Ronald Brak

Because not everyone can be normal.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nuclear Power in Australia - An Economic Impossibility

There are some people, Barry Grook for example, who, even after that slight problem they had in Japan that showed that non-Soviet countries weren't quite as good at nuclear safety as we hoped, still say that Australia should build nuclear reactors. I was going to write that Barry still THINKS Australia should build nuclear reactors, but to tell the truth, I have no idea what Barry's thinking.

This is not going to happen. Nuclear reactors are not going to be built in Australia. Uh-uh. No way. And the reason is quite simple. Money. Nuclear power plants are an economic impossibility in Australia. Commercial nuclear power has always been a no go here. We were going to build a nuclear power plant in the early seventies, but that was before we found out how much it would cost and then it was like, "Hell no!" And the economics of it have only gotten worse since then.

There are actually several reasons why nuclear power isn't economic here, but I'll just give one simple clear reason. Last year Germany installed point of use solar power for an average cost of $2.60 Australian a watt. There is no reason why Australia can't install solar for that price. After all, both Australia and Germany are high wage countries. But the really big difference is that Australia is more or less twice as sunny as Germany. This means that at $2.60 a watt, solar power will become the cheapest source of electricity for many consumers. In fact, most consumers. Already Australia's solar capacity is expanding rapidly and as there is plenty of room for the cost of solar to drop even futher, installation costs will continue to decline.

Just how much solar capacity we will have with an installed cost of $2.60 a watt, or the $1 a watt I am sure we will get to before too long, I don't know. But on sunny days of low demand solar power will push the price of electricity down towards zero. Also, as a price taker with zero fuel costs, solar power, like wind, reduces the wholesale price of electricity. Both of these effects are disastrous for the economics of nuclear plants which need both high wholesale prices and to operate at close to full capacity to hope to make money. Nuclear power could not compete when Australia was mostly coal and gas powered and it certainly will not be able to compete now that the price of solar has dropped so low. And if nuclear has to also pay the market price for insurance, well, what can I say? Pushing nuclear power in Australia is flogging dead parrot. It's a deceased source of energy. It's shuffled of its Tesla coil. It's run down the leaded curtain and joined the bleeding choir of invisible gamma rays! It is an ex power source!

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