On the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission

NFCRCBack in February 2015, I posted on BNC about the announcement of a Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle (henceforth NFCRC) in the uranium-mining state of South Australia (SA).

This was followed up by a post on The Conversation by Ben Heard and me, entitled “Royal commission into nuclear will open a world of possibilities“. In that article, we speculated on what the NFCRC might conclude. I was later appointed as a member of the Expert Advisory Committee.

After more than a year of compiling evidence, analysing facts and opinion, and testing ideas, the NFCRC handed down its 320 page final report, in May 2016. You can read it here. (Yes, it’s worth reading in full…but at least look at the summary!)

In caricature (at least by my abstracting), the NFCRC report says:

  1. Mining, milling and further processing of radioactive ores — activities that already occur in SA — will continue to be pursued and developed, but not expand greatly. There is limited scope here for substantially increased economic activity.
  2. Development of uranium enrichment capability and advanced manufacture of fuel elements (including international fuel leasing) in SA would require quite specific techno-economic circumstances to be worthwhile, and raises proliferation issues. It is not likely to happen in isolation of other developments.
  3. IFR vs LFTRElectricity generation from nuclear fuels would probably not, in the present circumstances, be economically competitive in SA. Advanced reactor designs such as the IFR or LFTR should not be built (first) in SA, but a watching brief ought to be kept on small modular light-water reactors.
  4. Hosting of an international nuclear used fuel repository in SA ought to be considered seriously. Very seriously. Although it  would face many logistical and policy obstacles, and would inevitably involve a long-term strategy, the ultimate and ongoing socio-economic benefits it could deliver to SA are stunning (hundreds of billions of $ income).

My interpretation…

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What “On the…”?

I’ve never liked titles of scientific papers that being with “On the[whatever]”. It’s always struck me as simultaneously pretentious and uninformative. These days I usually try to give the main result in a paper’s title, or at least, make it clever, or humorous… (Another irk is when people introduce a speaker with the phrase “Without further ado…”. Please.)

But despite myself, I’m going to start a new “On the” series on BNC (3.0). In this case, it seems to fit. You see, there are a whole range of topics on which I have been holding myself back from commenting over the last year or two (…for various reasons). Now, it’s time to unleash. Or counter. Or muse. Or speculate. Whatever befits the topic, really. You know all those soapboxes I’ve been erecting for others in the Open Threads? My turn, again.

I’ve made a start on a few of them in Evernote. In no particular order: “On Fukushima”. “On Solar Thermal”. “On Sc[k]eptics”. “On Ideologues”. “On Expertise”. “On the Energy Mix”. “On Science and Philosophy”. “On Space”. “On the Future”. “On Supervision”. “On Qualitative Research”. “On Positive Discrimination”. “On Religion”. And so on. Who knows, if I write enough of them, I might have myself a(nother) publishable manifesto!

Other topics are planned, but I won’t give away their titles. It’d spoil the effect. Suffice to say that they’ll be wide ranging (across the broad techno-climate-energy-environment-ecology-evolution-philosophical theme of BNC at least), variable in length, quality and evidence base, and always with a strong lashing of personal opinion. It is BNC 3.0 after all…

The first “On the…” will come soon – tomorrow(ish)… I hope! It’ll feature the NFCRC. Given my involvement on the science expert panel, I’d better say something about its findings.


P.S. I did some minor updates to the blog’s theme, cleaned out that awful background image that was well past the ‘grating on me’ stage, and restored the topic categories on the side-bar. I also updated my icon ‘photo’. It seemed appropriate.