Pioneer-Burdekin pumped hydro cost over run makes the case for nuclear

$18 Billion just the tip but there is a better solution

Reports that the Pioneer-Burdekin pumped hydro scheme could cost $18 billion or higher is a good argument for nuclear energy, according to Australian Institute for Progress Executive Director Graham Young.

“Once you take into account the need to refill the dam, which lessens its real capacity, as well as the need for duplicate capacity to fill it, as well as the destruction of pristine environments, nuclear is well-ahead on cost and practicality.”

Mr Young said the cost of the dam equates to $9 billion per GW of capacity, where international comparisons show a nuclear power plant can be built for somewhere in the vicinity of $6 billion per GW of capacity,

“But that is only part of the story. A nuclear power station generates power while a pumped hydro system only stores it.

“The dam will discharge 2 GW per hour for 24 hours before needing to be refilled which will also take 24 hours, so its effective capacity over time is more like 1 GW, or 50% of its rated capacity.

“Nuclear power stations discharge 90% of the time, so over time the capacity of a similar rated nuclear power generator would be 1.8 GW.”

Mr Young said that it was unlikely that the dam would ever be emptied and would be only partly emptied on a regular basis, increasing the capital cost per unit of electricity.

“And then there is the cost of the generation capacity required to fill it.

“The state government appears to be hoping that roof top solar will provide the electricity during the day, but in an emergency situation, like a widespread rain event neither sun nor wind might be available over the east coast of the state, including the Renewable Energy Zones.

“That will require gas generation standing buy, just in case, to step in when the pumped hydro cannot.”

Mr Young said that network costs were currently about 40% of electricity bills.

“Pumped hydro storage with its multiple uncertainties and need for redundancies, will demand a dramatically expanded network.

“Nuclear on the other hand can be plugged into the current grid at places that already generate power, and stands on its own, generating power for 70 years or more.

“Premier Miles is quoted as saying ‘you have to pay what it costs to build what you need’, which seems to translate to ‘we’ve decided to do this whatever the cost’.

“That is not good enough. The state government needs to do a proper cost benefit analysis of the alternatives before they pour multiple Olympic Games’ worth of expenditure into uneconomic assets which will burden the state with astronomical debt and a smaller economy.”