Speaker Spotlight: Julian Tapp

30 April 2019

As we enter our 14th consecutive year of this flagship annual event, there has never been a more appropriate theme than “U and the Future”.

The conference has secured some excellent keynote speakers and we recently asked Julian Tapp for his views on the industry.

Julian has been an executive director of Vimy Resources since 2013 and moved to the position of Chief Nuclear Office in November 2018.  Julian is responsible for all State and Commonwealth Government permitting and approvals and was instrumental in moving the Mulga Rock Project through the Public Environmental Review process.  Julian is Vimy’s strategic thinker and undertakes detailed research on the global uranium market; his ‘Uranium 101’ investor briefings are an essential part of the Vimy story.

Q. Where do you see uranium mining and nuclear power in 10 years’ time?

A. I see nuclear power expanding much more rapidly than any of the current forecasts would have you believe.  The reason is the demonstration effect – take a look at South Asia:

  • Bangladesh – 2 nuclear reactors (Russian) will have been built and will be operating in Bangladesh demonstrating that even one of the world’s poorer nations (176th in terms of GDP per capita) can have nuclear power with the right financial support from the provider.  The next round will be underway.
  • Pakistan – 2 nuclear reactors will have been built in Pakistan by the Chinese (Hualong One reactors) at Karachi, and probably another one at Chashma.  There will be no adverse implications from accepting this BRI offer.  More will be under construction.
  • India – will have rolled out its indigenous PHWR reactor program and realised that ‘the electricity demands of development’ require a bigger programme necessitating imported technology and support – and that will be successfully underway.

 

The story for uranium mining is more difficult to foresee.  The current round of suspensions (McArthur River, Langer Heinrich, US-ISL) and restrictions (Kazakhstan, Niger) will have either been unwound or made permanent and demand will have significantly outstripped supply and the more mobile inventories (which are quite limited) will have been used up.  But while the price increases consequent upon the impending shortages will bring forward a new wave of expansion on the supply side – it isn’t clear how much damage the current period of prolonged low prices has done to the ability of new projects to be ramped up in a timely manner.

There are plenty of pipeline projects out there, but a lot of them are unlikely to be able to get into production within 10 years – even if the price rise happens quite soon.

Anybody that is currently ready to go and can keep that readiness going until the price increases come through will get up.  But anybody that has hurdles in front of being able to sign long term offtake contracts risks seeing ‘prices continue to rise’ whilst they sort of their issues and then seeing the opportunities fade if prices continue to rise as brownfield expansions and potentially much bigger greenfield projects (but with low risks profiles) come in.

So I see significant turmoil, with prices tending to somewhere around US$60/lb and a small raft of projects having been launched before brownfield expansions (Kazatomprom) – sees prices stabilised.  But with demand set to expand further there will need to be another round of expansions – so progress depends upon the ability of Kazatomprom/Kazakhstan and Cameco/Canada to undertake significant but incremental expansion to defend their market share and ‘cap price increases’ to prevent competitors bringing in large development projects that require higher prices.

So growth in supply to meet the demand – but turmoil and an outcome that depends upon exactly how the big players actually respond strategically (short term profit versus long term market share).

Q. Name one challenge that needs to be solved today to guarantee nuclear’s crucial part in the world’s future energy mix?

A. The challenge that needs to be solved to guarantee nuclear’s crucial part in the world’s future energy mix – is that we need to negate the ability of the NGO’s that oppose nuclear power on ideological grounds to use fear as their weapon – a fear that ultimately rests upon the foundation of the ‘Linear No-Threshold’ theory of radiation.  Whilst its use in undertaking impact assessments on low levels spread over large populations has been officially discredited – that doesn’t prevent its influence still pervading a large number of old studies that are dragged up to help sustain the fear mongering.

There is still also a lingering belief that out of an abundance of caution (and the misuse of the ‘precautionary principle’) and the absence of a clear quantifiable alternative – that LNT still represents an acceptable default assumption.

The fear that comes with accepting LNT as a default has probably caused considerably more deaths than the radiation associated with nuclear power ever has or could be expected to do in future.  I’m not just talking about the trauma associated with unnecessary displacement associated with Fukushima, or the unnecessary abortions that were engendered by fears associated with Chernobyl, I’m also talking about the lost opportunities for nuclear power to generate power in countries that need more electricity to assist with development but have ruled out nuclear on an ‘in principle’ basis.

This is a challenge that isn’t, and can’t ever be, overcome by the nuclear industry telling the world – “look how good our safety record is”.  It would be like a chef hanging out a sign saying  – “you have my word there are currently no rats in our kitchen”.  Analogously, we need to convince the world that not only is our food tasty (low emissions), but they are welcome to inspect the facilities and that the chef up the road who is telling the world we have rats in our kitchen (it is unsafe) is a liar.  In a world of social media influenced politics – we cannot rely upon dry science and bland statements to be persuasive.  We have to stop apologising and trying to tell people were not so bad.  We have to attack the anti-nuclear NGO’s with moral force from what is actually a strong high ground.

Q. What message would you like to provide to the delegates – what do you hope will be the main message they will take away from your keynote presentation?

A. I intend to address the conference theme of a new more positive era for our market.

What I intend to present is that;

  • The carbon dioxide equivalent emission from nuclear on a lifecycle basis are much lower than currently accepted levels suggest – IPCC 2014 ~12-13g CO2e/Kwh.  Nuclear is the lowest of any source of electricity (lifecycle basis) ~ 6-7g CO2e/Kwh.  Evidence will be provided.
  • It is not only the cleanest but the safest in terms of its impact on human health.  The so called ‘deathprint’ of various energy sources which traces back to a Lancet article in 2007 considerably over estimated nuclear related deaths due to its adoption of the LNT theory to calculate alleged cancer related deaths.  Nuclear is easily and by far the safest form of electricity. Evidence will be provided.
  • The time taken to build a nuclear reactor (and the associated cost over-runs) is not an inherent feature of nuclear reactors.  Evidence will be provided.
Share with your social network.