Nuclear energy is a potential alternative to conventional coal and gas fired power plants that could prove to be advantageous for use in Australia. Australia has the world’s largest reserves of both thorium and uranium, both potential nuclear plant fuels. Australia also has the propensity to enter the fuel enrichment and waste disposal markets which could result in a high economic return.
Nuclear reactor designs share many of the same components with typical variations occurring in the fuel injection methods, neutron moderator, coolant procedure, and electricity generation method. Six new Generation-IV reactor designs promise to deliver improvements to commercial reactors in use today in terms of efficiency, fuel consumption, proliferation resistance and safety characteristics. These reactor designs are in various stages of research and development and not yet viable for commercial use.
A major concern for the use and operation of nuclear power plants is the method of disposal of the highly radioactive wastes, in particular spent nuclear fuel. Methods of disposal of these have been discussed with deep geological repositories being the best solution for indefinite long term storage. The use of closed fuel cycles and reprocessing could reduce the volumes of wastes that need to be stored.
An analysis between the operating and capital costs of nuclear plants in comparison to conventional and renewable sources has also been considered. Sources showed that each
method had higher costs for different cycle stages (such as fuel or maintenance) with emissions taxes also affecting these.
Using the information that was investigated an assessment was made into viability of nuclear power in Australia, with Generation-IV reactors proving to be considerably advantageous.