27th May 2016

One of the most important developments in radioactive waste management to have occurred recently is the initiative by the Government of South Australia to consider the pros and cons of establishing nuclear fuel cycle facilities in the State. South Australia is among the world’s major suppliers of uranium and the government wished to consider whether it should develop a whole range of other services, as well as its own nuclear power programme. The Royal Commission established by the Government reported in May 2016. MCM provided a range of input to the Commission, with much of the information being used in the final report:

  • a study of the economics of, and business case for, developing international ILW, HLW and spent fuel storage and disposal facilities in South Australia, carried out in collaboration with Jacobs Australia;
  • a report on the safety of transport of radioactive materials to and within Australia, also in collaboration with Jacobs Australia;
  • preparation of information notes on the safety case for geological disposal.

One of the Royal Commission’s central findings was that establishment of commercially based storage and disposal facilities for international clients, for spent fuel, HLW and long-lived ILW, would be feasible and of great benefit to South Australia. The economic scale of the storage and GDF project that was modelled is considerable: for a waste inventory representative of a significant number of the world’s smaller nuclear power programmes the resource turnover was estimated by the Jacobs-MCM team to be some hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Commission report has created considerable interest globally and active discussion within South Australia. The Government will respond to the findings by the end of 2016. The overall tenor of comment is generally positive and an opinion poll carried out while the Commission was at work reported an almost even split between those in favour and those against. A positive response of the Government to the Royal Commission report would change the worldwide paradigm of radioactive waste management for all RWM programmes in almost every country.

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