$16 billion and 16 years to commission Australia’s next nuclear plant, says CSIRO

Their criticism led Hilton to write an open letter defending the integrity and neutrality of the report, which is published annually and is aimed at investors.

“All of our elected representatives can rely on the GenCost report, regardless of whether they advocate for renewable, coal, gas or nuclear electricity generation,” Hilton said.

Responding to criticism from previous reports, CSIRO included in the cost of renewables a bill for $40 billion worth of transmission lines (necessary to connect all new solar and wind farms to population centres), as well as batteries and hydropumps to support the energy supply. when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

But even including this cost, renewable energy turned out to be much cheaper than investing in several nuclear plants. The report noted that the cost of connecting nuclear power to the grid is still unknown.

GenCost uses the metric known as “the levelized cost” of electricity. This is what it costs a power plant to generate electricity, including the capital expenditures and revenue needed to generate a return on investment.

To calculate the cost of building a nuclear reactor in Australia, CSIRO looked at countries where nuclear power is established and selected South Korea to provide what it said was a conservative estimate.

The final figure of $16 billion was extrapolated using as a rule of thumb the fact that building a modern coal plant costs on average 2.8 times more in Australia than in South Korea, the closest comparable economy that uses nuclear power.

CSIRO said that based on this cost, building a 1 gigawatt nuclear reactor, which is small by global standards, would cost at least $8.6 billion in Australia, but the report said the first reactor to be built to a Such a plan would probably cost twice as much due to the expense of starting the industry from scratch.

Citing the recent cost reduction of the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project, which increased from $6 billion to $12 billion in 2023, “premiums of up to 100 percent cannot be ruled out,” according to the report.

Charging

CSIRO estimates that costs of $8 billion per reactor would only be achieved after at least five and possibly 10 reactors are built because these efficiencies “are only achievable through a steady and continuous construction program.”

The report also estimates the cost of electricity now and in the future, considering efficiency gains that will reduce the costs of the technologies.

He said the cheapest electricity will come from a grid that will get 90 percent of its power from renewables, which would supply electricity at a cost of between $89 and $128 per megawatt hour by 2030.

A large-scale nuclear reactor would provide energy between $136 and $226 per megawatt hour by 2040.

Small modular reactors, a nascent technology not yet used commercially but favored by the opposition, are even more expensive: between $171 and $366 per megawatt hour by 2040.

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