Flat White

Don’t say our pollies are wising up to the benefits of small scale nuclear energy?

14 February 2020

5:00 AM

14 February 2020

5:00 AM

There is probably only one thing that makes conservatives happier than seeing the lunatic Green left meltdown over climate change, it is the prospect of a reliable supply of electricity generated by coal-free, carbon-free nuclear power. The added advantage of this prospect is that conservatives can watch the Chernobyl-like meltdown of Adam Brandt and his Greens Reds.

The politician who may just bring you this delightful spectacle is the LNP Member for Fairfax and probably the only member who has actually been on the tools in any party, Ted O’Brien.

The sin that Mr O’Brien has committed is that as chairman of the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy he has released that committee’s report of an inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia.

The title to the report, “Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology in Australia” gives you glimpse into its recommendations. It also helps to explain why the Labor Members of the committee released a dissenting report.

While Mr O’Brien’s statement accompanying the Report’s release is sensitive to the politics of nuclear industry, it at least addresses an issue that might just deliver an affordable, reliable supply of electricity throughout Australia: “Nuclear energy should be on the table for consideration as part of our future energy mix.”

In order to defend the report’s conclusions against images of Fukushima and Chernobyl, the report rejects what it calls “old nuclear technologies” in favour of the emerging technologies associated with small modular reactors.

Old technologies appears to be a reference to technologies related to Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, all of which had incidents related to 1970s technologies. But then, why would anyone use old technologies?

The report rules out large scale reactors for the reason, the experts say, that they are too costly. Although that should be read as, too costly relative to other technologies at the present time.

Thirty years ago, state governments were responsible for the provision of electricity for the families they represented and they built power generation as and when needed; often of a size that would attract large industries, such as the aluminium smelter at Gladstone.

That state government responsibility fell apart a few years back when a couple of generation plants were closed and a bright spark (read, economist) used that over-rated theory about ‘economies of scale’ and ‘market forces’ and came up with a ‘national grid’ that would share electricity generated on Thursday Island with Adelaide so South Australia or Victoria would not have to build a generator.

Suddenly, no one was responsible when the lights dimmed or went out altogether. The grid was supposed to make electricity nationally cheaper which, as forecasts go, was a fail. But that is why O’Brien is now investigating small scale nuclear plants which have the potential to supply electricity at the micro-level.

What O’Brien’s Report implicitly recognises is that the biggest element of electricity cost is the cost of the lines and poles from the power station. Don’t misunderstand me. The committee’s report is a welcome one and perhaps a state government will take the initiative and build something that the cave-dwelling, lunatic left will love to hate.

If a more thorough investigation of the new technology reactors is warranted then a more intense examination of the experts’ theories including the night-terrors that Greens experience at the mention of the word nuclear — if only to ensure complete quality control.

The Labor Members’ dissenting report begins by asserting that because the moratorium against the development of a nuclear power industry in Australia has been both ‘long held [and] bipartisan’ the investigation that the majority recommends should only proceed when there is bipartisan support.

First, Labor’s opposition to nuclear power is not ideological; it’s purely political. It has branches stacked with green-left members who fear the light more than they fear the dark. Members of Parliament fear them more than anything else.

It is a pity. If the Labor committee members supported a thorough investigation of the costs and risks of nuclear power, it just might help to shift some of those branch members back to the Greens Reds, something I’m sure most Labor Members would welcome. It will definitely help to reduce the cost of electricity.

Dr David Long is a retired solicitor and economist.

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