The nuclear work at TRL no one wants to remember...
What is the most embarrassing secret in the depths and indeed heart of TRL? Of course it would have to be what was known as the "Nuclear Option"

Why would Telstra / Telecom have anything to do with nuclear solutions to our everyday problems?
The answer is simple - "cheapest of three quotes"

The 1970's and 1980's saw Telecom come under enormous pressure to provide a reliable telephone service to all members of the Australian community. So deeply embedded was this goal that it was part of the mission statement of the period. Such a noble cause gave many of the TRL boffins serious headaches, providing such a telecommunication solution to our remote rural comrades was not going to be easy. The battle cry from the crusty endomorphic public servant accountants went: "give me reliable, give it to me fast, and give it to me cheaply"

TRL initially suggested two options. Solar powered high speed microwave repeater stations at regular intervals in the outback, or a long extension lead. Not satisfied with either of these options (Solar power too expensive and unreliable, the extension cord was being used by the cleaner for the vacuum), the accountants demanded another alternative.

This is when the nuclear suggestion arose. A visionary young TRL science chap suggested developing a mini nuclear power plant, remotely monitored and controlled via a command centre in TRL, Clayton. A plant big enough to power a remote repeater station could feasibly be made small enough to carry to the location on a semi trailer. This idea was very attractive; TRL was at the time a world leader in remote monitoring and control of various installations in the outback. Such nuclear technology would be very marketable elsewhere in the world, where similar power requirements existed (such as Iraq or Afganistan).

Despite embarrasing setbacks to the solar research being done at TRL (like the solar panels borrowed from a Japanese firm going "missing"), it soon overtook TRLs "Nuclear Option".


TRL nuclear facility