Australian Royal Commission: Nuclear Power Unviable, But Waste Storage Lucrative (February 2016)

A South Australian Royal Commission has scuttled suggestions that nuclear power is currently an economically viable way to bring down emissions in the state, but promoted the multi-billion dollar economic virtues of storing other nations’ nuclear waste materials.

The ‘tentative findings’ of the Royal Commission sit uneasily with the often trenchant claims from both sides of the nuclear debate, and open a series of questions around how the struggling state might take advantage of expanding its nuclear involvement.

At a press conference yesterday Commissioner Kevin Scarce, who has spent 12 months taking evidence from 128 witnesses, backed nuclear supporters’ complaint that “the debate has been framed upon fear”.

“One of the reasons that I signed up to this particular job was I thought it was important to have a discussion on fact, and that is what I’ve attempted to do,” he said.

The interim report did not make any recommendations, but appears to have sidelined the possibility of nuclear power generation as a means of meeting South Australia’s ambitious emissions reduction targets, at least in the near-term.

“Taking account of future demand and anticipated costs of nuclear power under the existing electricity market structure, it would not be commercially viable to generate electricity from a nuclear power plant in South Australia in the foreseeable future,” the report said.

“That being said, we believe, based upon the evidence given to the Commission, that nuclear is a low-carbon energy source. It’s comparable with other renewable technologies,” Scarce said.

“Nuclear generation should be part of the national consideration because of the potential challenges of Australia meeting its carbon abatement task both now and into the future,” he said.

The report found nuclear power generation would not be capable of substantially contributing to emissions reductions before 2030 – due to long lead times in construction – but that “it would be wise now to plan for a contingency” to take affect in the decades after.

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By Thom Mitchell on February 16, 2016 Civil Society Environment, as posted on New Matilda at https://newmatilda.com/2016/02/16/royal-commission-nuclear-power-unviable-waste-storage-lucrative/

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