Australian SMR feasible by 2030

29 November 2017

A small modular reactor (SMR) could be in operation in Australia by 2030, according to Sydney-based SMR Nuclear Technology Pty Ltd (SMR-NT). The country would be imprudent not to factor SMRs into its energy security plan, the company has told the body established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to implement energy security reforms.

SMR Nuclear Technology Pty Ltd (SMR-NT), an independent specialist consulting company, was established in 2012 to advise on and facilitate the siting, development and operation of nuclear power generation technologies, principally SMRs. Its submission to the Australian Energy Security Board describes SMRs as a "game-changer" in power system planning. SMRs with unit outputs of 50-300 MWe would be particularly suitable for the Australian grid, it says.

The construction and operation of a nuclear power plant in Australia is presently prohibited by two Commonwealth Acts: the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999; and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act of 1998. Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia also have legislation prohibiting nuclear power.

"These prohibitions were put in place at a time when there was no real appreciation of the contribution that modern, safe nuclear power plants could make to energy security, affordability and emissions reduction in Australia," SNR-NT said in its submission. "In our view, subject to legislative facilitation, it will be feasible to develop an initial 300 MW SMR nuclear generator by 2030 and around 3000 MW by 2040," it said.

The present legislative prohibitions do not preclude consideration of the "obvious merits" of nuclear power generation in system planning in Australia, SMR-NT said in its submission to the Board. "SMR vendors will however be unlikely to treat Australia as a potential market whilst the prohibitions remain in place," it said.

SMR-NT has set a timeline for development which would require a site to be identified within three years, and is looking for volunteer communities to host it, The Australian reported yesterday. Building nuclear power stations in Australia would require changes to state and federal laws and overcoming deep community objections, and SMR-NT director Robert Pritchard said the company had adopted an "aggressive" approach to SMR-based nuclear development in Australia.

"We now realise that politicians will follow the community view," Pritchard said. "We have to get out and spend a year getting the community on side."

The Energy Security Board was established in August by the COAG Energy Council to coordinate implementation of the reform blueprint for Australia's electricity market produced by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel earlier this year. The board also provides whole-of-system oversight for Australian energy security and reliability.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News