Federal and state governments in Australia should overturn their bans on nuclear energy, allowing it to compete with new and existing fuel sources in the free market.
Nuclear power technology has improved considerably in the recent decades, and is now one of the best fuel sources for the world of tomorrow.
There are two types of nuclear energy, nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. Nuclear fusion is an exciting concept that could solve many of the world’s energy needs, but the technology is not yet practicable. However, this is not the case with nuclear fission — which this proposal will focus on.
Nuclear energy has a negative stigma surrounding it, hindering the growth of nuclear power in Australia. Many people are apprehensive about adopting nuclear because of perceived safety risks. But these fears largely unsubstantiated when it comes to modern nuclear technology. The safety of modern nuclear reactors has improved considerably since the construction of Chernobyl, and even Fukushima — which only faced problems because of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, which the reactor was not designed to cope with. Given the geological stability of the Australian continent, this is a risk Australian reactors would not face.
Nuclear technology has significant advantages over other sources of energy — both economic and environmental — and it shouldn’t be held back by unwarranted fears.
With inbuilt safety mechanisms reducing the chance of catastrophe to near zero, and the existence of large deposits of uranium, Australia is in a unique position to take advantage of this cheap, reliable, and scalable source of energy.
The benefits of nuclear
All energy sources have positive and negative characteristics — pollution, unreliability, expense, etc. But nuclear compares well to other leading sources of energy in Australia, including fossil fuel and renewables.
Nuclear energy has significant economic benefits when compared to alternative energy sources. Nuclear power is efficient and is capable of producing large amounts of base loud power. This means it can reliably generate electricity around the clock, in all weather conditions. This is an obvious advantage over renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar, that are only able to produce electricity when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. This is known as the intermittency problem, and it is an extreme disadvantage for a society that needs a reliable energy source to power essential services like hospitals.
ii. Economic benefits
Nuclear power is also a cheap source of energy. Initial set-up costs can be high, but once a nuclear power station is online running costs are low, and the initial set-up costs can be spread over a power plant’s lifespan — nuclear power plants can produce energy for 50 to 70 years. Uranium, the fuel for nuclear power, is also relatively cheap, and Australia has 33 percent of the world’s deposits, ensuring a us a secure supply.
i. Environmental benefits
Nuclear power is a clean source of energy that has the capacity to drastically reduce pollution, without the increasing costs of renewable technologies.
The production of nuclear energy does not produce carbon emissions. This makes nuclear power a valuable tool for combating climate change. Large scale adoption of nuclear energy would significantly reduce Australia’s carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change.
Nuclear energy also has one of the lowest ecological footprints of comparable energy sources. Unlike wind and solar, minimal land is required. And unlike fossil fuels, the byproducts of nuclear energy are collected and stored in safe locations, rather than spread throughout the atmosphere.
Nuclear energy uses vastly less material than other fuel sources like coal or gas. This reduces the pollution from transportation, as much less material needs to be transported. Only 28 grams of uranium is needed to produce as much energy as 100 metric tons of coal. With the energy density of a plant being ten million times the amount released burning fossil fuel atoms.
ii. Base load that can be adjusted easily
Nuclear power plants can vary the amount of base energy they produce relatively easily. This makes nuclear energy ideal for use in conjunction with renewable energy sources that suffer from intermittency problems, like solar and wind. On days of high wind or solar energy production the base load energy provided by nuclear can be reduced, and on days of low wind and solar energy production it can be increase, thereby maintaining the stability of the energy grid.