“Nuclear” is not a dirty word

3 Oct 2014

By 2030 literally dozens of small, modular nuclear reactors will be dotted around Australia, according to a leading world energy authority.

In welcoming the federal government’s Energy Green Paper, Tony Irwin, Chairman of Engineers Australia’s Nuclear Engineering Panel, said nuclear power was now on the table.

Speaking ahead of his address to All-Energy Australia at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 15th and 16th, Mr Irwin says “small modular reactors (SMRs) could really be a game changer for Australia.”

Mr Irwin, who spent 30 years in the UK operating large-scale nuclear plants before joining the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, says “they are particularly suitable for remote areas and small transmission grids.

“Being small, SMRs have natural safety and would readily survive a Fukushima tragedy.”

Economically, Mr Irwin says they are commensurate with other energy generation technologies.

“They cost about $5 million per megawatt installed, with a typical plant about 100 megawatts, so that equates to an outlay of half a billion dollars in today’s terms.”

In fact, the Australian Energy Technology Assessment conducted by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics last year found that nuclear is the lowest cost base-load low emissions technology.

Mr Irwin says with the process that is taking place now, Australia should be in a position to build small nuclear power stations by 2020.

He will tell All-Energy delegates that timing is perfect because by then we will be looking for new electricity generation and dozens of these small nuclear plants will be built.

Mr Irwin says “long-term, high-level radioactive waste is no longer an issue because countries like Finland and Sweden have shown that deep geological disposal is now practical.”

But he acknowledges that greater education is needed so people won’t automatically associate a modern nuclear reactor with disaster and environmental degradation.

Mr Irwin says Olympic Dam in South Australia is a perfect site for one of these readily transportable modular nuclear power plants.

“There are also a lot of other places at the edge of the grid in rural and remote Australia that need energy support, so they too would be suitable,” Mr Irwin says.

The Energy Green Paper is open for public comment until November 4th, with the government to draft a White Paper soon after, which is expected to be the foundation stone for future energy policy.


Sign up to our newsletter to get All-Energy Australia mail straight to your inbox.