The Real Cost of Australia’s Nuclear Energy Plans

The Australian Federal Labor government has estimated the cost of the federal Coalition’s push for nuclear energy at $387 billion, describing it as “lies and fantasies” driven by a dislike for wind and solar energy. The estimate is based on replacing Australia’s remaining coal fleet with a minimum of 71 small modular reactors. The government argues that nuclear energy is three times more expensive than firmed renewables and that the Coalition is not being transparent about the cost or how it intends to pay for it.

The push for nuclear energy in Australia is led by Liberal leader Peter Dutton and the National’s David Littleproud, who have called for a halt to the rollout of wind and solar. The Labor government criticizes these plans as a distraction from the need to address emissions in the next decade, particularly in light of the net zero 2050 target. The Coalition’s campaign for nuclear energy has been accompanied by a social media and mainstream media campaign demonizing wind, solar, and storage.

The cost estimate from Labor is based on the GenCost report produced by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator. While the Coalition, conservative media, and the nuclear lobby have criticized these reports, the reality is that commercial nuclear small modular reactors do not yet exist and are unlikely to be available for at least the next decade. Climate scientists argue that Australia should be accelerating the rollout of renewables and storage to meet climate targets, rather than delaying progress by waiting for unproven nuclear technologies.

The Coalition has failed to provide costings for its nuclear plans and has been accused of being climate deniers by the Labor government. Without a concrete plan or existing technology, the Labor government argues that the Coalition’s nuclear energy plans are economically and logistically unsound.

Sources: Department of Energy, Chris Bowen, Giles Parkinson (Renew Economy)