Nuclear Power in Australia

Meg Gerli
May 20, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

Current Source of Energy

Fig. 1: Image of a nuclear power plant in France. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Currently Australia relies heavily on coal and gas as its primary energy sources. Australia does not have a single nuclear power station, and has only one nuclear medicine reactor. [1] Many citizens felt strongly about the safety risks associated with nuclear power, especially after the accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986. These two events influenced Australia's decision to use coal as their source of energy, along with the fact that the supply was steady and reliable. However, there are environmental benefits to substituting nuclear power for a fossil fuel-fired energy generation that have an impact on air quality and pollution.

Advantages of Nuclear Power

Although a time consuming and cost heavily industry to develop, nuclear power (shown in Fig. 1) has many advantages. It is a secure energy supply for an area in the chance that resources operating previous energy sources are limited. Furthermore, once constructions of the power plants are completed, the plants generate limited greenhouse gas emissions. Australia has a strong case for the creation of nuclear plants because of the easily accessible and available source of uranium. Uranium can be processed into a fuel for the plants.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Power

One of the largest responsibilities of a nuclear energy source is ensuring that all waste is properly managed and transported. The disposal of waste can take thousands of years as its a radioactive material. The concern is unintended leakage of radioactive material into groundwater or ecosystems, and thence into the human population. [2] Along with this concern comes the disadvantage of accidents relating to nuclear power plants. When hearing the term "uranium", individuals are triggered to think of a dangerous substance that then has a lasting impact on any policy change or considerations influenced by public opinion. [3]

What Comes Next?

The primary arguments against a nuclear future for Australia include the point that a nuclear power industry would need several decades to become operational. [1] However, new technologies are being developed that can be factory-built, don't need water for cooling, and are able to better adjust output to demand. [2] This statement proves that nuclear power has the ability to transform the electricity industry.

© Meg Gerli. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] O. Milman, "Government Rules Out Nuclear Power for Australia," The Guardian, 17 Dec 13.

[2] C. Latimer, "Australia Has 'Missed the Boat' on Nuclear Power," Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Jun 18.

[3] D. K. Bud et al., "Nuclear Power in Australia: A Comparative Analysis of Public Opinion Regarding Climate Change and the Fukushima Disaster," Energy Policy 65, 644 (2014).