Last Wednesday, I recorded a conversation with my Adept Economics colleague Ben Scott about the research project he completed on nuclear energy as part of an ANU Parliamentary Internship, a program which saw him placed in Queensland Senator Matt Canavan’s office. Episode 92 of Economics Explored considers how nuclear energy can provide zero-carbon, reliable energy and why it should potentially be considered as a key part of the world’s and Australia’s response to climate change. I’ve previously discussed Ben’s research on QEW in the post Does nuclear energy have a future in Australia?
In our conversation, Ben and I discuss how advances in nuclear technology, specifically the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), improve the case for nuclear power in Australia. Highly relevant to Queensland and other Australian states, given we have a number of regional towns (e.g. Biloela) highly dependent on coal-fired power plants for jobs, US company NuScale proposes that coal-fired power plants can be re-purposed for nuclear energy, a point Ben makes in our conversation. Check out NuScale’s Repurposing Coal Plant Sites for Nuclear web page for further information.
There appears to be growing interest in the potential for nuclear energy in Australia, although I suspect it will be politically impossible to develop an Australian nuclear energy industry in the foreseeable future. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the majority of Australians appear to have very high levels of risk aversion, and it’s easy to point to fear-inducing historical incidents of nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.
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I totally support nuclear energy. It’s safer and cheaper. The technology has improved significantly and in my view there won’t be any Chernobyl, etc. in the future.
There is definitely technical potential for nuclear energy. If we have to use fission, then SMR is probably the best way to go. It’s difficult to see it being affordable, in comparison to other energy sources & stores, though.
That the source is a political office suggests to me that the contents are more advocacy than factual.