CEC slams nuclear inquiry as “distraction” from real energy challenges

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Clean Energy Council says nuclear power would need “minor miracle” to get up in Australia, and inquiry distracts from “much more pressing and worthwhile topics.”

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The Clean Energy Council has delivered a scathing submission to the federal government’s nuclear power inquiry, describing the review itself as a waste of time, and the consideration of nuclear energy as a viable generation source in Australia as “beyond comprehension.”

The CEC’s belated submission on the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia said the clean energy industry was disappointed the federal parliament had prioritised the inquiry over “much more pressing and worthwhile topics” such as the need for integrated energy and climate policy.

“Inquiries such as this are not only misdirected, but also act as a distraction to addressing the real challenges confronting investors, customers and institutions attempting to facilitate and respond to this transition,” CEC chief Kane Thornton said.

And it said little had changed since past analysis of the topic had concluded that nuclear power was too costly, took too long to develop, and would require “a minor miracle” to win community support.

These factors, considered in the light of the “extraordinary progress” of renewable energy and energy storage, and its potential to deliver reliable, affordable and clean power for Australia, just made the inquiry seem even more ridiculous.

“It is beyond our comprehension as to why Australia would contemplate replacing one dirty energy energy production technology with another that produces large amounts of highly hazardous waste, when it could fulfil its objectives of zero emissions with technologies that are lower-cost, faster to develop and readily available now,” the CEC said.

The submission points to the findings of the CSIRO’s GenCost study of 2018, which puts the cost of small modular reactors in excess of $250/MW/hr, compared to the prices of wind and solar energy at $50/MWh. Firmed wind and solar costs, meanwhile, are now below $70/MWh.

And it points out that the only remaining roadblock to the wholesale shift to renewables in Australia is a political one.

“A lack of federal energy policy and combination of a range of regulatory challenges mean that investment confidence in large-scale renewable energy and the accompanying energy storage is fragile,” the submission says.

“As Australia’s coal fired generation continues to close, there is a clear need for policy and regulatory reform to support the continued deployment of renewable energy and energy storage that will secure system reliability and lower energy prices.”

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