‘Flogging a Dead Horse’: Nuclear Proposals for Gippsland

ANA proposed sites for Gippsland

On the 24 July ABC Gippsland radio interviewed Robert Parker President of the lobby group Australian Nuclear Association (ANA). He advocated that 5 nuclear power plants could be built in the Latrobe Valley. As the map above indicates ANA understanding of Gippsland geography is ‘woolly’ and at best faulty. ABC Gippsland followed this up with a post on their facebook page which generated a large number of shares, likes and comments – many of them misinformed. This publicity given by our broadcaster to a pressure group promoting an unviable energy option is unfortunate. It raises false hopes in some, anxiety in others, and is never going to happen.

This publicity followed on from calls by the former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and others in favour of nuclear power. RenewEconomy noted “It comes as the Coalition faces intense pressure from its own MPs and Senators, and One Nation, and, of course, the conservative media, to allow nuclear to be built in Australia. Most of the MPs behind this push – like Joyce, Barilaro, Keith Pitt and Mark Latham – either reject climate science outright, mock any moves to address it, and/or at the same time are pushing for the construction of new coal-fired generators.”

John Quiggin in a Guardian article entitled “The idea of producing nuclear energy in Australia before 2040 is absurd” highlighted the length of time needed to set up a nuclear power generator. He concluded that “it would be a heroic endeavour to get construction started on a nuclear plant even by 2030. Getting it finished and generating electricity by 2040 is virtually impossible. Fortunately, there are alternatives… The combination of solar photovoltaics and battery storage is already cheaper than new coal-fired power. As a backup, Australia has huge potential for storage using pumped hydroelectricity. We don’t need to call on the phantom of nuclear power to secure a reliable supply for the future.”

Almost two years ago I wrote in a similar vein “Whilst there are many issues associated with nuclear power (including major accidents at Chernobyl and Fukishima) from the perspective of climate change there are two main questions to be asked. Can it be done quickly and is the process carbon neutral?” The answer to both questions was no and so I concluded “Solar energy – produced by nuclear fusion in a safely remote source – is already approaching the free energy dream. Solar panels can be erected now whilst nuclear, and even coal plants, are many years down track. With the climate emergency rapidly approaching we need to get to zero emissions as quickly as possible. Thus we need technology that is readily available, can be installed now and producing tomorrow. Nuclear is not the answer.”

Nothing has changed. The reactionaries of the LNP, the ANA lobbyists and ABC Gippsland are all ‘flogging a dead horse’.