By Matthew Logan
In 1973, Psychologists Kahnemann and Tversky, best known for their work within the field of behavioural economics, coined the term ‘availability heuristic’. The basic idea was that people tend to overestimate the probability of particular events occurring by considering only that which immediately comes to mind.
Consider the fear of flying. The tragedies of MH370, MH17 and 9/11 are so salient in our minds that almost 6% of people experience aerophobia. The chances of dying in a plane crash, however, are only 0.00001%. In this context, we would happily dismiss such a fear as irrational. However, this is precisely what’s happening in the Australian nuclear debate. Although the events of Fukushima and Chernobyl were tragic, we must not allow them to obfuscate the facts surrounding nuclear technology.
Fact 1: Australia has the largest deposits of Uranium in the world.
Australia is endowed with over 30% of the world’s Uranium deposits, among which is the world’s largest single known deposit at the Olympic Dam mine. Further, with capacity for 17 possible Uranium mines across South Australia, Northern Territory, and Western Australia, we are currently utilising just three. If the productive potential of these mines were to be unleashed, these states may find the key to economic growth in the ‘post mining-boom’ era.
Fact 2: Nuclear Energy is safe.
On a death-per-energy-unit-generated basis, nuclear energy ranks last behind wind, solar, coal, hydro and gas technology – this includes deaths from Fukushima and Chernobyl. In fact, although both can provide baseload power, nuclear plants are 4000 times safer than the average coal fired power plant. Further, advancements in nuclear technologies are making power plants smaller, safer, and more efficient than ever before.
Fact 3: Nuclear is a low carbon emission technology.
In 2015, Australia adopted an ambitious long-term carbon emissions reduction target of 26% by 2050 at the Paris Climate Conference. Pursuing this target with current renewables technology would result in a sharp appreciation in electricity prices, having its most severe impact on the poorest in our community. Nuclear power offers a path to meet, and even exceed this target by 2050. It offers a large-scale baseload power source that emits less greenhouse gases than solar, gas and coal, while producing marginally more than hydro and wind turbines.
Fact 4: Nuclear is economically viable.
On average, each nuclear power plant in America generates US$470 million in economic output and US$35 million in total labour income, while contributing about US$83 million in taxes annually. Each plant employs between 400-700 people whose jobs pay 36% higher than the market rate. Domestically, the Australian Energy Technology Assessment update showed that nuclear energy has the potential to be the cheapest low-emission power generation method in Australia by 2050.
The left side of politics are ignorant in the nuclear debate and blind to the common goal of a cheap, dependable, low emissions alternative. They are more concerned with depicting nuclear as a satanic force accelerating us towards our ostensibly dystopic future than considering the real benefits it has to offer. Although they may have succeeded with their scaremongering to date, the landscape of the nuclear debate is slowly changing. Recent polling in South Australia suggests that over 60% of citizens support nuclear power technology, whilst around 25% are staunchly opposed and the rest remain neutral. There has never been a better time in Australia’s history to exploit its economic advantage in the nuclear industry. If even the French can use 75% Nuclear in their energy mix, then why can’t we?