Dutton’s nuclear power plan will increase greenhouse emissions

* CSIRO: nuclear won’t be able to make a meaningful contribution to achieving net zero emissions by 2050

* Australia will not come close to net zero by 2050 under Coalition’s nuclear plan

* New analysis: Nuclear reactors a disaster for climate emissions

* Nuclear more costly and could ‘sound the death knell’ for Australia’s decarbonisation efforts, report says

* Australia’s ‘carbon budget’ may blow out by 40% under the Coalition’s nuclear energy plan – and that’s the best-case scenario


CSIRO: nuclear won’t be able to make a meaningful contribution to achieving net zero emissions by 2050

“GenCost found nuclear power to be more expensive than renewables and estimated a development timeline of at least 15 years, including construction. This reflects the absence of a local development pipeline, additional legal, safety and security requirements, and stakeholder evidence. Long development times mean nuclear won’t be able to make a meaningful contribution to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.”


Australia will not come close to net zero by 2050 under Coalition’s nuclear plan

George Wilkenfeld and Clive Hamilton, Jun 27, 2024

Examines implications of building 7.2 GW of nuclear capacity under the Coalition’s timeline, or a more realistic timeline, combined with a Dutton government halting new approvals for large scale PV and wind but allowing completion of projects already under construction. (Since this was written, the Coalition has said the 7 targeted sites could each house multiple reactors so the capacity could be significantly in excess of 7.2 GW.)

“To achieve zero emissions from electricity by 2050 while freezing large scale renewables at the 2027 level would require much more nuclear generation than proposed by the Coalition …. In fact, it would require over four times as much nuclear generation to come online by 2050. It is clear from this analysis that the Coalition’s announced plan for nuclear power and its continued commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 are nowhere near compatible. Either much more nuclear energy is needed or the commitment to net zero must be abandoned.”

Wilkenfeld and Hamilton go on to note that to bridge the gap with nuclear would require a highly improbable build rate:

“We now show that achieving net zero by 2050 through the roll-out of nuclear energy is virtually impossible. To reach zero electricity emissions by 2050 Australia would need to achieve, from scratch, a better build rate than Japan achieved some time after it had already commissioned its first reactor, with roughly a fifth of Japan’s population and industrial capacity. In fact, for its population size, Australia would need to exceed the highest nuclear build rates ever achieved.”

Finally, Wilkenfeld and Hamilton estimate increased greenhouse emissions based on various scenarios:

“Even if it were possible to replace fossil fuels with enough nuclear to reach zero emissions from electricity by 2050, emissions in the intervening years would be nearly 54 per cent higher than under the renewables pathway. …

“The Coalition’s nuclear strategy would increase Australia’s cumulative emissions over the period to 2050 by at least 1,462 Mt CO2-e compared with the renewables pathway. This is equivalent to nearly 3.4 times Australia’s total annual emissions (433 Mt CO2-e in 2022).”

Their conclusion:

“Our analysis shows that the Coalition’s nuclear strategy, if it met its stated aims, would see nuclear plants account for approximately 12 per cent of total electricity generation by 2050.

“The slowed pace of the renewables roll-out implied or stated by the Coalition would result in renewables supplying 49 per cent of total supply (compared with 98 per cent under Labor’s plan) and gas generation supplying approximately 39 per cent (compared with 2 per cent under Labor’s plan). It would have a severe negative impact on the renewables industries, but would be a major boost to the gas industry. 

“With high continued supply of electricity from gas under the Coalition’s plan, attaining net zero emissions by 2050 would be out of the question. Attaining net zero by 2050 would require four times as many nuclear power plants to be built in the 2040s as the Coalition currently plans.

“Under Labor’s renewables plan, Australia’s electricity emissions are expected to decline year on year until they reach almost zero on 2050. Under the Coalition’s plan for nuclear power, a declining emphasis on renewables and an unavoidably greater role for fossil fuels means emissions from the electricity sector in 2050 would be nearly 19 times higher than under Labor’s plan.”


New analysis: Nuclear reactors a disaster for climate emissions

Solutions for Climate Australia, 11/6/24 (before Dutton’s 19/6/24 announcement)

Climate pollution would blow out by more than two billion tonnes

New analysis has found the impact on climate change of attempting to adopt nuclear reactors in Australia would be the equivalent of emitting double the 2022 annual emissions of the resource state of Oman, every year for the next 25 years.

That equates to an additional 2.3 billion tonnes of climate emissions between now and 2050 when compared to the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan ‘Step Change Scenario’ that models the most likely energy transformation scenario under current policy settings. 

The federal Coalition has not released the full details of their nuclear reactors plan. This analysis by Solutions for Climate Australia is based on public statements from Coalition leaders, Peter Dutton, Ted O’Brien and David Littleproud, including: a halt to utility-scale renewable energy projects; continuing to roll out rooftop solar; and using gas-fired electricity to cover the gap between coal closing and the proposal for nuclear reactors to come online. 


Nuclear more costly and could ‘sound the death knell’ for Australia’s decarbonisation efforts, report says

The Guardian, 28 June 2024

Analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance says even if nuclear is successfully implemented it would be ‘at least four times’ more expensive than average cost of renewables

A nuclear-powered Australian economy would result in higher-cost electricity and would “sound the death knell” for decarbonisation efforts if it distracts from renewables investment, a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) argues.

BNEF said the federal opposition’s plan to build nuclear power stations on seven sites required “a slow and challenging” effort to overturn existing bans in at least three states, for starters.

Even if they succeeded, the levelised cost of electricity – a standard industry measure – would be far higher for nuclear power than renewables. Taking existing nuclear industries in western nations into account, their cost would still be “at least four times greater than the average” for Australian wind and solar plants firmed up with storage today, Bloomberg said.

“Nuclear could play a valuable, if expensive, role in Australia’s future power mix,” the report said. “However, if the debate serves as a distraction from scaling-up policy support for renewable energy investment, it will sound the death knell for its decarbonisation ambitions – the only reason for Australia to consider going nuclear in the first place.”

Bloomberg’s analysis complements CSIRO’s GenCost report that also found nuclear energy to be far more costly than zero-carbon alternatives. Australia’s lack of experience with the industry would result in a learning “premium” that would double the price of the first nuclear plant, according to the CSIRO.

Bloomberg also found that assuming the opposition’s seven plants had a generation capacity of 14 gigawatts, they would supply only a fraction of the total market.

If governments tried to rely on inflexible generators – whether coal-fired or nuclear – as renewables increased, they would have to resort to subsidies and other market interventions at a cost to taxpayers, Bloomberg said.


Australia’s ‘carbon budget’ may blow out by 40% under the Coalition’s nuclear energy plan – and that’s the best-case scenario

July 2, 2024, The Conversation

Sven Teske, Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney

The Coalition’s pledge to build seven nuclear reactors, if elected, would represent a huge shift in energy policy for Australia. It also poses serious questions about whether this nation can meet its international climate obligations.

If Australia is to honour the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5˚C by mid-century, it can emit about 3 billion tonnes, or gigatonnes, of carbon dioxide (CO₂) over the next 25 years. This remaining allowance is what’s known as our “carbon budget”.

My colleagues and I recently outlined the technological options for Australia to remain within its carbon budget. We did this using a tool we developed over many years, the “One Earth Climate Model”. It’s a detailed study of pathways for various countries to meet the 1.5˚C goal.

So what happens if we feed the Coalition’s nuclear strategy into the model? As I outline below, even if the reactors are built, the negative impact on Australia’s carbon emissions would be huge. Over the next decade, the renewables transition would stall and coal and gas emissions would rise – possibly leading to a 40% blowout in Australia’s carbon budget.

Using the One Earth climate model, I calculated two scenarios of how the policy would affect Australia’s carbon emissions until 2050. These calculations have not yet been peer-reviewed, but are based on an established modelling tool and publicly available information.

Under the first scenario, the Coalition’s seven nuclear reactors are built and operating by 2040 (bearing in mind this timeframe is highly unlikely to be achieved). The reactors would have a total capacity of about 6.5 gigawatts and produce about 50 terrawatt hours of electricity.

Let’s say Australia wants to stay within its carbon budget of 3 billion tonnes of CO₂ emitted in the three decades to 2050. Would this be achieved under the nuclear plan? The results produced by our model suggest the clear answer is no.

It shows with nuclear in the mix, Australia’s total emissions would rise from 3 billion tonnes to 4.2 billion tonnes – blowing our 2050 carbon budget by 40%.

This assumes two 0.5 gigawatt gas power plants are built by 2030 and another two of the same capacity by 2040. It also assumes the capacity of existing coal-fired power of 16 gigawatts in 2030, 10 gigawatts in 2035 and 5 gigawatts in 2040. The Australian Energy Market Operator expects Australia’s entire coal fleet will be retired by 2038. So this scenario would require extending the life of coal plants.

Under the second scenario, Australia realises nuclear energy is totally unfeasible, and from 2035 reverts to Plan A: an economy powered mostly by renewable energy. But during that lost decade, Australia’s rate of renewable electricity generation stagnates.

In this case, according to the modelling, the delay would cause Australia to blow its carbon budget by more than 100% by 2050 – emitting a total of 6.7 billion tonnes of CO₂.