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How would a switch to nuclear affect electricity prices?

Roger Dargaville, Monash University

Peter Dutton has announced that under a Coalition government, seven nuclear power stations would be built around the country over the next 15 years.

Experts have declared nuclear power would be expensive and slow to build.

But what might happen to energy prices if the Coalition were to win government and implement this plan?

How might we estimate the cost of nuclear?

By 2035, 50–60% of the existing coal-fired fleet will very likely have been retired, including Vales Point B, Gladstone, Yallourn, Bayswater and Eraring – all of which will have passed 50 years old.

These five generators contribute just over 10 gigawatts of capacity. It’s probably not a coincidence that the seven nuclear plants proposed by Dutton would also contribute roughly 10 gigawatts in total if built.

Neither my team at Monash University nor the Australian Energy Market Operator has run modelling scenarios to delve into the details of what might happen to electricity prices under a high-uptake nuclear scenario such as the one proposed by the Coalition. That said, we can make some broad assumptions based on a metric known as the “levelised cost of electricity”.

This value takes into account:

  • how much it costs to build a particular technology
  • how long it takes to build
  • the cost to operate the plant
  • its lifetime
  • and very importantly, its capacity factor.

Capacity factor is how much electricity a technology produces in real life, compared with its theoretical maximum output.

For example, a nuclear power station would likely run at 90–95% of its full capacity. A solar farm, on the other hand, will run at just 20–25% of its maximum, primarily because it’s night for half of the time, and cloudy some of the time.

CSIRO recently published its GenCost report, which outlines the current and projected build and operational costs for a range of energy technologies.

It reports that large-scale nuclear generated electricity would cost between A$155 and $252 per megawatt-hour, falling to between $136 and $226 per megawatt-hour by 2040.

The report bases these costs on recent projects in South Korea, but doesn’t consider some other cases where costs have blown out dramatically.

The most obvious case is that of Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in the United Kingdom. This 3.2GW plant, which is being built by French company EDF, was recently reported to be now costing around £34 billion (about A$65 billion). That’s about A$20,000 per kilowatt.

CSIRO’s GenCost report assumed a value of $8,655 per kilowatt for nuclear, so the true levelised cost of electricity of nuclear power in Australia may end up being twice as expensive as CSIRO has calculated.

Other factors play a role, too

Another factor not accounted for in the GenCost assumptions is that Australia does not have a nuclear industry. Virtually all the niche expertise would need to be imported.

And very large infrastructure projects have a nasty habit of blowing out in cost – think of Snowy 2.0, Sydney’s light rail project, and the West Gate Tunnel in Victoria.

Reasons include higher local wages, regulations and standards plus aversion from lenders to risk that increases cost of capital. These factors would not bode well for nuclear.

In CSIRO’s GenCost report, the levelised cost of electricity produced from coal is $100–200 per megawatt-hour, and for gas it’s $120–160 per megawatt-hour. Solar and wind energy work out to be approximately $60 and $90 per megawatt-hour, respectively. But it’s not a fair comparison, as wind and solar are not “dispatchable” but are dependent on the availability of the resource.

When you combine the cost of a mix of wind and solar energy and storage, along with the cost of getting the renewable energy into the grid, renewables end up costing $100–120 per megawatt-hour, similar to coal.

If we were to have a nuclear-based system (supplemented by gas to meet the higher demands in the mornings and evenings), the costs would likely be much higher – potentially as much as three to four times if cost blowouts similar to Hinkley Point C were to occur (assuming costs were passed on to electricity consumers. Otherwise, taxpayers in general would bear the burden. Either way, it’s more or less the same people).

But what about the impact on your household energy bill?

Well, here the news is marginally better.

Typical retail tariffs are 25-30 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is $250–300 per megawatt-hour. The largest component of your energy bill is not the cost of generation of the electricity; rather, it’s the cost of getting the power from the power stations to your home or business.

In very approximate terms, this is made up of the market average costs of generation, transmission and distribution, as well as retailer margin and other minor costs.

The transmission and distribution costs will not be significantly different under the nuclear scenario compared with the current system. And the additional transmission costs associated with the more distributed nature of renewables (meaning these renewable projects are all over the country) is included in the estimate.

According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, your retail tariff under the nuclear scenario could be 40–50c per kilowatt-hour.

But if you are a large energy consumer such as an aluminium smelter, you pay considerably less per kilowatt-hour as you don’t incur the same network or retailer costs (but the cost of generating electricity in the first place makes up a much bigger proportion of the total cost).

So if the cost of electricity generation soars, this hypothetical aluminium smelter’s energy costs will soar too.

This would be a severe cost burden on Australian industry that has traditionally relied on cheap electricity (although it’s been a while since electricity could be described as cheap).

A likely increase in energy costs

In summary, in a free market, it is very unlikely nuclear could be competitive.

But if a future Coalition government were to bring nuclear into the mix, energy costs for residential and especially industrial customers would very likely increase.The Conversation


Roger Dargaville, Director Monash Energy Institute, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Tony Dillon
July 15, 2024

The GenCost report is disingenuous in its nuclear vs renewables cost comparisons. In particular, assuming an economic life of just 30 years for nuclear reactors when realistically it is more like 60 to 100 years. And a capacity factor of just 53 - 89% when on global experience, it is consistently greater than 90%. For example, in the last two years, an average capacity factor of 93% has been achieved across the US fleet of reactors. Correcting these two assumptions alone yields nuclear costs comparable to renewables.

Then on the renewables costings, GenCost doesn’t account for current storage (including pumped hydro), transmission, and firming projects. Bearing in mind that none of these items produce a single watt of electricity, only being built to support intermittent renewables and move it from remote locations where electricity is generated. The report also does not consider the production of wind turbines and solar panels, or future battery and transmission projects required to meet emissions targets. It has been estimated that these costs will run into the hundreds of billions, including approximately $230 billion worth of batteries alone, that will be required by 2050. Again, none of these costs will generate any electricity whatsoever.

GenCost also assumes an $8.7 billion cost for a 1 GW nuclear reactor. Given that the peak demand for the entire national electricity market in 2024 was 38 GW, then the amount needed to be spent to support renewables without generating any electricity, could instead be spent on generating 24/7, clean, reliable energy that would meet the entire demand of the Australian market. Of course in reality, the entire market will not consist of nuclear energy alone, but the point being that all energy forms should be on the table, not just renewables plus storage.

A modern economy cannot function on renewable energy forms alone. It has never been done anywhere. So that if a low emissions economy is the target, then nuclear must be in the mix. It’s not a question of will nuclear be introduced in this country, but when. So the moratorium on nuclear energy might as well be lifted now.

July 14, 2024

I agree that the cost of nuclear energy is close to renewables once you include capacity factor, extension of the transmission network, storage, and effective lives. However, energy security is at least as important as cost. The federal government has committed to gas fired power stations, a large contributor to climate change, until at least 2050 for the sole reason of energy security. Much is made of the fact that nuclear power plants could not be commissioned in time to replace coal power plants. However, they could be ready well in advance of 2050 to help replace gas power plants. Alongside renewables, this would provide energy security whilst helping to meet emission reduction targets.

July 14, 2024

Reduce CO2 emissions and produce more natural gas.

Concentrate CO2 in exhaust from gas pow plants to economically reduce CO2 emissions, pipe CO2 concentrate to coal seams containing coal bed methane and inject to produce more methane with less water used.

See: "CO2 Sequestration Potential of Unmineable Coal"

.'CO2 readily absorbs to coal more than methane, resulting in a greater volume of CO2 absorbed to the
coal via the displacement of methane
.. this process could stimulate additional extraction of CBM as adsorption of CO2 preferentially displacing previously adsorbed methane, leading to increased fossil fuel production to offset the costs of sequestration'

July 14, 2024

"2.1. CO2 Capture Technologies"

"C) Oxyfuel Combustion. Oxyfuel combustion is a technology that involves burning fuel in a mixture of oxygen and recycled flue gas instead of air, resulting in a flue gas stream that is primarily composed of CO2 and water vapor."

"Technoeconomic analysis of oxygen-nitrogen separation for oxygen enrichment using membranes"

"The optimum cost of production of enriched oxygen (>90 wt%) using membranes is US$0.05–0.07/kg."

July 14, 2024

Good point ..also the CSIRO report did not extrapolate the cost of maintaining the thousands of klm of poles and wires ( nor the impact of natural disasters on that infrastructure) .Additionally the much earlier replacement costs of renewable infrastructure. As for the author of this report , it is full of qualifications and assumptions ( “ back of the postage stamp calculations” !!) No matter which way we go it will be expensive ,however it’s a curiosity that we seem to blindly accept a bottomless pit , no known cost outcome for renewables but apply a much more critical and judgemental approach to nuclear.

July 13, 2024

Disappointing article, from a energy institute at Monash University which I conclude is more idealogical then academic. Not even sure why this is relevant to Firstlinks.

Generation cost is only one cost to deliver a power system. Currently accounting for about 30% of our electricity bill.

Greater cost is the cost of the grid and systems to make the system stable and reliable.

There is a scale problem with renewables, whereby, large investments/cost will be required to be made to the grid and power system to support massively distributed generation sources which typically are accounted for in these analyses. This is rarely discussed.

Next cost is the reliability and demand management cost. As it is exceptionally difficult to store electricity for any lengthy period, there needs to be a mechanism to deliver sustained power in 100% of demand Vs generation for every possible edge case, I.e. 99.999% of the time even in a month without sun or wind.

And finally there is the cost no one considers; the opportunity cost of not meeting that load if the power system fails; i.e. with blackouts, brown outs and the economy not being able to function...this has the potential to be the biggest cost economically (and politically).

Reliability and stability is everything....power systems are hard,really hard and much of this debate is moot. Coal, nuclear, renewables+storage will not be built in time for the end of life of existing base load coal fired power stations

Unfortunately in the short term, next 10yrs, I conclude we will have to lurch to gas, it is the only way we can replace generation with a reliable solution quickly. The only question then is do we have enough gas supply.

Then, gas will need to be replaced asap. It is expensive (still fossil fuel) and impact us economically, as energy is a primary input cost to all economies and we are competing globally with countries using coal, nuclear, hydro etc

Isn't this about getting to net zero emissions and removing CO2. Generation cost is only one consideration to solving this problem. Not likely the largest concern.

Should we give those electrical engineers all options to allow them to design this future power system or prevent them from using the technology that is used by most advanced economies in the world...and even Germany is now importing electricity from nuclear rich France.

July 12, 2024

The climate has always changed over time and will continue to do so due to factors beyond the control of us humans.

But if you believe the climate change hype then definitely go nuclear rather than intermittent renewables.

I reckon our politicians have got it wrong again. Labor renewable, coalition nuclear; let’s see who can win the election. Woeful.

Coal is the best option imo.

Ecology saver
July 15, 2024

I note that climate change has always been occurring, and humans have got a sweet spot at the moment, but following the rapid planet warming data that is now clearly showing, it would be unfortunate for us to follow the way of the previous 5 Phanerozoic extinction events, the last being the Late Permian extinction event, where we are now headed for 80% species loss.

Chris Jankowski
July 12, 2024

This discussion should really start with the very basic question:

What do we want from our electricity system by 2050?

I'd guess that the current consensus is:
- no coal or gas used for power generation.
- the system meeting the maximum demand 100% of the time - no rolling blackouts.

Having established this overall objective, let us look at what we need technically to achieve it.

For simplicity, I will discuss only the Eastern states (NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS).
The current maximum demand in the evening of a hot day is about 40,000 MW i.e 40 GW.
By 2050 this maximum demand may well be 50 GW due to increased population, etc.
The practical experience with running large electrical grids shows that at least 50% of the power should be base power delivered by turbine driven generators. Nuclear power is such power system. This is important not only to satisfy the demand when sun does not shine and wind does not blow but also for grid stability delivered through inertial response.
So, ideally we would need 25 GW of nuclear power. This is about 25 of standard 1GW nuclear power blocks. A nuclear power station will typically have 2 to 4 such blocks. So this is between 12 and 6 nuclear power stations.
It should be noted that in principle batteries storing power from solar panels and wind turbines could satisfy the power demand given enough capacity. However, they do not provide the inertial response required for grid stability.
Batteries are also pretty expensive. Let us assume that we need to design the system to survive 3 windless nights. For this we need to have stored 10 GW x 8 hours x 3 days =~250 GWh. Batteries cost ~$100 per kWh. This will be $25 billion for the cost of batteries only and most likely $50 billion for building, connecting and commissioning of the whole system. Also, their lifetime is only about 10 years, whereas for modern nuclear station it is 70 - 80 years. So you need to keep buying new set of batteries for $50 billion every 10 or so years.
And what do you do on the fourth windless night?
So batteries are a viable option and should be considered in the mix but the risks of grid instability, running out of power and costs are there.

In conclusion, we need about 25 GW of base load power. This can be done by a mixture of nuclear power stations and batteries storing power from solar and wind.

It can be done technically. These are known stable technologies.

The point to make here is that if non-polluting reliable electrical energy is our objective then the cost is a secondary issue. To achieve the objective it just has to be paid. And yes, it will cost money and yes, in the end the consumer will in the end have to pay for it.

A separate question is how to deliver such a program efficiently.

I would state a few pretty obvious condition for success.

There are only two countries currently in the world that can build nuclear power stations efficiently and in volume. China and South Korea. The previous leaders in this area (US, France, Japan) lost the capability. China is out of the question obvious reasons. So, it must be South Korea.

This would have to be a national program structured such that is separated from politics.
The government would need to provide financial and liability guarantees.
It would require an exceptional leader - somebody with characteristics of admiral Hyman G. Rickover (look him up in Wikipedia).

The build itself would need to be 100% outsourced to South Koreans.
Imagine what would happen if CFMEU got into the project.

So, you can see that chances for setting up such and delivering efficiently such a project are vanishingly small IMHO.

July 12, 2024

Do people seriously think the Commonwealth underwriting nuclear power plants is a good idea? And if it's because Snowy Hydro 2.0 is an expensive flop (which it is), what makes you think they'd be great at building something that is considerably more complex? Oh, and then there's the small problem of not even having a nuclear energy industry to begin with.

George Storok
July 12, 2024

The adoption of nuclear energy is a no brainer. If we are to drop our reliance on coal and gas, nuclear is the only feasible option. Industry cannot operate on solar panels and wind turbines alone and without nuclear, Australians would remain in the same economic class as New Zealand, with limited industry and our future dictated by farming and tourism. The overall costs need to be evaluated over the life of the nuclear generators, mooted to be in the range of 80 to 100 years. What would be the comparative cost of demolishing and rebuilding wind turbines and solar farms over a similar period? With over 400 nuclear generators currently operating in developed economies, its time Australia caught up with the rest of the world. The initial cost as appraised by the CSIRO may seem high and while I don't know how many nuclear generators the CSIRO has built to date, perhaps we could forget about Snowy Hydro 2, which doesn't stand up on a basic physics evaluation, and divert all future funding towards the nuclear option.

Ecology saver
July 12, 2024

I’m in favour the article’s delay approach due to the blow out costs, safety, and lack of local expertise. Nuclear fusion is an unnecessary waste of taxation money in Australia’s energy mix, and while the next phase of technology is being developed then more solar/ storage will amply provide the need.

Chris Jankowski
July 13, 2024

Correction: The article does not mention nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion does not exist as a production ready electrical generation technology today and it may never be. The acerbic saying reflecting the state of development of nuclear fusion is: "Nuclear fusion is 30 years away. And it will always be." All current nuclear power stations use controlled nuclear fission. It is completely different physical process. There are many variants but only one variant is technologically mature and economically reasonable. It is based on pressurised water reactors. Each unit delivers about 1 GW electrical. All others proved to be less cost effective, are experimental or like Small Modular Reactors a pure design fantasy.

July 12, 2024

It’s good that we’re having a robust debate about the topic, perhaps indicative that we’re all in alignment that we must do something . We shouldn’t, however, do nothing while waiting 10-15 years for nuclear to deliver – and it will take that long, possibly longer. Australia is blessed with a lot of land, sun & a long long coastline generating a temperature/pressure gradient for wind each night. South Australia has lifted renewables electricity generation from 1% to 74% in just over 16 years; with the benefit of their experience & the inevitable improvements in the technology there’s reason to be optimistic for achieving 90% emission free generation by 2050. On-demand gas / Hydro (that also needs to be developed) would be required fill the gaps. We’d be doing our bit !
Another consideration is the reduction in Sovereign risk from distributed power generation. Part of the tragedy of Ukraine shows us that just a couple of precision guided munitions can take out the power source for a large swathe of population. God forbid we’d ever have to face up to that risk here, just saying….

Tony Murray
July 12, 2024

It concerns me that such an important and expensive decision process is played out in the political and public arena. The fact that there is such discrepency between 2 political parties is a warning in itself and appealing to the public to vote on this complex matter is concerning to me given we have the potential to change government every 3 years.
Surely there should be an independent body (AEMO?) that is responsible for laying out a transparent strategic direction and implementing this subject to public review.
The stakes are very high and the current "noise" seems "mickey mouse". We are in unchartered waters ( as reflected in the various comments above) and it needs focus beyond the political noise.

July 12, 2024

Nuclear may or may not be cheaper or more reliable than renewables but at what cost?
Even with only a few nuclear disasters to live with, for possibly thousands of years, what do we do with the waste?
Future generations may not thank us for leaving them with this horrible problem.
Chernobyl’s only solution was to build a Sarcophagus over the reactor core which cost millions, placed lives at risk and will have to be replaced entirely in less than 100 years.
These accidents were due entirely to human error or lack of adequate maintenance.
Maybe future generations will see it the way we view pyramids

J Waddell
July 12, 2024

This discussion ignores how the wholesale price of electricity is actually set. That is, a merchant producer bids a selling price into AEMO typically it's critical that such a producer sell above their marginal cost of production but hope to actually earn above it's average cost of production. The boon for merchant power plants is that the price paid to them is the highest marginal cost producer whose bid is accepted, so it's possible to bid in a price of $1 MWh but be paid $200. This means if the grid has expensive nuclear and gas as part of the generation mix and these power sources are required to meet demand (which would only be the case if the renewable rollouts were somehow curtailed) then we can expect to have the most expensive sources in existence as a core component of our bills. The key takeaway we should only allow the lowest cost sources of energy into our national fleet generation assets.

John Wilson
July 12, 2024

The cost of energy is only part of the story: what is more important is availability of energy when you want it, and reliability of supply. Just wait for the squeals when there's a blackout! Also, the generation cost is only a modest part of the bill for electricity delivered to the consumer - there's also transmission, distribution within cities, and the government's GST take. In 2016, SA had a major blackout which cost businesses $360m. That did not include the costs to retail buyers - alternative energy, spoilt food, inconvenience, safety with street lighting and traffic lights offline, schools shut down, hospitals reliant on their backup generators, communication systems, activities cancelled etc. The blackout was due to weather damaging two transmission lines, made worse by conservative shutdowns of wind generators which resulted in electricity imports exceeding another transmission line's capacity. System reliablility is improved by having multiple independent sources - but in the SA example, the two damaged transmission lines were 170 km apart. So much for geographical separation to increase diversity! Solar power relies on the same transmission lines as wind generators, and in any case, the blackout event occurred when there was statewide rainy weather so little solar generation! As noted above, the outage was exacerbated by what was deemed excessively conservative shutdown of wind generators. However what is excessively conservative from an overall system view might well be a prudent management of risk by the generator. How to fix? Multiple generators and transmission lines; location of generators close to consumers and at junctions in the transmission system; underground transmission lines to avoid climate-caused problems; multiple independent sources of power (ideally uncorrelated) including wind, solar, gas, wave, hydro, batteries, nuclear, geothermal etc. Don't put all the eggs in one basket! Finally, much of the high cost of electricity to the consumer is due to the market system. This was set up in the early 1990s so that the lowest priced bids into the market are accepted until the market is satisfied. Then ALL of the electricity is priced at the bid of the marginal supplier - the HIGHEST price. The low cost suppliers are then making a motza. If all accepted generators are low marginal cost, the margins for the suppliers are then reduced and may even be negative. The economics of the wind and solar suppliers are shot. The market mechanism must be changed so as to recognise not just the energy value, but also the reliability value.

Damien Jones
July 11, 2024

Before a fair comparison can be made in assessing the case for Nuclear baseload power I would strongly recommend reading the Australian Renewables Integration Parts 1,2 & 3 as follows:
This analysis demonstrates the challenges faced by grid scale renewables, far more complex and expensive than the so called experts are prepared to acknowledge. It is also questionable whether 80% grid scale renewables is even possible with current technologies. Australia is undertaking a highly risky experiment and the costs are already apparent.

July 11, 2024

Climate Change must and will AFFECT Sun and Wind big time. So both cannot be Relied upon.

July 12, 2024

In what way are you expecting this?

Geoff D
July 11, 2024

Two factors which haven't been raised in the article and by commentators are:
1. The cost of Government subsidies for the renewables industry.
2. The alarmingly increased energy needs of AI. It isn't just a matter of getting back to square one, we will need far more capacity to cater for AI. Has that been accounted for?

July 11, 2024

One of the main reasons for cost blow outs is scope changes. With high profile government backed projects these come about from political interference. Need to find a way to keep the pollies out of it.

July 11, 2024

"Solar and wind energy work out to be approximately $60 and $90 per megawatt-hour, respectively. But it’s not a fair comparison, as wind and solar are not “dispatchable” but are dependent on the availability of the resource.":

The low gen-cost of intermittents is, in part, due to their reliance on energy storage provided by coal, gas, uranium accumulated in the ground over billions of years and extractable at modest cost.

When energy production by intermittants idles energy production by non-intermittants then artificial energy storage costs must be added to the gen-cost of intermittants.

Phillip Stewart
July 11, 2024

What's that saying? There are lies, damned lies and statistics. The questions I would like answered are:- 1. Why are so many countries (30 plus?) around the world including nuclear in their power generating mix? 2. In a 100% renewables future how do we produce power when the sun isn't shining (which is half the time) and the wind isn't blowing? If the answer to that question is battery storage then lets include those costs in the comparisons. 3. Why is it that no other country is betting their future solely on renewables?

The above analysis by Mr Dargaville is based around average electricity prices and "the levelised cost of electricity". The elephant in the room is that in the real world electricity prices at any given time are determined by something akin to the maximum spot price (my term). This essentially is based on supply and demand and most would be familiar with how that metric works. I am happy to be corrected on the previous comment because this is not my field, but the fact that this aspect ie maximum prices, tends to be ignored by the anti-nuclear proponents concerns me.

At the end of the day what I want are objective facts analysing the case for and against nuclear in the context of the entire energy debate, and if possible devoid of political agendas.

July 11, 2024

Phillip has nailed it here “an energy debate devoid of political agendas”. The rest of the comment is damned good as well. Also interesting is the comments about costs blowout of building nuclear plants in other comments. Perhaps keep the CFMEU well away and the “blowouts” might be considerably less.

Dean Tipping
July 11, 2024

The estimated useful life of a nuclear plant is what, 80 years. The useful life of solar panels and a wind turbine is what, ~20 years. Only one journalist, John Kehoe from the AFR, has addressed that you have four lots of solar panels and wind turbines to one nuclear plant. Surely the analysis is required from a total cost over useful life, and that needs to include the remediation and recycling of said panels and turbines.

I live in central Qld. The rate charged per kilowatt two years ago was $0.19782... it is now $0.30227... a 52.8% increase!! The 'service fee' per day two years ago was $0.88392... it is now $1.09521... a 23.9% increase!!

Now, I'm a realist. If a business' electricity costs have risen by similar amounts, you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to realise the pressure this will flow through to the end price consumers, i.e., us mugs, pay.

Ross Greenwood had the Ontario Energy Minister on his show about 3-4 months ago. The Minister quite proudly boasted about the benefits Ontario are experiencing of being predominantly powered by nuclear. To paraphrase the Minister... "we have businesses beating the doors down to shift their operations to Ontario because the price of electricity is so cheap here."

My wife has just been in Toronto. Our pets favourite treat is priced at $3.30 there... in Woolworths, it is $9!!

Wife couldn't believe the price of everything in Toronto being so much cheaper than it is here. Her wage has just gone up $40 per week... the same amount that our weekly supermarket shop has gone up over the last 3 months. No net improvement!!

You can run all the modelling and projections you want but when the rubber hits the road as it has in Ontario I know what I'm putting my money on... lived experience!!

Someone is getting something out of this renewable madness... and it is not us mugs who pay at the checkout!!

July 11, 2024

Where do you get the estimated life of a nuclear plant of 80 years from? Even the World Nuclear Association states that newer plants only have a life of 40-60 years. The oldest nuclear plant in the world is in Beznau, Switzerland. It first produced power in 1969, 55 years ago. That lifespan includes a lot of maintenance costs and then there are the decades of de-commissioning costs including the storage of radioactive material. Building nuclear reactors is only the start of endless costs. In addition to being cheaper to build, wind and solar have minimal costs after construction.

Dean Tipping
July 12, 2024

Office of Nuclear Energy in the US.

Really cool videos...

If there are multiple countries heading down the nuclear path, you would think that a reasonable person might conclude that maybe there is something in it.

The Chinese must be licking their lips up there in Beijing, and think how dumb are Australians. They buy our raw materials and then sell it back to us in the form of solar panels and wind turbines.

Re solar panels, they manufacture what, 90% of them don't they? What did you think they'll charge for them when there is no competitor and a customer is crying out for them!!!

July 11, 2024

Totally agree with above comments. Let’s get some true facts here Firstlinks and source info from “experts” who actually build and run nuclear plants eg France, USA, Sweden to name a few and not forgetting the construction ability of South Korea.
Forget about AU labour demands and cost and get a fixed price fixed term quote from South Korea and others.
Does it matter if build costs are in the billions if amortised over 80 years.Everyone ignores the replacement cost of renewables.
Let’s also sensibly address the issue of nuclear waste and how this is being addressed by France and Scandinavian countries.
The public should not be fooled by nonsense from biased parties including labour politicians and have facts for them to make their own decisions. After all it will be their taxes that will be impacted.

July 12, 2024

Fully agree. Frankly I treat any report from any govt outfit with suspicion - they all know the answer their masters want. Universities, CSIRO protecting their budgets etc. All have significant skin in the game and lack desirable independence. And of course from the first second the likes of the ABC are all over why its such a horrible idea - must have done their background research in record time (did they visit any of the 19 other G20 nations that make nuclear work?). Or just rely on their copy of the govts talking points as a source. To me theres the basic question why nuclear provides cheap electricity overseas but we cant? And if we have a zero emission, reliable power source, it kind of makes the rush to an unreliable zero emission power source redundant doesn't it? That seems the unspoken agenda from the govt and their supporters, nuclear not only takes over from coal/gas, but makes solar and windfarms unnecessary as well.

Paul Murray
July 11, 2024

We are told by world leaders that the world will boil if we don't reduce carbon emissions. I don't want to boil and I don't want my grandchildren to boil. That being the case, costs become irrelevant to ensure safety of the world. Surely that is the most important.

July 11, 2024

This article is ideological nonsense, but it is from a university so what else would I expect! I simply point to the fact that Canada and France (as two examples) with a lot, but not all nuclear energy, have lower prices and more reliable electricity than Australia. The very long life span of nuclear plants and the reduction in need for extortionate poles and wire roll out is often conveniently overlooked.

July 11, 2024

It was interesting that Keir Starmer, the UK Labor Prime Minister, is a strong supporter of Nuclear Energy. Ben Fordam's recent account also outlines the cosy relationships between Industry Super Funds, the unions & the Renewables players are being used to stop nuclear power from coming to Australia. It's the net zero base load power source that has to happen, if we are going to build a major AI industry in Australia.

July 12, 2024

The absurdity of our current system regarding nuclear power is that we can't even CONSIDER using nuclear unless we change the law to allow it to be discussed. And why aren't we also considering using new HELE coal fired plants to reduce our emissions, like our overseas coal customers are doing?

Peter Bayley
July 11, 2024

Picking Hinkley as an example is using an outlier. Maybe the author could explain why so many other first world and second world countries have, or are planning, nuclear electricity generation. Why have countries with a high proportion of nuclear in their electricity generation mix have lower prices. Could the author also explain why my business electricity costs increased by 100% last year and a broker was used to get competitive prices and our consumption was similar to prior years.
‘Renewables’ have a short life span, alienate productive and scenic land, and create jobs in China.
It’s time we adopted nuclear technology in this country and developed the industry knowledge and skilled workforce, instead of navel gazing over ‘saving the planet’.

July 11, 2024

When is someone going to do a detailed analysis of the full costs of nuclear, renewables and nuclear plus renewables including real cost of mining minerals not using slave labour, cost of manufacturing and building, cost of disposability, cost of developing and maintaining the grid, cost of storage batteries, cost of environmental degradation, longevity, and most importantly reliability of the whole system especially batteries - what happens when the sun don’t shine and wind don’t blow. It seems to me most analyses are seriously flawed and have a political or ideological agenda.

July 11, 2024

It's often forgotten that poles and wires projects as well as Snowy Hydro ($2 billion to $15 billion) are blowing their budgets and being delivered years late. Solar power is very cheap to generate but linking it to the grid and backing it up at night isn't. Would be good if Firstlinks can publish the other side of the debate from Aidan Morrison at CIS.

Goronwy Price
July 11, 2024

CSIRO based their Gencost on a 30 year plant life for nuclear plus a capacity factor of 50%. In the U.S. 40% of the nuclear reactors are over 30 years old and have run at an average capacity factor of 92% for the past 20 years. There is no reason why a new plant should not last 80 years. If you run the numbers at 90% CF and say 60 year life nuclear is far cheaper than CSIRO estimated. As Buffet told us price and value are not the same thing and the value of firm power from nuclear reactors is far higher than intermittent renewable energy.


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