This ‘debate’ is irrelevant since we can power Australia with 100% Renewable Energy with technology that exists now, as per the Beyond Zero Emissions Zero Carbon Australia 2020 plan - http://bze.org.au/zero-carbon-australia-2020
A combination of the different forms of Renewable Energy are far safer, cheaper and use far less water than nuclear.
Nuclear uses nearly as much water as coal does, which is a very large amount and we need to take into account our drying climate for which the very little water that Renewable Energy uses is ideal.
There are no fuel costs for Renewables and because we don’t need to mine for fuel, it’s a better option for the environment. The only mining that occurs is for the materials to build the infrastructure. Once up and running, no fuel needed. The materials that are used are recyclable so when a piece of Renewable Energy technology reaches the end of it’s efficient life span, much of materials inherent in the technology can be reclaimed and recycled.
Much of the materials that goes into constructing nuclear ends up radioactive and is wasted when it is cut up and buried or stored at the end of the life of a nuclear power plant = bad waste of resources.
We don’t need nuclear at all in Australia, therefore this is a pointless and irrelevant debate. It’s a no-brainer to go for 100% Renewable Energy for Australia.
I used to take that approximate position. I don’t anymore. Setting aside the validity of the statement, saying “We don’t need nuclear, renewables can do it” does not present argument against nuclear power. It presents an argument for arbitrarily limiting our energy options to just a few technologies. Limiting our options is the last thing we should be doing right now. We should be using them all in a sensible way. It is so much easier to prove that we “don’t need” solar or we “don’t need” geothermal. But that’s no kind of argument against using them.
But then you have presented some arguments against nuclear. On water, renewable technology does not, necessarily, use less water. Thermal electricity production, like solar thermal or geothermal, uses water in much the same way as a nuclear or coal plant. Since they are typically in the desert, they would need to use air cooling for the condenser. You could do that for nuclear or coal too, but it’s a wasteful use of the generated power.
In Australia, nuclear power would be cooled with ocean water, like the coal stations near Pt Augusta. Most of that water goes back to the ocean a little warmer. It would have no impact to water security. The coal stations in the La Trobe valley… there’s your problem. They are stuck in land because they need to be close to so much coal. So they use lots of fresh water (river, reservoir, ground water). Swapping those for ocean cooled nuclear would be really good for water security.
Fuel costs for nuclear are very, very low. It uses hardly any fuel at all. Triple the cost of fuel and the cost of nuclear electricity hardly budges. It’s a lot like renewable technology in the economic sense; nearly all the money is spent up front.
A great deal of the materials in renewable technologies are not especially recyclable, and many are very toxic. Since the expected lifespan of nuclear is about 60 years and most RE technology is around 25 years, from a materials perspective RE technology is not that great.
We don’t need nuclear? That’s a moot argument. The questions is should we use it to help us reach our decarbonisation goals along with renewable technologies? I believe the answer is “of course we should”
Ben, how is tapping into infinite energy from solar and wind sources limiting our energy options for Australia?
The most successful Renewable Energy technologies are wind, solar photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, all of which tap into limitless solar and wind where there is NO fuel cost. Other RE technologies showing promise are wave and biomass and then there may be potential for geothermal and tidal but not so much, maybe into the future. This gives us a total of 5 good RE power sources/technologies to rely upon, 2 more possibilities for the future. That seems like a pretty adequate mix to me where fossil fuels and nuclear simply are not needed.
Wind uses no water, solar PV almost no water apart for cleaning the panels. As far as solar thermal using water, at least there is no risk of radioactive contamination of the water being used to generate power as there is with nuclear. There are still problems with locating nuclear along coastlines and using seawater where the large intakes for water suck in a fair amount of sea life. In very hot conditions with a high power demand nuclear power plants can and do pump out overly heated water back into the ocean which affects sea life.
As far as the recycleability of the materials in Renewable Energy technology, can you elaborate on what is not? As far as I have read, they are eminently recycleable with high rates of recycleability. Some may be toxic but if they are reclaimed and recycled, I don’t see a great problem. Much of what we use in industrial civilisation is toxic and/or produces toxic byproducts when created and nuclear produces some the most toxic materials on the planet as well as being highly and dangerously radioactive for hundreds and even many thousands of years.
As far as doing a concurrent build of both RE and nuclear together, it is not possible. We will not have the funds or resources to do both. In the short time available to us to reduce our emissions the safest, cleanest, cheapest option is 100% RE.
There is a lot in your comment. Might I start with the fundamental?
“As far as doing a concurrent build of both RE and nuclear together, it is not possible. We will not have the funds or resources to do both.”
When I read that comment I am surprised. Mostly when people talk about the urgency of action on climate change, we acknowledge the need to spend money. The concept presented here that we must choose to spend only a certain amount of money on only certain technologies. This falls flat for me. As an argument, that can’t come from a true concern for cutting emissions. It can only come from a strong interest in using renewable technologies only. I have to return to my first point: how does the climate change challenge benefit from excluding this option?
So I’m not sure of the value in engaging with the other issues raised.
Were I able to respond to them clearly and with strong evidence, would it be possible that you would alter your position? Or is that perhaps not going to happen?
I ask because I was STRONGLY anti-nuclear for a very long time. No one could have swayed me until I really wanted to talk.
Would you like to talk? Or will we just be talking past each other?