Replacing Australia’s retiring coal power stations with small nuclear reactors could cost $387bn, analysis suggests | Energy

The federal authorities says it will value as a lot as $387bn to interchange Australia’s retiring coal-fired energy stations with the type of nuclear energy proposed by the Coalition.

The determine, produced by the vitality division, is the projected value of changing all the output from closing coal-fired vegetation with small modular reactors.

The opposition chief, Peter Dutton, has beforehand advised that Australia “could convert or repurpose coal-fired plants and use the transmission connections which already exist on those sites”.

Nonetheless, he has not been express about how a lot of the coal-fired electrical energy output would get replaced with nuclear-sourced vitality – an uncertainty that makes projecting the associated fee tough.

The determine provides gasoline to the rising political dispute over the tempo and type of Australia’s vitality transition.

The federal government mentioned the brand new evaluation confirmed a minimal of 71 small modular reactors – offering 300MW every – could be wanted if the coverage have been to totally substitute the 21.3GW output of Australia’s retiring coal fleet.

“According to the 2022-23 GenCost report modelling under the current policies scenario, this could cost $387bn,” a authorities abstract mentioned.

“This is due to the estimated capital cost of $18,167/kW for [small modular reactors] in 2030, compared to large scale solar at just $1,058/kW, and onshore wind at $1,989/kW.”

The federal government mentioned this could signify “a whopping $25,000 cost impost on each Australian taxpayer”.

The minister for local weather change and vitality, Chris Bowen, mentioned the opposition wished to advertise the advantages of “non-commercial” small modular reactor know-how “without owning up to the cost and how they intend to pay for it”.

“Peter Dutton and the opposition need to explain why Australians will be slugged with a $387bn cost burden for a nuclear energy plan that flies in the face of economics and reason,” Bowen mentioned.

“After nine years of energy policy chaos, rather than finally embracing a clean, cheap, safe and secure renewable future, all the Coalition can promise is a multi-bullion-dollar nuclear-flavoured energy policy.”

Dutton recognized Liddell as a doable website for a small modular reactor when he gave a pro-nuclear speech in July.

On the time, Dutton mentioned he noticed nuclear “not as a competitor to renewables, but as a companion” and he wished “an Australia where we can decarbonise and, at the same time, deliver cheaper, more reliable and lower emission electricity”.

He referred to as on the federal government to contemplate eradicating legislative prohibitions on new nuclear applied sciences – a step the previous Coalition authorities didn’t try throughout its 9 years in energy – “so we do not position Australia as a nuclear energy pariah”.

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Dutton additional accused Bowen of burrowing “so deeply down the renewable rabbit hole that he refuses to consider these new nuclear technologies”.

“The new nuclear technology train is pulling out of the station. It’s a train Australia needs to jump aboard.”

The estimates launched by the federal government on Monday are partly based mostly on the prices for small modular reactors outlined within the CSIRO’s GenCost report.

That report notes that international business deployment of small modular reactors is “limited to a small number of projects and the Australian industry does not expect any deployment here before 2030”.

The report notes some uncertainty across the projections.

“Nuclear SMR current costs are not reported since there is no prospect of a plant being deployed in Australia before 2030,” mentioned the CSIRO report, launched in July.

“However, some improved data on nuclear SMR may be available in future reports and projected capital costs for SMR have been included from 2030 onward.”

The federal authorities has set a purpose of 82% of electrical energy coming from renewable vitality by 2030, up from about 35% at the moment.

To realize this, the federal authorities has dedicated $20bn in low-cost finance for “rewiring the nation” – updating transmission traces – however is dealing with pushbacks from rural communities.

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