SMRs “Ideally” for the Australian Market, Report Says: Nuclear Policies

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06 October 2021

As Australia prepares to decarbonize, it is time to seriously consider a role for advanced nuclear technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs), the Chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) said today. ).

The new report, written by Ben Heard (Image: MCA)

Remarks by CEO Tania Constable accompanied the MCA’s launch of Small modular reactors in the Australian context, a discussion paper written by Australian nuclear expert Ben Heard, which provides an overview of SMRs, their potential role in Australia and likely operating costs. The 33-page document examines three of the “most advanced” SMR designs currently undergoing regulatory approval – NuScale’s power module, GE-Hitachi’s BWRX-300, and Terrestrial Energy’s integral molten salt reactor – and their potential use in Australia. By 2030 and beyond, the discounted electricity costs for these three SMR designs are estimated to be between AUD 64 and AUD 77 (USD 46 and 56) per MWh.

SMRs are a great fit for the Australian energy market, according to the report, citing their enhanced safety, lower cost than large-scale nuclear reactors or equivalent power generation methods, configurability and lower waste generation. to that of current reactors. In addition, SMR modules have a capacity similar to that of many existing generator sets that make up Australia’s coal and gas power plants and could therefore easily replace aging coal or gas turbines without the need for additional investment. in the network, he says.

“Even with conservative assumptions that include higher than expected construction costs, SMRs could be Australia’s cheapest 24/7 zero-emission energy source that underpins a reliable electricity supply. and secure, ”Constable said.

“The MCA has long advocated that Australia should consider zero-emission nuclear power, as well as carbon use and storage, and renewables, as the country prepares to decarbonize the economy.

“The changes in the economic, business, security, political and technological environments in which Australia operates mean that all options for low carbon energy sources must be considered. SMRs offer part of the solution to meet this necessary requirement. “

With a third of the world’s uranium reserves, Australia’s “significant” uranium mining sector supplies around 10% of global demand, Constable said. This would be enough uranium to supply “almost all of the production of the national electricity market” with low-cost, zero-emission energy, she added.

“Despite this, outdated federal and state bans on nuclear power have seen Australia fall behind as the only G-20 country without access to or plans to develop nuclear power,” he said. she declared. “Australia should take advantage of the growing international interest in nuclear energy and seek to expand its already important uranium sector.”

Although the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) has operated nuclear reactors for isotope research and production since the 1950s and currently operates the OPAL reactor, the use of nuclear power in the country is currently prohibited by federal and state regulations. A parliamentary committee recommended in 2019 that the government consider a partial lifting of the current moratorium on nuclear energy to allow the deployment of new and emerging technologies. He is embarking on the process of acquiring nuclear submarines as part of the AUKUS tripartite partnership with the UK and the US, although Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the launch of AUKUS last month , said Australia was not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish civilian nuclear capability.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News




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