Week 4 – Further Processing and Manufacture

If South Australia was to process uranium into nuclear fuel for exportation, how can we ensure that those materials will only be used for peaceful purposes?


  1. It would be generally difficult to ensure that exported Uranium fuel rods (containing U238 & U235 mix) were not be processed secretly in a foreign country to enrich the U235 content to make a nuclear fission weapon, or a radiation weapon (dirty bomb).

    However, any exported Thorium (T232) fuel (if such a market developed) could not generally be converted into a practical nuclear fission or radiation weapon. Thorium has a very long half life (approx 10 billion years), so while it needs to be handled with care, it is not as dangerous as U235.

    Concentrated U238, (DU) is also relatively safe, and is used to make compact weights, and armour-piercing bullets.

  2. Would this be any different to the ‘watertight guarantee’ that the uranium oxide we currently export will only be used for peaceful purposes? Any country that intends to develop even crude nuclear weapons could organise a third part to enrich SA oxide to a suitable level – probably far cheaper than buying enriched material from SA.

    Given that Australia and India have signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement and India hasn’t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty this question is irrelevant.

  3. alans raises a good point about enriching Uranium Oxide, once it is in a closed remote facility. Iran was able to install a large number Uranium enrichment centrifuges (up to 19,000, estimates the “Arms Control Today” publication, dated 9 June 2014), while the country was under strictly enforced import sanctions, and US policy was to limit that country to less than 4,000 centrifuges.

    A solution to this concern is to encourage development of Thorium (LFTR) reactor power generating technology at home and abroad, and develop an export market for Thorium Fluoride reactor fuel, made from SA’s abundant Thorium deposits. A (replaceable) Thorium reactor could also power the RAN’s future submarines, giving them extended operating ranges in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, without the needed for frequent refueling. The USN, the RN, and the Russian Navy all currently operate nuclear powered submarines.

  4. I agree with alans’ this argument should not detract from the benefits of South Australia developing a responsible nuclear industry. We will have a “fresh start” regarding legislation to control who and how our nuclear materials are used.

  5. Geothermal, the answer to Nuclear power!

    Why think of spending billions of dollars on new infrastructure and
    technology for Nuclear power when it is so dangerous and detrimental to our
    society and the environment. Instead, use those billions on Geothermal energy
    for the following reasons; in the north of SA we have the most geographically
    stable geothermal hot rocks, it does not emit any carbon emissions, its safe
    and can supply base load power.

    So do it the right way, build three huge Geothermal power plants in
    the north of SA and a 500km power line to Moomba to connect it to the main power grid,
    to cover all of Australia’s base load power.
    Geothermal, the right way to go!!

    Darren Jakobsson
    Kingston Park SA

    1. Geothermal has such huge potential, especially in SA, that it should receive more government encouragement. Of course it’s partly nuclear – the heat being generated via conduction from below and decay of low level fissile material in the hot rocks. Geothermal and solar are the two nuclear sources we should embrace.

  6. I agree with dazz that Geothermal power should be developed, and recently there have been installations with very deep bores to realize the increased energy available from hotter subterranean regions. (The temperature gradient is 25K /Km depth.) One of the most favorable global locations for geothermal energy would be Japan, and yet Japan apparently continues to favor nuclear power because of the real limitations of geothermal power, which has not proved as scalable as many of its supporters had hoped.

    One of the aspects of global Uranium nuclear power is that it offers SA the potential of not just exporting ore, but also developing an industry to produce finished products like new fuel rods, and to reprocess and store used rods, and also to supply radioactive products for medical applications.

    SA also has copious deposits of Thorium which could supply fuel to safe nuclear reactors (which cannot run away like happened at Fukushima), and could be scaled down to provide inexpensive electrical power stations for smaller remote cities and settlements throughout Australia, as alternatives to wind turbines, solar electric panels, both of which require batteries for 24hr continuous service.

    India is currently one of the countries developing Thorium reactors to help meet their projected power needs, and SA could be a potential fuel supplier for Thorium Fluoride fuel.

  7. Thorium has already been used to develop weapons material and is not an answer.
    Uranium is weapons material.
    Increasing the uranium in circulation increases the market for war.

    Geothermal makes sense in Iceland where they are happy about the massive release of thermal energy and use it to farm fish. In Australia and on a planet wide scale geothermal is still a technology like nuclear that is hot and unhelpful regarding global warming. In SA in particular we do not need to generate heat. We have an abundance of cold sources of energy which do not pollute water, fresh or sea water, which do not compromise safe food.

    The planet is overheating. Energy of the future will be cold and will be able to be recycled safely back into living systems. Compostable, generative, distributed, easy, cheap, safe, adaptable. We need techniques for reducing environmental radiation. We need to divest from technologies which fuel the business of war. Nuclear war, peaceful nuclear accidents and waste all kill. Global warming will kill.
    Please invest in technologies that are ecologically constructive. Grandchildren will thank you.

  8. when geothermal hot rock technology began in the cooper basin, the person in charge was a true visionary, sadly when things went wrong because it was a learning curve for all involved, he was the one required to fall on his sword, even more sadly they haven’t managed to replace him with anyone near the same caliber and with the same vision, what should have been a feather in Australia’s cap to be a world leader in enhanced geothermal now appears to have fallen by the wayside, and that feather might now pass to Japan who intend to increase their geothermal generation to 19% of requirements as they move away from nuclear. Fukushima is still spewing pollution into the Pacific and they don’t seem to be able to come up with an answer to that problem.
    I will continue to hold on to my geodynamic shares which I bought at the initial public offering and are now pretty well worthless, in the hope that maybe the powers that be will realize just what we have on offer in the Cooper in the way of unlimited pollution free generation for all Australia