According to the preliminary findings by a royal commission the storage and disposal of nuclear waste in the state of South Australia would probably deliver significant economic benefits to the state, generating more than $5 billion a year in revenue.
Such a facility would be commercially viable, with storage commencing in the late 2020s, the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission said in its tentative findings released today.
Bloomberg newsagency reports the royal commission also found it does not make economic sense to generate electricity from a nuclear power plant in the state in the “foreseeable future” due to costs and demand.
“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,” the commission said.
“Such a facility would be viable and highly profitable under a range of cost and revenue assumptions.”
While steering clear of nominating a site for nuclear waste, the inquiry found the “likely” development of a storage and disposal facility of used nuclear fuel in SA could be operational in the late 2020s.
Commissioner Kevin Scarce said there were 390,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste in worldwide inventories, and nearly 10 million cubic metres of intermediate-level waste, all of it produced from nuclear power generation.
He said SA could take 13 per cent of the world’s waste.
“Nations have not been able to find a disposal solution that meets their geology,” Mr Scarce said.
“National consensus is that deep geological storage is the right solution for spent fuel, kept isolated from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years.”
He said South Australia could benefit from forging contracts with those that buy its uranium to store the waste products as well, as part of a concept entitled “fuel leasing”.
“Thirty per cent of the word’s uranium is produced in Australia, 80 per cent of that from SA,” Mr Scarce said.
South Australia, where BHP Billiton operates the Olympic Dam uranium mine, set up the commission last year to look at the role the state should play in the nuclear industry, from mining and enrichment to energy generation and waste storage.
Bloomberg reports while Australia is home to the world’s largest uranium reserves, it has never had a nuclear power plant.
Concerns over climate change have prompted debate about whether to reverse Australia’s nuclear policy.
“Nuclear power may be necessary, along with other low carbon generation technologies.”
The Commission’s final report will be delivered on May 6.