Zombie ideas never die. Among the hardiest, it seems, is the suggestion that nuclear power represents a possible solution to Australia’s energy problems, including the need to decarbonize energy supply. I just received an invitation to an event entitled Going Nuclear: Reconsidering Australia’s Energy Mix being organized by the by Centre for Market Design at the University of Melbourne.
The speakers are Renaud Coulomb of the University of Melbourne talking about public attitudes and, more interestingly to me, Mr Tony Wood, Director of the Energy Program at the Grattan Institute.
I was struck by the suggestion that Wood planned to discuss his, report; ‘No easy choices: which way to Australia’s energy future?‘, which I hadn’t seen come out. I looked it up, and it turns out to have been published back in 2012.
It gets worse. Wood’s cost estimates are based on cost estimates from a February 2010 report by the US-based Electric Power Research Institute, drawing on its internal database from 2009. No details are given, but it’s safe to assume that the original data would be from 2008 at the latest, making the estimates a decade old.
A decade ago, nuclear still looked like a plausible option, certainly to me. But that was before the massive decline in the cost of renewables, and the collapse of the nuclear renaissance in the US and elsewhere. The number of nuclear plants under construction is dropping steadily as projects are completed or abandoned while hardly any new ones take their place. Even existing nuclear plants are closing down.
The illusory nuclear power option has only ever served to derail debate around energy policy in Australia. Reviving this zombie now, and using outdated information to do it, is totally irresponsible.