Rejecting the call for Australia to get fast breeder reactors

(My letter to The Age, in response to article on 22 July)

In reply to the call for Australia to “consider” nuclear power, and even that nuclear power is “inevitable” for Australia,  The there are several matters that show that this is far from true.

First of all, renewable energy growth does not depend on Australia’s carbon tax.  Decentralised solar energy is becoming cheaper all the time, and even in Australia, is already taking business away from traditional centralised electricity. Battery storage of solar energy is improving all the time

Centralised solar power – large concentrated solar, and photovoltaic array systems do need government  subsidy to get started,  – but then  the fuel, sunlight, is free.  Commercial molten salt towers now provide storage of energy.  Wind power also is developing fast – the nuclear lobbyists don’t seem to want to keep up with this information.

As to ” fast breeder reactors  mopping up long-term nasties in waste,’‘ – this idea has been soundly rejected in USA. The  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), in research paid for by the nuclear industry concluded that fast breeder reactors were uneconomical. Both Britain and Japan have wasted huge amounts of money on the Sellafield and Monju failed experiments in nuclear reprocessing.

The  the core problem is that these  new reactors don’t eliminate the nuclear waste that has piled up so much as transmute it. They still end up producing radioactive wastes.

For Australia to get these “fast breeder reactors” they would have to be fuelled by plutonium – radioactive waste.  Where would we get this?.  So – Australia would need to import these wastes, or, to set up our own “conventional” nuclear reactors – in order to get the plutonium fuel

Either way – this would bring a problem for Australia.  Forgetting all those trivialities like safety, weapons proliferation, terrorism risks –  there’s one insurmountable problem –   COST.  Energy analysts now recognise that the only way that new nuclear reactors have any hope of being economical is in mass production and mass sales.

While renewable energy technologies become cheaper, more efficient, and more popular, the chances of Australia buying nuclear reactors, even the “Small Modular” ones in great numbers, are pretty slim.

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