Nuclear energy needed for the future

South Australia’s future must include nuclear energy Business SA, Chief Executive Officer, Peter Vaughan has told a CEDA forum in Adelaide. With a diverse range of industries, reliant on coal, we must find a way to ensure they can continue, he said.

South Australia's future must include nuclear energy Business SA, Chief Executive Officer, Peter Vaughan has told a CEDA forum in Adelaide.

Following last month's launch of CEDA's latest energy research, Australia's Nuclear Energy, business and energy experts spoke of the pro's and con's of nuclear energy from business, environmental and political perspectives.

With a diverse range of industries, reliant on coal, we must find a way to ensure they can continue, he said.

As the only base load with almost zero emissions, nuclear energy is "the only way to achieve the economic development that we need, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that we avoid the worst impact of climate change," he said.

He said nuclear energy provides 15 per cent of the world's current electricity needs, with over 450 reactors over the world including the US, France and Japan. Australia supplies approximately 20 per cent of the world's mined uranium, the bulk of which is in South Australia.

"We must take advantage of our natural resources and nuclear energy must be a part of South Australia's, and our nation's energy mix.

"While we support uranium exports, it makes complete sense to add value to these resources in our own state, and our own country, rather than solely ship it overseas."

Mr Vaughan highlighted the technological advances which have increased the safety of nuclear power, and should reduce community concern.

"Safety is usually the major concern people have with nuclear energy....the much stronger safety standards on newer plants would ensure that the negative impacts of these disasters would not occur," he said.

"Australia is also one of the most geologically stable places on the planet. So the threat from earthquakes and subsequent tsunami's is virtually non-existent."

Mr Vaughan said that he supports uranium exports to India which is currently "one of the world's largest democracies and will be a rapidly growing economy for many years."

"To not take advantage of this would be a lost economic opportunity for Australia and would condemn India to a high polluting future and strand many of the countries citizens in poverty forever. That is unacceptable," he said.

"Geographically, geologically and geo-politically I would argue our state and this nation, is the safest place on the planet to look at nuclear waste storage."

Mr Vaughan said that there is no rational reason not to pursue nuclear energy in South Australia and Australia, we just lack political courage.

The University of Adelaide, The Climate Institute, Director Climate Science, Professor Barry Brook, said nuclear energy "provides among the best possible solution for our dependence on fossil fuels."

"There is no easy (energy) path to the future and any decision must be made on a cost-benefit evaluation," he said.

"Modern Australia is built on the back of a number of large coal power stations. That is what powers our modern economy and if we take into account our exports of coal, it's a large part of our economy.

"If we are going to be eliminating that dependency on coal we are going to have to find something that can deliver on a large scale, and nuclear energy is one of those.

"A rational way forward to displacing fossil fuels is to have a mixture of nuclear energy and renewable energy electricity and allow those to compete on a fair and level playing field."

Professor Brook highlighted Germany's "pass the buck" style goal (introduced post-Fukishima) to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. They are about half way there and by 2022 will remove all of their nuclear plants and introduce coal plants. Which will mean to meet their goal, they will be buying carbon credits from overseas.

In Australia he said the current Treasury plan has us purchasing over $90 billion of overseas offsets, through to 2050.

"If we introduced 20 gigawatts of nuclear electricity as part of our decarbonisation scheme, and continued on with the renewable energy plan, 40 per cent of electricity by 2050, we would save between 80-150 billion dollars on our abatement."

Toro Energy, Chairman, Dr Erica Smyth, said the two major challenges to nuclear power in Australia are community acceptance and legal frameworks.

Community acceptance includes removing fear campaigns to enable rational discussion about nuclear energy in Australia Dr Smyth said.

"Community acceptance isn't just about you or me, it's about our political acceptance," she said.

"If we don't have bipartisan support we are going to be caught in an argument that is going to go nowhere.

"Nearly all countries that have introduced or are introducing nuclear energy power, the National government is playing the lead role."

"There's a whole lot of legislation that will need to be changed or repealed or replaced to enable a federal system to come into place and be overriding the states."

Dr Smyth said we have had a nuclear reactor operating in this country for 40 or so years, and a new one operating at Antsow now, though neither are producing power to the grid.

Dr Smyth said that those Australian's who believe that wind and solar can solve our problem are in for a rude awakening when we realise what that will cost.

Members: for event audio click here.