Climate change expert: Australia will go nuclear by 2030

Jun 04, 2012
A nuclear power plant in Germany. Photo by iStock.

A University of Adelaide scientist believes it is inevitable that Australia will become a user of the world's most advanced nuclear power technology, if the country is serious about cutting carbon emissions.

Professor Barry Brook, Director of at the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute, says Australia will eventually turn to nuclear power to meet our sustainable needs - and when we do, we will choose to focus on next-generation nuclear technology that provides major safety, waste and cost benefits.

Speaking on the eve of World Environment Day (5 June), Professor Brook says: "Coal, oil, and natural gas are the main cause of recent global warming, and these fossil fuels must be completely replaced with clean in the coming decades if serious are to be avoided.

"One particularly attractive sustainable nuclear technology for Australia is the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR). Although the scientific community has known about the benefits of IFR-type designs for many years, there are currently none in commercial operation because the energy utilities are typically too risk averse to 'bet on' new technologies. This is a wasted opportunity for Australia and for the rest of the world.

"Integral Fast Reactors are much more efficient at extracting energy from uranium, can use existing nuclear waste for fuel, produce far smaller volumes of waste that does not require long-term geological isolation, and can be operated at low cost and high reliability. They are also inherently safer than past nuclear reactors due to passive systems based on the laws of physics," Professor Brook says.

"In order to re-start the nuclear power debate in Australia, it is best to have a solution that overcomes as many public objections as possible: safety, constraints on uranium supplies, long-lived waste, cost, and proliferation. The IFR technology offers a vast improvement in all of these areas."

Professor Brook's forecast timeline for nuclear power in Australia:

2020 - Public and political debate heightens as need for reliable low-carbon electricity mounts
2025 - First reactor contracts issued, Small Modular Reactors (SMR) built in outback mining sites
2030 - 3 GWe (gigawatt electrical) of connects to national electricity grid
2040 - Up to 5 GWe of new capacity being installed per year
2050 - A total of 30-50 GWe installed, located at a dozen 'energy park' sites and various remote areas
2100 - >100 GWe installed for total energy displacement, including replacing oil and gas needs

Professor Brook, a professional ecologist and conservation biologist, has also built an international reputation as a commentator on and the potential benefit of nuclear fission in curbing climate change.

He was the first Australian appointed to the international selection committee of the Global Energy Prize. This month he will be a guest at the prize ceremony in Saint Petersburg, where Russian President Vladimir Putin will present the $1.2 million prize to the 2012 laureates.

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User comments : 12

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mememine69
1.8 / 5 (10) Jun 04, 2012
Will phys.org renounce the CO2 exaggeration soon?
rwerkh
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 04, 2012
There is a perfectly good plan from Melbourne university to go 100% renewable in Australia.

The cost of going totally renewable is $8 per household.

Why would anyone be stupid enough to take Australia nuclear when we can go renewable better, cheaper and faster?

What is it with these people. Pushing barrow to satisfy personal pet projects or vested interests an ignoring the answers readily available. The Zero Carbon Australia has been reviewed by many experts. Look it up.

rwerkh
5 / 5 (1) Jun 04, 2012
Does someone want to count the global energy prize winners who do and don't support nuclear power?
extinct
1 / 5 (2) Jun 04, 2012
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, therefore eat an orange a day to keep the doctor away. huh?? that's basically what the so-called "expert" said while talking out of both sides of his mouth. Barry Brook is obviously a clown. in one breath he says Australia must move towards sustainable energy and in the next breath he says nuclear is the answer, while ignoring wind, solar, LENR, etc. people like him - the quicker they get exposed, discredited, fired and marginalized, the better for the future of earth.
Australia is not going nuclear by 2030, or by any date. instead, clean technologies will replace dinosaur technologies to a significant degree by then/ with no looking back. I'm a regular guy who is not an expert at anything nuclear, so if I can see the writing on the wall and the nuclear expert cannot, it just goes to show how human authority, based on pumping up our own egos for personal gain, is the main stumbling block to any sort of progress
kaasinees
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 04, 2012
And where are they going to get the large amounts of water required from?
Skepticus
1.3 / 5 (3) Jun 05, 2012
And where are they going to get the large amounts of water required from?

Squeezed out of the zillions of tons of uranium deposits Australia has, by magic.
Eikka
2 / 5 (2) Jun 05, 2012
there are currently none in commercial operation because the energy utilities are typically too risk averse to 'bet on' new technologies.


The real risk isn't the technology, but the waxing and waning of public opinion and political consensus. The risk is, that you build one now, and then a few years down the road you have to tear it down because of public hysteria.

Nuclear powerplants are built to work for 50-60 years or even longer if you just keep up with the scheduled upgrades, which is far longer than the average half-life of a government.
Eikka
2.7 / 5 (3) Jun 05, 2012
And where are they going to get the large amounts of water required from?


From the ocean. The whole continent is surrounded by water, and all the major cities lay along the coastline. For cooling water, salty or brakish water is just fine.

What did you think, they'd build the powerplants in the middle of the desert?
Bog_Mire
5 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2012
of course, build them near the coast where the chances of earth quake and tsunami and terrorist attack and marine pollution are greater........hopefully we will learn from the folly of USA and Japan.

Still no one can offer a viable solution to waste storage.

The mining and refinement of Uranium is incredibly water intensive. Then for the life of the plant huge amounts of water is required. Australia has a huge problem with water as it is.

Then there is the mammoth cost with building and operating Nuclear Power plants. It isn't worth it at the moment.
CaseySea
2 / 5 (1) Jun 05, 2012
Heh there were two nuclear sites at Fukushema Dai-ichi the older one that went down and Dai-ini the newer one that achieved a cold shut down and successfully survived a Force 9 quake and a 30ft tidal wave. Do we ever hear about that one??? Thats what I call biased reporting!! 4th Geberation Nuclear burns up 100% of uranium or thorium and all the stockpiled wastes and warheads as well. There isn't any wastes to worry about.
SatanLover
3 / 5 (4) Jun 05, 2012
Vendicar Dickarian
2 / 5 (2) Jun 05, 2012
Can't they just use the German model of going straight-to-solar and never mind the logic, the downsides, the costs?