Atomic Show #245 – Building a prosperity program on used nuclear fuel foundation

I applaud reasoned, long term thinking that aims to use science, technology and deep understanding of human wants and needs — aka politics — to set a course for success.

You can find one of my favorite current examples of an effort that meets my criteria in the expansive, lightly populated, rather dry state of South Australia. South Australia is blessed with abundant natural resources, including nearly one third of the world’s known uranium resources. It has developed a resources-heavy economy that is now paying the price of being a little too heavily dependent on the world commodities markets.

State debt is high on a per capita basis, unemployment is higher than average, and many leaders are casting about for ways to build a more solid foundation for continued prosperity.

Senator Sean Edwards, a Liberal Party Senator from South Australia, has sponsored the development of a solid prosperity plan guided by one of the basic principles of economic success — provide a product or service that solves a problem that is important enough for customers to be willing to pay dearly for a solution.

In this case, Edwards and his team — led by Ben Heard, a person who is no stranger to Atomic Insights participants — have decided that they should plan to offer a service to the world that effectively answers the frequently asked question, “What do you do with the [nuclear] waste?”

Their timing was fortuitous; they had already begun working on their used fuel storage and recycling plan when the South Australian government announced the formation of a Royal Commission on the nuclear fuel cycle. As they explain during our conversation; that announcement came as a surprise. It was a welcome surprise, but Sean and Ben assured me that they did not know that it was coming.

Their powerful prosperity plan is not something that was sketched out on a couple of white boards or Post-it notes; it is the result of months of research, modeling and intensive critical review. I’ve obtained their permission to share their plan — titled Transforming our economy. Cleaning our energy. Sustaining our future — with you.

It is a masterful piece of work; a vision that is solidly supported by facts, available technology, identified resources, and a well-founded optimism for the future.

Briefly stated, the plan envisions South Australia as an international destination for used nuclear fuel. The state will accumulate an inventory of the material in well-proven dry cask storage systems. With revenues from taking responsibility for the waste, it will build a commercially useful, pilot scale pyroprocessing plant to convert used nuclear fuel into metallic fuel assemblies suitable for fueling sodium cooled fast reactors, most likely using GE-Hitachi’s PRISM design.

When the plan reaches a mature state, used light water reactor fuel will be routinely accepted for storage, recycling systems will be in place, and enough nuclear power plant capacity will be installed to provide all the electricity South Australia can consume — with some left over for growth and selling to neighboring states.

To answer the South Australians who pose the inevitable question of “What’s in this for me?”, the plan proposes setting a wholesale price of $0 for the electricity generated for state residents, industries and commercial establishments.

If you can’t believe that price point can be profitable; you’ll have to download the plan and run the numbers yourself.

Sean, Ben and I had a great chat; we all agreed that it would be just the first of many as the plan gains acceptance and begins implementation. I hope you enjoy the show and send your best wishes to people who are striving to make the world a better place.


Atomic Show #244 – September 2015 atomic update

For the first time in several months, I gathered a group of nuclear energy experts to chat about recent events and announcements in nuclear energy. Participants in this episode include: Meredith Angwin who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee and Northwest Clean Energy Steve Aplin who blogs at Canadian Energy Issues Les Corrice who blogs at […]

Read more »

Atomic Show #242 – Moltex Energy – Ian Scott and John Durham

Moltex Energy has developed a unique conceptual design for a molten salt reactor called the Stable Salt Reactor. In this design, the fuel salt is loaded into tubes that resemble the standard cladding tubes into which solid pellets are loaded in a conventional water cooled reactor. The tubes are arranged into assemblies that resemble the […]

Read more »

South Australian nuclear discussion intensifying

On August 8, 2015 the Saturday Paper [Melbourne, Australia] published a thought-provoking article titled South Australia’s future role in the nuclear industry. It describes how the economic opportunity presented by an expanded involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle is meeting up with a particularly stressed unemployment situation in South Australia to stimulate some frank discussions […]

Read more »

ANS 2015 Plenary Talks – Part 4 David Scott, architect of UAE nuclear program

The UAE has made amazing progress in moving from a country almost totally dependent on burning natural gas (some of which is imported) to provide domestic electricity to one where a rapidly growing portion of its electricity from 2017 onward will be produced in zero fossil fuel, no CO2 emission nuclear fission reactors. In 2009, […]

Read more »

Tale of two Chinas – One surging forward, one retreating

Two stories caught my attention this morning. One came from the Taipei Times, one from the Beijing Review. The first one focused on a future energy supply prognostication from an American “expert” who has a light educational and professional background in energy technology, manufacturing, engineering, economics and market dynamics. The second one documents recent progress […]

Read more »

Atomic Show #238 – StarCore Nuclear co-founders

StarCore Nuclear is a Canadian company whose co-founders, David Dabney and David Poole, are experienced engineers and businessmen. They have spent most of the past six years developing a technology and a business model aimed at providing reliable, emission-free electrical power and heat to remote locations. The basis of their technology is a high-temperature helium […]

Read more »

South Australian senator believes there’s value in “nuclear waste”


South Australian Sen. Sean Edwards sees economic opportunity for his state by taking advantage of other countries’ irrational fear of radioactive materials. He wants to turn what some call “waste” into wealth. He and his staff recognize that there are tens of billions of dollars set aside in government budgets around the world for safe […]

Read more »

Learn more about internationalizing market for SMRs at 5th Annual SMR Summit

Interest is growing in building right-sized reactors. In the relatively near future, there will be operating demonstration plants in China, Argentina, and Russia proving that the nuclear industry has learned that the one-size fits all model cannot work if the chosen size is in the range of 1,000 MWe. There simply are not enough customers […]

Read more »

Atomic Show Bonus Audio – Ben Heard’s Answers to Audience Questions

On November 12, 2014, Ben Heard, the publisher of Decarbonise SA, delivered a talk titled “Beyond our Shores: A visual world tour exploring Australia’s nuclear responsibilities” at Brisbane City Hall. It was part of the Brisbane Global Café, an international thought leadership event leading into the G20 meeting in 2014. Ben’s talk was recorded and […]

Read more »

Australia’s blinkered vision in China’s commitment to reduce global warming

By Robert Parker President, Australian Nuclear Association Two of the most powerful nations on earth have concluded an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Included in that agreement is reference to nuclear power being used to limit those emissions. Yet in Australia even discussion of nuclear power is taboo. We continue to frame the control […]

Read more »

The Canadians are coming

Hugh MacDiarmid, the Chairman of the Board for Terrestrial Energy, Inc., gave a talk to the Economic Club of Canada on September 24, 2014. That talk included a brief description of TEI’s integral molten salt reactor technology, but most of the talk was visionary in nature and aimed at exciting his Canadian audience about the […]

Read more »