Off-Grid Power Supply Options Project

The Warren Centre’s Off-Grid Power Supply Options Project is evaluating how alternative energy sources compare to traditional supply in off-grid Australian locations, with a specific focus on small modular nuclear reactors.

 

Australia relies on standalone (off-grid) power supply for important regional and remote industrial project applications such as mining and agriculture. To sustain the significant national economic strength we derive from these major industrial activities, we require reliable and high capacity energy sources.

In these remote environments, base load electricity has traditionally been supplied or proposed for supply from fossil fuels. Our historical experience of such installations provides extensive knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, costs, logistics, barriers and benefits. But the same thing cannot yet be said for alternative energy sources. The unavailability of that data and knowledge is a significant impediment to national progress.

An introduction to the OGP project was presented at a Sydney Mining Club lunch in March 2013, with presentations from some of the project’s partners, including The Warren Centre’s Dr Nick Cerneaz, ANSTO’s Dr Adrian Paterson, and WorleyParsons’ Peter Lawley. Media coverage of the event and the wider debate over off-grid power supply included pieces in the Australian Financial Review and the Australian Journal of Mining.

 

WHAT IS THE OFF-GRID POWER OPTIONS PROJECT?

To supplement the established knowledge of traditional energy supply options based on fossil fuels, The Warren Centre’s Off-Grid Power Options Project (OGP) is independently evaluating alternate energy sources, specifically including the applicability of small modular reactors as a potential independent base load power supply option for Australia’s off-grid/remote locations.

It will explore and articulate the economic, technical, legal, safety and regulatory matters associated with such installations. Importantly, all findings from these investigations will be made public and openly shared with all stakeholders, including the community, industry and governments.

This foundation work will provide an independent platform for widespread dialogue and informed debate and decision making. Understanding alternate energy sources, such as small modular reactors, will level the knowledge field compared to conventional fuels. This will allow for an informed assessment of those options, increasing stakeholder confidence in whichever options are appropriate for a particular situation.

 

WHAT ARE THE PROJECT OBJECTIVES?

Base load electricity is supplied in remote/off grid locations mostly by diesel or gas, the latter being dictated by proximity of supply. Costs are increasing exponentially for diesel, gas and other potential energy sources and the issues associated with them need to be examined.

Small nuclear reactor technology has been in use for over 40 years in maritime applications but is now in development as a domestic energy supply option. The US Government is likely to license some systems in the near future. Extensive government support encourages US companies to develop small modular reactor technologies, such as the funding program for SMR developers announced in March 2013.

Within Australia, there are many significant hurdles between today’s legal, regulatory, technical and socio-political environments and ones that would accept and support the use of small modular reactors. Without a widespread informed debate it is unlikely that those hurdles will ever be met. The OGP project aims to raise the level of debate about such technologies to facilitate an informed discussion.

The OGP study will consider the breadth of energy sources and suitability for remote or regional locations as well as reliability for specific industrial applications.

In particular, the project will:

  • Assess the energy production costs of gas, diesel and other non-nuclear energy sources at a range of selected sites and application scenarios;
  • Review the commercial status of small modular nuclear reactors (up to 150MWe), and their possible application for the selected scenarios;
  • Comprehensively table the issues associated with small modular nuclear reactors; waste, safety, proliferation, operating skills requirements, transport, current and required regulatory framework; and
  • Publish the findings to inform industry, the community and government.

 

WHO IS INVOLVED?

The project was initiated by The Warren Centre. Our key partners include Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), resources sector professional services firm WorleyParsons and a significant number of skilled professionals drawn from The Warren Centre’s extensive networks.

Our project teams include both advocates and opponents of nuclear power, and we endeavour to eliminate or minimize any potential bias by welcoming all sides of the issue to the table. In doing so we are able to deliver credible results of value to all.

 

AVOIDING BIAS

The Warren Centre is neither an advocate for, nor an opponent of nuclear power. Our role is NOT to promote nuclear power, nor to oppose it.

Our role is merely to facilitate an informed debate among the community, industry and government, and to do so through the provision of solid and reliable facts – credible information to support an unbiased and informed debate.

We strongly encourage all stakeholders (and given the importance of the major regional economies to national development, that means everyone), including both advocates and opponents of the issues, to engage in an informed and evidence-based dialog, to seek out and share independent and credible data.

Misinformation does a disservice to all sides of such complex issues and hinders progress. By contrast, a common and shared understanding of issues and an informed debate on that basis has the potential to do far more good for us all.

 

WHAT IS NEEDED NOW?

We need your help! Get involved in the dialog.