NuScale Power, the sole company with an approved small modular nuclear power plant in the US, has scrapped its first project in Idaho due to escalating costs and insufficient subscribers for the plant’s electricity. The Australian opposition, particularly energy and climate spokesperson Ted O’Brien, previously hailed NuScale’s technology as evidence supporting the lifting of Australia’s ban on nuclear energy. However, the cancellation has raised skepticism about the viability of small modular reactors (SMRs) as an affordable replacement for aging coal-fired power plants.
O’Brien argued for the integration of SMRs, citing their flexibility and the supposed growth of the global nuclear industry. Despite this, critics point out that NuScale’s advanced prototype in the US has been canceled, undermining the opposition’s claims. They emphasize that SMRs are not commercially available, nuclear energy is costlier than alternatives, and it may not be a feasible option for Australia until after 2040. The Australian Energy Market Operator suggests that renewable energy could supply 96% of the country’s electricity by that time.
The Coalition’s opposition to Labor’s 82% renewable electricity goal by 2030 is highlighted, with concerns raised about the government’s stance on addressing the climate crisis and supporting clean energy initiatives. The NuScale project’s estimated cost had surged from $3.6 billion in 2020 to $9.3 billion in 2022, leading to its failure after securing only 20% of the required capital. Critics argue that such cost overruns and uncertainties in SMR technology pose a threat to Australia’s electricity grid.
In contrast to the government’s emphasis on nuclear energy, clean energy advocates stress the urgent need for a rapid deployment of solar, wind, and energy storage solutions. They argue that pushing for speculative and unproven technologies like SMRs poses risks to both the cost and security of Australia’s electricity grid.
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