Nuclear power is an important source of electricity generation worldwide. As of February 2015, there are 438 reactors operable in 31 countries, generating 11% of world electricity in 2013.
There are no greenhouse gases produced during reactor operations. Taking into account all the possible emissions during uranium mining, enrichment, construction, and waste management, the total emissions are still very low, on a par with wind and less than solar (IPCC review 2011 and Australian Energy Regulator, 2009 State of the Energy Market).
Australia’s present baseload electricity supply is mainly from coal which produces very high greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power can supply baseload electricity 24/7, independent of the weather, with a very high capacity factor.
There is 57 years of experience of commercial nuclear power plants in 31 countries.
Unlike coal, gas, wind, solar, hydro and geothermal, the location of a nuclear plant is not governed by the power supply. A nuclear plant requires only a small number of fuel assemblies delivered by truck every few years.
The cost projections published by the Australian Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics in its 2012 Australian Energy Technology Assessment show nuclear is the lowest cost baseload low emissions technology. Also, modern nuclear plants are designed with a sixty year lifetime, much longer than other technologies.
All countries are concerned about their future energy security and have a need to diversify their energy sources as a risk management strategy.
A nuclear plant has a small footprint per MW installed capacity. A modern twin unit Small Modular Reactor (SMR) of 2×180 MW capacity occupies only 10-15 hectares.
SMRs do not rely on external electricity supplies or external water supplies for cooling. They use water fed by gravity, natural convection heat exchangers and gas pressurised water tanks. These are called “passive safety systems”. The reactor can also be located underground providing protection against external hazards and unauthorised access.
Australia could reduce emissions and have a diverse proven source of baseload electricity supply by taking advantage of the benefits of nuclear power.
B&W mPower 180 MWe plant layout
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