The Greens’ Problem: part 3

Ouchijuku snow festival, Fukushima (Rad Season)

I’m challenging my members to look for exciting solutions and think about the generations to come. We live in a resource-rich nation, where energy should be our competitive advantage… we’ve been led by political correctness and unfortunately by fear and mistruths.

So said the leader of the National party in NSW, John Barilaro, as he called for consideration of modern nuclear energy as part of Australia’s future energy mix.

Naturally, this was met with the sort of livid indignation from the Greens leadership that was illustrated in part 2. Jeremy Buckingham MP’s press release invokes nuclear waste, Fukushima and Chernobyl as apparently sufficient bases for rejection, despite using that familiar image of a burning oil refinery belching out fossil fuel waste instead of anything related to nuclear energy. He touts Solar and wind capacity aggressively as the desirable alternatives, but this common, exaltant all we need is renewables theme is being increasingly warned against by serious proponents of renewable energy:

It’s understandable that environmental organizations and activists would want to build public enthusiasm for renewable energy. But making wind and solar seem like they’re doing better than they really are could come back to bite proponents — and the climate.

Sure, some nuclear plants take a decade to build, but faster construction has been repeatedly achieved, while comparing time and costs with technologies like solar and wind is far from straightforward and often surprising, as recent comprehensive analysis revealed.

It’s worth briefly unpacking the issue of cost, because cost has arguably become the primary crutch of opposition. Let’s take two relevant examples: the 48 megawatt (MW) Manildra solar farm in NSW, costing $100 million ($9.8 million from the federal government); and the much-maligned 2-reactor Hinkley Point C plant in the UK, 3,260 MW total for the equivalent of $42.4 billion (with a government guaranteed price per kWh). No one denies the reactors are a massive upfront cost — 6.3 times the cost of the solar, MW for MW. But while the average annual capacity factor of the Manildra farm is about 28%, Hinkley Point C is designed to meet power demand day and night, all year round at about 90%. So on a generated power basis, solar would be about half the cost, except that its lifetime is 30 years while modern nuclear plants are constructed to last for at least 60. Thus, we can quickly see that climate friendly kWhs from “cheap” solar and “expensive” nuclear are much closer in overall long-term value than they initially look.

Hinkley Point C size reactors won’t even fit on Australia’s current grid. Instead, it’ll be newer, smaller designs which are fabricated on assembly lines and added sequentially, much like the modular units at solar and wind energy sites.

The Greens believe the future of energy supply is renewables, not dirty coal and dangerous nuclear power.

It’s past time that Greens leaders accounted for the divergence of their beliefs from the stated position of the world’s peak body on climate change.

And it’s well past time that the informed and rational nuclear energy discussion in Australia moved past the diversions of those who can’t tell an oil refinery from a nuclear reactor — as well as those who can, yet aim to confuse.

Fortunately, a new breed of environmentalism, informed by and defending good science and accurate knowledge, is already offering Australia a preferable alternative to the fear and mistruths.

Eco-modernism, clean energy abundance and enhanced opportunity for future generations.

Eco-modernism, clean energy abundance and enhanced opportunity for future generations.