Private Members’ Business – Nuclear Energy

Monday, 6 February 2023

Mr PITT: The blackout specialists are at it again over there. The problem with their proposal is it doesn’t work. That is clear to anyone that was in Queensland and saw the loss of power to entire suburbs with blackouts over the weekend. We have seen load shedding across industry because what they are proposing doesn’t work.

Mr Speaker, I refer you to an incredibly good article by Claire Lehmann in the Australian on 3 February, ‘The clean energy revolution hides a very dirty secret’. It’s based on facts. The proposal from those opposite is some two million hectares of solar across this country—a product which lasts maybe, on average, 20 years, so every 20 years it has to be replaced. I’ve had reports of a new solar farm at Gympie, which still isn’t connected, that lost 20 per cent of its panels—100,000 panels—in a hailstorm over Christmas. In Ms Lehmann’s article, she says that in China alone waste from solar panels would add up to 20 million tonnes of waste, 2,000 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower, by 2050, and Australia will accumulate one million tonnes of solar panel waste by 2047.

We hear all of the scare campaigns and the scare tactics from those opposite. It’s all about the half life. I can tell you: heavy metals don’t have a half life. They don’t expire. They’re there forever. They are in these parts and they have to be dealt with. These are the points that we continue to make. It is about facts. Ms Lehmann’s article also identifies:

… nuclear reactors have produced 390,000 tonnes of spent fuel since the 1950s, solar panels are estimated to create 78 million tonnes of hazardous waste by 2050, 200 times the amount …

A technology that has been in place for decades.

Those opposite say that there is no place for nuclear in Australia, it’s a terrible solution and it’s awful, but that’s not what they say in the United States, France, the UK, South Korea, the UAE or anywhere else that is using this technology, because it works. It is consistent. If you want something which is zero emissions and will last for decades, this is an opportunity for Australia to look at it.

In the United States—once again back to facts—they produce about 2,000 metric tonnes of spent fuel every year. That sounds like a significant amount, but it is incredibly dense, which means it is very heavy by volume. That is the equivalent of less than half an Olympic swimming pool to power more than 70 million homes, and it avoids more than 400 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. That sounds like a pretty good solution to me. In fact, the fuel can be recycled. It has more than 90 per cent of its potential energy still remaining in fuel after five years of operation in a reactor. That is straight from the United States Department of Energy. So if we’re going to have a debate about this, let’s make it about facts.

Another example: in South Korea, nuclear energy will account for 34.6 per cent of South Korea’s electricity generation by 2036. It can be done.

If you wish to have zero emissions in this country from energy generation, you’ve got until 2050, yet those opposite propose to destroy industry in this country by driving up the cost of power. We saw interventions from them before Christmas, which are now reportedly going to cost some $1 billion dollars in subsidies for the coal sector, let alone for gas. And guess what? There’s no gas to offer, because no gas company actually knows what their costs are. How do you offer a long-term contract on a product when you don’t know what the government of the day are going to do in their mandatory code of practice and other changes?

We hear about wind as well. Here’s some information from the Parliamentary Library on wind and waste: each blade can be between 25 and 100 metres long. It is expected that by 2050 a total of 43 million tonnes of wind turbine blade waste alone will be produced and accumulated around the globe—43 million tonnes!—93 per cent of which is a composite material which simply cannot be easily recycled. In fact, no-one has found a solution for that at all.

The proposal from those opposite is to have our energy systems rely on the unreliable; to rely on the weather; to accumulate literally millions of tonnes of waste right around the country, but particularly in Australia; and to level, clear and cover over two million hectares of this country with what is the equivalent of a giant tarpaulin that has to be replaced every 20 years. This is nonsense; the reason it won’t work. Sun Cable are now in administration. Why? Because, as the front page of the Australian reported, one of the proponents said it was not technically feasible—yet those opposite are suggesting that we can run solar energy from Cairns to Melbourne and it would be technically feasible. (Time expired)

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