Australia’s quest to decarbonise stepped forward this month with the release of a federal inquiry report looking to bin our ban on nuclear power introduced in the 1990s. The report recognised nuclear energy as a source of clean, low-carbon electricity, and the potential of new and emerging nuclear technologies in Australia if they are delivered alongside community consent and meet the needs of the country and industry.
Such sensible recommendations cannot come soon enough as Australia struggles with the worst bush fires and air pollution in living memory, alongside ongoing debate about energy mix. Nuclear power is used as a reliable and clean energy source in most OECD countries and many other parts of the world, and the reactors of today are improving, with current and future reactors being more sustainable, safer, more proliferation-resistant and cost-effective. These new technologies are where the energy opportunity for Australia lies: specifically small modular reactors and six types of Generation IV reactors which are all technologies in either the production line or the pipeline.
Small modular reactors, or SMRs, are designed with modular technology on a production line, and can be located near mining sites or remote towns, eliminating both long-distance energy transmission costs and risks, and delivering cheaper, reliable power. They have passive safety features, small fuel loadings, capacity to work in tandem with fluctuating renewable sources, and are already in the design and construction phase.