29 May 2024

Topics: GenCost, Zero-emissions nuclear energy,


Stephen Cenatiempo, Ted O’Brien

Stephen Cenatiempo 

We spoke last week about the CSIRO issuing in its GenCost report. The costings of what they think a large-scale nuclear plant would cost. They say $8.6 billion to build and 15 years.

The opposition energy spokesperson Ted O’Brien has asked the CSIRO to rerun its modeling to cost nuclear power. He joins me on the line now. $8.6 billion and 15 years, I say ‘so what?’.

Ted O’Brien 

Yeah, well look, I think the big issue with the report that they put out last week was what they’re suggesting the price of electricity would be. I mean, they’re suggesting that, that a nuclear power plant, for example, only lasts 30 years.

But these are assets that, you know, typically last 80 years, and the latest design of next generation nuclear plants are looking at 100 years, and so you know, you start doing your modeling, pretending it’s only a 30 year asset, when it’s up to 100… well, you’re gonna get the wrong results.

And so same as the they assume that a nuclear power plant might only operate just over half the time, but they don’t.

These are 24/7 baseload power plants that operate, you know, up to 95% of the time. So, look, there’s a lot of issues with the way they’ve modeled.

Stephen Cenatiempo 

The comparison here, of course, is with renewables. What sort of lifespan are they giving wind farms and solar farms?

Ted O’Brien 

The same. So you know, solar, for example, here 30 years, and this is a thing, right. So if you think that you’ve got a 24/7 baseload power station driven by nuclear, that could last, let’s say, 80 years, in that time, you might be replacing a comparable solar farm, or multiple solar farms, what four times?

So it’s, they don’t do any of that comparison. And this is one of the big problems with these sorts of reports. They assume all technologies are the same.

But as we know, renewables are reliant on the weather, they have an important role to play in the grid, but they are variables. And so there was there was a night last week, Stephen, where New South Wales was nearly 100% powered by coal.

Why? Because coal is a 24/7 baseload power source. Well so too is nuclear, right. And so this is the thing. Nuclear is zero emissions.

It’s used by 33 economies now around the world, another 50 economies want to introduce it for the first time.

It gets prices down, keeps the lights on, it’s completely reliable, and reduces emissions, but for some reason, the likes of the Labor Party and the Greens has refused to even contemplate the possibility.

Stephen Cenatiempo 

What’s the Coalition’s thinking on this because over the last sort of five years, we’ve all been talking about these small modular reactors, the discussion has now turn to scale large reactors again, what’s the reason for that?

Ted O’Brien 

Stephen, we’ve actually always been open minded on micro reactors, small modular reactors and the next generation large reactors. What’s happened of late is, if you take even the GenCost report last week, for the very first time, they’ve included large reactors in some of their modeling, and I welcome that part, right.

But if you look at the Australian electricity grid, you should be considering both the small modular reactors and also the large reactors, so long as it’s the latest advanced designs because they’re the ones whether that are, you know, passive safety features and the like, highly efficient, and the way that you can make the modulars before construction, a lot of that can be done, pre.. site work so in factories and so forth, which reduces costs and allows a faster delivery of the project on the ground.

So we’ve actually always been looking at it. I think people have gotten very excited of late talking about the large. And even CSIRO started to look at it last week for the first time.

Stephen Cenatiempo 

Are they likely to redo the GenCost report? I mean, what what obligation do they have to actually run the figures again, based on some more realistic, I guess, life of asset figures?

Ted O’Brien 

Oh, look they might I don’t know, Stephen, I certainly asked them. I had a briefing with them. It was very productive, cordial conversation. But I did express my concerns about some of their assumptions.

I don’t accept the way they looked at small modular reactors. I don’t accept some of these assumptions they’ve made. Whether or not they do rerun the numbers, you know, we’ll wait and see, at the end of the day, even if they did rerun the numbers. It’s not going to reflect exactly the path the Coalition is going down.

I mean, we’ll release our policy in due course. But we’ve got to remember, what counts is what consumers pay. So what hits your power bill counts. And even these reports, only look at your wholesale power prices. So that’s about a third of your bill. What it doesn’t look at is your network costs.

Now, that’s the biggest line item, all of us pay on our household electricity bills under Labor, because they have all eggs in one basket renewables only approach they are going to have 28,000 kilometres of additional poles and wires, nothing’s going to hurt our electricity bills more than that.

These sort of what they refer to as levelized cost of energy reports. They largely ignore those sorts of costs. So we’re looking at this far more as a Coalition from the consumers perspective, put the consumer at the center and say, right, how do we actually over time get electricity prices down for businesses and consumers with a balanced mix of technologies and yeah, that’s renewables, but it’s also gas.

 And whenever coal exits the system, well, it should be replaced by zero emissions, nuclear energy. 

Thanks very much, Stephen all the best mate.

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