9 MAY 2016 - NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE ROYAL COMMISSION – REPORT DELIVERED

The final report from the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission has been delivered to the South Australian Government for its consideration.

Former Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce AC CSC briefed the Premier Jay Weatherill, State Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet today after formally handing the report to the Governor of South Australia Hieu Van Le AO on Friday afternoon, as required under the Terms of Reference.

The report has found that South Australia can safely increase its participation in nuclear activities. It includes 12 recommendations and 145 findings in relation to the State’s further participation in elements of the nuclear fuel cycle. The report reflects the investigations and research conducted by the Commission since work began in March 2015.

Premier Jay Weatherill has asked Mr Scarce to be available to outline the report’s findings and recommendations over coming weeks.

Chief among the Commission’s key recommendations is that the State Government undertake work to further investigate the feasibility of the storage and disposal of international used nuclear fuel and intermediate level waste in this state.

“The findings and recommendations in this report represent the beginning of a new series conversations with the community that address their questions and concerns, and ultimately enable decisions to be made by the people of South Australia,” Mr Scarce said.

“The Commission’s recommendations address the opportunities that might arise from becoming more involved in the nuclear fuel cycle and identify the next steps that the South Australian Government might take to pursue those benefits, should there be social consent to do so.”

Viability analysis undertaken for the Commission determined, on conservative estimates, that a waste disposal facility could generate $257 billion in total revenue, with costs of $145 billion over the 120-year life of the project, including a $32 billion reserve fund for facility closure and ongoing monitoring. The Commission considers that this could be achieved safely.

The findings and recommendations in the 320-page report cover participation in the nuclear fuel cycle. In summary, the report recommends:

Exploration, extraction and milling

Finding:

Current administrative and regulatory frameworks effectively manage existing, and future risks arising from an expansion of uranium mining in South Australia. An expanded exploration and mining industry would provide modest additional benefits to the state.

Recommendations:

  • Simplify approvals for mining radioactive ores
  • Further enhance pre-competitive geophysical data
  • Undertake more detailed geophysical survey work
  • Commit to long-term investment in exploration programs
  • Ensure decommissioning and remediation costs are fully covered in advance

Further processing and manufacture

Finding:

Further processing radioactive materials is unlikely to be commercially viable in SA in the next decade, due to over-supply and barriers to market entry. In the future, multilateral fuel leasing arrangements linked to waste disposal could be commercially attractive and would provide additional employment and technology-transfer opportunities for SA.

Recommendations:

  • Remove legislative prohibitions to enable fuel leasing
  • Actively support increased use of the cyclotron at South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.

Electricity generation

Finding:

Nuclear power generation would not be commercially viable in SA under current market rules, but should be considered as a future low-carbon energy source to contribute to national emissions reduction targets.

Recommendations:

  • Remove existing prohibitions on nuclear power generation
  • Develop low-carbon, technology-neutral energy policy
  • Monitor developments in new nuclear reactor designs for future consideration

Management, storage and disposal of waste

Finding:

South Australia has the attributes and capabilities to manage and dispose of international used nuclear fuel safely, and it would have significant intergenerational benefit to the community. Social and community consent is fundamental to this activity proceeding.

Recommendations:

  • Pursue a purpose-built waste storage and disposal facility for used nuclear fuel
  • Remove potential legislative constraints to properly consider this opportunity

The Commission recommended the State Government establish an independent board to set strategic directions and undertake community engagement, including preparing a draft framework for the further development of the concept (including initial siting criteria), seek the support and cooperation of the Australian Government, and determine whether, and on what basis, potential client nations would be willing to commit to participation.

The report found South Australia has the attributes and capabilities to build and operate a world-class facility, using a combination of geological and engineered barriers. The Commission also acknowledged the safety concerns associated with used fuel disposal, and found advanced technology being developed internationally could be adopted in South Australia, and done so safely.

“The import of used fuel and intermediate level waste for permanent geological disposal in South Australia has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits to the state. It is a rare opportunity, and if realised, could provide an opportunity for future generations of South Australians,” Mr Scarce said.

“This would require further technical and commercial analysis and, more importantly, the consent of South Australians as to whether they want the government to proceed with developing a proposal for that activity.

“This requires a balanced discussion and debate, based on the science and evidence with respect to risks and opportunities.

“The immediate issue facing South Australians is whether it considers the potential opportunities to be of sufficient benefit and that it can be done safely. The Commission’s firm conclusion is that this opportunity should be actively pursued, and as soon as possible.”

Full copy of the report www.yoursay.sa.gov.au/nuclear

Media note: The NFCRC office has now decommissioned. Further media contact: Peter Wels, Department of Premier and Cabinet, 08 8226 2935. General enquiries: 1800 842 563.