Australia Nuclear


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Nuclear Energy and Australia: 

Nuclear Energy and Australia Presentation by Prof Jim Falk, Australian Centre for Science, Innovation and Society


History 1950s-1964: Nuclear weapons tests in Australia. Uranium supplied to British and American nuclear weapons programs, until the uranium price collapsed and mines closed. Late ‘60s: Growth of global nuclear power industry led to search for and discovery of new deposits. 1980s: Low prices and community opposition led to a ban on new mines. Considerable concern about nuclear proliferation issues 1996: Liberal-National Coalition government elected and uranium mining expansion more strongly supported.


Mines Australia currently has 3 commercial uranium mines, and a 4th planned for 2008

Australia has 1/3 of world’s U: 

Australia has 1/3 of world’s U Australia has an estimated 1,950,000 tonnes of U3O8, which is roughly one third of the world’s uranium resources. This includes 38% of the world’s low-cost uranium: Total identified resources (‘000 tonnes U3O8)

Production and export of uranium:: 

Production and export of uranium:

2005 uranium exports:: 

2005 uranium exports: 36% 9% 22% 11% 20% (other EU)

India & China: 

India & China Australia has been considering selling uranium to India, but this is currently looking unlikely, because it is not a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In April 2006, Australia agreed to sell uranium to China, under conditions, which the Australian Government says will prevent it from using the uranium for weapons.

The future?: 

The future?


However... All states known to have uranium have bans on either all uranium mining or on new mines 66% of Australians are opposed to the establishment of new uranium mines in Australia and 22% are in favour (May 2006 poll)

Nuclear power in Australia:: 

Nuclear power in Australia: Australia has never had nuclear power, but Government initiated consideration of it in 2006. Initiated Zwitkowski taskforce which concluded that it “sees nuclear power as a practical option for part of Australia’s electricity production” - see also

Switkowski projection: 

Switkowski projection The taskforce suggested meeting up to 80% of Australia’s electricity requirements with nuclear power, by building up to 25 1GW reactors to come on line over 2026- 2050 addressing Australia’s growing demand for electricity:

It argued that it would also cut GHG emissions:: 

It argued that it would also cut GHG emissions:

Nuclear power remains politically unpopular:: 

Nuclear power remains politically unpopular:

Would require subsidy or carbon tax: 

Would require subsidy or carbon tax Zwitkowski: Nuclear power 20-50% more expensive than current coal This is probably a considerable underestimate (interest rates, etc) recent Victorian Department of Infrastructure report found that coal-fired power stations produce power for $35 per MWh, while nuclear power would cost between $60-80 per MWh.

Choosing a location for a reactor is a political minefield:: 

Choosing a location for a reactor is a political minefield: Would you support a reactor in your local area?

HLN Waste Disposal: 

HLN Waste Disposal Strong public opposition to any repository Pangea (BFNL, Swiss, Canada) abandonned plan for international reporistory ($15 m invested since 1998) - continues as ARIUS Current controversy over small repository for ANSTO ILNW intended for Northern Territory

Spent fuel processing:: 

Spent fuel processing: Not currently contemplated for Australia. Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office: “[Nuclear fuel leasing] does not address the real proliferation risk. Actual cases (Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Iran) show the danger lies, not with diversion of declared materials from safeguarded facilities, but with clandestine nuclear facilities and undeclared materials” Zwitkowski taskforce: “reprocessing of spent fuel in Australia seems unlikely to be commercially attractive, unless the value of recovered nuclear fuel increases significantly”

Nuclear fuel leasing:: 

Nuclear fuel leasing: Potentially has support from the current federal government, but significant opposition from the public. Nuclear Fuel Leasing Group (headed by John White Chair of UIF, established by Minister Ian Macfarlaine in 2005) On September 16 2007 Australia signed on to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). The agreement explicitly excused Australia from responsibility to take other’s nuclear waste.


Enrichment: Silex. Possibility of U enrichment, but requires market opening and acceptance. Could be seen to undermine GNEP goals (but permitted under Australia’s GNEP agreement. The Zwitkowski taskforce concluded that uranium conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication could add AUS$1.8 billion to the annual value of the nuclear industry in Australia. However “high commercial and technology barriers could make market entry difficult” and “there may be little real opportunity for Australian companies to extend profitably into these areas”.

*Australia’s uranium exports likely to expand. * Other nuclear fuel cycle expansion possible. * Nuclear reactors possible - regulational preparation, etc, if government re-elected *Nuclear reactors ruled out if ALP elected: 

*Australia’s uranium exports likely to expand. * Other nuclear fuel cycle expansion possible. * Nuclear reactors possible - regulational preparation, etc, if government re-elected *Nuclear reactors ruled out if ALP elected

Future depends on extent to which:: 

Future depends on extent to which: climate change increases public acceptance renewable energy technologies developed and successfully demonstrated regional and world demand for nuclear fuel cycle capabilities solutions to economic, safety, proliferation and waste disposal issues in the nuclear fuel cycle

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