a low enough cost that would be competitive in Australia.  Then we can look into it.

Better yet, to make sure they aren’t exaggerating how cheap their nuclear power is, we say:

“Hey, budget nuclear energy guys, how would you like to build a nuclear power station in Australia?  We give you nothing, but you get the market price for whatever electricity you sell.”

If they say, “nyet” or “bu shi” or “piss off” then we can suspect it’s not as cheap as they’re making it out to be.

If they say, “yes” then we can talk about how they’ll be required to insure it for a reasonable amount based on the costs of nuclear accidents that have occurred in the past.  While nuclear power is very safe, there must have been at least one or two minor little upsets.

Everyone Has To Love Nuclear Energy

The report says that social acceptance of nuclear power is necessary for it to go ahead.  So it’s not going to go ahead because that’s not going to happen.  Nuclear energy has turned out to be an economic disaster overseas, we have much cheaper alternatives, and now that I think about it there have been one or two major nuclear accidents overseas that have left a bad impression.

There was a problem with a nuclear power station in Fukushima, Japan.  The Japanese Government estimated the cost at around $270 billion dollars.  As our government is currently willing to spend around $4.5 million to save an Australian life through public health and safety measures, if we lost that amount of money it would represent around 60,000 Australian lives that potentially could have been saved with it.

Since nuclear power — at the costs we see overseas — is only going to increase electricity bills, and we have far cheaper ways to reduce emissions that are quicker to deploy, and because Australians aren’t in love with a very very small chance of a nuclear accident that has a very high cost, there will never be acceptance for nuclear power in this country.  Not in its current form.  But be sure to let me know when a DeLorean compatible Mr Fusion becomes available.

I’m guessing the entire section on social acceptance is only in the report so when nuclear power doesn’t get built, its supporters can say, “It’s the fault of normal Australians for not believing in the nuclear economic viability fairy hard enough”, rather than admit they themselves were wrong.

The Moratorium Means Nothing

Currently there is a moratorium on nuclear power in Australia.  This means you’re not allowed to build it without special permission from the government.  Well, guess what?  In this country you are never going to be allowed to build a nuclear reactor without permission from the government.  That’s just the way it is.  I know it’s a terrible infringement of our right to build nuclear reactors in our backyards and squash courts.  But on the other hand, it does support our right not to live next door to someone who’s building a nuclear reactor in their backyard, so I could go either way on this one.

The report suggests scrapping the moratorium or partially lifting it.  I’m not sure what partially lifting it means.  Maybe you have to ask for permission but you don’t have to say pretty please or maybe it just means they won’t be too worried if you have an eye patch, a cool scar, and introduce yourself as “The Jackal”.

Because the moratorium doesn’t really mean anything, there may not be any harm in lifting it and shutting up a few idiots who think the only reason nuclear power isn’t currently under construction in this country is because the government hasn’t muttered the magic words, “The moratorium is lifted!”  So they may as well say moratorium leviosa and be done with it.

It’s not as if nuclear power is going to be built in this country one way or the other.  Supporters will soon discover no one’s lining up to build reactors even with our current high wholesale electricity prices.  The only way they will get built is with very substantial subsidies and the government is too busy trying to keep coal power afloat while Australia burns to waste its energy subsidising nuclear.


  1. The low cost of nuclear fuel per kilowatt-hour is why reducing its cost has little effect on the economics of nuclear power.
  2. These days contracts for new nuclear capacity generally put the responsibility for cost overruns on the supplier, so cost overruns are less of an issue for the purchaser.  This is a major reason for the apparent inflation in the cost of nuclear power.
About Ronald Brakels

Joining SolarQuotes in 2015, Ronald has a knack for reading those tediously long documents put out by solar manufacturers and translating their contents into something consumers might find interesting. Master of heavily researched deep-dive blog posts, his relentless consumer advocacy has ruffled more than a few manufacturer's feathers over the years. Read Ronald's full bio.


  1. Should we really be surprised the House of Reps has found a filthier ‘solution’ than coal? I recently deleted an online survey at the exact point where these three questions were the _only_ options provided.

    We are governed by blithering effing idiots…

    • Fairly certain I could find the article, I browsed through my collection of Readers Digests… and located an article by John Dyson (RD, March 2011, p. 102 – 107) in which this expert extolled the benefits of ‘clean’, ‘green’, ‘safe’ Nuclear Power.

      Dyson wrote: “Nuclear is claimed to be the safest major energy source in the world.”

      That article was published in March 2011. The very same month, March 2011, the worst nuclear disaster in history occurred at Fukushima. That reactor remains disabled. Searched in vain for an apology from the Digest.

      Hundreds of millions are spent every year ‘containing’ waste. In Germany, right now, waste buried decades ago is being dug-up… to (re)contain it, at enormous expense. Factor-in the cost of waste ‘disposal’ and nuclear ‘clean-ups’ and Dyson’s ‘Answer to the Crisis’ is economic madness; without even considering the earth’s shifting tectonic plates… and the immense risk to human health and the environment… .

      • Brett Stokes says

        The six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are all still out of service, despite the confident predictions by Barry Brook and other so called “scientists” which were given massive media presence during the start of the meltdowns in March 2011.

        Thank you for providing evidence that the Readers Digest is typical of main stream media, promoting nuclear fantasies and frauds and coverups.

        Our own ABC is also blatantly biased with extremist pro nuclear personalities like Aussies Williss and Williams, plus frequent appearances by G Thomas from the UK.

        Note that ABC board includes V Guthrie, ex boss at the Minerals Council and uranium mining company Toro Energy.

        • Barry O'Brien says

          You seem to be blind to the problems of fossil fuels and refuse to even consider the possibility of an alternative. I am totally against the catastrophe we are facing and believe that all options should be on the table. Problems are there to be overcome not pushed aside. We can not afford to continue with the preducices of the past

          • Brett Stokes says

            “You seem to be blind to the problems of fossil fuels” is a load of presumptous rude rubbish.

            Nuclear is no solution to climate change – too slow, too expensive, unreliable, inflexible, too dangerous, too much carbon and other greenhouse gases .. plus a track record of lies and cost cutting and catastrophes and coverups.

            Yes, kiss goodbye to the ludicrous prejudice that nuclear is worth considering.

            We cannot afford to waste any more time and money on nuclear nonsense … we need to get on with real solutions.

    • Barry O'Brien says

      It is time that emotive exaggerated language is replaced with real facts. Yes Fukushima was a problem,but it is a problem that needs to be learned from. That time and care has been taken is not a sign of inability or failure it is a sign of hope. The sum of deaths and problems from years of fossil fuels usage make theproblems of nuclear pale into insignificance

      • Brett Stokes says

        “Fukushima was a problem,but it is a problem that needs to be learned from”

        The multiple meltdowns were denied for months, deceivingly described as cold shutdowns.

        The GE Mark1 BWR ECCS design fault was known in the 1960s and they built them anyway.

        The tsunami risk was known and precautions were not taken, to save money.

        The widely distributed radiation and the radioactive poisons are an ongoing “problem”, along with the cancers and other health effects, along with the evacuations and the other social effects, along with the cleanup costs and other economic effects … so your use of the past tense is an evil attempt at further deception.

        So the lesson is

        (a) do not trust the nuclear mob.

        (b) work to protect our children from the nuclear mob.

        • Barry O'Brien says

          Absolutely!! You have proven beyond doubt that people are the problem not the process. You have given us all a direction to ensure that risks of the past are not repeated. We must move away from fossil fuels and stop the ongoing catastrophe of their use. The controls and oversight are, from what you say, where we must focus rather than banning a possible solution.

          • Brett Stokes says

            Haha, you are very emotionally committed to the radioactive poisons, aren’t you?
            The process now is irrational and wasteful, trying to unban not to ban.
            And what is banned is also useless and too expensive and proven to be dangerous.
            So let’s get on with real solutions.

    • “… Australian wholesale electricity prices are unusually high at the moment…” !!! Give me a break !! We are being gouged by foreign own Power Companies and State Govt utiiities particularly Qld, cashing in on absurdly high prices driven by poor maintenance of privatised assets and lousy returns for solar and wind operators.
      Look at the Victorian Default Offer…Power prices in Victoria went up by 15% on 1 July 2018. On 1July 2019 prices “went down” for users on standing offers by 12%: meaning the most gouged of customers were given legislated relief. On 1 January 2020 the default offer goes back up by nearly 8%! Reason? Higher wholesale prices! Determined by whom? Gentailers and greedy distributors who cry poor about the effect of solar on the grid!
      Entirely agree about Nuclear however…Leave it in the ground!

  2. Goood summary

  3. Noel Wauchope says

    Very interesting and informative article. This is the first time that I’ve come across an article actually analysing and dissecting parts of the report. Particularly interesting – critical look at that deceptive table from Bright New World.

  4. Brett Stokes says

    thanks for this cogent article.

    I thank you for exposing some of the dodgy “facts” peddled by nuclear advocates.

    I encourage people to look at my submission number 126 in which I use the word “fraud”.

  5. Noel Wauchope says

    Just one problem with this article. It wasn’t the House of Reps, was it? It was a Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Energy

  6. Paul Bergild says

    Wery well put with a lot of words and statements-However at present 48 nuclear power station are under construction right now around the world-I don’t know but find it hard to believe that the governments of all those countries are totally ning nongs and can’t calculate the production cost of a KW of power – Just questioning why we shouldn’t serious investigating the possibilities here in Australia without being abused

    • Brett Stokes says


      Recently a robust report was released, analysing the historical economic costs and benefits of nuclear power.

      “Nuclear power is too expensive” is the key finding.

      The report’s abstract says “An empirical survey of the 674 nuclear power plants that have ever been built showed that private economic motives never played a role. Instead military interests have always been the driving force behind their construction. Even ignoring the expense of dismantling nuclear power plants and the long-term storage of nuclear waste, private economy-only investment in nuclear power plant would result in high losses— an average of five billion euros per nuclear power plant, as one financial simulation revealed. In countries such as China and Russia, where nuclear power plants are still being built, private investment does not play a role either. Nuclear power is too expensive and dangerous; therefore it should not be part of the climate-friendly energy mix of the future.”

      • Paul Bergild says

        First my apology it is not 48 new nuclear power station being build right now but 53-Main ones being build in China 11-India 7–Russia 6 –South Korea 5
        all together 448 are operating around the world and as far as safety is concerned- From memory there have been 3 accidents -worst one being in Russia-In Japan the accident was caused by a tsunami -nothing to do with the plant-To have a fair argument you should also remove all substitute given to renewable, perhaps you would find nuclear is more than able to be competitive-well at least now the owners of 500 power stations around the world think so

        • Ronald Brakels says

          Here’s footage of the tsunami causing a hydrogen explosion at Fukushima nuclear power station three days later:

          • Paul Bergild says

            Thanks for the video–as I said the tsunami caused the explosion—nothing in the construction or the operations of the plant caused that explosion-

          • Brett Stokes says

            Consider the ECCS failure in the Mark1 GE BWR .. as predicted by Ergen and co in the 1960s, as played out in March 2011.

            Then maybe reject the claim that “nothing in the construction or the operations of the plant caused that explosion”.

            Propaganda puppetry denying reality is a standard thing for nuclear fraudsters.

  7. Peter Truscott says

    Well, that means we will go backwards for another 50 years on Nuclear Power Generation. There are way too many uninformed Greenie Nutters in this country who will not agree to Nuclear Power and will make a song and dance about it so that nothing gets done. Huge opportunity wasted! Why do we have to put up with these nutters who have no scientific or even social understanding?

    • Brett Stokes says

      well … what opportunity exactly are we missing out on?

      The reality that I see is that nuclear power is a con, a scam, a dangerous waste of money and time.

      So I look forward to your elaborating on the “opportunity”.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      What’s the nutty part? Where I wrote:

      “Hey, budget nuclear energy guys, how would you like to build a nuclear power station in Australia? We give you nothing, but you get the market price for whatever electricity you sell.”

      If people think there is a huge market opportunity going to waste, I say they should take advantage of it and offer to build an unsubsidized and insured nuclear power station in Australia. But if they do, I will wonder where the hell they were when the UK was settling on 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for new nuclear. They should have said, “Hey! We’ll do it for 10 cents!” That’s more than what unsubsidized nuclear will receive for electricity generated in Australia.

  8. Erik Christiansen says

    The only tiny nit I’d pick with this clear-sighted description of the emperor’s clothes is that the pollies are in fact not so stupid as they seem. There is a German saying which translates to “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.” We repeatedly see how much performance has been bought by the $1m reported to have been paid to COALition election coffers by the coal lobby a few years ago. (SloMo the somnolent had to change his songsheet lyrics from “How good is that?” to “I reject that.” at COP25 in Madrid this week, to keep defending coal.) The newly observed obtuseness on radioactive resources indicates that campaign contributions ought to be examined, I suspect.

    If we look at the F35 and the NBN, then we’d possibly realise that siphoning the public’s money into corporate coffers is more important than delivering value. What? The banks? Yeah, it’s a long list.

  9. Who were the members of this committee and what are their qualifications and experience?
    Did they take submissions from the solar, wind, hydro, coal and gas poered generators?

    • Des Scahill says


      Because we are fortunate enough to still live in a democracy, anyone at all can make submissions to a Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry.

      You’ll find a brief summary of the overall process here:

      The key point on that page is: ‘Committees provide an opportunity for organisations and individuals to participate in policy making and to have their views placed on the public record and considered as part of the decision-making process.’

      From that same page you’ll find links to current inquiries in progress, along with access to submissions made and transcripts of hearings held in relation to past inquiries that have been completed.

      As well, everyone can write to their elected representative on matters of importance that require government intervention or changes in policy, at any time.

      Similar mechanisms exist at state and local government levels as well.

      Unfortunately, most people can’t be bothered to make the effort. As a result, the way is then left clear for the more extremist or idiotic views to get far more attention than they deserve.

      As an illustration, my local newspaper has recently had a small flood of letters over a particular issue, and the similarity of wording and the point of view adopted in all of them is somewhat suggestive of a coordinated campaign in relation to an upcoming local election

      Whether we like it or not, it seems to me that these days we as individuals have to become a little more politically active.

      Two examples from other countries also come to mind as to what will happen if we don’t. In the USA, a significant percentage of the population couldn’t be bothered to even vote at all at the last presidential election, and we can all see the consequences of that playing out today.

      Similarly in Venezuela, ‘complacency’ and ‘inaction’ by the general voting public have resulted in transforming a once wealthy country where much of the population had a higher standard of living than most Australians, to a complete economic basket case in just 2 or 3 years. That came about partly because people couldn’t be bothered to make any effort at all to counter extremism

  10. Brian Gardner says

    If the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow where else are we supposed to go. Nuclear is inevitable if we are to keep the lights on in this country. with coal fired power stations demonised by the lefties and wood fired heating fast disappearing into the past. A bottle of gas at $120.00 not likely. Yes I am a solar man sporting a 8kW system on our home. So don’t knock Nuclear power, as one day it will come not by choice but by necessity.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      There’s an electricity market in Australia. This means the lowest cost methods of meeting electricity demand are going to be used. Looking at what it costs to build new nuclear in other countries, nuclear power isn’t going to among them.

    • Brian Gardner

      I’m curious about your choice of words… you said ‘… coal powered stations demonised by the lefties’.

      Who or what is this mysterious group known as ‘lefties’? Are you so terrified of becoming supernaturally ‘demonized’ yourself through contact with this mysterious group known as ‘lefties’ that you installed solar panels on your roof as the modern equivalent of hanging bulbs of garlic around the eaves of your home, in order to ward off their evil influences?

      Do you actually like coal powered stations and are thus upset that hardly anyone else does?

      Or is that you are terrified of becoming ‘demonized’

  11. Pul Bergild: “…-nothing to do with the plant…” and _everything_ to do with the planEt… …. the planet which is continually changing, making storage of waste unpredictable.

    No wonder Musk is looking off-planet for a solution, as we F-up our own.

    “…without being abused…”(?) Tell that to the citizens of Chernobyl and Fukashima, Paul.

    • Paul Bergild says

      Really Lessor-What would you suggest we tell the families of the millions which have been killed by cars-drowned as their ships sank-being killed by failing aeroplanes-Using your logic the car should never have been invented -nor ships or aeroplanes–In another 600years our world will be much closer to the sun and the temperature will have risen by app. 3 to 4 deg –the people running the world at that time will have learned to cope with that as they will have learned to cope with nuclear waste-so if nuclear power is clean and efficient use it-Take my word
      the money will determine if nuclear power stations are feasible or not.- uninformed comities will not,

      • Ronald Brakels says

        At that rate we’ll be where Venus is now in about 13,000 years.

      • Paul Bergild,
        You state:
        “In another 600years our world will be much closer to the sun and the temperature will have risen by app. 3 to 4 deg –the people running the world at that time will have learned to cope with that as they will have learned to cope with nuclear waste…”

        Where do you get the idea that in “another 600 years our world will be much closer to the sun”? References please, or did you just make that up?

        As for the temperatures rising “by approx 3 to 4 deg”, it won’t be in 600 years time – more like less than 80 years time, at current trajectory due to humanity continuing to burn carbon at current rates for as little as the next 10 years. And it’s unlikely humanity will be able to cope with increasing temperatures of that magnitude, so human civilization is likely to collapse and the human population will shrink to less than 1 billion.

        The emergency is already here!

  12. Barry O'Brien says

    Why concentrate on the cost? If it is as uneconomic as described then in this day of commercial reality no nuclear plant would ever be built. Shouldn’t the focus be on the environmental risks versus gains? Make no mistake there are huge potential gains. If the technology is there, artificial barriers designed to retard rather than protect are surely counter productive. Negativity for no reason other than basic bias is as bad for the future as is unquesting acceptance.

    • Barry O’Brien,
      You state:
      “Why concentrate on the cost? If it is as uneconomic as described then in this day of commercial reality no nuclear plant would ever be built.”

      It seems to me you are oblivious or forgetting (or is it wilfully ignoring?) that nuclear plants are and have always been heavily subsidized – otherwise, as you suggest, the commercial realities are that no nuclear plant would ever get built.

      One of the prime reasons for subsidizing “civilian” nuclear power generation is to support military needs for producing weapons-grade plutonium and/or uranium, and/or for supporting technologies to drive military submarines and large marine vessels (e.g. aircraft carriers).

      In the US, and later in other countries (i.e. UK, France, former USSR and satellite states, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, and South Africa), none use nuclear energy commercially via private, non-state-supported investment.

      There are still no reasons for the private economy to invest in commercial nuclear power today – there are much better, lower-risk returns elsewhere. All nuclear plants are heavily supported/subsidised by state-based entities.

      Worldwide, there are no financial service organisations that offer insurance to nuclear power plants against the risk of accidents.

      You then state:
      “Shouldn’t the focus be on the environmental risks versus gains? Make no mistake there are huge potential gains.”

      What “huge potential gains”, Barry? Gains for whom? Perhaps you could please elaborate so that we could all know what you mean?

      I think the proof transcript of the public hearing for the session with Professor Stephen Thomas on 22 October 2019 (on pages 6 through 9) delivers some insightful perspectives.
      See also my Submission (#096) at:

      You finish with:
      “Negativity for no reason other than basic bias is as bad for the future as is unquesting [sic] acceptance.”

      IMO, there are overwhelming compelling reasons to reject the nuclear option for Australia – far too expensive, far too slow to build, long-term unsustainable, far too risky with potentially catastrophic consequences, and the nuclear waste legacy will long outlast any short-term energy benefits gained. Australia’s limited resources and efforts should be directed elsewhere to rapidly reduce GHG emissions.

      Meanwhile, current global average surface temperature rise above pre-industrial levels is around 1–1.1°C. Note that most of the world’s surface is ocean/sea – land temperatures are at least 1°C higher. Planet Earth is already locked in for 1.5°C rise (above pre-industrial age), arriving perhaps as early as 2030. And if humanity is successful at rapidly reducing GHG emissions, then the reduction of associated climate cooling aerosols will add a one-time temperature increase of a further 0.3–0.5°C, so we are really locked in for at least 1.8–2.0°C temperature rise.

      If GHG emissions are not reduced by 50% of current levels by 2030, then humanity can look forward to likely warming of 2.4°C by 2050, with a “hothouse Earth” scenario realized. 35% of the global land area, and 55% of the global population are likely to be subjected to more than 20 days per year of lethal heat conditions. Water availability decreases sharply, affecting about 2 billion people. Most regions in the world will likely see a significant drop in food production (of the order of at least 20% reduction) with increasing numbers of extreme weather events, and water will likely become scarcer.
      See “Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach”, pages 8 through 9:

      Humanity’s current business-as-usual GHG emissions trajectory means a 4–4.5°C rise (above pre-industrial age) by 2100, that will likely result in civilization collapse and a human population reduced to less than 1 billion.

      The climate emergency is already here. Nuclear cannot save us now- too slow to deploy! Only renewables now have any chance to mitigate dangerous climate change, but that window of opportunity is also rapidly closing. Ignoring the escalating risks and the remaining available solutions will have dangerous (and existential) consequences.

      It seems to me you are biased, with a seemingly unquestioning acceptance of nuclear industry propaganda, wilfully ignoring the compelling evidence against pursuing the nuclear energy option for Australia.

      So, if you are intending to enjoy the festivities over this Christmas – New Year period, enjoy it while you can. The future appears to be much more challenging!

  13. Well done Ronald – good dissection of the Committee report.

    You state:
    “To me, it seems this report is an expensive face-saving measure by Parliamentary supporters of nuclear power.”

    I’ve found parliamentary Committee inquiries are good value, in the sense that they usually bring forth some valuable data and analyses. They also usually bring forth vested interest propaganda and deceptions. The trick is to recognize the difference between the two.

    It seems to me the majority of the members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment have been unable to discern the bleeding obvious, hence the majority report presented, together with the dissenting reports from Labor (Josh Wilson MP – Deputy Chair, Josh Burns MP – Member, and Fiona Phillips MP – Supplementary Member), and from the independent Zali Steggall MP.

    You follow with:
    “It makes no sense for this country given the current and decreasing cost of renewable energy, but they’re not willing to admit that.”

    I agree. I think one needs to ask: What are the underlying motivations for presenting the majority report recommendations, that to you and me seem unwise and illogical, given the compelling evidence is that nuclear energy is not a cheap, safe, clean, and/or a timely climate-solving solution?

    In my Submission (#096) to the nuclear inquiry I include on page 3:
    “The real question is whether Australia wants/needs nuclear weapons and/or nuclear-powered submarines – if not, then there is no sound justification for Australia to invest in and develop nuclear fission electricity generation technologies here in Australia.”

    Is there a desire by some politicians for Australia to acquire nuclear weapons, but are unwilling to express this view publicly? Is this latest Committee Report a surreptitious backdoor pathway to that end?
    See the section under the heading “Nuclear reactor construction based on military-related political and institutional conditions” from page 237:

    Or is it ‘predatory delay’ tactics to inhibit the growth of renewables while the fossil fuel industry rips, tears and busts for as long as possible before their ‘social license’ dissipates?

    You also state:
    “That small reactors are not cheap is made obvious by the fact Britain, which has the longest history of nuclear power generation of any country, decided to power their new aircraft carriers with kerosene and diesel rather than small nuclear reactors because of they are so expensive.”

    It’s interesting to see whether the UK fossil fuelled aircraft carriers will be a long-term viable solution in a post- ‘peak oil’ world (likely to emerge in the 2020s), but in a crisis the military usually gets preference over civilians.

    • I know this an old article but while most of the points are spot on, I think this is an erroneous conclusion:

      “That small reactors are not cheap is made obvious by the fact Britain, which has the longest history of nuclear power generation of any country, decided to power their new aircraft carriers with kerosene and diesel rather than small nuclear reactors because they are so expensive.”

      Well that’s what I call bullshit. The reason nuclear reactors on ships and subs are so expensive has nothing to do with their size and everything to do with their design limitations. You need to have a safe nuclear reactor metres away from living quarters. The staggering amount of R and D and engineering that goes into something that mobile and that safe, the secret squirrel stuff, the specialised parts and manufacturing that would never be needed on a land based reactor. This is a nuclear reactor that has to survive a direct hit by enemy fire. And lets not forget that anything made for the military includes a basic 1,000 – 10,000% premium because of the procurement process. OTOH the diesel engines that subs and ships used aren’t proprietary, Rolls Royce will sell you one if you’ve got enough money. Sure they’re still re-assuringly expensive, but the design cost is smaller and amortised over thousands of vessels worldwide. The UK govt will not sell you one of their seagoing reactors at any price. It’s proprietary technology and considered a strategic advantage. And they won’t go back to diesel subs, because they are the vessels that benefit most from a nuclear energy source.

      The biggest problem with SMR’s is not their design or cost (they’re much cheaper per kWh because the proposal is to build them at a central plant then ship the modules to the final location where assembly is a much easier task), it’s licensing. Nuclear licensing around the world is geared towards Large Scale nuclear plants. The Wiki on SMRs makes interesting reading, while being somewhat hypothetical.,have%20plagued%20conventional%20nuclear%20reactors.

      I’m not saying nuclear energy makes sense – just you can’t compare a military grade reactor with a hypothetical SMR. They’re different beasts.

  14. Australia, like most countries, has a terrible track record for major government sponsored infrastructure project cost overruns. Just look at the NBN – when compared to nuclear power, it is child’s play to build a high-speed nationwide network. Even then,m the costs have ballooned and the results (performance) well below those planned.

    The next major cost overrun will probably be the new submarines.

    So, whatever the astronomical estimates for building even a single nuclear reactor, you can safely double the cost, making it even more uneconomical than it was before.

  15. I gave up a part way through this long long story.
    Of course this government wants to go nuclear. That’s because it is prepared to see another expensive failure to keep renewable energy at bay. If you think otherwise then note that in the past 2 days a report has surfaced which claims that Labor produced more CO2 than the current government. The article goes on the say that this is the result of the Carbon Tax being repealed.

    The second thing i noticed was a table where carbon storage was factored in for coal. Really? Please show me one place on the planet where this works.

    Instead of getting on the coal bandwagon you might just say that nuclear radiation and aquifer poisoning is a fate no Australian deserves to endure. This government will saddle us up with this and they NEVER talk about the half life of uranium of around half a million years. Effectively that means once we’ve got this deadly waste we’re stuck with it forever. There should zero discussion of nuclear energy after that.

  16. Brett Hales says

    Posted here for discussion

    I read this and it got me thinking. If nuclear is not next, can we get to 100% renewables.?

    If Australia is currently powered by 21% renewables, I assume it wouldn’t be as simple as multiplying by x5? What would be the magic number? Has anybody read articles that address this?

    • That’s the pertinent question Brett. Of course renewables is still in development and storage is the next frontier. Currently storage is too expensive but that’ll change. Just as solar panel pricing has dropped through the floor so will the cost of batteries and storage will keep going up. Its an exciting time and when the next breakthrough comes it’ll be game over for the scourge of coal and its manipulation of the planet.

  17. Graham Johnson says

    Ronald says ‘firmed’ PV renewables are cheaper than coal or nuclear.
    Is there a scheme for optimised ‘firmed’ capacity? What does it look like?
    Mostly batteries? Pumped hydro, or perhaps other ways?
    Ronald, can you please do an analysis of a minimum and maximum pumped hydro storage reliant system, what the costs would be (and per kwhour), who should do it, and how long it will take us to get there.

    • Sounds like your spiel is straight from the coal industry Graham. Why not provide the figures you demand yourself. They’d be interesting to peruse and fact check.
      Those who back coal OR nuclear are dooming the planet to significant damage but what the heck…money is more important than life, yes?

    • Graham Johnson,
      You ask:
      “Ronald says ‘firmed’ PV renewables are cheaper than coal or nuclear.
      Is there a scheme for optimised ‘firmed’ capacity? What does it look like?
      Mostly batteries? Pumped hydro, or perhaps other ways?”

      ARENA commissioned a report titled “Comparison of Dispatchable Renewable Energy Options – Technologies for an orderly transition”.

      I’d suggest you also watch the YouTube video below. From time interval 23:36, Professor Blakers provides the results of his team’s analysis with a graph of the ‘firming’ or ‘balancing’ costs (from time interval 23:57).

  18. thanks for your article on Nuclear power – very enlightening. australia has the 2nd largest deposits of Thorium which is less volutile than Uranium which we mine and export. Australia has a reasonable and ols land mass. Your arrticle outlines the economics of it all.I still can’t comprehend why the ACCC whats to phase out solar rebates when the industry power stations have been sold off future questionable?

  19. Dominic Wild says

    A letter to the editor in “The Australian” has quoted costs for solar, wind and nuclear/kWh and nuclear came out as three times dearer. One wonders if that correspondent’s source has included the following figures for wind and solar in the calculations::

    1 Subsidies spent on renewables so far: $60 billion,
    2 Cost of land for solar, mills and battery fields and batteries,
    3 Cost of stored hydro: $2 billion at start, may explode to $20 billion,
    4 Cost of extra inter connectors, 27,000km at $100 billion,
    5 Cost of the second required system for “firming” or base load, which is based on coal or gas and is CO2 producing, which in turn may mean it will be fined for each tonne of CO2 emitted, and
    6 Cost of synchronous condensers for frequency control.

  20. Barry O'Brien says

    Unfortunately a case can be made for or against any thing by doctoring both the amounts and factors included in the economic examination of everything. In this case the comments about costs of nuclear have always been over inflated and the costs of most so called renewables far under stated.

    Costings to be believable should cover the full scope.

    Nuclear power is the greenest by far when all factors are included for base load continuous power.

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