Nuclear reactors must be in the mix if Australia is to make a serious dent in its carbon emissions, says a civil engineer and former candidate for the seat of Goulburn.
Rob Parker, who coordinates Nuclear for Climate Australia (NCA), argued politicians should not shy away from nuclear energy. In southern NSW NCA has identified Marulan, Yass and the Shoalhaven as three of 18 potential sites for nuclear reactors.
Mr Parker ran unsuccessfully as a Labor candidate for Goulburn in 2007 and as an independent in 2011. But he says his views have little to do with politics, other than to shatter notions.
He was speaking about the latest tit-for-tat between shadow State energy spokesman Adam Searle and Goulburn MP Pru Goward. Mr Searle last week said Deputy Premier John Barilaro should “come clean” about his social media post on Thursday.
“We could have them (small nuclear reactors) operating here in a decade – which is not long for the energy industry…,” it stated.
Mr Searle said it was the second time Mr Barilaro had raised the possibility of nuclear energy in the State, the first time being in May when he was “prepared to talk about it as an option.”
“He can’t just float an idea like this without being specific. He should be clear with the public on where he thinks the nuclear reactors should be. A pro- nuclear power group is on the record suggesting reactors should be in the Goulburn electorate – does Mr Barilaro agree?
“Our farmers’ clean and green reputation is known throughout the world but a nuclear industry in these areas would end all that.”
Mr Searle told The Post the technology was a “silly idea” given there were no apparent solutions for dumping nuclear waste and required a “huge amount” of water.
Goulburn MP Pru Goward has dismissed the comments as “fantasy politics” and said there were no plans for nuclear reactors in the electorate. It would take many years of planning and “a whole of government approach.”
“It’s hard to believe anyone could think Goulburn was in the mix. For starters there’s no federal plan and anyway we don’t have the water needed to cool such a plant. That’s why they’re generally on coastal sites,” she said.
Mr Parker meantime says the political debate is framed by “hand wringing” on one side and “outright denial” on the other.
“Our energy policies, whether we like it or not are framed by climate change...If that’s not the case we’d be out there building new coal-fired power stations,” he said.
“No country has made deep emission cuts using wind and solar. Germany has spent $150 billion euros plus the costs of the increased transmission network in trying to cut their emissions. Their economy will fail to meet their greenhouse reduction targets and emissions have effectively plateaued.
“Its economy remains underpinned by gas and coal and they are stopping their only effective low carbon generation source by 2022 - namely their nuclear reactors.”
The consultant civil engineer said one of the great problems with renewables supported by gas was that “they entrenched failure while giving the impression of achievement.”
“The increased electricity prices saps the will to take effective action on climate change because the criticisms of the climate skeptics have been strengthened. Doing nothing could be a better course of action,” he said.
Mr Parker argued that nuclear energy needed to be 80 per cent of the mix due to climate change.
The NCA has listed 18 possible nuclear reactor sites on its website, including Yass, Marulan and Shoalhaven which could be constructed by 2040 and provide 149 terrawatts of energy annually.
Mr Parker said he considered many locations but the best ones were those near water, rail and the transmission grid.
“In the Goulburn region it is problematic; while there is the grid connection at Marulan, the nearest reservoir is around the upper reaches of the Shoalhaven, which would have to be dammed. That is difficult,” he said.
He maintained the Snowy Mountains area could work given its plentiful water reservoirs. Yass was also close to the Burrinjuck storage.
Mr Parker believed Mr Barilaro was raising the possibility of smaller modular reactors being developed across more sites, which did not involve significantly opening up the grid or a large water supply.
He also maintained that nuclear was becoming more price competitive due to the combined effects of electricity generation at $105/MWh in 2018 and the likelihood of increased network costs.
He will address the Australian Nuclear Association conference in Sydney this weekend. He will argue nuclear energy will not only restore business confidence and energy price stability but increase Australia’s resilience in the face of increasing climate change.
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian has ruled out nuclear reactors. Ms Goward would not say specifically what was the right combination.
“Australia’s energy mix is a subject of much debate and I’m confident that the NSW Government will come up with the right plan for our region,” Ms Goward said.
“We need a mix of energy sources and improved efficiency to meet the needs of our growing population.”