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Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source
Climate change professor supports nuclear in newly published analysis
When a carbon price that is high enough to drive a technology switch eventually kicks in, only nuclear power will keep the lights on, keep electricity costs down, and meet long-term emission reduction targets, say three Australian authors in a paper published this week in international peer-reviewed journal Energy*.
Introducing a carbon price changes relative technology power costs because rates of carbon emissions differ between technologies.
“In order to understand where our future electricity will come from” says lead author Martin Nicholson, “we need the best possible insights into generating technologies, their costs and their carbon emissions”
After analysing a wealth of peer-reviewed studies on market needs, technology performance, life-cycle emissions and electricity costs, the researchers conclude that only five technologies currently qualify for low-emission baseload generation. Of these, nuclear power is the standout solution. Nuclear is the cheapest option at all carbon prices and the only one able to meet the stringent greenhouse gas emission targets envisaged for 2050.
Only one of these five qualifiers comes from the renewable energy category – solar thermal in combination with heat storage and gas backup. However, on a cost basis, it is uncompetitive, as are the carbon capture and storage technologies.
Professor Barry Brook, director of climate science at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute says: “I am committed to the environment, personally and professionally. The evidence is compelling that nuclear energy must play a central role in future electricity generation. No other technology can meet our demand for power while reducing carbon emissions to meet global targets”.
Martin Nicholson says: “Researching for my book Energy in a Changing Climate made me appreciate the central issues in producing low-emission electrical energy. This new paper supports my view that Australia must prepare immediately for a future where most of its electricity will eventually come from nuclear energy”.
The researchers also note that, given the importance of reducing electricity generator emissions, the need to keep electricity costs down, and the expansion of nuclear power globally, it seems essential that the Australian government rethink its nuclear energy policy.