The Coalition’s once-promising small modular nuclear reactor, seen as a potential solution for the future, has been scrapped due to its increasingly expensive price tag.
The sole company in the US to receive approval for a small modular nuclear power plant, which the Australian opposition sees as proof of a growing global nuclear industry, has scrapped its initial project due to increasing expenses.
On Wednesday, NuScale Power declared that it would no longer pursue the construction of a previously promised “zero-emissions power project” in Idaho. The reasoning behind this choice was a lack of customers for the plant’s energy output.
Ted O’Brien, the Coalition’s spokesperson for energy and climate, has referenced NuScale’s technology to support their argument that Australia should reconsider its ban on nuclear energy. They suggest that small modular reactors (SMRs) could be a cost-effective alternative to the country’s older coal-fired power plants.
Earlier this year, O’Brien wrote an article in the Australian expressing his opinion. He stated that the company’s integrated reactors, beginning with the Idaho facility in 2029, provide “remarkable adaptability” and serve as an illustration of the growing nuclear industry for advanced technology in the US.
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Chris Bowen, the minister for climate change, stated that SMRs were the sole energy policy of the opposition.
“He stated that the most sophisticated model in the United States was terminated. He believes that the LNP’s strategy for ensuring energy security is simply empty promises from Peter Dutton.”
According to O’Brien, the minister is strongly criticizing the use of nuclear energy with zero emissions due to one company’s loss of a customer.
“He claimed that if Bowen were to use the same flawed reasoning for all zero-emissions technology, it would result in the elimination of every single one,” he stated, pointing out that wind, solar, and hydro energy projects have experienced cost overruns and delays.
“Companies in the SMR industry are increasing their progress due to the global recognition that nuclear energy is essential for achieving net zero emissions. If Australia is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 while maintaining energy supply and lowering costs, we must consider all options available.”
According to industry experts, small modular reactors (SMRs) are currently not accessible for commercial use. They also suggest that nuclear energy is costlier than other options and even in the most ideal situation, it may not be feasible for Australia for at least 10 years, and most likely not until 2040. The Australian Energy Market Operator has determined that renewable energy could potentially supply 96% of the nation’s electricity by that point.
The Coalition is against Labor’s aim of achieving 82% renewable electricity by 2030. They have advocated for a more gradual approach to addressing the climate crisis and have highlighted concerns from the local community about new clean energy and electricity transmission projects.
The estimated expense for the NuScale initiative increased significantly, going from $3.6 billion for 720 megawatts in 2020 to $9.3 billion for 462MW in the previous year. Despite receiving $600 million in government funding, the project failed to secure enough capital, with only a Utah-based consortium of electricity companies providing 20% of the required amount. As a result, NuScale’s stock price dropped by almost 30%.
Simon Holmes à Court, a clean energy advocate and commentator and convener of political fundraising body Climate 200, said the estimated capital cost of the Idaho project before it was cancelled was 70% higher than CSIRO projections of what nuclear power plants could cost to build in 2030.
According to him, this weakened the claims made by the Coalition and other proponents of nuclear power, who had accused the CSIRO of inflating the potential expenses of nuclear energy.
Holmes à Court emphasized the urgency for Australia to quickly implement solar, wind, and energy storage systems. He recently visited nuclear power initiatives in the United States.
“The truth is, there are currently no commercial SMRs in existence. Not a single one is being operated or has even been contracted for construction outside of Russia and China. The recent cancellation of a major proposal highlights the uncertain and speculative nature of this distant technology,” he stated.
“Over 66% of our coal power plants will be phased out within the next ten years due to their age. The Coalition’s promotion of a hypothetical technology is endangering the stability and affordability of Australia’s electricity network.”