South Australian Government launches Nuclear Energy Royal Commission

  simont141 Chief Commissioner

Location: Adelaide
Russia is building all over the world - Egypt, Turkey, Belarus, India, Iran, China, Jordan, Vietnam... There's negotiations for a new Russian-designed reactor for Finland (who have a pair of older Russian Pressurised Water Reactors operating at present), too. Their export reactors are decent enough; their current offering, the VVER-1200/AES-2006 is resistant to Fukushima-type events - it shuts down and removes decay heat from the reactor core without any external power for up to 72 hours.

Of course, there are significant political issues with buying anything Russian for Australia but there are plenty of good off-the-shelf nuclear reactor designs from other countries/vendors should we go down that path. Personally, I'm a fan of the Canadian Enhanced CANDU 6 reactor.
In terms of next-gen fast breeder reactors, Russia has exported their BN-800 to China and I'm sure India will soon export something based on their PFBR, which will come online this year. Also, there's a conglomerate/cooperative of around a dozen countries (including India, China, Russia et al.) working together through the 'Generation IV International Forum' to advance the technology, although many designs are sufficiently advanced and prototyped by now.

CANDU is a good Gen III option and will be important in present/near-future roll out of nuclear power, but fast breeder reactors - a sodium-cooled IFR in particular - has even greater safeguarding against any sort of incident, including proliferation (as it doesn't need/use PUREX process, instead utilising onsite pyroprocessing).

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  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
The CANDU reactor has the important advantage of being a known quantity - they've built them in Romania, China, South Korea and Argentina. The EC6 has a couple of incremental improvements bolted on, but the fundamental design hasn't changed. In the risk-averse business climate we are currently in, I'd say that something you can order with a known cost and timeline beats building a commercial prototype like PRISM/IFR or other exotic Gen IV reactor designs.

Of course, the one advantage that SA (and Australia at large) has is that we aren't committed to any particular nuclear technological path... yet.

Edit: Oh, and apparently the CANDU can use 'DUPIC' fuel - spent light water reactor fuel (as in, the spent fuel rods from pretty much every other commercial nuclear power reactor that exists today aside from other CANDUs) that is chopped up and repackaged into CANDU fuel for another go-through. Needs proper reprocessing after that if you want to burn that fuel for another go after that (using PUREX, IFR pyroprocessing or the Molten Salt Reactor fluoride salt methods), though.
  simont141 Chief Commissioner

Location: Adelaide
Given we are only at the first step it gives us the opportunity to lead the way with the newer technologies. By the time Australia is at the stage of going through any sort of procurement (conservatively 10 - 20 years away), I think there will be off the shelf Gen IV opportunities. Can't really back that up besides saying it's a hunch based on current development pace and current/near term commercialisation.

Going straight to breeder reactors also gives us the opportunity of being importers of LWR spent fuel, using that as fuel in breeder reactors, and also generating further revenue from taking the waste. Edit: this also applies to CANDU reactors too of course, although breeders (I think) can burn a wider range of fuels (any actinides).

Reading up on DUPIC, there would be good synergies between CANDU and breeder reactors operating in Australia. Having both might find that balance between near-term deployment (CANDU) and long term deployment of Gen IV. Having either avoids the need for enrichment in Australia too (assuming importation of the initial once-off "spark plug" of fissile material), with fuel flowing from one to the other and the remaining waste being minimal and with a relatively short half-life. I would be interested to see a mass balance flow for a typical CANDU plant but can't find one.

This is of course also linked to the price of uranium too! Depending on what that does long-term will obviously impact on what happens internationally and what Australia could do.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
The Draft Terms of Reference have been released:
  • Whether there is any potential for the expansion of the current level of exploration, extraction or milling of minerals containing radioactive materials in South Australia, any circumstances necessary for such an increase to occur and to be viable, any risks and opportunities created by expanding the level of exploration, extraction and milling, and the measures that might be required to facilitate and regulate that increase in activity.
  • The feasibility of the further processing of minerals and processing and manufacture of materials containing radioactive and nuclear substances (but not for, or from, military uses) including conversion, enrichment, fabrication or re-processing in South Australia, any circumstances necessary for that further processing or manufacture to be viable, any risks and opportunities associated with establishing and undertaking that further processing or manufacture, and any measures that might need to be taken to facilitate and regulate the establishment and carrying out of further processing or manufacture.
  • The feasibility of establishing and operating facilities to generate electricity from nuclear fuels in South Australia, any circumstances necessary for that to occur and to be viable, the relative advantages and disadvantages of generating electricity from nuclear fuels as opposed to other sources, including with regard to greenhouse gas emissions, any risks and opportunities associated with that activity (including its impact on renewable sources and the electricity market), and any measures that might need to be taken to facilitate and regulate their establishment and operation.
  • The feasibility of establishing facilities in South Australia for the management, storage and disposal of nuclear and radioactive waste from the use of nuclear and radioactive materials in power generation, industry, research and medicine (but not for, or from, military uses), any circumstances necessary for those facilities to be established and to be viable, the risks and opportunities associated with establishing and operating those facilities, and any measures that might need to be taken to facilitate and regulate their establishment and operation.
The draft Terms of Reference specifically require the Royal Commission, when inquiring into the risks and opportunities associated with the above matters, to consider, where appropriate, their impact upon the economy the environment and the community (including regional, remote and aboriginal communities).
Draft Terms of Reference
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Federal Liberal Senator for South Australia Sean Edwards has weighed in:

Billions of dollars from the nuclear industry could deliver free power to all South Australians and the abolition of state taxes, a Government Senator says.

South Australia’s Sean Edwards wants to see SA opened up to store spent fuel rods and install generators, securing a “massive inflow” of external money to kickstart the state’s economy in as soon as five years.

Accessing the tens of billions of dollars in the nuclear industry to store rods would let the state get rid of $4.4 billion in taxes including payroll tax, motor vehicle taxes and the Emergency Services Levy, while generating nuclear power could supply the entire state, he says.

That would effectively create a “special economic zone” attractive to business investment.

“This can take us from having one of the highest power costs in the world to one of the most competitive — indeed no cost apart from the poles and wires,” Senator Edwards said, adding it would make sense to store rods and build reactors where coal-fired plants are.


Nuclear expert Ben Heard, director of ThinkClimate Consulting and doctoral candidate at the University of Adelaide, said everything in Senator Edward’s proposal was “entirely credible”.

“That’s not the same as saying it’s easy or a done deal, but it’s credible,” he said.

“The used fuel rods ... can be converted into a metal form and that can go into a fast reactor that recycles that material over and over again until all of that material has produced energy, and in that process it converts into a much shorter lived waste form (with a half-life of only 30 years).”

The global market was worth hundreds of billions of dollars, which could mean an industry worth tens of billions for SA, he said.
Adelaide Now

Getting rid of all state taxes sounds a bit loony, but getting rid of some of them (like the payroll tax) could be pretty good for SA.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
States with more revenue than SA haven't achieved that form of taxpayer Mecca so I doubt it will occur. Normally what happens as Govt revenues increase so does out goings for pet projects, required infrastructure to fund the growth and social welfare increases. As SA becoming more affluent so will its Fed govt hand outs decrease as the eastern states say enoughs enough.

The reprocessing and longterm storage of nuclear fuel waste and conversion of ore to fuel rods in SA should have started in the 70's. The state would have been billions better off per year long ago and not part of the "rust belt".
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Remember that crazy proposal to give South Australians free electricity? Well, it's just been submitted to the Royal Commission: long pdf warning

In short:
...This submission instead proposes South Australia embraces an innovative model of service provision based on the novel combination of the following ii established approaches and revolutionary fuel recycling technologies on the cusp of commercialisation:
  1. A multinational Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI)
  2. An industrial-pilot scale fuel recycling and fabrication facility based on pyroprocessing
  3. Inherently safe fast-breeder nuclear reactors
  4. Deep borehole disposal of short-lived waste products

Modelling indicates that, in a mid-range scenario, the above, integrated project would deliver a net present value of $28 billion to South Australia.
Senator Edwards SANFRC submission

The 'free power' scenario illustrated in the submission is separate. In that, spent nuclear fuel ('waste') disposal would essentially subsidise the production of free wholesale electricity by nuclear reactors that would be powered by said 'waste'. In all but the smallest-scale, lowest-risk scenarios studied by the submission's authors, this proposal still makes money on top of supplying free electricity.

Interesting times indeed.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Political opponents unite behind nuclear vision

Sean Edwards and Tom Kenyon at Nano this week.
ADELAIDE An inauspicious morning coffee in Adelaide’s East End this week could symbolise the beginning of the first genuinely bipartisan support for a local nuclear industry since the 1970s.

Liberal Senator Sean Edwards and State Labor MP Tom Kenyon were spotted together at a local café, a cross-party and cross-jurisdiction dalliance that raised eyebrows. InDaily has confirmed the meeting was inspired by Edwards’ [color=#57aac2]recent submission to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, a document that outlines a substantial business case for not merely storing spent fuel, but recycling it.[/color]
It’s an approach Edwards, together with a formidable scientific team whose research underpinned his conclusions, believes will not only generate billions of dollars in revenue, but will create an industry that will provide jobs and cheap energy.
“I got a copy of his submission and was very impressed with it,” Kenyon said when contacted by InDaily.
“He’s put a huge amount of work in.”
Kenyon’s own submission to the inquiry focussed on potential revenues created from accepting and storing the world’s nuclear waste, but he says Edwards is “going a slightly different direction”.
“He’s looking at Generation Four resources, and how you’d work them into processing waste and generating heat at the same time… it’s a really intriguing proposition,” he said.
“My view was always ‘get the spent fuel here and people will pay us to do that, and that’s great … and we’ll use that to build infrastructure’ … but this is almost a step further. It suddenly becomes a resource, and we use that to lower the cost of electricity across the state and give SA a competitive advantage in energy costs.”
Edwards says his proposal has “certainly met with a great deal of interest”.
“I’ve been absolutely delighted with it,” he said.
“There’s plenty of support within the parliamentary party, and right across a number of parliamentary parties.”
He says critics such as Professor Mark Diesendorf, who [color=#57aac2]this week led the charge against his proposal, have “been on the record forever on their position (and) they’re easy to rebut because they’re just not modern concepts”.[/color]
He said his mission was to “socialise” the nuclear debate, to help spearhead public awareness and acceptance of the industry’s benefits, which “I fundamentally believe will turn around the economic future of this state for the next 100 years”.
It’s a mission he’s been set on since his maiden speech four years ago, when he said: “We cannot sidestep uranium … we dig it up, yet others are reaping the greatest benefit by taking our raw product and employing hundreds of thousands of people to develop it.”
“Now is the time to have the debate about leveraging our competitive advantage for the betterment of South Australia and indeed all Australians.”
And to do that, he insists, he needs strong cross-party support.

“If I’m going to socialise this policy, I can’t put out a science journal,” Edwards said, referring to the thorough cost-benefit analysis detailed in his submission, which concludes the commercialisation of spent fuel recycling “represents approximately $28 billion in value for South Australia”, along with “the potential for wholesale electricity priced at $0 MWh” and “direct job creation in the thousands”.
“Economically, socially and environmentally, our state would be transformed for the better,” his report states.
“That’s two years of solid policy work there, thousands of man hours, a lot of that contributed by engineers and nuclear scientists on a belief basis,” he reflected on the submission, which he began preparing even before Premier Jay Weatherill gave it an outlet by establishing the royal commission inquiry.
“I learnt last year the Premier was interested in this space, because we were obviously talking to the same people,” said Edwards.
“I give him great credit, he’s realised we have potentially an advantage over anyone else in the world, geographically and environmentally.
“For once, it’s a perfect storm in our favour, a really good opportunity to commercialise this technology and capitalise on that for generations.”
He is confident in the “build it and they will come” belief that “other countries will be happy to use us”, with hundreds of reactors around the world and more being built.
“They’re all potential customers, and there are exponential economic benefits that flow on from inexpensive energy,” he said.
“This is a deliverable project that SA can embark on… I’m talking about a policy that delivers a project, and that’s the difference.”
While not yet a card-carrying convert, Kenyon agrees the proposal is “certainly intriguing”.
“It’s good to see people are thinking about it, and good that the policy process is going on in this area,” he said.
“It’s not an industry you can enter into half-heartedly… I think our policy makers need to be active participants in the debate, because they’re going to be responsible for regulating it if we go ahead.”
He said if Australia is to enter into the “nuclear power game… it makes sense to come in at the next generation, rather than buying what’s the last of the current generation”.
“No-one’s done it commercially yet, so you’re really leading the world,” Kenyon said.
“As many people as possible should read (Edwards’) submission… it makes mine pale into insignificance, that’s for sure.”

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