Mar 16, 2011

Fukushima wrecks the already problematic finances of nuclear power

Financing new nuclear power stations is difficult enough at the best of times. Fukushima will make the maths even harder for years to come.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Tony Abbott’s sound political instincts kicked in yesterday when he saw nuclear power looming as a potentially damaging issue for the Coalition. At the risk of openly contradicting his deputy, he killed the issue off.

The Coalition doesn’t have a policy to promote nuclear power in this country. I think for the foreseeable future nuclear power will be far more expensive than coal power, gas power, even some renewable power I think, and I think it’s not an option that Australians are likely to need to consider any time soon.

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11 thoughts on “Fukushima wrecks the already problematic finances of nuclear power

  1. MLF

    “…That’s why nuclear power has long been problematic — not just because Three Mile Island and Chernobyl turned nuclear reactors into the stuff of nightmares, but because investors and banks don’t like the uncertainty and lengthy delay on return…”

    Says it all really.

    Thanks Bernard. Loving the observations in the top half of this piece.

  2. rossco

    There have been no new reactors commissioned in the USA since 1979, ie Three Mile Is. Obama has proposed nuclear as the way for the US to cut emissions to meet climate change targets. Can’t see it happening now.

  3. Gavin Moodie

    And of course governments have to take responsibility for nuclear waste, for which there is still no satisfactory solution. Furthermore, the solution has to be effective for longer than the USA has existed as a political entity, longer than any democracy has lasted, and prolly longer than Christianity has lasted.

  4. Dr Strangelove

    The Australian Industry Group’s recent report on energy summed up nuclear power reasonably objectively as far as business groups go:

    “While a cheaper source of baseload than some immature or intermittent renewables, nuclear power has very high capital costs. It is unlikely ever to be commercially competitive in Australia without very substantial regulatory intervention or a moderate carbon price.

    Other serious obstacles include strong opposition from parts of the community, associated political nervousness, the need for secure long-term waste storage or processing facilities, and the broader need for a nuclear industrial and skills base that would take some years to develop. At least a decade would elapse between any decision to pursue nuclear power and an operational plant.”

  5. MLF

    “Obama has proposed nuclear as the way for the US to cut emissions to meet climate change targets…”

    I agree Rosco, it will be hard politically now – although the lobby is large. I haven’t read about Obama being pro-nuclear, this surprises and disappoints me.

    God forbid they should consider actually reducing their energy requirements and stop driving gas guzzlers around…..

  6. James P. McGrath

    Does anyone know the carbon price per tonne solar and wind power becomes feasible? If it is less than $20-$50 a tonne then Nuclear is a dead duck (at least until fusion becomes a reality).

    With a Nuclear plant taking 10-20 years to build, and solar power’s cost coming down constantly, it seems that it would be a risky investment to build a nuclear plant when Solar might easily become a cheaper option before the plant comes online.

    That said, there is something to be said for the new class of reactors that can reprocess spent fuel from nuclear weapons and older reactors. This means there is no need to dig up more fuel (that has to be somehow stored) and it reduces the potency of the the waste:

  7. klewso

    Personally, it doesn’t matter what Tony Abbott says, when there’s a vote in the balance and up for grabs – even if it’s “scripted”?

  8. rossco

    Re Obama & nuclear power.

    State of the Union Address 2011

    “Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses knowthere will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal,we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.”

    And on 15/3,0,2062754.story

    “U.S. stands by nuclear power, Energy secretary says
    The Obama administration is ‘committed to learning from Japan’s experience,’ says Steven Chu. The White House had proposed billions of dollars to help expand nuclear power.”

  9. rossco

    Any reason why my last comment is stuck in moderation?

  10. Alan Carpenter

    Nuc lear plants cannot be built without taxpayer/government taking on the insurance liability normally bourne by the company. This is going to be a monumental burthen on the Japanese taxpayers already in terrible strife, In addition Nuclear power generation is not a sustainable power source; as uranium mines are worked out cost will rise like oil. Add in the decommisionig and waste storage cost most of which will fall to the taxpayer and the whole concept seems ludicrous

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