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The Background

The Federal Coalition, now the Federal opposition, is ignoring climate change after helping to subsidise massive ‘climate bomb’ gas projects, such as Woodside’s Scarborough Gas Project, or the Beetaloo Gas Project.

According to reports of a and Lock the Gate report:

at least $1.3bn and up to $1.9bn in direct funding for the gas industry was promised between September 2020 and the election. They found another $63m was pledged in indirect funding for federal agencies to support the expansion.

Adam Morton, Katharine Murphy and Paul Karp Greens in ‘powerful position’ on climate as Labor faces scrutiny over Coalition’s ‘gas-fired recovery’ projects. The Guardian 3 August 2022

The International Energy Agency made it clear in May 2021:

from today, [there should be] no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants. By 2035, there are no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars, and by 2040, the global electricity sector has already reached net-zero emissions.

IEA Press Release, Pathway to critical and formidable goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 is narrow but brings huge benefits, according to IEA special report. 18 May 2021.

We are also in a position in which

Exxon Mobil made $18bn in profits in the past three months. Shell and Chevron each made nearly $12bn. Those are all record numbers.

A recent study showed that for the past 50 years, the oil industry has made profits of more than $1tn a year, close to $3bn a day. These profits are driven not by some fantasy of free enterprise and perfect competition, but by the exact opposite – cartels, mega-corporations and the regulatory capture of governments..,

Hamilton Nolan The world is ablaze and the oil industry just posted record profits. It’s us or them, The Guardian 2 August 2022

And we still have the figures from MarketForces of corporate tax paying in Australia

As well, in Australia we will likely face a gas shortfall next year, as well as this year, not because we have no gas, not because there is no government support for gas, but because it is more profitable to sell it elsewhere, we don’t have enough renewables to avoid dependency on fossil fuels, and we live with fossil fuel companies that behave like cartels. We have massive increase in household electricity bills as a result.

Australia and the World has massive problems with continuing fossil fuel production.

Talking Nuclear

However, after apparently ignoring these problems while it was in government, the Coalition has suddenly promised to talk about nuclear. This is despite the leader, Peter Dutton, saying a couple of months ago “nuclear energy is currently ‘not on the table’ for Liberal Party policy consideration.”

However, more recently, the leader of the opposition said:

It is high time that Australia had an honest and informed debate on the benefits and costs of nuclear energy….

The current energy crisis has shown the importance of getting more dispatchable power into the grid. The average wholesale electricity price in the second quarter this year was three times higher than the same time a year ago – a situation described by the Australian Energy Market Operator as ‘unprecedented’….

Australia is already a nuclear nation.  The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has operated a nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights for over 60 years. A national conversation about potential of nuclear energy is the logical next step.


Let’s be clear the ANSTO reactor at Lucas Heights, is not a nuclear power plant. It is a small reactor used to manufacture radioisotopes for medicine, and science experiments. It is not relevant to nuclear power.

So why do the Coalition apparently think focusing on nuclear is a good idea?

We need to note.

  • The Coalition could not succesfully start the ‘conversation’ while they were in government and had the power to do anything – despite producing the report: “Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology in Australia” .
  • We have already had multiple inquiries that suggest nuclear power is too expensive without a carbon price which the Coalition will not accept, and few people want to live next door to one.
  • In their mind it appears to ‘excuse’ opposing climate targets, and suggests they might have a plan.
  • They will probably hope to distract from their failure to agree to actually cut emissions by arguing that people disinterested in nuclear energy, such as most people in Labor, Green and Teals, are not really prepared to tackle climate change, and are only interested in crippling the Australian economy, while the Coalition has a practical solution to the problem with zero social cost.
  • However, they have no ability, or probably intention, to get nuclear up before 2030 and thus help phase out greenhouse gas emissions. It’s just empty virtue signaling.

If you want to see the difficulties of modern nuclear then have a look at the Hinkley Point project.

The CSIRO was recently unable to get any pricing from the people claiming to have developed Small and Medium Reactors, and CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall pointed out that:

The latest report shows renewables are holding steady as the lowest cost source of new-build electricity.. With the world’s largest penetration of rooftop solar, unique critical energy metals, a world class research sector and a highly skilled workforce, Australia can turn our challenges into the immense opportunity of being a global leader in renewable energy

CSIRO press release Renewables remain cheapest, but cost reductions on hold. 11 July 2022

The report summary also said:

The status of nuclear SMR has not changed. Following extensive consultation with the Australian electricity industry, report findings do not see any prospect of domestic projects this decade, given the technology’s commercial immaturity and high cost. Future cost reductions are possible but depend on its successful commercial deployment overseas.

CSIRO press release Renewables remain cheapest, but cost reductions on hold. 11 July 2022

The real report states:

We have had a range of feedback into the assumed current costs for nuclear SMR over several years reflecting the difficulty of finding good evidence for costs in circumstances where a technology is not currently being deployed. This year only one submission was received but it continues the theme established in previous years that current costs of nuclear SMR should be lower. Vendors seeking to encourage the uptake of a new technology have proposed theoretical cost estimates, but these cannot be verified until proven through a deployed project.

Graham et al… GenCost 2021-22 Final report p.14

So the chances of getting affordable nuclear in time, seems small. However the cost of renewables is decreasing and they are much easier to build than reactors.

It seems likely that a conversation on nuclear, at the same time as ignoring all the other fossil fuel problems we have, and all the solutions we have, is likely to be an attempted shield for doing nothing.