Can Australia be a nuclear energy power? Terra Uranium believes so…

Can Australia be a nuclear energy power?

Terra Uranium (ASX:T92) Chairman Andrew Vigar breaks down the proposed nuclear energy plan from Australia’s opposition leader Peter Dutton to Mining.com.au‘s Shae Russell.

In the past couple of years, certain reactors have been designed to suit retired coal-fired power stations to take advantage of existing energy infrastructure.

In April, Vigar detailed in depth to Mining.com.au the company’s strategy in part has been formed from an inherent understanding of other drivers in the market such as nuclear power capacity.

At COP28 in late 2023, some 20 of the world’s leading countries (not including Australia) all took a firm undertaking to triple their nuclear power station capacity by 2050.

“Not double but triple, right. But there’s no supply that’s been factored in for that,” Vigar lamented at the time.

“We’re talking big reactors mostly, but also SMRS (small modular reactors) within that timeframe they will come in – we’re talking 20 years. So, all the governments – including the UK, USA, most of the major companies in Europe, Japan, South Korea – they’ve all agreed to do that. The Chinese are already doing it, they’re building a reactor a month at the moment.”

COP28 is a UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, hosting some 85,000 participants, including more than 150 Heads of State and Government. 

On this basis, Vigar declares “small modular reactors are the future” – and virtually none are operating today. 

“Where’s that (nuclear power station capacity) going to come from? Because there are no long-term contracts for small modular reactors. There’s no supply for them, there’s no uranium for them.”

This inherent need for supply and likely emergence of more SMRS coming online are some of the main drivers leading the expansion of Terra’s portfolio by adding more ‘pounds in the ground’.

In the 2023 edition of the Nuclear Power Reactors in the World report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says as of 31 December 2022, more than 393.8 GW(e) of operational nuclear power capacity was available through 438 reactors across 32 countries. 

Information and data received by the IAEA through 31 May 2023 is included in the publication.

Overall, nuclear power capacity growth has been steady over the past decade, with a 20.3 GW(e) increase between 2012 and 2022. As reported by IAEA, the nuclear power fleet generated about 2486.8 TWh of low-emission, dispatchable electricity throughout 2022.

The IAEA reports over 7.4 GW(e) of new capacity connected to the grid in 2022, including 5.8 GW(e) of additional operational capacity in Asia and 1.6 GW(e) in Europe. In China, 2 reactors began supplying electricity to the grid that year.

In South Korea, a 1,340 MW(e) PWR (APR-1400) at the Hanul nuclear power plant (NPP) was connected in June 2022. As was the ACP1000 reactor, KANUPP-3 (1014 MW(e)), supplied by China, in March at Karachi NPP in the Sindh province of southern Pakistan. 

Unit 3 at Barakah NPP in the United Arab Emirates started operations in October 2022, adding 1345 MW(e) of nuclear capacity. The Olkiluoto-3 1600 MW(e) EPR reactor in Finland connected to the grid in March.

A reason for the forthcoming growth in nuclear capacity is the costs saved by many of the countries utilising it as a power source. Vigar scoffs at remarks from some politicians declaring nuclear power in Australia will be cripplingly expensive. 

As a source of green energy, the cost of the metal per kilowatt produced is about 2%. He is clear in saying that the main costs lie in the distribution – the wires, power stations, environmental controls, and the whole network involved. 

With Shae Russell at Mining.com.au

Images: Unsplash
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Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Editor-in-Chief Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Orlando has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.