Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source

This is a press release to accompany a new peer-reviewed paper by Martin Nicholson, Tom Biegler and me (Barry Brook), published online this week in the journal Energy. In subsequents BNC post, I will look at how the media has reacted so far to the story (the good, the bad and the ugly), and also explore the paper’s findings in more depth. For now, here’s the overview. If you want a PDF copy of the paper, email me.


Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source

Climate change professor supports nuclear in newly published analysis

When a carbon price that is high enough to drive a technology switch eventually kicks in, only nuclear power will keep the lights on, keep electricity costs down, and meet long-term emission reduction targets, say three Australian authors in a paper published this week in international peer-reviewed journal Energy*.

Introducing a carbon price changes relative technology power costs because rates of carbon emissions differ between technologies.

“In order to understand where our future electricity will come from” says lead author Martin Nicholson, “we need the best possible insights into generating technologies, their costs and their carbon emissions”.

After analysing a wealth of peer-reviewed studies on market needs, technology performance, life-cycle emissions and electricity costs, the researchers conclude that only five technologies currently qualify for low-emission baseload generation. Of these, nuclear power is the standout solution. Nuclear is the cheapest option at all carbon prices and the only one able to meet the stringent greenhouse gas emission targets envisaged for 2050.

Only one of these five qualifiers comes from the renewable energy category – solar thermal in combination with heat storage and gas backup. However, on a cost basis, it is uncompetitive, as are the carbon capture and storage technologies.

Professor Barry Brook, director of climate science at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute says: “I am committed to the environment, personally and professionally. The evidence is compelling  that nuclear energy must play a central role in future electricity generation. No other technology can meet our demand for power while reducing carbon emissions to meet global targets”.

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