15 FEBRUARY 2016 - NFCRC RELEASES TENTATIVE FINDINGS

  • TENTATIVE FINDINGS RELEASED AHEAD OF FINAL REPORT IN MAY 2016
  • FIVE-WEEK CONSULTATION PERIOD COMMENCES TODAY WITH PUBLIC MEETINGS
  • OPPORTUNITY FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIANS TO HELP REFINE, INFORM AND IMPROVE THE FINAL REPORT

ADELAIDE, 1100 ACDT MONDAY 15 FEBRUARY 2016: The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission has reached an important milestone with the release of its Tentative Findings into the opportunities and risks represented by increasing the State’s participation in nuclear fuel cycle activities. Commissioner Kevin Scarce released the Tentative Findings document in Adelaide today ahead of a five-week feedback period. “The Tentative Findings reflect the Commission’s current thinking and the evidence behind this,” Commissioner Scarce said. “We have taken the somewhat unusual step of releasing our Tentative Findings to share with the community the evidence gathered into nuclear fuel cycle activities because we want South Australians to be involved in further refining, informing and improving the Commission’s report, which will be delivered in May.” The key observations that frame the Commission’s Tentative Findings include that:

  • South Australia can safely increase its participation in nuclear activities and, by doing so, significantly improve the economic welfare of the South Australian community;
  • Community consent would be essential to the successful development of any nuclear fuel cycle activities;
  • The management of the social, environmental, safety and financial risks of participation in these activities is not beyond South Australians, and;
  • Long-term political decision-making, with bipartisan support at both state and federal levels, would be a prerequisite to achieving progress.The 42-page document includes 155 individual findings, with the key Tentative Findings including:
  • EXPLORATION, EXTRACTION AND MILLING

Key Finding: An expansion of uranium mining has the potential to be economically beneficial. However, it is not the most significant opportunity.

  • FURTHER PROCESSING AND MANUFACTURE

Key Finding: In an already oversupplied and uncertain market, there would be no opportunity for the commercial development of further uranium processing capabilities in South Australia in the next decade. However, fuel leasing, which links uranium processing with its eventual return for disposal, is more likely to be commercially attractive, creating additional employment and technology-transfer opportunities.

  • ELECTRICITY GENERATION

Key Finding: Taking account of future demand and anticipated costs of nuclear power under the existing electricity market structure, it would not be commercially viable to generate electricity from a nuclear power plant in South Australia in the foreseeable future. However, Australia’s electricity system will require low-carbon generation sources to meet future global emissions reduction targets. Nuclear power may be necessary, along with other low carbon generation technologies. It would be wise to plan now to ensure that nuclear power would be available should it be required.

  • MANAGEMENT, STORAGE AND DISPOSAL OF WASTE

Key Finding: The storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel in South Australia would meet a global need and is likely to deliver substantial economic benefits to the community. An integrated storage and disposal facility would be commercially viable and the storage component could be operational in the late 2020s. Such a facility would be viable and highly profitable under a range of cost and revenue assumptions. By way of example, financial assessments and economic modelling provided to the Commission by external expert consultants indicate that a storage and disposal facility could:

  • Generate total revenue of more than $257 billion, with total costs of $145 billion over 120 years;
  • Expressed in annual terms, generate State revenue of more than $5 billion per year over the facility’s first 30 years of operation and $2 billion per year over the following 40+ years at which point waste receipts nominally conclude; and
  • Generate approximately 1500 full time jobs – peaking at between 4000-5000 – during the 25-year construction process and 600 full time jobs once operational.

The scenario is based on a storage capacity of 138,000 tonnes (~13%) of the projected global used fuel inventory and is based on a very conservative waste assumption that assumes no new (currently unplanned light water) reactors become operational after 2030. The Commission’s view is the facility would need to be further supported with construction of a dedicated port facility, airport and rail freight line. This infrastructure spend has been included in the scenario cost base. To deliver long-term benefits to future generations of South Australians, a special arrangement such as a State Wealth Fund should be established to accumulate and equitably share the profits from the storage and disposal of waste. Using that proposition, if a portion of gross revenue (15%) and all profits from the operations were invested in a State Wealth Fund and 50% of resulting interest retained, this could generate more than $6 billion a year for over 70 years. Approximately $445 billion would accumulate before notional waste deliveries are planned to cease. Provision has also been made within the cost base for a $32 billion Reserve Fund to cover whole-of-life maintenance, both for long-term monitoring and post-closure of the facility. The Commission has begun a five-week feedback period, commencing with a week of public presentations to be held across the state. The closing date for responses is 5pm, Friday 18, March, 2016. “The next five weeks gives the community the opportunity to consider the evidence upon which the Tentative Findings are based and what they mean, and to provide feedback on where they believe we may have erred in a matter of fact or in the omission of evidence,” he said. “We will then review that feedback as we refine our final report ahead of its release.” The Commission’s final report will be delivered on 6 May, 2016. The Tentative Findings, the full list of public meetings and information regarding the feedback mechanisms are available for download at www.nuclearrc.sa.gov.au. To listen to the full audio from the press conference,

Further details: Jenny Turner, 0412 155 245 or jenny.turner@nuclearrc.sa.gov.au