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Is Australia Heading for a Nuclear Future?

|Jul 25|magazine6 min read

Some of the world’s most influential scientists are gathered in Sydney to discuss the possibility of a nuclear powered future for Australia. According to a report on ABC, coal-fired power stations make Australia’s carbon emissions among the highest in the world, and many argue that nuclear power could dramatically reduce them.

As part of the discussion, the role of gas (that produces 50 percent less CO2 that coal) and renewable energies are also being widely considered to help reduce Australia’s emissions.

President of the Australia Academy of Technology Sciences and Engineering, Dr Alan Finkel said: “At the moment, CO2 emissions in Australia are very high. It's 850 grams of CO2 for every kilowatt-hour that we produce. If we were to replace all of our coal-fired electricity with natural gas, we could easily halve that. And if we supplement that with solar and wind, we can progressively reduce from 850 grams per kilowatt hour to 400 grams, to 300 grams, maybe even 200.”

Finkel also agreed that gas, wind and solar energy would not sufficiently provide base load power to Australia, and that is where nuclear would come into play. He says nuclear energy could be 30 to 50 years away, however believes the topic needs to be addressed now.

“If we want to go down that road we have to start some planning,” he said to ABC. “We need to make sure that we have training of people that will work towards implementing the actual technology and the strategy. We want to make sure we have the safest possible environment for operating nuclear power plants. Just ignoring it is not a good place to be.”

Approach with Caution

Many critics will be sceptical about the move to nuclear power, especially in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan two years ago. This is highlighted by the fact that since that reactor meltdown nuclear on a global scale has dropped from 17 percent to 10 percent.

However, currently there are about 60 reactors being built around the world, particularly in China, India and Korea, suggesting that nuclear power is going to have resurgence. But weight this with the fact that renewable energy is becoming cheaper year-on-year there are a lot of experts who feel Australia will never lean on nuclear.

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