About This Project

The Off-Grid Power Supply Options Project will evaluate alternative energy sources versus traditional supply in off-grid locations, with a focus on small modular nuclear reactors.

ustralia 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. This project is about ensuring we can achieve the best balance of energy security, long-term cost-efficiency and supply in these critical applications.

  • What is the problem?
  • What is the project?
  • How will the project be carried out?
  • Avoiding bias
  • Contributing to the debate

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 project teams include 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.

We strongly encourage all stakeholders – and given the importance of the major regional economies to national development, that means everyone – to engage in an informed and evidence-based dialogue, to seek out and share independent and credible data.

What is the problem?

The Warren Centre’s Off-Grid Power Supply Options Project evaluates how alternative energy sources compare to traditional supply in off-grid Australian locations, with a particular 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 economic strength we derive from these major industrial activities, we require reliable and high capacity energy sources.

In these remote environments, baseload off-grid power has traditionally been supplied by fossil fuels. Our historical experience of these installations gives us extensive knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, costs, logistics, barriers and benefits. But the same cannot yet be said for alternative energy sources.

Energy security concerns and long-term cost efficiency and supply issues warrant an independent, balanced study of other potential energy supplies that might be suitable for use in regional areas and some industrial applications.

This project aims to assess the available energy sources for these applications, and benchmark small nuclear power reactors against other energy options through a cost-benefit analysis. If the study indicates the technology may be viable, then it will be assessed against all the accompanying issues associated with nuclear energy, such as safety, waste disposal, security and regulatory requirements.

The unavailability of comparison data for off-grid power supply is a significant impediment to national progress. Understanding the best supply options will contribute to the prosperity of all Australians.

What is the project

The Off-Grid Power Options project will improve our understanding of how viable alternative off-grid energy sources can be, particularly small modular reactors. This will help the community to make informed decisions.

The Off-Grid Power Options Project is evaluating alternative energy sources, including the applicability of small modular reactors, as a independent baseload power supply option for Australia’s off-grid/remote locations.

The project will explore the economic, technical, legal, safety and regulatory matters associated with such installations. All findings will be made public in full and openly shared with all stakeholders, including government, industry and the wider community.

The scenarios considered will include typical Australian remote mining operations, and also potentially remote industrial process plants, desalination plants, and satellite towns.

Once we understand the details of alternate energy sources, such as small modular reactors, this will level the knowledge field compared to conventional fuels. This work will provide an independent platform for dialogue, informed debate and informed decision making.

Through extensive engagement and communication of results, the project will provide a credible and independent learned foundation for the social and political policy decisions that will follow. The project will inform government and all interested stakeholders of the potential and opportunity to deliver competitive, stable-priced and reliable off-grid power for remote applications.

The project will allow for an informed assessment of the off-grid energy options, and increase everyone’s confidence that the right decision is being made.

Project implemenation

The project will compare the economic, environmental and social costs of using conventional energy sources for off-grid power with the economic, environmental and social costs of using small modular reactors in the same situations.

he Off-Grid Power Supply Options project will build on work that has been done in Australia and overseas regarding off-grid supply, the technical details of small modular reactors, and the local regulatory environment:

  • Base load electricity is supplied in remote and off-grid locations mostly by diesel or gas, with the decision generally 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. Extensive government support has encouraged US companies to develop small modular reactor technologies, such as the funding program 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 allow the use of small modular reactors. Without a widespread informed debate, it is unlikely that those hurdles will ever be met.

The project will consider the full range of possible energy sources and their suitability for remote or regional locations, as well as their 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
The published findings will inform government, industry, and the wider community of the advantages and disadvantages of all relevant technologies.

Advoiding Bias

When dealing with the contentious question of nuclear power in Australia, both in the context of the off-grid power supply options project and in general, The Warren Centre is an independent and impartial institution.

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

Given the importance of the major regional economies to national development, the stakeholders in this issue include everyone in Australia. We strongly encourage all stakeholders – both advocates and opponents of the issues – to engage in an informed and evidence-based dialogue, and to seek out and share independent and credible data.

Misinformation does a disservice to all sides of such complex issues and hinders progress. 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.

The off-grid power project will focus solely on providing accurate information to stakeholders, and will not advocate for or against any policy positions.

Getting involved

The most important aim of this project is to contribute facts and informed analysis to the debate over the use of small modular reactors for off-grid power, particularly in the wider context of the controversial role of nuclear energy in Australia.

As part of our goal of widening and informing the nuclear debate within Australia, we presented an introduction to the off-grid power options project at the Sydney Mining Club in March 2013, with presentations from key project partners:

  • Dr Adrian Paterson, ANSTO
  • Peter Lawley, WorleyParsons
  • Dr Nick Cerneaz, The Warren Centre

Media coverage of the event and the wider debate over off-grid power supply and nuclear energy included pieces in the Australian Financial Reviewand the Australian Journal of Mining.

Another major contribution to the debate related to the off-grid power options project will come in the form of the upcoming ATSE Nuclear Energy Conference, which will take place in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum from 25-26 July 2013, in association with The Warren Centre. The conference will feature respected international and national speakers from across the nuclear power spectrum of opinion. Together, they will lead an open debate on the key technological, economic, social and environmental issues relating to nuclear power generation.

We are seeking personal and corporate subscription to this project by way of sponsorship. The Warren Centre’s independence and the expertise of the project’s partners – including WorleyParsons and ANSTO – provide an opportunity for you to make a significant contribution to this world-class project of major significance to the mining industry. You can be part of this endeavour – and we need your support.

We need your help! Get involved in the dialogue. Contact The Warren Centre to discuss getting involved with the OGP project.
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