Nuclear scare campaign threatens sensible energy transition

Another election, another baseless scare campaign

The Australian Institute for Progress has condemned a nuclear scare campaign from the Queensland government, saying sensible energy policy will be collateral damage to the government’s desire to hold on to political power.

AIP Executive Director Graham Young said the campaign looked like a re-run of “Campbell Newman’s web” from the Bligh government’s discredited 2012 campaign, combined with Kevin Rudd’s nuclear scare campaign of 2007.

“A government media release asserts a small pro-nuclear one-man lobby group actually determines LNP policy, and then uses that group’s list of possible reactor sites to claim the LNP wants to site reactors in a variety of coastal spots like the Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Gladstone.

“It also claims that the plan would be a threat to Copper String 2 and Queensland jobs, be too expensive, too risky and take too long to complete.”

Mr Young said the facts are that:

  • Labor’s wind-and-solar-power-only solution has already doubled the price Queensland households are paying for their electricity to the extent the government is directing two billion dollars to subsidise household electricity bills to disguise the fact.
  • Bills are set to go higher because the total ecosystem costs of wind and solar are much higher than for dispatchable power, requiring billions to be spent on network, storage and redundancies, including massively over-building generation capacity.
  • As stated yesterday by the Auditor-General, there is a risk that the failure by the state government to provide adequate storage could create problems in the state’s transition from coal. Our research says this concern is a significant understatement of the risk.
  • We do not know what the LNP’s nuclear policy will be in detail, but understand that it is to be technologically agnostic, which would mean much of the government’s current wind and solar investment commitments would remain in place.
  • The government claims nuclear is 5 times the cost of alternatives, but the real world says otherwise. France, which is 80% nuclear has similar household electricity bills to Queensland, while Ontario, with a mix of technologies, including nuclear, gas and hydro, also has a similar cost.
  • Government concern about the safety of nuclear is manufactured. Under AUKUS, supported by both sides of government, we will have nuclear reactors around all of our coasts. It should also be noted that in 2017 the USS Ronald Reagan, with two nuclear-powered reactors was moored for weeks in the Brisbane River without any protest from the state government.

“We support abolition of the bans on nuclear power production, and a sensible integration of nuclear into the network, with the most likely use being to replace coal-fired power stations, where the grid and water are already present.

“This would ensure that high paying jobs continue to be available to those currently employed in generating our electricity; restrict the encroachment on sensitive environments of solar, wind, pumped hydro and grid connections; and meet the government’s commitments to reduce CO2 emissions.

“In the 70s France decided to go nuclear and built its entire fleet of 56 reactors between 1972 and 1990 with an average construction time of 6 to 8 years each.

“This experience is confirmed more recently by the Barakah power station in the UAE which cost AUD $33 billion and has nameplate capacity of 5.6 GW, more than half what Queensland requires. This is around half the cost alone of the $60 billion the government has budgeted for their energy transition for systems that cannot operate 24/7.

“This powerplant was also built in 10 years.”