Nuclear energy cheaper than renewables: UK expert Dr Tim Stone

Nuclear power is a cheaper, cleaner energy alternative to renewables, UK Office for Nuclear Development former Chair, Dr Tim Stone has told a CEDA event in Adelaide.

“When you work out the cost of the electricity over the life of the (nuclear) kit…it is a lot cheaper than the honest number for renewables,” he said.

“If you add the cost of that (production) plus the cost of intermittency support, it’s a lot more expense and this is the issue where we need to get rational conversations.”

Dr Stone said it is also important to have rational discussion and research into developing nuclear power technology especially the back end of the fuel cycle.

“We do need to get a much better handle on rational, outcome-directed R&D,” he said.

On developing nuclear energy, Dr Stone said the scale and pace of change is something not seen since the industrial revolution and you can’t rely on markets for investment and development alone.

“In dealing with this pace and scale of change you’ve really got to recognise that you can’t aggregate the results and the consequences to market,” he said. 

“You’ve got to recognise that there are actually limits to markets.”

To deal with rapid expansion of the energy industry, Dr Stone said developing skills and implementing diverse government policies are important.

“You’ve got to make sure the department of education starts to see itself as a supply chain for people…you’ve got to think about how you enable the SMEs (small to medium enterprises) to upskill,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Japan’s Hitotsubashi University Professor, Nobumasa Akiyama discussed the safety of nuclear energy.

"There are three important issues of conditionality for nuclear energy – safety, security, safeguards,” he said.

Professor Akiyama said there are opportunities as well as risks and constraints in promoting nuclear, noting nuclear is an opportunity to reduce fossil fuel emissions and export uranium.

“Of course for a resource exporting country like Australia it’s a great opportunity if we see more numbers of the nuclear power plants, that means demand for uranium will increase,” he said.

On the constraints, Professor Akiyama said countries must be prepared to deal with the risks of nuclear power plants.

“One is the lack of awareness within some countries about promoting regulation or strengthening the regulations in terms of nuclear safety and security.”

Professor Akiyama also said it is important for regional and global safety for Japan and Australia to work together.

There are dangers that less well-regulated suppliers could open nuclear energy plants and countries.

“If those countries are not (as) concerned about safety, security and safeguards as Japan, Australia and the US then we may see a considerably less secure world,” he said.