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Coalition’s Climate Change Policy discussion: direct action
19 August 2013
Professor Stefaan Simons, Director of the International Energy Policy Institute at the University College London, Australia, spoke at The Science Exchange on Monday, 19 August, 2013 at the open lecture on the Coalition’s Climate Change Strategy, presented by the Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage, Hon Greg Hunt MP:
'Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to tonight’s open lecture on the Coalition’s Climate Change Strategy.
My name is Professor Stefaan Simons. I am the Head of Research at University College London’s Australia campus and the Director of the International Energy Policy Institute at UCL.
As a chemical engineer, a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the IChemE and founder of the Centre for CO2 Technology at UCL in London, I believe I have some knowledge of the global GHG emissions/climate change issues.
However, after just one year living in Australia, I’ve become intrigued by the climate change debate taking place in your country.
Almost as intrigued as Shane Watson’s thinking on the Decision Review System and why Michael Clarke cannot even win a toss. Let alone a game of cricket!
So it is a pleasure for me to host the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage, Hon Greg Hunt MP, an opportunity that was agreed before the Prime Minister determined the election date, but which now – opportunistically for us – falls neatly in the middle of the campaign.
Much has been written and said about Australia’s views on GHG emissions, its ‘Carbon Tax’ and its Emissions Trading Scheme.
Climate change and the starkly contrasting policies on how best to achieve reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are subjects of contentious debate and one, I have observed, which has created much emotion and divided views. Much like the nuclear power debate, for which I have found myself recently embroiled, although again one that merits a higher profile in your climate change discussions.
Make no mistake, climate change is upon us. The planet is warming. The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is trapping infrared radiation. Current CO2 levels have not been exceeded in the last 650,000 years and probably not in the last 20 million years. And we know it’s from coal burning, due to isotope measurements taken by Australia’s own ANSTO and other groups.
Last month, chairing a conference discussion in Sydney on whether it is time for nuclear energy in Australia, I noted that Australia is richly endowed with non-nuclear energy resources.
However, Governments throughout the world are trying to balance the “trilemma” of providing their nations with:
1. security in energy supply
2. while maintaining economic growth; and
3. at the same time, mitigating their impacts on climate change by reducing carbon emissions.
And Australia, despite its ample resources, is no different. Having nuclear power in the energy mix would provide opportunities for all three priorities.
So as Australia considers what actions to take on climate change, if we look at the question of economic growth, particularly in relation to a State such as South Australia, which has many economic challenges, we must look beyond just the ability to generate electricity from nuclear power, but also focus on the potential to generate jobs and advanced manufacturing opportunities.
Over the next six months the IEPI will publish new research that will show we are entering a window in which Australia could commence significant value-adding to its abundant uranium resources with a nuclear enrichment industry.
This new research will show an Australian nuclear enrichment industry, depending on the scale, could generate up to $4 billion of investment, 600 construction jobs and provide up to 400 new permanent jobs over the next 30 years. And a similar number of decommissioning jobs.
And this is just for enrichment. Opening new mines and constructing a conversion facility to supply the enrichment plant, and developing the nuclear fuel supply chain, would create thousands more.
Australia has abundant uranium resources, some 31 per cent of identified global uranium resources recoverable at less than US$130/kgU, which it does not currently value-add.
While Australian enrichment costs would be significantly higher than international benchmarks, surprisingly, this would have a relatively insignificant impact on any future Australian nuclear electricity generation costs because of the small contribution of fuel to the overall levelised cost.
In a carbon-constrained economic environment a secure supply of enriched uranium may become an increasingly valued resource, as global demand for lower emission energy from nuclear power plants increases.
Australia should further consider the benefits of building, operating and maintaining a nuclear energy industry that would require significant investment in education and training, a highly skilled workforce and an ingrained safety culture.
UCL’s new research expands on the Government’s own 25GWe nuclear power scenario by estimating, for the first time, the cost of constructing and operating a range of different capacity enrichment facilities in Australia.
‘Fuel’ for thought, perhaps, and in the 2013 election lead-up, a prime opportunity to open up discussion on direct action on climate change, and how better to achieve this than with nuclear energy in the mix.
It is now my pleasure to introduce the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage, the Honourable Greg Hunt MP, and I invite him to the podium to tell us about the Coalition’s Climate Change strategy, the Direct Action Plan.'