Five reasons to say no to nuclear

As more and more Australians are vocally calling on their leaders to deliver a renewable energy future, a predictable tide of commentators, media articles and inquiries have called for Australia to develop its nuclear energy capabilities. 

But we don't believe nuclear will ever be part of Australia’s net zero emissions future, for five main reasons:

Australians don't want nuclear energy

These risks are why more than half of Australians (51%) are opposed to nuclear power in the most recent Lowy Institute poll. This has recently been presented as a reason for investigating renewables by News Ltd, as it represents an 11% decrease in the proportion of Australians opposed to nuclear power since 2011.

However, developing a nuclear energy industry in Australia would require strong bipartisan support, not marginal acceptance. 

The risks of nuclear energy are too high

The nuclear industry has been at pains to reassure the community of its safety after each accident, most recently Fukushima. Although rare, the impacts of such disasters can linger for generations. As well as the health impacts, this makes insuring nuclear power incredibly complex.

Around the world, nuclear power has only been developed because of legal arrangements and legislation that limits the liability of the nuclear power generator and leaves the remainder of the bill for the Government to pay (Source)

These arrangements would have to be set for Australia, adding to the complexity, time and cost of developing a nuclear industry. 

There's no way to manage dangerous nuclear waste

Australia does not currently have any facilities to deal with nuclear waste created from the small Lucas Heights facility, so ships it overseas for reprocessing into a more stable form. This takes around 6 years and then the waste is shipped back to Australia.

After losing a fight with Traditional Owners of Muckaty Station, the returned nuclear waste is still stored at Lucas Heights in Sydney as there is no designated national repository. (Source)

It seems highly unlikely that there is anywhere in Australia that would accept a nuclear waste site capable of dealing with the exponential increases of waste from electricity generation.

It takes too long to build nuclear power stations to achieve our carbon reduction emissions

To achieve a 1.5 degree limit on global warming, we need to make substantial emissions cuts in the next decade to achieve a 1.5 degree limit on warming. (Source)

New nuclear power stations will take at least ten years to build.

In the UK, with a well established nuclear industry, Hinkley C nuclear power station is expected to be complete in 2026, ten years after gaining approval and nearly 20 years after it was first flagged as a nuclear power site in 2007. (Source) Small Modular Reactors (SMR), touted as quicker and easier to install, have also been plagued by problems in delivery.

In Argentina, construction of the CAREM-25 SMR was initially estimated to take three years when construction started in 2013, but it is still not complete. (Source)

Given the lack of nuclear industry in Australia, it would take at least 20 years to develop a policy framework for nuclear and complete construction. This puts us well into the 2040s; several decades past where we need to take climate action.

It costs too much to pursue a nuclear industry and will lock in high electricity prices for decades

CSIRO estimates that small modular nuclear reactors could generate electricity at a cost between $140 - $320/MWh by 2030. (Source) The lower end of this scale would only be achieved if other countries made significant investments in bringing down the cost of these technologies. These costs are not forecast to come down between 2030 and 2050. By contrast, Queensland’s average price in 2020-21 was $65/MWh. 

Queensland Conservation Council is strongly opposed to nuclear energy development in Australia. It would be costly, risky, unpopular and delay real climate action.