Nuclear must be part of debate on Australia's future energy needs: McMahon

Australia currently only has a nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney.
Australia currently only has a nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney.

Don't dismiss nuclear power as a possible solution to Australia's future energy needs, Northern Territory Senator Sam McMahon says.

Senator McMahon says renewables like wind and solar are going to need "a helping hand" to provide the country with a baseload power guarantee.

"Nuclear, gas and coal-fired power generation addresses the base load issue at the source, by providing constant reliable energy," she writes in a newsletter published on the weekend.

"In fact, when it comes to emissions, reliability and power output, nuclear is a clear winner.

"These facts are true of existing nuclear power stations, however, it is the emerging Generation IV nuclear reactors that I believe should be given greater consideration."

Senator McMahon said she had previously stated the need to consider nuclear as an option for inclusion in our energy mix and note "a great deal of misinformation is elicited by those who are always eager to feign offense when myself and others call 'renewable' energy out for the limitations it is encumbered with".

"Do I hate renewables or believe they have no role to play, definitely not, but they are not the panacea of affordable, reliable energy. Here's why," she wrote.

"If you want constant energy or power when you want it, you need the source of that energy to be reliable.

"Renewables are unreliable in their energy production because the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow.

"Those of you in the Top End will have seen this in effect recently as the monsoon weather arrives. Does it mean I don't believe renewables have an important place in our energy mix, absolutely not, but they do need a helping hand."

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Senator McMahon said she recently spoke to the CEO of Snowy 2.0 who told me because of the current uptake of renewables in NSW, by 2040 they will need the equivalent of eight Snowy 2.0 projects to produce sufficient energy for stabilisation and firming of the grid.

"This news lends context to the scope of instability renewables bring to the grid."

Senator McMahon said new Small Modular Reactors are designed specifically to address the problems experienced by reactors in Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island.

"Although the root causes and problems at each of those plants are different, they all suffered the same fundamental problem of losing the ability to control cooling of cores.

"To combat this, Generation IV reactors propose a variety of closed-loop, pump-less cooling systems that utilise liquid salts or gasses.

"Currently, there are no SMR's in service anywhere in the world but there are several projects being developed in Europe, China and the USA. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation monitors advances in the various technologies and regularly reports on its findings. Australia is in a position to not only observe and learn, but also to contribute to this growing body of knowledge and technology.

"The NT is uniquely positioned to benefit from a nuclear industry in Australia, should we decide to go down that path."

This story Nuclear must be part of debate on Australia's future energy needs: McMahon first appeared on Katherine Times.