The South Australian Labor government recently released its official response to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission’s 12 recommendations. Among them:
Number 8 has been the driving force for this blog since its very beginning, inspired by this article detailing the Australian Greens’ opportunistic prohibition of commercial nuclear energy in 1999. But even so, the government’s response is a very good start.
As noted on page 59 of the Royal Commission’s findings:
While nuclear generation is not currently viable, it is possible that this assessment may change. Its commercial viability as part of the NEM in South Australia under current market rules would be improved if… a national requirement for near-zero CO₂ emissions from the electricity sector made it impossible to rely on gas generation (open cycle gas turbine and combined cycle gas turbine) to balance intermittency from renewable sources.
South Australia has made great progress with clean wind energy. But even combined with photovoltaic solar, the crucial arithmetic clearly describes a lower limit far higher than near-zero:
How low can we get grid carbon intensity if we don’t use nuclear or CCS? Not better than about 320 gCO2/kWh: https://t.co/pBWChVsNgi
— John Morgan (@JohnDPMorgan) August 31, 2015
Indeed, only Denmark has a higher annual share of wind energy than South Australia. Yet its electrical CO₂-equivalent intensity is 375 grams per kilowatt hour; the majority of its conventional capacity still burns coal.
50 years of #nuclear in Canada has avoided >2.5 billion tons of emissions from coal, says @TalkNuclear pres John Barrett at #NuclearSympo
— TalkNUclear (@TalkNuclear) November 16, 2016
During the Royal Commission process, Kevin Scarce visited Canada, which sources about 17% of its electicity from nuclear:
Canada is the best role model for Australia because of its long track record and the economic benefits of $6 billion in annual turnover and the 60,000 people its nuclear industry employs.
The vast majority of this prosperous industry is in Ontario, which has already achieved the near-zero emissions intensity noted above.
The current lack of state government apetite for directly pursuing federal amendments is understandable, but broader decarbonisation is likely to get only so far without it.
Unfortunately, South Australia & NSW seem to have more in common with Canada’s province of Alberta, than with Ontario: Lots of fossil fuel reserves and no desire to “level the playing field” in terms of undesirable emissions.
Our Paris pledge of a 26+% reduction implies 889 X 0.74 = 658 gCO2/kwh pro rata. The IPCC tell us it must be in the range 0-100 preferably under 50 grams like France and Ontario. Even without carbon pricing replacing old coal baseload stations with intermittently charged batteries will be more expensive than nuclear. Powerwalls have an LCOE of 50c per kwh excluding charging costs or $500 per Mwh if that applied to commercial batteries. Future combined cycle gas looks likely to be in the $100-$200 per Mwh range. NuScale predict an LCOE of $US90 per Mwh.
That’s a double whammy…. not only far too high in CO2 when backed by gas but also too expensive when backed by either gas or batteries. I expect true believers will say no price is too high.