Report on Royal Commission meeting at Flinders University 20 May 2015
Kevin Scarce outlined purpose of the Royal Commission to examine the 4 issues set out in the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission.- to look at the opportunities and costs of expanding the nuclear fuel chain in South Australia – for the community, environment and economy.
He discussed each of the 4 Issues :
1 Exploration, Extraction and Milling – should this be expanded? Australia has about 30% known U deposits; SA has about 80% of that.
thorium – will consider sources, possible use of this, too.
- conversion – uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride
- enrichment –to concentration suitable for reactors
- enriched conversion to nuclear fuel/rods
- medical/scientific isotopes – ANSTO produces these at reactor in Sydney. 10-15% from cyclotrons – one in SA.
3 nuclear reactors/power generation
- storage/disposal of nuclear wastes
- low/intermediate level waste – radioactive materials (clothing, instruments etc) associated with energy generation – can be treated to assist storage e.g. vitrification; synroc/ceramics;
- to storage – encased steel & concrete
- high level – heat produced so stored in wet storage pool to cool – encased in steel & concrete – intended to go to deep geological storage – Finland –developing only one at present 400m underground – operate from 2022 onwards
- reprocessing of spent fuel rods can recover fuel –large infrastructure & complexity of process
He outlined the process of the Royal Commission. For Any questions needing detailed answer, people can consult the Issues Papers.
There is a Royal Commission team of 15, who will be seeking national & international expertise. At present – framing ways to examine costs & opportunities. The Commission will be getting balance in talking to experts.
- The Commission will examine the issues papers , questions raised on complex processes, and the Submissions in response to the Issues Papers by – early August response date. The Submissions will be made public later in the year.
- not clear here – I think there’s to be release of & consultation about responses to issues papers– Adelaide & regionally to December
- Commission will then develop findings – take back to community Feb
- Final report to SA government – early May 2016
Questions from audience; Commissioner response
Q. will submissions re issues all be available? –on website. A. Index of ideas represented will be available. Transparency intended
Q. What about interests/biases of experts, staff? – A.interests to be published on website
Will the Commission take note of similar enquiries? – A. Yes – Switowski 2006; others from Australia and overseasThe Commission will be looking for best practice etc e.g. Japan; Finland storage – method of community engagement; France 70% of energy nuclear; England – registry of materials etc – plus their problem areas
Q Where is uranium mined in Aust? A. 4 or 5 sites; 2 operational in SA
Q. Will the Commission look at where waste to go? – A.The Commission will look at disposal all levels – and processing – not required to say re sites – get best practice to engage community
Q. Will the Commission look at use of artesian water, at waste sites? – A Those issues are dependent on site chosen.
Q. is there/ will there be an independent monitor? – A yes – safety is responsibility of federal govt
Q. will the Commission look at nuclear power generation – feasibility for SA? – A We will study r cost/benefit cf coal, renewables etc – estimate how power will be used, model costs, base load generation
Q. Will the benefits of reprocessing considered? – A Reprocessing will be adding value value. but is extremely costly – but these are opportunities not had before – reprocessing will be included inh Commission’s deliberations.- evaluation & basis of it
Q. Submissions all available? What about freedom from Freedom of Info enquiries?- Will encourage all submissions to be open – can be confidential (e.g Aboriginal, commercial) – will list submissions confidential, sources and reasons.
Q. Will RC influence national frameworks re safety etc ?? – A we will inform; what we do need to reflect Australian and IAEA information.
Q. How often will there be information bulletins? – A. regular(??) update on website – papers, responses, interests listed, blog, subjects indexed
Q. will Commission access BHP documents free from FoI? – A. We encourage BHP to join us.
Q. Does the RC have Power to coerce? A. If we don’t then we’ll see what are the other options.Do we have powers – yes – but we will try to get the info we need without ‘heavying’ anyone
Q. Aboriginal communities disproportionately impacted by nuclear industry- why none appointed to commission? – A. need individual to rep Aboriginal community as whole -haven’t found. Someone from Commission will need to be in communities on a regular basis. But no-one on RC represents all of non-Aboriginal Australia.
Q. Will the Commission look at Thorium – rare earths found too – use in value add? A. Yes – all other industries looked at.
Q. Will Thorium reactor ideas be in cost analysis re projections re economic benefits? A. Yes – looking at future technologies. It is very difficult – a minefield to estimate commercial availability.
Q. Will the RC look at kinds of reactors that use fuel rods? – A. Yes. We are going overseas to do that.
Q. will you differentiate Uranium vs Thorium ? – A. absolutely – looking at safety, economic viability, what technologies are on the immediate horizon.
Q. Nuclear use is expensive – build, decommission. Deep deposit- billions. Need to inquire into renewables? Should spend time money into this – A. Not set by Terms of Reference
Q. Comparative advantage of rfenewables in SA – U. Sunlight too!
Q. What’s the real possibility of returning negative findings? How justify expense? A.The Investment is worthwhile for our future. We will share information over the year – public see as we go.
Q. How will RC ensure veracity of evidence? A There are complexities re overseas visits- legal, commercial, scientific information/confidentiality. Complex issues – we will visit companies want to sell reactors etc. We will Consider evidence carefully.
Q. Is yellowcake transported by road? NT covered lorries – passed us on Hway. Yellow stuff going on to cars. A. There are National regulations re transport. Yellowcake drums by roads. Lucas Hts waste is separate from our Royal Commission.
Q. Radium Hill waste – what will happen to it? A. We will be Going there. Don’t know if will be moved.
Q. What will you do about misleading name of RC – most nuclear waste not ‘recycled’? A. True- I suggest that make a submission. –
Q. Social aspects – what stage is the RC at re modelling? We will Declare our models in the next couple of months.
Q. Climate change – won’t it give increase in reputation for Oz if we take up nuclear? A.Difficult to quantify benefits.
Q. Should there be a referendum re nuclear power etc for SA? A. That’s out of RC brief – a political process etc.
Q. Competition in energy market intense – if nuclear seen as a goer – a number of large organisations competing in power generation. If we devedop nuclear industry – will South Australia get competitors as partners? A Possibly –we need evaluate this; part of answers to Terms of Reference.
Q. When consulting Aboriginal communities – expand into remote communities – how to ensure culturally sound processes for consultation? Yes.There is a need to address. JP witness needed because RC doesn’t want 500 similar submissions. Those submitting must swear that it is their own evidence. We will find solutions t for the sections of the community where it’s a problem.
Q Nuclear is a dangerous industry – waste eg into sea off California. French plant – waste water containing radiation into wetlands – crocodiles mutant form?. A we will be looking at the dangers of industry.
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