Nuclear Waste barrels
Nuclear Waste barrels

By Matt Walsh

The state of South Australia is “well placed” to set up a permanent nuclear storage industry, Australian nuclear experts said overnight, after royal commission findings recommended expanding Australia’s role in nuclear power.

Nuclear Waste barrels
Nuclear Waste barrels
Australia has contributed to the international nuclear fuel cycle for more than 60 years through its established uranium mining industry, but the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission — which had its findings released to the public on Monday — said Australia’s vast, barren outback would provide a perfect setting for long-term nuclear waste storage.

The commission found that setting up a permanent nuclear waste facility would prove to be lucrative for the economy, and Professor Ken Baldwin from the Australian National University’s Energy Change Institute said Australia and its barren, dry climate were the perfect setting for a nuclear waste storage facility.

“Australia is a dry continent, is both geologically and geo-politically stable, and has good governance systems, all of which are desirable characteristics for this technically feasible industry,” Baldwin said in a statement released on Monday.

“Could nuclear waste storage replace the mining boom in our economic trajectory? The royal commission has now started that discussion.”

The commission also recommended the government remove a ban on the use of nuclear power in Australia to make it a potential alternative to coal, but head of Nuclear Physics at ANU, Professor Andrew Stuchbery, said it was not economically viable “at present,” while setting up a storage industry would have “considerable” economic potential.

“At present, there is no economic driver to become involved in the so-called front end of the nuclear fuel cycle that includes isotope separation and fuel fabrication, nor is there an economic imperative for nuclear power in Australia,” Stuchbery said.

“On the other hand, there is the potential for considerable economic benefit to South Australia in the back end of the fuel cycle — in relation to spent fuel and nuclear waste storage.

“Such engagement would require bipartisan government and community support.”

Also on Monday, Federal Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg said significant legislative change would be required to back the findings of the commission, but admitted the positive economic impact was too good to ignore.

“The expansion of Australia’s nuclear industry beyond this current focus would require significant legislative and regulatory change,” a statement released by Frydenberg said.

“The report provides a sound basis for the South Australian government to make informed and considered decisions about South Australia’s role in the nuclear fuel cycle, and the potential economic opportunities that the report identifies.

“The Commonwealth has an important role to play in this discussion, including through the management of radioactive waste. We will carefully consider the findings of the report and will consult with the South Australian government in developing our response.”

France is one nation reliant on nuclear energy which is keen to use the vast Australian outback as a permanent storage facility. It has already shipped nuclear waste to a make-shift facility built at Lucas Heights in New South Wales.

Last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia’s “stable geology” and “stable political environment” meant Australia was a prime location for nuclear waste storage.

“We have got the uranium, we mine it, why don’t we process it, turn it into the fuel rods, lease it to people overseas, when they are done, we bring them back and we have got stable, very stable geology in remote locations and a stable political environment,” Turnbull said. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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