The South Australian Labor government recently released its official response to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission’s 12 recommendations. Among them:
Number 8 has been the driving force for this blog since its very beginning, inspired by this article detailing the Australian Greens’ opportunistic prohibition of commercial nuclear energy in 1999. But even so, the government’s response is a very good start.
As noted on page 59 of the Royal Commission’s findings:
While nuclear generation is not currently viable, it is possible that this assessment may change. Its commercial viability as part of the NEM in South Australia under current market rules would be improved if… a national requirement for near-zero CO₂ emissions from the electricity sector made it impossible to rely on gas generation (open cycle gas turbine and combined cycle gas turbine) to balance intermittency from renewable sources.
South Australia has made great progress with clean wind energy. But even combined with photovoltaic solar, the crucial arithmetic clearly describes a lower limit far higher than near-zero:
How low can we get grid carbon intensity if we don’t use nuclear or CCS? Not better than about 320 gCO2/kWh: https://t.co/pBWChVsNgi
— John Morgan (@JohnDPMorgan) August 31, 2015
Indeed, only Denmark has a higher annual share of wind energy than South Australia. Yet its electrical CO₂-equivalent intensity is 375 grams per kilowatt hour; the majority of its conventional capacity still burns coal.
— TalkNUclear (@TalkNuclear) November 16, 2016
During the Royal Commission process, Kevin Scarce visited Canada, which sources about 17% of its electicity from nuclear:
Canada is the best role model for Australia because of its long track record and the economic benefits of $6 billion in annual turnover and the 60,000 people its nuclear industry employs.
The vast majority of this prosperous industry is in Ontario, which has already achieved the near-zero emissions intensity noted above.
The current lack of state government apetite for directly pursuing federal amendments is understandable, but broader decarbonisation is likely to get only so far without it.