10 DECEMBER 2015 – PUBLIC SESSIONS – TOPICS 20, 1 and 18

Day 32 review

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission public sessions covered a range of topics today, returning to Topics 18, 1 and 20.

First witness was Professor Aidan Byrne, CEO of the Australian Research Council, a Commonwealth entity which advises the Australian Government on research matters and administers the National Competitive Grants Program for research and development. He covered Topic 20 – National education and skills development.

Professor Byrne completed a PhD degree at the ANU where he later spent over 20 years of his career as a leader in research and research management, particularly in the field of nuclear physics. He is widely known for his ground-breaking research into nuclear structure and he has published over 200 papers. He covered:

  • The extent to which Australian universities are currently capable of providing a workforce for new nuclear projects
  • Options for developing skills and competencies to support potential new nuclear activities in Australia and timeframes involved
  • Process for developing related research facilities or centres of excellence.

The second witness also covered Topic 20, Ross Miller, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, has worked in the nuclear industry since 1973 mainly for ANSTO and its precursor the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. He has also worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee USA and at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Ontario Canada. His experience is primarily with Nuclear Research Reactors. He was ANSTO’s Engineering Manager and Assistant Project Manager for the project which delivered Australia’s nuclear research reactor OPAL at Lucas Heights. His expertise was in key lessons learned about building nuclear skills and capabilities in Australia from the development and commissioning of the OPAL reactor

The Commission then returned to Topic 1 – Climate change and energy policy. Professor John Fletcher is a Professor in Power and Energy Systems at the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications at the University of New South Wales. He is currently the coordinator of the Nuclear Engineering Master’s program at UNSW. Professor Fletcher obtained a Bachelor of Engineering and a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Heriot-Watt University in the UK. Prior to joining UNSW in 2010, Professor Fletcher was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and a Lecturer at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. His areas of research expertise include power electronics, electrical vehicle traction and propulsion, and renewable power and energy systems. Key points were:

  • Potential role of nuclear in a low carbon power system characterised by large proportions of renewable energy sources
  • Advantages and challenges to the integration of nuclear energy into the National Electricity Market.

The afternoon witness was former Santos CEO David Knox. Mr Knox has more than 30 years of experience in the global oil and gas industry. He was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Santos from July 2008 to November 2015, having been appointed Acting Chief Executive Officer in March 2008.

Mr Knox is currently a Director of the Migration Council Australia, Chairman of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens Foundation and Chair of the CSIRO Energy Strategic Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the Commonwealth Science Council, Business Council of Australia, University of Queensland Industry Engagement Committee, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Royal Institute of Australia, the Trade and Investment Policy Advisory Council and the UK University College London Advisory Committee. Mr Knox is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Mechanical Engineering and was elected in November 2012 as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. He provided details on:

  • Conditions required to raise the necessary capital investment for the development of large infrastructure projects in Australia
  • Challenges associated with the delivery of large infrastructure projects in Australia.

The day’s final witness, Mr Steve Fisher from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the UK, was unable to attend and will be rescheduled to appear at a later date.

Video and transcripts of each session will be uploaded into the Public Sessions archive.

The next public session is on Friday, December 11, 2015, in the Commission’s office, 50 Grenfell St, Adelaide.

Click here for topic and witness lists for this session which covers Topic 21 – Regulatory oversight.