Back 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Electricity 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.
- 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).