Media release from the office of the Premier, Jay Weatherill, here

In press conference the Premier made these highly encouraging remarks:

“The Royal Commission is traditionally used to look backwards at things that have gone wrong.

“We will use a Royal Commission in a different way”.

“It needs to be a mature debate, it will be a robust debate, but it’s a debate we believe has its time.”

“We need a clearer understanding of the nature of energy demands around the world and indeed in this country.

“We also need to ensure that this debate is carried out in a way that understands the potential economic benefits for our state and our nation.

“Most of all we want SA to explore this issue in a way that allows them to grapple with the practical, ethical and financial considerations involved”.

This is great news and I look forward to following this exciting development.

To think people said Australia can’t change on nuclear…

Mr Weatherill said in the past he had been opposed to nuclear but “I now have an open mind about these issues.


  1. “People” are still claiming nuclear is dead, it just doesn’t realise it, etc, even as the IPCC and the IEA recommend a quadrupling of capacity. Meanwhile, back in reality…

  2. My strongest suspicion is that this is mostly about establishing the potential value of storing nuclear waste from other countries, which I admit there is some moral basis for, since we’re selling it. There’s probably a secondary desire to look at enrichment, but I don’t see much natural advantage of doing that here, except maybe at the source with cheap electricity. Geothermal?

    I wouldn’t get one’s hopes up about it recommending nuclear electricity generation. In my experience State governments are mostly interested in things that make them money, preferably quickly. Nuclear power is a cost only for probably the first ten years. It will be interesting to see what they say about nuclear power in SA though; it’s hard to imagine a tougher market for nuclear than SA, with such good cheap wind resources and very high penetration of solar.

    It will also be interesting to see how the nuclear lobby responds to the findings.

    1. Not just a moral basis for nuclear storage but geological too. The region coincidentally centred roughly on Olympic Dam happens to be some of the most tectonically stable crust on the planet, and has been for 1500 million years. Throw in arid, flat and impermeable as well (so no hydrogeological action), and you’ve got an area that ticks (at least) all the long term issue boxes.

  3. A number of special considerations apply to SA
    – two big employers Holden and ASC are about to tank
    – the central west mining industry needs more power and desalinated water
    – the price of gas (52% of SA power) may double with Qld LNG exports
    – SA is not a nuclear virgin with A bomb tests and large uranium deposits.

    I see a neat symmetry in my view that desal and NP should be co-located as a sales pitch even if there is no thermal connection. The 200+ hectare Pt Stanvac site already has an RO desal on one corner I suggest putting an EC6 there starting before the vacate-by date of 2019. Eyre Peninsula and nearby mines will run out of water by 2025 I suggest a desal perhaps with one of the first SMRs to hit the market.

  4. They say being marched to the gallows concentrates the mind wonderfully. I have no doubt the RC will get heartfelt submissions on nowhere to store the waste, what about thorium, absolutely no need when they improve batteries etc. Then the stark reality may set in of over 10,000 job losses in auto and defence manufacturing coupled with $9 a gigajoule gas. Maybe one Adelaide summer will hit 50C and residents of fibro homes will be carted off in droves. I hope those making submissions try to think a few years ahead.

    1. I will keep you posted with details, terms of references and processes Wade. The Premier tweeted me this yesterday: “Very interested in getting the best minds from here & around the world to help us”

      1. My time and interest are not a problem. Just travel and arrangements? Do you need me? Possibly not. You have strong voices in SA already but sometimes interest from afar makes the difference. What can I do for you? When?

        1. There may be better choices than myself for organising travel. And insofar as the same underlying misapprehension about radiation in Japan also applies to Australia, I think your presence and your expertise could only help.

  5. Fantastic news! Now to wait for the terms of reference and who will be the commissioner. Then we can get onto the submissions, testimonies, and reports.

  6. From reading comments to news articles I think a couple of red herrings have entered the debate. One is that SA should start with fourth generation nuclear and the other is that Pt Augusta is an ideal location.

    BusinessSA is plugging the GE Hitachi Prism which requires another decade of development. Possible customers include the UK with 120 tonnes of plutonium compared to SA with 0 tonnes. I think the reactors to be considered are the 540 MWe NuScale SMR under development and the 700 MWe Enhanced Candu 6 heavy water reactor, the latter said to be capable of fissioning some waste products.

    Despite the existence of the Northern coal fired power station and the seawater based Sundrop Farms I think Pt Augusta is a poor location for both desalination and seawater cooled thermal plant. The narrow channel at the top of the gulf has elevated salinity, tidal flushing rather than currents and summer water temperatures over 30C … see the Google Earth shot in the link. I think NPP should be on open coastline with sea currents flowing past.

  7. I would hope that the reason for at least considering nuclear energy is based on the big picture, as in concern for the Global environment and climate change.
    It would be disappointing if the change of heart was based purely on local politics and in response to the recent loss of jobs and industries within South Australia.

    Australia is in a position to leverage its power as a major resource. Perhaps we could use some of that power to influence and strengthen the UN bodies that oversee the World’s nuclear industries. (That Fukushima happened at all was a failure of International nuclear institutions. The tsunami itself should not have caused a meltdown). Hopefully this could develop into a national discussion that looks further than just creating jobs. Australia is in a much stronger position to reduce emissions Worldwide than we realise. We could be one of the biggest players, it is just that we choose to sit on the sidelines.

  8. It didn’t take long for the wobbles to start
    Must have gone to a dinner party last night with the in-crowd and been put in his place.

    It seems you can dig uranium out of a hole in the ground and put subsequent and unrelated actinides back in a hole in the ground but you can’t be sullied with enrichment or power generation. It’s a bit like being half pregnant.

  9. Ben, I noticed that the comments on your piece in The Conversation supporting the Royal Commission were closed down while the following article against the Royal Commission was given free reign.
    I wrote a very polite comment pointing out the lack of balance in this outcome after which the editor promptly restored balance by closing down all discussion on the following article too.
    Shssh…. no more talking about nuclear!

    1. Sounds unfortunate. The Conversation has been one of the most steadfast outlets for articles supportive of nuclear technologies, so they absolutely retain my support, whatever may be the case on this occasion.

  10. I was pleased to notice that my letter (reproduced below) was printed in the March edition of Engineers Australia which also published another letter supporting nuclear plus an article about the SA Royal Commission.

    The announcement by the South Australian Labor Government of a Royal Commission into the future role of the nuclear fuel cycle, including mining, enrichment, energy and storage could potentially “kick start” a urgently needed, global non carbon energy industry in which Australia has the leading role.
    Over the past 250 years 2 trillion tonnes of CO2 waste from fossil carbon energy production has been dumped into the atmosphere with 1 trillion tonnes in just the last 35 years. If energy use doubles as predicted, another 2 trillion tonnes will be dumped before 2050.
    While dumping CO2 into the atmosphere is considered a socially acceptable CO2 waste disposal strategy, the IPCC has continually warned this strategy will result in a catastrophic climate change event unless CO2 emissions are reduced to almost zero before the end of this century.
    Australia which supplies much of the world’s uranium, produces most of its electricity from coal is one of the dirtiest CO2 polluters on the planet with three times the per capita emissions of France which used nuclear.
    Current thermal nuclear reactors only use one percent of the energy from the uranium fuel. While the volume of the resulting nuclear waste is very small it still contains 99% of its potential energy. Fast breeder technology like the GE Hitachi S-PRISM consumes the remaining energy in nuclear waste, burns up all the dangerous actinides, reducing its volume to just 5% requiring storage for a few hundred years.
    The development of a closed nuclear energy industry from mining to waste disposal using fast breeder technology could see Australia as a major player in the global transition to non carbon energy to stop climate change, a good reason for all engineers in Australia to support this bold initiative.
    Tom Bond
    AMIE Aust

  11. A panel of nuclear experts from Engineers Australia addressed a room full of politicians and policy-makers at a Nuclear Energy panel held at Parliament House on Tuesday 24 March 2015.

    The event was held in response to politicians contacting Sydney Division’s Nuclear Engineering Panel to seek more information on nuclear power, due to the South Australian Government’s Royal Commission into the State’s role in nuclear energy and the Federal Government’s Energy Green Paper stating all energy solutions should be considered for Australia’s energy future.

    Dr Dennis Jensen MP introduced the panel of experts, which included Tony Irwin, Martin Thomas AM and Dr Don Higson.

    “This panel isn’t about convincing people one way or the other on nuclear energy; it’s about providing decision-makers with the most up-to-date facts to make informed decisions,” Mr Irwin said.

    The Public Affairs Team live-tweeted the event so members could follow the discussion.

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