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Nuclear Energy and Australia


Nuclear Energy and Australia Presentation by Prof Jim Falk, Australian Centre for Science, Innovation and Society – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Nuclear Energy and Australia

Nuclear Energy and Australia
  • Presentation by Prof Jim Falk, Australian Centre
    for Science, Innovation and Society

  • 1950s-1964 Nuclear weapons tests in Australia.
    Uranium supplied to British and American nuclear
    weapons programs, until the uranium price
    collapsed and mines closed.
  • Late 60s Growth of global nuclear power
    industry led to search for and discovery of new
  • 1980s Low prices and community opposition led to
    a ban on new mines. Considerable concern about
    nuclear proliferation issues
  • 1996 Liberal-National Coalition government
    elected and uranium mining expansion more
    strongly supported.

  • Australia currently has 3 commercial uranium
    mines, and a 4th planned for 2008

Australia has 1/3 of worlds U
  • Australia has an estimated 1,950,000 tonnes of
    U3O8, which is roughly one third of the worlds
    uranium resources.
  • This includes 38 of the worlds low-cost

ltUS40/kg ltUS80/kg ltUS130/kg
World 3239 4486 5593
Australia 1231 1266 1348
Australian share 38 28 24
Total identified resources (000 tonnes U3O8)
Production and export of uranium
2005 uranium exports
(other EU)
India China
In April 2006, Australia agreed to sell uranium
to China, under conditions, which the Australian
Government says will prevent it from using the
uranium for weapons.
  • Australia has been considering selling uranium to
    India, but this is currently looking unlikely,
    because it is not a member of the
    Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The future?
  • However...
  • All states known to have uranium have bans on
    either all uranium mining or on new mines
  • 66 of Australians are opposed to the
    establishment of new uranium mines in Australia
    and 22 are in favour (May 2006 poll)

Nuclear power in Australia
  • Australia has never had nuclear power, but
    Government initiated consideration of it in 2006.
  • Initiated Zwitkowski taskforce which concluded
    that it sees nuclear power as a practical option
    for part of Australias electricity production -
    see also http//

Switkowski projection
  • The taskforce suggested meeting up to 80 of
    Australias electricity requirements with nuclear
    power, by building up to 25 1GW reactors to come
    on line over 2026- 2050 addressing Australias
    growing demand for electricity

It argued that it would also cut GHG emissions
Nuclear power remains politically unpopular
Would require subsidy or carbon tax
  • Zwitkowski Nuclear power 20-50 more expensive
    than current coal
  • This is probably a considerable underestimate
    (interest rates, etc)
  • recent Victorian Department of Infrastructure
    report found that coal-fired power stations
    produce power for 35 per MWh, while nuclear
    power would cost between 60-80 per MWh.

Choosing a location for a reactor is a political
Would you support a reactor in your local area?
HLN Waste Disposal
  • Strong public opposition to any repository
  • Pangea (BFNL, Swiss, Canada) abandonned plan for
    international reporistory (15 m invested since
    1998) - continues as ARIUS
  • Current controversy over small repository for
    ANSTO ILNW intended for Northern Territory

Spent fuel processing
  • Not currently contemplated for Australia.
  • Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation
    Office Nuclear fuel leasing does not address
    the real proliferation risk. Actual cases (Iraq,
    North Korea, Libya, Iran) show the danger lies,
    not with diversion of declared materials from
    safeguarded facilities, but with clandestine
    nuclear facilities and undeclared materials
  • Zwitkowski taskforce reprocessing of spent fuel
    in Australia seems unlikely to be commercially
    attractive, unless the value of recovered nuclear
    fuel increases significantly

Nuclear fuel leasing
  • Potentially has support from the current federal
    government, but significant opposition from the
    public. Nuclear Fuel Leasing Group (headed by
    John White Chair of UIF, established by Minister
    Ian Macfarlaine in 2005)
  • On September 16 2007 Australia signed on to the
    Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). The
    agreement explicitly excused Australia from
    responsibility to take others nuclear waste.

  • Silex. Possibility of U enrichment, but requires
    market opening and acceptance.
  • Could be seen to undermine GNEP goals (but
    permitted under Australias GNEP agreement.
  • The Zwitkowski taskforce concluded that uranium
    conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication could
    add AUS1.8 billion to the annual value of the
    nuclear industry in Australia. However high
    commercial and technology barriers could make
    market entry difficult and there may be little
    real opportunity for Australian companies to
    extend profitably into these areas.

Australias uranium exports likely to expand.
Other nuclear fuel cycle expansion possible.
Nuclear reactors possible - regulational
preparation, etc, if government
re-elected Nuclear reactors ruled out if ALP
Future depends on extent to which
  • climate change increases public acceptance
  • renewable energy technologies developed and
    successfully demonstrated
  • regional and world demand for nuclear fuel cycle
  • solutions to economic, safety, proliferation and
    waste disposal issues in the nuclear fuel cycle

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