No nuclear reactor for South Australia
aking account of future demand and anticipated costs of nuclear power under the existing electricity market structure, it would not be commercially viable to generate electricity from a nuclear power plant in South Australia in the foreseeable future.
However, Australia’s electricity system will require low-carbon generation sources to meet future global emissions reduction targets. Nuclear power may be necessary, along with other low carbon generation technologies. It would be wise to plan now to ensure that nuclear power would be available should it be required.
The detailed findings are sensible (that is to say, largely in line with my submission and evidence. A crucial para:
If nuclear power were to be developed in South Australia, a proven design should be used that has been constructed elsewhere, preferably on multiple occasions, and should incorporate the most advanced active and passive safety features. This is likely to include consideration of small modular reactor (SMR) designs, but exclude for the foreseeable future fast reactors
Given that Barry Brook, a leading enthusiast for fast reactors was part of the Commission’s Expert Advisory Panel, this finding should make it clear that fast reactors are an option for the distant (beyond foreseeable) future.
The finding is striking because South Australia is, or ought to be a test case for those arguing that a carbon-free electricity system must rely on “baseload” nuclear. South Australia has high and increasing reliance on renewables, is close to phasing out coal, and has limited interconnection capacity. It’s exactly the modle that anti-renewable sites like Brave New Climate have “proved” time after time can’t possibly work without nuclear power. Yet, it seems, even a sympathetic inquiry finds nuclear power to be an option for the distant future, if that.
Most of the news attention has been focused on the Commission’s other key finding, that South Australia should establish a nuclear waste dump. I don’t have a view on the economics of this, but I see no reason for an objection in principle. The waste exists and has to be kept somewhere. South Australia produced some of the uranium and continues to produce it. Finally, the difficulty of dealing with waste is at most a minor factor in the growth and decline of nuclear power, so there’s no likelihood that the decision to create a dump would have much effect on the process.
In these circumstances, I can’t see why any other location should be preferred. If it works for South Australian voters (it probably won’t), the dump should go there.