Day 18 review: The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission investigated a new territory today, drilling down into the specifics of Topic 12 – Insuring against nuclear accident.

The afternoon session included two experts in the field, including a senior executive from ANSTO and the London-based Nuclear Risk Insurers Ltd. Both covered the nature of the insurance arrangements for the nuclear industry, and what might need to be considered should South Australia engage further in the nuclear fuel cycle.

The morning session focused on Topic 4 – Low carbon energy generation options, which sought evidence from developers of nuclear reactors NuScale and the Westinghouse Electric Company.

The first witness for Topic 4 was Michael McGough, Chief Commercial Officer, from NuScale in the USA.

NuScale is developing a small modular reactor based on light water reactor technology and incorporating simplified passive safety systems. He provided information on:

  • Technical overview of the NuScale reactor including passive safety systems
  • Current stage of development and estimated timeframe for commercial deployment
  • Estimated plant costs.

Representatives from the Westinghouse Electric Company then presented evidence vie video, discussing the development and designs for its AP1000 reactor – a pressurised water reactor which utilises passive systems supplemented by active systems. There are currently eight AP1000 units under construction world-wide. Rita Browser and Michael Corletti discussed the:

  • Technical overview of the AP1000 reactor
  • Estimated plant costs and levelised cost of electricity
  • Progress of current AP1000 builds in the US and China and lessons learned from these projects.

The afternoon session began with Steven McIntosh, Senior Manager of Government and International Affairs with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. discussing Topic 12 – Insuring against nuclear accident.

Mr McIntosh is the at ANSTO and Chair of the IAEA’s International Expert Group on Nuclear Liability (INLEX), which provides advice to the IAEA Director-General. He has previously worked in the legal office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and at the Australian Permanent Mission to Vienna, where he represented Australia in discussions and negotiations on a wide range of nuclear and arms control issues. His evidence covered:

  • International framework for nuclear liability
  • Nuclear liability arrangements with respect to ANSTO’s current activities in Australia
  • Arrangements in relation to nuclear liability that might need to be established within Australia should there be an expansion of nuclear fuel cycle activities.

The day’s final witness was Mark Popplewell, managing director of Nuclear Risk Insurers Ltd, from London. The NRI, commonly known as the “British Nuclear Pool”, has a membership of over 20 market property and casualty insurers in the UK, who pool their insurance capacity for nuclear risks into NRI. He explained:

  • Overview of the regime for nuclear insurance in the UK and the role of Nuclear Risk Insurers Ltd therein
  • Insurance schemes operating around the world
  • Potential steps to establishing insurance arrangements in a country deploying its first commercial nuclear facility.

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

The next public session is on Monday, November 9, 2015, in the Commission’s office, 50 Grenfell St, Adelaide.

Click here for topic and witness list for this session which covers Topic 13.