Abundant, clean reliable and cheap electrical power generation via turnkey fission powered small modular reactors could be a game changer when it comes to how the world powers its cities and industries. Today coal is the key CO 2 emitter globally with Australia topping the per kilowatt per capita CO 2 emissions rankings, thanks to being the only OECD country without substantial nuclear or hydropower production. America produces 20% of it’s power from nuclear fission (which is 60% of its clean power production) meaning that America has lower CO 2 per capita emissions than Australia.

 Ontario installed generating capacity. Their grid has emissions below the IPCC target. If we could make all grids like this, we would achieve our emissions targets.

Ontario installed generating capacity. Their grid has emissions below the IPCC target. If we could make all grids like this, we would achieve our emissions targets.

As you can see on the left, a low carbon grid like Ontario’s is the only proven way to remove coal from a modern grid. It is a mix of nuclear & hydro for baseload, wind & solar for spot (with gas for backup) plus additional gas (which could be replaced by gen 4 nuclear which has better load following capabilities). Ontario’s carbon emissions per capita are about 1/10th that of Australia. Note that this is installed capacity, due to nuclear and hydro having 90%+ capacity factor compared to wind (about 30% CF) and solar (about 15% CF), the generated output puts nuclear at about 70% and pushes wind down to below 4%. Australia would be different, our hydro CF suffers thanks to our water scarcity while our solar gets a small boost with wind likely to be similar to Ontario at a larger scale.

With cheap abundant clean power we can synthesise hydrocarbons for use in the existing internal combustion engines and jet engines around the world. The process is completely CO 2 neutral as it uses carbonic acid from the ocean to produce hydrocarbons. We can even use this to create hydrocarbons for long term storage, effectively reversing the burning of fossil fuels from our history.

This process also will start to remove carbonic acid from the oceans, which could be the start of our efforts to reduce ocean acidification and reduce coral bleaching.

This section is the longest and most important for the transformation plan and the reason for the depth of detail in this section is because all the other sections require clean, cheap and abundant energy for them to become successful, which means for them to become globally competitive.

Production Line Small Modular Reactors

The success of the airline and shipping industries has been scale through production line techniques. Boeing is outputting 737s at rate of over one per day, the advantages of this method of production positively affects safety, cost, iterative improvement and refinement, quality and support. Bringing this method to reactor construction will change the nuclear industry just like it has for cars, ships and aircraft. It will make nuclear power without doubt the technology of choice to provide clean, abundant reliable and cheap power. There are many companies and countries working on the next generation of nuclear reactors. Today Australia as a nation has no involvement in this development. These projects have one common objective, to remove coal as the fuel of choice for powering economies. As we know, Australia’s reliance on coal as an export income generator is near 20% of total exports and these startups are squarely focussed on destroying this line on our income statement. 

  • Project HQ: Newcastle
  • How: Using shipbuilding techniques to mass produce Thorium Small Modular Reactors (PPP with next nuclear like ThorCon or Terrestrial Energy IMSR)
  • Status of the technology: Concept developed / Experimentally proven / Scale proven
  • Inputs: Hastelloy N, Shipbuilding style infrastructure, U233 bred from Thorium by PRISM
  • Outputs: Turnkey SMRs for Australia and the world
  • Benefits: Exporter of turnkey zero CO2 energy
  • Bonus benefits: Molten salt technology is also used in solar thermal energy storage systems

Waste Management & Isotope Production Reactors

Creating a fast reactor will be key to creating a high value fission based energy industry. The fast reactors can burn long lasting transuranics, hugely reducing our waste and weapons stockpiles. Turning this waste into energy while at the same time creating isotope outputs that can be used in other advanced energy reactors (like those made from Thorium, the isotope of Uranium, U233) or for other science, engineering and medical applications means that fast reactors are key to a high value fission economy.

  • Project HQ: Adelaide
  • How: Fast breeder reactor (eg PRISM) with nuclear fuel recycle, breeder and isotope production.
  • Status of the technology: Concept developed / Experimentally proven / Scale proven
  • Inputs: Global spent nuclear fuel, locally sourced Uranium and Thorium
  • Outputs: Clean power, U233 for MSR, Pu238 for RTGs, Medical radioisotopes
  • Benefits: Turning the world’s nuclear waste into power and useful scientific and medical products

Specialist Metal Production

Hastelloy N is an alloy that was used in the Oak Ridge National Laboratories Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment. Regardless of what fission technologies become mainstream, the need for high quality metal inputs will be present, something Australia is uniquely positioned to provide. Our history in metal production means that this is an industry we have had success with previously.

We have the raw materials that today we simply export. Rebuilding a metal production capability that focusses on high value metals will improve our export earns but also will be key inputs into our other value added industries

  • Project HQ: Whyalla, Wollongong
  • How: JV with Haynes International, using our metal production infrastructure
  • Status of the technology: Concept developed / Experimentally proven / Scale proven
  • Inputs: Australian sourced ores and metals, clean power
  • Outputs: Hastelloy N and other key metals for MSR and shipbuilding
  • Benefits: Creating more jobs in the value chain, raw material exports

HIGHLY EFFICIENT TURBINES

With the creation of high temperature, low pressure advanced reactors, we can greatly increase the thermal efficiency of the energy production by developing high efficiency turbines. Current coal and water cooled reactors produce heat that works for steam based turbines. The high temperature reactors (like the IMSR and ThorCon) create much higher heat output, that coupled with a carbon dioxide supercritical Brayton cycle turbine will improve energy capture while reducing plant and equipment size considerably. This technology has been researched by the CSIRO as it can also be used in solar thermal applications.

  • Project HQ: Geelong, Dandenong
  • How: JV with US National Laboratories and DOE for CO2 supercritical Brayton cycle turbines
  • Status of the technology: Concept developed / Experimentally proven / Scale proven
  • Inputs: R&D and materials
  • Outputs: High efficiency Brayton cycle turbines for high heat power sources (nuclear MSRs and solar thermal)
  • Benefits: Creating more jobs in the value chain, enabling export of MSR systems

Synthetic Hydrocarbon Fuels

There are currently trillions of dollars of plant and equipment throughout the world that have been built to burn hydrocarbons. Today these hydrocarbons come from fossil fuels, a source of energy that is dense in energy terms, which is great for transportation, but also dense in GHG and other nasties. The cost and time to replace this plant is big and will take decades if not longer.

There is a hack that might help us bridge this gap a lot faster, and that is synthetic hydrocarbons. We can now make our own fuels using seawater with the added benefit of de-acidifying the ocean. The CO2 in the air is in equilibrium with CO2 in the ocean as carbonic acid. This is the acid that is likely to be causing coral bleaching. With clean, cheap, abundant nuclear energy, we can suck up this carbonic acid and turn it into hydrocarbons, in what is a CO2 neutral fuel cycle. Once we make this technology scalable, we could even start to create reservoirs of easy to store hydrocarbons, in a process that would lower atmospheric CO2 over the long term.

  • Project HQ: Townsville, Cairns
  • How: Synthetic hydrocarbons, JV with US Navy Research Labs
  • Status of the technology: Concept developed / Experimentally proven / Scale proven
  • Inputs: Seawater (water and carbonic acid), patented technology
  • Outputs: CO2 neutral hydrocarbons for internal combustion and jet engines around the world
  • Benefits: CO2 neutral air travel, make existing fleet of engines CO2 neutral (the cost to replace these engines is in the trillions of dollars)
  • Bonus benefits: Removing key ingredient from reef bleaching, carbonic acid

Nuclear cargo shipping

Shipping accounts for 5% of current emissions, however this is likely to rise as trade increases and we move our land based energy system to lower emissions. It is also the key to global trade and therefore economic growth and security. Nuclear fuel for shipping has been a huge advantage for many of the world's navies, in fact the land based water reactors owe their existence to the fact that the US Navy chose that technology for their fleet in the 19050s.

The US Navy nuclear fleet provides energy at below coal and oil costs, it has been highly tuned to be war ready and cost effective. With a dedicated program to build and support nuclear powered shipping for commercial use, we can bring clean shipping to the world.

  • Project HQ: Adelaide, Perth
  • How: Build and lease nuclear powered cargo ships
  • Status of the technology: Concept developed / Experimentally proven / Scale proven
  • Inputs: Australian sourced energy, metals and labour
  • Outputs: CO2 neutral shipping fleet for lease
  • Benefits: Jobs and high value exports
  • Bonus benefits: The only possible way to remove CO2 from shipping

Australia Coal Power Replacement Project

Australia has roughly 50GW of installed coal power which is utilised at roughly 50%. Over the next 20 years much of this infrastructure will need to be replaced or undergo significant maintenance. We are positioned to replace this dirty source of power with clean, cheap, abundant and reliable power.

A modern nuclear power station of 4 to 6 reactors in an area of just a couple of square kilometres would have a nameplate capacity of 5GW to 8GW. This means that we can replace our entire coal power fleet with roughly 4-5 nuclear power plants. This number would change based on economic growth (higher growth means more power needed) and improvements in variable renewables like wind and solar (as they increase the total would reduce slightly). And unlike other projects, it is unlikely to need direct public funding or subsidies if we are prepared to underwrite the loans for commercial operation.

  • Project HQ: Canberra
  • How: Replace all existing Australian coal power at their end of life with Gen 3+ (eg CANDU, ESBWR, APR-1400) or Gen 4 (eg ThorCon, IMSR) reactors and wind and solar sources by 2040.
  • Status of the technology: Concept developed / Experimentally proven / Scale proven
  • Inputs: Labour and materials, EBA funding
  • Outputs: Zero CO2 electricity grid
  • Benefits: Meet and exceed all global CO2 targets
  • Bonus benefits: Jobs, desalinated water, remove our reliance on inland waterways, industrial heat