The idea of producing nuclear energy in Australia before 2040 is absurd

July 18, 2019


The debate about nuclear power in Australia flickered to life with the suggestion by the New South Wales deputy premier, John Barilaro, that small modular reactors could be constructed in regional centres. Prominent backbencher Barnaby Joyce followed up with a call for a parliamentary inquiry.



It would perhaps be churlish to observe that the small reactors advocated by Barilaro exist only as designs and may never be built. There is a much bigger obstacle which is essentially impossible to overcome.


To make the central point as bluntly as possible: even with a crash program there is no chance of deploying nuclear power in Australia in the required timeframe. I looked at this question in a submission to the South Australian royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle and concluded that “there is no serious prospect of Australia producing nuclear energy before 2040”.


That was in 2015, and the news for nuclear power since then has all been bad. All of the nuclear power plant construction projects under way in the developed world have experienced substantial delays (the VC Summer plant in the US has been cancelled with a loss of billions of