18 March 2024

CSIRO and Dutton in nuclear war of words

| Chris Johnson
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CSIRO boss Douglas Hilton has defended his agency’s research against attack from Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. Photo: Supplied.

CSIRO boss Douglas Hilton has taken to penning an open letter to defend his institution’s research against criticism from the Coalition.

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton took a strong swipe at the national science agency this week by questioning its research into nuclear power.

The highly respected CSIRO found that nuclear power would likely be the most expensive source of new energy for Australia’s future.

It recently released its latest GenCost report, which pointed to renewable energy, saying solar and on-shore wind projects would be the cheapest way to generate electricity into the future, even when factoring in the costs of maintaining the integrity of the power grid.

But Mr Dutton, a strong advocate for including nuclear power into the grid, questioned the reliability of the report – even describing it as “discredited”.

“It’s not relied on. It’s not a genuine piece of work,” the Opposition Leader said.

“It doesn’t take into account some of the transmission costs – the costs around subsidies for the renewables.”

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He also said it was “well documented” that the CSIRO could not be relied on.

However, CSIRO’s research did in fact consider the costs of transmission as well as storage when undertaking its research, by including such ”integration costs” of the energy sources.

With all such factors taken into account, renewable energy was still the cheapest and nuclear energy the most expensive.

CSIRO’s chief executive officer was quick to publicly defend his organisation against unfounded political claims.

But he did not name Mr Dutton.

“Science is crucial to providing the data and models that allow society to tackle profound challenges; challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, transition to net zero, keeping Australian industry productive and sustainable, and protecting our unique biodiversity,” Dr Hilton wrote on Friday (15 March).

“For science to be useful and for challenges to be overcome it requires the trust of the community. Maintaining trust requires scientists to act with integrity.

“Maintaining trust also requires our political leaders to resist the temptation to disparage science.

“As chief executive of CSIRO, I will staunchly defend our scientists and our organisation against unfounded criticism.

“The GenCost report is updated each year and provides the very best estimates for the cost of future new-build electricity generation in Australia.

“The report is carefully produced, its methodology is clearly articulated, our scientists are open and responsive to feedback, and as is the case for all creditable science, the report is updated regularly as new data comes to hand.

“The GenCost report can be trusted by all our elected representatives, irrespective of whether they are advocating for electricity generation by renewables, coal, gas or nuclear energy.

“No matter the challenge we are tackling, CSIRO’s scientists and engineers can be relied on by the community to work creatively, assiduously and with integrity.”

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Mr Dutton in return defended himself, saying there was nothing disparaging about the comments he had made.

“My point is that we need to compare apples with apples,” he told the media.

“At the moment, that report that was released, it doesn’t take into consideration all of the costs around renewables.

“I’m strongly in favour of renewables, but we need to keep the lights on and we need to keep our prices down.”

The Coalition wants the moratorium on nuclear technology overturned and has a strategy to list six potential sites for reactors to be located in disused former coal stations.

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Interesting, scientific papers undergo the scrutiny of critical peer review before being published – and even then may be subsequently amended based on new research and evolving evidence. A politician makes a (scientifically) unqualified and unproven comment and the electorate is expected to take it on face value as the truth.

Dutton over the CSIRO? Yeah …. nah!

Barmaleo Barmaley10:19 am 19 Mar 24

From one side, our politicians follow the path dictated by their Washington masters on rising escalation with China not missing any change to bark on Beijing whenever there is a chance. From other side, nearly the same politicians make plans on future of this country built around energy generated by solar panels and wind-generators exported from China. As a reminder, on the world market China has nearly 100% of the solar panel/converter sales and around a half of the EV batteries and wind-generators market. Is this split personality of our politicians a sign of a simple stupidity or an elaborate plan to de-industrialize Australia?

Capital Retro5:07 pm 18 Mar 24

It is a basic human need to have access to supply of reliable energy. Renewables cannot provide this.

Australia is one of the few high ranking progressive countries that shuns emission free nuclear power for no apparent reason. This has provided an open door for promoters of other forms of “clean” energy mainly solar and wind which are not ideal for industry to dominate the rush for the “net-zero” mantra which would not be even perceived as a necessity if nuclear power was already in place in Australia.

There is a clear link between the renewable energy sector and decision makers in our government and bureaucracy, especially at election times. Follow the money.

All that has to be done is lift the ban on nuclear to allow the free market operate.

When enjoying your next coffee in Paris, think about this. The water in your coffee was probably heated 70% by electricity generated by nuclear. In Australia, that same coffee would be heated by 60% coal generated electricity and that is unlikely to change for a long time.

Iced coffee isn’t too bad either.

“Australia is one of the few high ranking progressive countries that shuns emission free nuclear power for no apparent reason. “

No apparent reason except its the most expensive power option.

Or the fact that no community would ever accept having nuclear plants near them due to the NIMBY factor.

All with a far higher safety risk profile than equivalent renewable options.

“In Australia, that same coffee would be heated by 60% coal generated electricity and that is unlikely to change for a long time.”

Well by “long time”, I’m assuming you mean 10-20 years.

Seeing as renewable energy reliance has doubled in the last 10 years and generation capacity is increasing exponentially as older, more expensive, fossil fuel sources are decommissioned.

It’s ironic that you posted your comment on an article where the CSIRO boss is bemoaning baseless attacks on Science from people who have no idea what they are talking about.

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