This paper was released by Australian Science Media Centre yesterday and has caused an immediate stir. As Wiley and Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies are yet to provide a download, I will host it here for now. It is creative commons licence so please share!

Update: the official version and supplementary material now available for download. Click here!

The paper is leading the South Australian print media today and I am doing several morning news bulletins to discuss this.

This tells us a couple of things.

People want inspiration and exciting ideas! I think many South Australians feel short-changed that we have been told, so very early in this process, that such innovative ideas are off the table. There is no reason they should be, none, particularly in a state that is now starved of reliable clean energy. There are many ways to provide a service to the global community. This latest round of double-blind peer review reaffirms that the pathway we have proposed is valid for consideration and should remain part of discussions.

I don’t regard this paper as a win-lose competition of ideas with the repository-focused project proposed by the Royal Commission. Both concepts share a great deal: acknowledgement of a large global need for service and beginning that service with secure above-ground storage. We have proceeded to explore a pathway the Royal Commission left unexplored, a decision I regard as highly premature.

Both pathways involves challenges and uncertainties and both pathways (and some more besides) should be on the table at this early stage as we simply try to define the right service to provide to the global community, and work with global partners to enact such services.

I happen to think some of the enthusiastic pick up of this article from media (there was no release, just the normal science media notifications) comes down to a palpable frustration among South Australians: stop telling us we can’t. Stop telling us we musn’t. Stop telling us to think small. Stop telling us it’s too hard. Stop trying to frighten us and start trying to inspire us.

Enjoy the paper.


  1. Apologies if I am dual posting – my connection dropped out and the original comment was lost.

    Keith Orchison published a comment two days ago that explains why SA’s power issues are not significant to those in NSW, VIc and Qld. As usual, Keith has provided data to explain that the relative size and nature of the SA electricity market means little east of the border.

    Here’s the link. Comments appear in date order. Look for 16th January 2017.

  2. Your assumed pair of PRISM reactors (roughly 620 megawatts combined capacity) would have fuel requirements that would be met by a small pyroprocessing plant with 100 tonnes per year processing capacity for used nuclear fuel imported from overseas.
    That in fact appears to be the assumed pyroprocessing plant size, going by the AU$ 617 million capital cost cited in your Table 2.

    At this 100 tonnes per year processing rate, your M60 (mid scenario) with 60,000 tHM of imported used fuel would take 600 years to process.

    Moreover, if the objective is to consume ALL the fuel – including the U238 which comprises about 95% of used LWR fuel – then a pair of PRISM reactors would take well over 60,000 years to achieve that, because the net amount of fuel fissioned in order to run them continuously at 620MWe is about 0.6 tonnes per year (converted entirely to fission products).

    Obviously, no pyroprocessing plant is going to last 600 years, and no pair of PRISM reactors is going to last a 100,000 years.
    Yet your business case seems to assume capital costs for just a single pyroprocessing plant, and a single set of PRISM reactors.
    Evidently some long-term aspects of the plan are missing, with potentially significant impact on your business case.

    Alternatively, the great majority of U238 comprising 95% of used LWR fuel could be sent to a geological repository of some sort, perhaps along with the fission products (using the excess U238 as a matrix for diluting the FPs; Alternately, a different matrix material could be used, with added costs…)
    In this case, the volume of waste to be disposed would be comparable to that assumed by the Royal Commission Report, only with much processing added, rather than burying unmodified used LWR fuel.
    Again, some important aspects of the plan appear to be missing, with potentially significant impact on your business case.

  3. It has occurred to me that if you are in the business of exporting mined Uranium, which South Australia appears to be, and if used nuclear fuel appears to be recyclable when supplies of new ore seem limited, it would be in you interests to be in control of as much potentially recyclable material as possible, whether or not you physically do the recycling/re-enrichment, or sub contract it out.

    Even if recycling never takes place within south australian borders, gaining physical control of as much of the re-usable global uranium stockpile is simply basic common sense, as cheap alternative sources dry up

  4. There is no shortage of uranium, despite there being limited proven reserves. Probable reserves are many times that which has already been drilled and mapped.

    That said,as for all physical resources, reuse or recycling sure beats digging it all up.

  5. I was waiting for a blog link on the BNW homepage. I’ll have to say upfront I believe nuclear countries should make a max effort to permanently deal with radioactive material on their home soil. More to the point I think reprocessing and geo-disposal won’t fly in Australia until we have a local need first. That could be after several refuelling cycles for light water reactors (large or small) that replace coal baseload on the east coast.

    On ABC radio a Flinders Ranges person said they thought unprocessed used fuel casks would be stored for decades at Barndioota. Maybe everything should go to Woomera area, a point made by numerous commentators in The Advertiser. The Wiki article on drill bits suggests boreholes will be under 76 cm diameter so the casks would have to be slimmed down. Again repeating others why not use the depleting Challenger mine? It’s inside the Woomera restricted area coincidentally in the V of the Darwin and Perth rail junction near Tarcoola, with the Darwin rail operator keen to get involved.

    The other big problem is waiting for IFRs to go commercial. The ZCO paper made a good case for heavy water. Starting with the Quinshan units we are told China intends to have one AFCR for every four of equivalent light water capacity. The AFCR is on the market now. When will the GE PRISM?

    In short; encourage light water coal replacement for the east coast, get a currently available used fuel burner with an appropriate reprocessing facility in SA, stash unusable material down a Woomera area mine, open up to overseas waste if public support improves.

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