What’s going on now in the Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission?

May 28, 2015

a-cat-CANMy impression is that the Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission community forums are pretty formulaic. Kevin Scarce has got it all down pat , and does not stray from his agenda of the 4 Issues in the Terms of Reference.  A bit of lip service is paid to Renewable Energy, but it is clear that this will not feature in the serious examination of energy technologies. There is complete avoidance of legal issues.Scarce,--Kevin-glow

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINThe thing that gets me about Kevin Scarce and the Royal Commission, and the media coverage – is the
pretense that this is all just a South Australian affair – despite the fact that these nuclear developments are illegal under national law. Of course this whole idea of making South Australia the world’s nuclear hub and waste dump concerns all of Australia.

The meeting at Coober Pedy (14/5/15) was quite a lively one, and the audience showed a degree of knowledge and sophistication that The Royal Commissioners might not have expected to find, in such a remote location. Concerns aired in questions included the problems of nuclear wastes – problems handed over to future generations, environmental concerns, and support for renewable energy rather than nuclear .

At University of South Australia – Mawson Lakes, (19/5/15) about 50 people attended. I have no report on this, other than that at least one University lecturer was worried  that harmful affects of tourism and agriculture and food would not be properly addressed, and small businesses would not put in submissions about the potential harm to their business.

At Adelaide University(22/5/15) around 250 people attended, and pro nuclear people were slightly in the majority – as evidenced by  a show of hands when asked for this. David Noonan of Wilderness Society didn’t get to ask his question – that the proposed activities the RC is investigating are currently illegal in Australia!

At Flinders University (20/5/15)  – (see report on this page) there was some pretty lively questioning.  Kevin Scarce was able to deflect very deftly any difficult questions. His two best techniques –  to point out that matters are “not in the Terms of Reference” and to urge the questioner to seek the answer and “put in a submission”.

A concern that showed up in Adelaide meetings was that of bias – questioners wanted to know about the agendas, the interests of the staff and expert advisers on the Commission. They also wanted to know about the companies involved, and their submissions to the Commission – will the Commission be transparent about this?


Flinders University hosts meeting of South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission

May 28, 2015

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINPresentation of Royal Commission to meeting at Flinders University/Tonsley Campus, 20 May 2015

Kevin Scarce outlined purpose of the Royal Commission to examine the 4 issues set out in the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission.- to look at the opportunities and costs of expanding the nuclear fuel chain in South Australia – for the community, environment and economy.

He discussed each of the 4 Issues :

1 Exploration, Extraction and Milling – should this be expanded? Australia has about 30% known U deposits; SA has about 80% of that.

thorium – will consider sources, possible use of this, too.

  1. processing/manufacturing
  • conversion – uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride
  • enrichment –to concentration suitable for reactors
  • enriched conversion to nuclear fuel/rods
  • medical/scientific isotopes – ANSTO produces these at reactor in Sydney. 10-15% from cyclotrons – one in SA.

3 nuclear reactors/power generation

  1. storage/disposal of nuclear wastes
  • low/intermediate level waste – radioactive materials (clothing, instruments etc) associated with  energy generation – can be treated to assist storage e.g. vitrification; synroc/ceramics;
  • to storage – encased steel & concrete
  • high level – heat produced so stored in wet storage pool to cool – encased in steel & concrete – intended to go to deep geological storage – Finland –developing only one at present  400m underground – operate from 2022 onwards
  • reprocessing of spent fuel rods can recover fuel –large infrastructure & complexity of process

He outlined the process of the Royal Commission. For Any questions needing detailed answer, people can consult the Issues Papers.

There is  a Royal Commission team of 15, who will be seeking national & international expertise. At present – framing ways to examine costs & opportunities. The Commission will be getting balance in talking to experts.

  •        The Commission will examine the issues papers , questions raised on complex processes,  and the Submissions in response to the Issues Papers by – early August response date.  The Submissions will be made public later in the year.
  • not clear here – I think there’s to be release of  & consultation about responses to issues papers– Adelaide & regionally to December
  • Commission will then develop findings – take back to community Feb
  • Final report to SA government – early May 2016


Questions from audience; Commissioner response

Q. will submissions re issues all be available? –on website.  A. Index of ideas represented will be available. Transparency intended

 QWhat about interests/biases of experts, staff? A.interests to be published on website

Will the Commission  take note of similar enquiries? – A. Yes – Switowski 2006; others from Australia and overseasThe Commission will be looking for best practice etc e.g. Japan; Finland storage – method of community engagement; France 70% of energy nuclear; England – registry of materials etc – plus their problem areas

Where is uranium mined in Aust?  A. 4 or 5 sites; 2 operational in SA

 Q. Will the Commission look at where waste to go? –  A.The Commission will look at disposal all levels – and processing – not required to say re sites – get best practice to engage community

Q. Will the Commission look at use of artesian water, at waste sites?A Those issues are dependent on site chosen.

Q.  is there/ will there be an independent monitor?A yes – safety is responsibility of federal govt

Q. will the Commission look at nuclear power generation – feasibility for SA?A  We will study r cost/benefit cf coal, renewables etc – estimate how  power will be used, model costs, base load generation

 Q.  Will the benefits of reprocessing considered?A Reprocessing will be adding value value. but is extremely costly – but these are opportunities not had before – reprocessing will be included inh Commission’s deliberations.- evaluation & basis of it

Q. Submissions all available? What about freedom from Freedom of Info enquiries?- Will encourage all  submissions to be open – can be confidential (e.g Aboriginal, commercial)  – will list submissions confidential, sources and reasons.

QWill RC influence national frameworks re safety etc ??A we will inform; what we do need to reflect Australian and IAEA  information.

Q. How often will there be information bulletins? A. regular(??) update on website – papers, responses, interests listed, blog, subjects indexed

Qwill Commission access BHP documents free from FoI?A. We encourage BHP to join us.

Q. Does the RC have Power to coerce? A. If we don’t then we’ll see what are the other options.Do we have powers – yes – but we will try to get the info we need without ‘heavying’ anyone

Q.  Aboriginal communities disproportionately impacted by nuclear industry- why none appointed to commission?A. need individual to rep Aboriginal community as whole -haven’t found. Someone from Commission will need to be in communities on a regular basis. But no-one on RC represents all of non-Aboriginal Australia.

Q. Will the Commission  look at Thorium – rare earths found too – use in value add?  A. Yes – all other industries looked at.

Q. Will Thorium reactor ideas be in cost analysis re projections re economic benefits? A. Yes – looking at future technologies. It  is very difficult – a minefield to estimate commercial availability.

Q. Will the RC look at kinds of reactors that use fuel rods? A. Yes. We are going overseas to do that.

 Q. will you differentiate Uranium vs Thorium ?A. absolutely – looking at  safety, economic viability, what technologies are on the immediate horizon.

Q. Nuclear use is expensive – build, decommission. Deep deposit- billions. Need to inquire into renewables? Should spend time  money into this A. Not set by Terms of Reference

 Q. Comparative advantage of rfenewables  in SA – U.  Sunlight too!

Q. What’s the real possibility of returning negative findings? How justify expense?  A.The  Investment is worthwhile for our future. We will share information over the year – public see as we go.

Q. How will RC ensure veracity of evidence? A There are complexities re overseas  visits- legal, commercial, scientific information/confidentiality. Complex issues – we will visit companies want to sell reactors etc. We will Consider evidence carefully.

Q. Is yellowcake transported by road?  NT covered lorries – passed us on Hway. Yellow stuff going on to cars.   A. There are National regulations re transport. Yellowcake drums by roads. Lucas Hts waste is separate from our Royal Commission.

Q. Radium Hill waste – what will happen to it? A. We will be Going there. Don’t know if will be moved.

Q. What will you do about misleading name of RC – most nuclear waste not ‘recycled’?  A.  True- I suggest that make a submission. –

QSocial aspects – what stage is the RC at re  modelling?  We will  Declare our models in the next couple of months.

QClimate change – won’t it give increase in reputation for Oz if we take up nuclear? A.Difficult to quantify benefits.

Q. Should there be a referendum re nuclear power etc for SA?    A. That’s out of RC brief – a political process etc.

 Q. Competition in energy market intense – if nuclear seen as a goer – a number of large organisations competing in power generation. If we devedop nuclear industry – will South Australia get competitors as partners? A Possibly –we  need evaluate this; part of answers to Terms of Reference.

QWhen consulting Aboriginal communities – expand into remote communities – how to ensure culturally sound processes for consultation? Yes.There is a need to address. JP witness needed because RC doesn’t want 500 similar submissions. Those submitting must swear that it is their own evidence. We will find solutions t for the sections of the community where it’s a problem.

Q Nuclear is a dangerous industry – waste eg into sea off California. French plant – waste water containing radiation into wetlands – crocodiles mutant form?.  A we will be looking at the dangers of industry.


Will South Australia’s Nuclear Chain Royal Commission require iodine pills for communities near nuclear facilities?

May 25, 2015



Will South Australian communities and nuclear workers get iodine pills, once the State launches into its role as the international nuclear hub?

Canada’s communities near nuclear facilities ware getting them.  Kevin Scarce’s Nuclear Fuel Chain
scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINRoyal Commission will be getting Submissions from Canadian nuclear companies. Perhaps the Commission will be visiting Canada, as part of its potassium-iodate-pillsinternational junket.

Presumably the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Chain Commission will be keen to keep up with all the safety requirements that Canada has.

10 reasons why the global nuclear industry is terminally ill

May 25, 2015

The global nuclear industry is sick, indeed, it is in palliative care.  And here are 10 good reasons why:

1. Gloom overlies the nuclear lobby, fear of this question:the next nuclear catastrophe.  NotIF it will happen, but WHEN andWHERE?

2.  Aging, dangerous nuclear reactors that are too costly to make safe. .

3. “New nuclear” is  a joke. The nuclear lobby will boast of so many “planned”, “proposed” reactors. But new ones actually being built? – just two and a half duds.

4 Discord and dissension in the nuclear camp.  Nuclear countries cannot afford new reactors, so desperately compete to sell  them to other countries.

Meanwhile nuclear companies battle it out to market their particular new gee-whiz nuclear reactor version.

5. Climate change affects nuclear reactors.

6. Nuclear weapons now out-dated. 21st Century conflict is all about smaller, targeted

weapons, like the USA’s assassination drones.  Pride and status are now the only motives for having nuclear weapons.

7. Decline in electricity use

8 Renewable energy, both centralised and small scale, is fast being developed, and widely popular (unlike nuclear).

9. Danger – whatever kind of nuclear facility – there is always the danger of accident or terrorism –  they are  a target for terrorists.

10 Public opinion. Worldwide – people just don’t like nuclear power.

Abbott’s “Do Nothing” policy on Climate Change – peddled by Bjorn Lomborg

May 25, 2015

Bringing Lomborg’s work to Australia seems to have been the personal project of Prime Minister Tony Abbott who found $4 million in a budget that cannot afford to support other scientific work on climate change. Abbott is, of course, famous for dismissing climate science as “crap” and choosing as his chief business adviser a man, Maurice Newman, who believes climate science is being used by the UN to impose authoritarian rule over the world.

The Lomborg Ruse, Clive Hamilton 23 MAY 2015 No one in Australia has more relentlessly attacked environmentalists, climate science, carbon taxes and the aspirations of the United Nations than Murdoch columnist Andrew Bolt.

Lomborg, Bjorn

So what does it mean when Bolt sings the praises of a man who is a declared environmentalist, accepts the body of evidence for climate change, supports a carbon tax and is a strong supporter of the United Nations? Oh, and he’s also a gay vegetarian who’s never out of a trendy black T-shirt.

And what are we to make of it when Bolt, who has complained bitterly that the nation’s universities are stacked with leftists, is now up in arms because a man with admittedly left-leaning politics is sent packing from one of those universities.

I speak of course of Bjorn Lomborg and the University of Western Australia’s reversal of its decision to host his Consensus Centre and so reject the $4 million offered by the Federal Government.

Bolt is not Lomborg’s only unlikely defender. John Roskam of the Institute of Public Affairs writes that the opposition to Lomborg “demonstrates all that’s wrong with Australia’s universities”. The IPA, from the late 1990s the epicentre of the dissemination of climate science denial in Australia, now claims that the man who declares “I believe in global warming” has been “muzzled” and must be heard. (The IPA hosted a Lomborg visit to Australia in 2003, at the prompting of federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane.)

And the bastion of denial-promotion in the media, the Australian newspaper that has done more than any other to undermine the credibility of climate science and trash climate scientists, fell over itself to congratulate UWA on its bold appointment. (The paper has been publishing Lomborg’s opinions regularly since 2001.)

Bringing Lomborg’s work to Australia seems to have been the personal project of Prime Minister Tony Abbott who found $4 million in a budget that cannot afford to support other scientific work on climate change. Abbott is, of course, famous for dismissing climate science as “crap” and choosing as his chief business adviser a man, Maurice Newman, who believes climate science is being used by the UN to impose authoritarian rule over the world. In his book Battlelines Tony Abbott drafted Lomborg into his army.

The Prime Minister’s office attempted to distance him from Lomborg, claiming that the idea for the Centre came from UWA. And the billionaire Koch Brothers, who have replaced Exxon as the principal funder of climate denial in the United States, have also attempted to keep secret their funding of Lomborg’s work.

They understand that it is not helpful for Lomborg to be linked to deniers. Andrew Bolt, in his blundering way, did not get the memo headed “He’s our guy but keep it to yourself”.

All of this points to the fact that Bjorn Lomborg is not what he seems to be. When the book that made him famous appeared in 2001 (disclosure: I was asked by Cambridge University Press to write a rejoinder to The Skeptical Environmentalist) he declared that climate change is not a serious problem – “On average, global warming is not going to harm the developing world”, he said. Later, he shifted to the view that it might be serious but other problems are more serious.

Soon he was arguing that, to the extent that global warming does deserve some response, it should be through adaptation or geoengineering rather than reducing carbon emissions. More recently he has argued that if carbon emissions must be reduced then we should invest in more R&D to develop more efficient means of doing so at some point in the future. All of this is music to the ears of the fossil fuel lobby.

The effect of these repeated shifts has been to keep Lomborg “respectable” in a way that fanatics like Bolt and Newman are not, and enable him to act as a continuing drag on action. That is why Mr Abbott wants to hand him an Australian megaphone.

When Lomborg presents himself as occupying the middle ground we have to ask what the “middle ground” is when the vast preponderance of scientific evidence tells us that the globe is warming and climate change presents a serious threat to the future. Which half of the scientific evidence must one discard in order to stand equidistant from the IPCC and Andrew Bolt?

So the Lomborg position is a ruse. Bolt gets it, Abbott gets it, the deniers at the Australian get it, the Koch Brothers get it. They understand that Lomborg is their guy. If you think Lomborg is not responsible for those who promote his work, look at who he hangs out with and from whom he accepts money.

Anyone who has followed the politics of climate change sees through the subterfuge, yet it seems that some university administrators don’t get it. And so UWA’s Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson was surprised at the reaction to his decision to invite Lomborg onto his campus.

Now education minister Christopher Pyne is seeking another university to host the Consensus Centre. But why would any agree? A university that accommodated the Centre would not be defending academic freedom but collaborating in a ruse; it would not be advancing free speech but facilitating duplicitous speech.

At UWA enough staff and students understood this, and it soon became clear to the Vice Chancellor that the Centre would be a magnet for rancorous protests. Young people feel passionately about the survival of their world, and while the do-nothing forces prevail their passion can only intensify.
– See more at: http://clivehamilton.com/the-lomborg-ruse/#sthash.Z7lk297p.dpuf– See more at:http://clivehamilton.com/the-lomborg-ruse/#sthash.Z7lk297p.dpuf

Transcript of Nuclear Royal Commission meeting at Coober Pedy

May 22, 2015

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINTranscript by Noel Wauchope, 20 May 2015   This transcript is a reliable account of the proceedings, but is not word for word accurate. As far as possible, I have used the exact words.

KEVIN SCARCE:  My name’s Kevin  I have also here members of my team – Greg  Ward, Wes Taylor, Mary – .  About three months ago the governmnet decided that they wanted an inquiry into the nuclear fuel cycle, so they decided on  a Royal Commission. I have the Terms of Reference..I am responsible to investigate this. My job is to answer the four questions in the Terms of reference. By the end of this process I will deliver a Report to government, by 6th May 2016.
The reasons for this Royal Commission are:
1. It’s an independent inquiry
2. The second reason for a Royal Commission is that it is evidence-based. There is a lot of feeling in the community, about the nuclear fuel cycle. It is important to unearth the facts and also to examine the risks, – so that we have a basis for progress. We can think of this as an opportunity for the future.
3. Thirdly – the purpose to unearth facts. Royal Commissions are  a trusted venue for unearthing facts.
First I’ll talk about we mean by the nuclear fuel cycle, and what we are attempting to do n this year long examination of the nuclear fuel cycle. I’ll talk about the processes of that cycle.Then about how you can help. I’ll talk about the process we are going to use to engage the community. The nuclear fuel cycle entails  the mining and processing of uranium,  manufacturing of nuclear fuel, and power generation , and storage of wastes – the costs and the risks –

Why South Australia?  Australia has 30% of the world’s uranium supply, 80% of that n South Australia. So there’s  a comparative advantage for South Australia in terms of uranium mining.

The first Term of Reference; does it make sense to expand our exploration and mining of uranium?

We will look at the world demand for uranium – the opportunities, the costs and benefits to the community, the economy and the environment.

We are also interested in thorium. Thorium purportedly has advantages over uranium. It doesn’t create the same wastes, doesn’t enable nuclear explosions such as what happened at Fukushima, it’s not useful for nuclear weapons. It is a potential opportunity for the future. Part of our Term Of Reference is to look for the opportunities for thorium in this State. But this is only at the potential stage. We are yet to see a thorium nuclear reactor.

The second Term of Reference.  What are the opportunities to value add? We look at the opportunities and costs for communities, the environment and the economy. We as a group don’t have enough evidence to form a view. I can see benefits, risks, costs – we need to have the data to prove it one way or the other. We have to gather the data, develop our recommendations, and present our recommendations in our report.

The second Term of Reference  – can we add value to our existing uranium industry?  That will mean substantial infrastructure. I will show the required infrastructure.

The third Term of Reference. Power Generation.  This is the most complex part of the cycle. for us. Does it make economic sense? Can renewables provide us with that baseload of electricity for the future? We have t think of providing the electricity that we need now – and in 10-20 years’ time. It would take 20 years if we go ahead with nuclear power generation. What is the effect of continuing to use coal power to provide baseload power in the future?

The fourth Term of Reference. Management and storage of wastes. Wastes come in a lot of categories. Some of you have had treatment with radioisotopes. Medical wastes  are – gloves, nuclear equipment – low level wastes – the lowest category. At the other end of the scale is the spent fuel from nuclear power generation., that will remain active for thousands and thousands of years. But – with progress – we see 3rd Generation reactors – much more efficient in use of fuel, and soon 4th Generation ones might generate much less wastes. . Fast neutron reactors utilise almost all of the nuclear fuel.  This is a promise yet to be delivered.

How would you store that waste? What measures needed to protect the environment? The nuclear reprocessing process finishes the cycle. The first part of the cycle – at Beverley and other mines, whee they get uranium out of the ground – we look to see where there’s an opportunity to expand that in the future – expand use of yellowcake (shows slide)  When we enrich uranium, we take it up from useful fuel of only 1% to 3% useful. Reprocessing takes it up to a higher percentage.
Demonstrating the process – from mining to reprocessing – we look for the opportunity to expand mining in the future, Value adding is the in the overseas infrastructure that increases the energy availability from uranium hexafluoride – converting it to small pellets. 3 or 4 of these pellets would power a house for several years. The pellets are encased into zirconium in stainless steel rods and inserted into the reactor. They are replaced every 3-4 years. They might then go to waste, or reprocessing will re-use these rods. With some modern technologies the fuel rods don’t need to be taken out of the reactor –  but this technology is yet to be developed.

Nuclear wastes (shows slides)  Two methods. Wet storage for two years until the rods have cooled. Intermediate dry storage in concrete and copper cylinders – kept there until the final stage. None of these processes are conducted in Australia.

Question here female: What about Lucas Heights?
SCARCE: (shows slide)  Lucas Heights produces 15-20% of the world’s medical isotopes. The current reactor has been operating for 3-4 years. Before that there was a reactor for 50 years.Lucas Heights has had reactors for  50 – 60 years Lucas Heights is in an outer Souther suburb of Sydney.

(Slide) This is the sort of infrastructure required to reprocess. It is capital intensive. It takes uranium and re-enriches it.
(Slide) Above ground storage in concrete containers is doted around South Australia.-l ow level and intermediate storage above ground.
(Slide) In Finland there is deep down storage – 500 metres underground, will store wastes for thousands of years. There are many methods, The Australian method is to encapsulate wastes in crystalline rock. It must be in geologically stable areas, requiring specific geological conditions. This is a process of understanding, that we need to look at car

(Slide)  This gives a hint of where nuclear reactors are in the world today – 340 reactors, and 70 being built. That’s the nuclear fuel cycle.

How do we manage that?
We’ve developed 4 papers, one on each part of the cycle.

1. Exploration and Mining What are the costs and benefits – environmental, community and economic?
Question here: Who is we?
SCARCE:  We being the Commission. We have 5 world leaders on these issues, both for and against. Then we will call in experts that we need.

Female Questioner–   .(inaudible) .. about the evidence?
SCARCE: The question is – do we expand uranium mining?  It’s essential not to go back over what was done in the past – but look to what can be done in the future. What are the risks and opportunities for expansion?

Female questioner. Will there be a Commission on renewables? What is your background?
SCARCE: On renewables – I’ll go back to that. The Commission needs someone to be independent. I am a naval officer. I have been Governor of this State. We have to have someone who is neither for nor against. We have got to have someone to bring the community together.

Female questioner: How are you paid?
Male voice intervenes – Let Kevin continue

SCARCE: We’ll examine all 4 questions of the Terms of Reference. We will gather the data to answer these questions.
1. Expanding existing mining
2 Value adding – adding processing
All of these papers pose series of questions. It’s a complex subject. We try to simplify it and make data available.
3. Electricity generation. We are not looking just at nuclear power. Also we look at renewables. We need to look at all the technologies – solar, solar thermal, geothermal. Can they provide baseload power? What industries might we attract to the State if we had the right power base for the future, not just nuclear? Does it make sense o develop nuclear processing for electricity generation?
South Australia has a comparative advantage because of all the uranium that we have in the ground. Where does the State have opportunities? If you think that renewables can deliver clean green energy, tell us.
4. Wastes – what are the methods and the risks? We need to do the economics. We have storage issues here in Australia. The Federal government has a proposal out for those who might store waste.

Female questioner. We have investigated this before, and decided against it. 5 years ago the decision was made not to have nuclear waste importing. Aren’t you going over the same questions again ?
SCARCE: I can’t answer about the Northern Territory. In 2017 we are going to lose 12000 – 13000 jobs in car manufacturing. It seems to me to be the right time to ask ourselves the question doe sit make sense to expand the cycle. Where does the State have opportunities for the future?
Female questioner.  South Australia can have  a green image. People are looking for a healthy environment for the future. I have worked for 5 years in electricity development in Switzerland  I have seen this in Europe. …..
SCARCE: I urge you to write  a submission and put that forward in a submission,
Now we’ve got the papers. We have set the 3 months to put these questions forward. We’re developing open community forums  to develop issues, to discuss the major elements arising from the submissions we’ve received and from our own research. I expect that we will spend several days on each of the four processes. We hope to be out in the community, engaging the community. This is not the first and only engagement in the process, Then there is our website. All papers, all the submissions will be on this website. It is a quite transparent process.

We encourage all submissions to be made public. I am not interested in submissions that cannot be made public.  Where there is a defined commercial interest that might not be published. Some Aboriginal submissions might not be published, for cultural reasons.
Male questioner:  …. about Fukushima…
SCARCE: –  talks about exaggeration of effects of Fukushima – clams of thousands of deaths.There were no deaths at Fukushima – yet. What we have to figure out – the consequences and probability of serious consequences – is it worth it?

Female questioner:  You are putting the costs and the burdens on to future generations?
SCARCE: An dthe opportunities and potential benefits. I’m not suggesting that the consequences are not serious. We have to measure the seriousness against the probability of accidents.

Female questioner: Where does the money come from?
Interjection from a male voice – asks this questioner: Do you live in Coober Pedy? She replies; I have done.
SCARCE: Let’s go to the facts. these are questions that must be asked – if it’s an issue to unearth –  (He repeats encouragement to put these matters in a submission)

Female questioner:Financially – why did Roxby not go ahead with their planned expansion a few years ago? You want to dig up more uranium?
SCARCE: I said I wanted to look at the costs and the risks. By all means, have the debate. Look at the State when it’s 27 million, and look at where opportunity exists in the future – if it’s in renewables.

Interjection from a male voice: I don’t think we’re going to get a sensible argument here, so we can move along.

Female questioner: In regional development across South Australia – what part?
Male questioner: Why is South Australia picked for this? We’ve had Maralinga – nuclear explosions. To run nuclear power you gotta have a bloody lot of water. Are they gonna pull it out of the Great Artesian Basin like the mob that’s doing all the fracking? It seems to me that in our nuclear age of independence we’ve got a lot of sun. We have 364 days of sun. We just seem to be picked. It just seems to all go out of our State to interstate or overseas.
If there’s a bomb or an earthquake….. WE got big companies down South. Here in Coober Pedy we got no say at all.

SCARCE: I’m looking at the potential for opportunities of the future. We in South Australia have uranium. WE have world class uranium in South Australia. Is there an opportunity to add value to it before we send it overseas? We look at the costs and benefits. WE can talk about world’s best practice – only if we are convinced that the  safety of this part of the process makes sense for our State.

Male questioner: We’re talking about shipping the wastes back to South Australia. I’m on my way out – got kids, grandkids. In 20 years time we all won’t be here.
SCARCE: Is there opportunity to value add to it here before it goes overseas? Nowhere in our Royal Commission Terms of Reference are we asked to identify locations. We are asked to see if it is economic, if it makes sense for our State. We should ask, get the data, assess the potential for our State.

Male questioner: I’ve got great grandkids. No matter what you people say –  all the bloody experts – I need to talk this over with my grandkids.
In 20 years’ tim eI won’t be here. By the time this does get on the ground we won’t be here to say we regret it –  none of this will be recorded.
SCARCE: I hope that with this process we will get an understanding of the opportunities, risks and benefits.The issue here is to have the discussion we need to have  – get the facts – make sure that we have a common understanding.

Male questioner. I get the feeling it’s not about us. It’s about money. There’s a misty fog in my brain about this.   You put a wind turbine up – and people complain – health worries..  Our wind farms – most of the energy goes to bloody Victoria.  Nuclear – to me – is not a good way to go.
SCARCE: Keep an open mind, either way, and don’t be afraid to ask
Questioner:  I’m not afraid to ask – but who owns Roxby? They’re Australian?  Who owns it?
SCARCE: partly.

Female questioner –  question on banning uranium mining….
SCARCE: We will answer each of the 4 Terms of Reference.  We might come to a very different conclusion on each one.

Female questioner: Most nuclear plants in other countries are reaching the end of their life. Lots have to be decommissioned.  Some have to be extended. What happens when they have to be decommissioned? Where do we get then facts? We can’t get the facts now. Nobody talks about it.

SCARCE: We will visit those countries. No doubt after the Fukushima accident there was  a loss of confidence in the nuclear industry. I don’t know how Germany can get their power
Female questioner.  I can tell you. Solar.
SCARCE: We’ll go and find that data. If wind and solar can provide baseload power for the future  we might not need nuclear. How do you generate the power for the future. send us submissions.

Male questioner (identifies himself as member of a mining company): I asked the question to a Member of Parliament,about nuclear power. He said “Nuclear power is far too expensive”. We’ve been trying to find a waste site for the past 10 years.
Question on tax payer money given from Federal Govrenmnet to the State for a nuclear waste dump.
SCARCE: I’ve not seen that data – that says that nuclear is too expensive. Get the data and we can  answer that question . I don’t know  about that. I’m not going outside of my Terms of Reference.  As far as I know the State government doesn’t have  a site. I am not aware of it. It is a Federal government responsibility.

Female questioner: UK has had nuclear power for 50 years, and no explosions. In this inquiry, will you be able to get information from UK?. They must be doing something right.
SCARCE: We plan to go overseas at the end of this month – to visit Taiwan – Norway – Finland – to see the waste disposal system  – to France to look at the modern technology – they are very much into reprocessing. We go to UK,- their regulatory framework is  as good as any in the world. We g to UAE to look at the regulatory framework that they have developed within a very short time period. We will also see people who are against nuclear power.

Female questioner: In view of what has been said today, what will happen to all our uranium if it isn’t used, in the future?
SCARCE: It comes down to the question – can we make a better opportunity with it?.  We want submissions, a smuch evidence as possible. It’s back to seking data – to form a view.

Female questioner:  I wonder if it should be all closed down (Roxby?). Should it be developed in some other way?.
SCARCE: The State government has made it clear – we are not examining current uranium mining. We’re charged with looking to the future – what can be done with uranium, with thorium.

Male questioner: South Korea has come up with  a special process of coal burning that produces almost no CO2.
SCARCE: We will be looking at that and at all the technologies for the future – the power sources of the future, not just nuclear. It makes sensethat if we contnue to use coal we need to collectively come to a decision on what to do about CO2 and the environment. I ma not saying that nuclear is the answer.

Male questioner: In China, every 8 days they start a new coal -fired generation plant, and they’re not stopping this until 2030.
SCARCE: They are also producing 20-30 new nuclear reactors.

Male questioner: How much pollution is there from China’s coal?
SCARCE: that’s a  good question. I am not answering that.

Male questioner: In your travels, will you look at Chernobyl and the devastation there?
SCARCE: Yes, we need to look at Chernobyl, and ask – what happened, and why it happened, and look at the consequences.

Male questioner: There are easier and cheaper ways to get power. Are yu having any more consultations at Coober Pedy?
SCARCE: We will come back with our findings. We have to serve all of South Australia.

Male questioner – suggest 7 pm is  a better time to start…
SCARCE:Ask any of our team . No more questions. Than kyou. It’s lunchtime. You can ask Wes, Greg,  any of our team, over lunch.

Australian Labor Party caving in to the nuclear lobby?

May 22, 2015

Re: Uranium policy in the Draft ALP Platform for National Conference 2015 http://beyondnuclearinitiative.com/uranium-policy-in-the-draft-alp-conference-platform/

The 2015 Australian Labor Party (ALP) National Conference will be held from July 24/26 in Melbourne. Ahead of Conference the federal ALP has circulated draft policy documents for consultation and comment.

The full draft policy document can be found here with comments accepted from the general public as well as ALP members until Friday 29 May.

Tweedle-NuclearThe draft uranium policy as presented poses both unreasonable reductions in transparency and unacceptable increases in risk.

The draft policy seeks to remove:

· health, safety and monitoring protections for workers

· public accountability and industry transparency mechanisms

· a long standing veto on the importation and storage of international nuclear waste

The draft policy proposes to facilitate:

· the importation, storage and disposal of international nuclear waste

· all aspects of the nuclear industry except domestic nuclear power (ie- uranium enrichment/fuel fabrication/reprocessing/waste conditioning)

Against the backdrop of the continuing Fukushima crisis, directly fuelled by Australian uranium, it is important that the ALP does not further erode an already deficient policy.

Key national and state environmental groups will be making submissions in response to the above points, but we encourage anyone concerned about this backwards policy step to also contribute via the online comment process.

A little effort from us now might help stop a big set back at the national conference in July.

Some suggested points to include in your submission are listed below- please feel free to adapt and expand on these.

If you would like further information or to discuss the draft policy and response please contact: Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation, d.sweeney [at] acfonline.org.au or Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative, beyondnuclearinitiative [at] gmail.com.


Platform Chapter Reference: CHAPTER 3: Building Australia’s Future

Subject of Submission:  Weakening of uranium and nuclear policy


I am greatly concerned that the 2015 ALP Policy Platform:

– Removes the references in the current (2011) platform to health, safety and monitoring protections for workers in the uranium industry and public scrutiny of the uranium sector.

– Opens the door to importation of high-level nuclear waste, overturning a long-held and widely supported position to oppose international waste storage/disposal.

This contradicts point 65 in Chapter 4: Building a Clean Energy Future (A cleaner Environment for Living) that states: Labor believes nations have a responsibility for the appropriate disposal of hazardous wastes generated within their boundaries. Labor is committed to fulfilling Australia’s obligations in the control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous waste.

– Considers the expansion of Australian involvement in the nuclear chain, including uranium enrichment, fuel fabrication for nuclear power reactors and reprocessing. These processes are prohibited in Australia by federal law and would also undermine efforts stated in Chapter 3 (points 151-153) calling for monitoring and control of materials used for nuclear proliferation.

I would like the 2015 ALP Policy Platform to:

-Reinstate the commitments from the 2011 platform that Labor will ensure the safety of workers in the uranium industry is given priority and support public accountability of the uranium sector.

– Maintain the current and long-standing opposition to importation of international nuclear waste under any circumstances

– Delete the final point in 154: Seek to fully understand the future role Australia can play in global nuclear safety and sustainability including taking back for storage and management materials generated from Australian exported uranium.

The 2015 Policy Platform is an opportunity to strengthen the case for moving away from high impact and hazardous industries like uranium mining toward a future that creates long term, sustainable and regional job opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

In the shadow of Fukushima the words of Labor stalwart Tom Uren continue to ring true: Uranium was always guilty until proven innocent, and no one yet has proved uranium innocent. At the 2015 National Conference it is important that nuclear protections for the community, workers, health and the environment are strengthened rather than reduced.

Federal parliament’s treaties committee scrutinising planned uranium sales to India

May 22, 2015

To its credit, parliament’s treaties committee seems to be taking the problems with the India agreement seriously. If the committee recommends the deal be revised or rejected the onus will be on the government to take the problems seriously.

No yellow cake for India http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=17350 y Dave Sweeney – Monday, 18 May 2015  Despite widespread controversy around planned uranium sales to India, including from the government’s own former Director General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, the
moves to Melbourne this week taking evidence from groups concerned about security, safety and environmental impacts. Independent security analysts and representatives of the Uniting Church will join national environment groups Friends of the Earth and the Australian Conservation Foundation to highlight concerns over the contested sales plan.

First some background. When Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed a uranium deal with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last September, he praised India’s “absolutely impeccable non-proliferation record”. This praise came despite the reality that India is actively expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal and its missile delivery capabilities.

Mr Abbott declined to answer serious questions about India’s nuclear weapons program or the inadequate safety standards in and inadequate regulation of its civil nuclear program.

The proposed India uranium agreement is currently being considered by federal parliament’s treaties committee, and it has yet to be ratified by parliament. Submissions to the treaties committee have raised many serious concerns − and not just from the usual suspects.

Those raising concerns and objections include John Carlson, former Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office; Ron Walker, former Chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors;Prof. Lawrence Scheinman, former Assistant Director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Princeton University physicist Dr M.V. Ramana; and nuclear arms control expert Crispin Rovere.

The uranium agreement with India weakens Australia’s nuclear safeguards standards, increases the chances of Australian uranium finding its way into Indian weapons and would lead to further undermining of nuclear checks and balances. If the uranium agreement is approved there will be sustained pressure for Australia to apply equally inadequate standards to other uranium customer countries. As John Carlson notes in his submission: “If the Government does compromise Australia’s safeguards conditions, inevitably this will lead to other agreement partners asking for similar treatment.”

Mr Carlson’s critique carries particular weight given that for over two decades he was the head of Australia’s nuclear safeguards office. In his submission he states “In all the circumstances, anything less than the full application of Australia’s established safeguards conditions should be unthinkable. … The proposed agreement represents a serious weakening of Australia’s established safeguards conditions. Weaknesses in this agreement, combined with loopholes in the IAEA agreement, mean Australian material could be used in support of India’s nuclear weapon program.”

Even if strict safeguards were in place, uranium sales to India would create intractable problems through uranium exports freeing up India’s domestic reserves for weapons production and by providing uranium to a country that is actively expanding its nuclear weapons capabilities.

Australian nuclear standards have been gradually eroded over the years and we now has uranium export agreements with all of the ‘declared’ nuclear weapons states – the US, U.K., China, France, Russia – even though none of them are complying with their obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue nuclear disarmament in good faith.

Australians take pride in our leadership role in the development of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the 1990s. Yet Australia sells uranium to countries that have not ratified the CTBT (the US and China) and the government now plans to sell uranium to India, which also refuses to ratify the treaty. The CTBT has no legal force because eight countries − including the three just mentioned − will not ratify it.

In these and many other ways, the safeguards standards established in the late 1970s are dying the death of a thousand cuts. And while the politicians and miners might have eyes only for the dollar signs, the Australian public in growing numbers clearly see the danger signs.

In many public polls conducted around the issue of uranium sales to India the majority of Australians are consistent in their opposition. A 2012 opinion poll found that 61% of Australians opposed uranium sales to India, nearly double the number in support (33%). A 2008 poll found that 88% agreed that Australia should only export uranium to countries that have signed the NPT.

Successive governments have dug Australia into a deep hole by systematically weakening nuclear safeguards standards. In the shadow of Fukushima, a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium, such indifference to the lived consequences of our uranium trade is profoundly irresponsible.

To its credit, parliament’s treaties committee seems to be taking the problems with the India agreement seriously. If the committee recommends the deal be revised or rejected the onus will be on the government to take the problems seriously.

Bjørn Lomborg’s Consensus Centre – the perfect delaying tactic by the Abbott government

May 18, 2015
Why the Abbott government wants Bjørn Lomborg’s Consensus Centre, The Saturday Paper , 16 May 15  MIKE SECCOMBE
Covert negotiations, whispered announcements and an awkward about-face reveal a political agenda behind reaching consensus.  Mazzarol, Winthrop professor in the business school of the University of Western Australia, is reciting the long list of hoops a proponent must jump through to gain approval for a research centre at the university.

“Normally they have to demonstrate they will contribute to research output of the university and the reputation of the university,” he says. “They must have at least six full-time equivalent academic staff engaged in research at the university, a viable plan for the growth of the centre, the capacity to be self-sustaining. They must have an academic and a business plan, a clear indication of the resources, facilities, funding, negotiated targets for research, training, publication volume, output quality and how that will all be measured.”

He continues, citing the criteria listed on the UWA website: “It must also have the approval of the academic council, normally has to have an interdisciplinary role, and to have demonstrated consultation with other parts of the faculty that might be involved.”

The list of requirements and processes is detailed, but Mazzarol’s point is simple. “This one didn’t go through any of those steps.”

He is referring to an entity proposed by Danish climate change contrarian Bjørn Lomborg, ironically named the Australia Consensus Centre (ACC), whose establishment was secretively negotiated over six months, quietly revealed six weeks ago, and then abandoned after an ugly collision between academe and politics.

In the wake of that crash, only two things are clear. One is that Lomborg, academic darling of the political right for his views on climate change, will not get his “consensus” centre at UWA. The other: Mazzarol’s critique of the way by which the university’s executive went about approving the centre is quite right. It was a travesty of normal process, as even the university’s senior management has acknowledged.

Much else, however, remains unsettled. The affair raises questions about how far cash-strapped universities should go in accepting funds from sources with agendas that go beyond the purely academic, about the potentially corrupting influence of politics, about the rigour of methods and about amorphous notions of academic reputation.

Above all is the question implicit in UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson’s rather embittered statement announcing his university’s abandonment of the project. He referred to the “duty” of tertiary institutions in “actively encouraging the exploration of new ideas, challenging established thinking and posing the difficult ‘what if’ questions”…….

The matter may not yet be over. Christopher Pyne reacted to the university’s change of mind by suggesting the government might take legal action for breach of contract. He also confidently declared that the centre would be established at an alternative location. The $4 million is still there, itemised in the budget, waiting to be spent…….

…….Lomborg’s agenda

Bjørn Lomborg is not a climate change denier. He accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that it is happening and that human activity is responsible. His argument is that there are other more pressing issues facing humanity. And this is what makes him useful to the political right.

Simple denialism is not politically tenable anymore. But Lomborg provides cover for those reluctant to take strong action to limit the emission of greenhouse gases, by suggesting we should work on other things first, and that stronger action on climate change might actually impede those other endeavours.

His method is to apply economic cost-benefit analysis to these various problems, to try to determine priorities. His results tend to give comfort to conservatives in general and climate change do-nothing-ists in particular.

By his formulation, for example, freer global trade returns a benefit of $2011 for every dollar spent, making it 45 times more worthwhile than reducing child malnutrition. Cutting people’s salt intake is deemed roughly 10 times as financially beneficial as spending more on health for the world’s 2.5 billion poorest people. It’s a sort of grand cost-benefit theory of everything.

So when Tony Abbott says coal is good for humanity, it is defensible on Lomborg numbers, which hold that bringing electricity to everyone in the world returns $5 for every dollar spent, while limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees returns a benefit of less than $1.

To say his methods are unorthodox and controversial is to be very understated indeed. Lomborg himself is neither a climate scientist nor an economist. His qualifications are in political science. Rather than rely on primary research, his theories are based on meta-analysis – that is, the harvesting of data produced by others, which is then weighted and modelled to determine relative values.

This has led to numerous complaints from other academics that their work has been either misinterpreted or misrepresented. The detail is too extensive and arcane to go into – suffice to say, books have been written and formal complaints made in his native Denmark and elsewhere.

His original Copenhagen Consensus Centre was funded by a conservative government, then defunded by a successor progressive government. After he set up in the United States, his critics complained that he took funds from right-wing climate change denialist organisations……https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2015/05/16/why-the-abbott-government-wants-bjorn-lomborgs-consenus-centre


The week that was, in nuclear and climate news

May 16, 2015


South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission. Australia’s top nuclear commentator Jim Green summarises the themes involved in the Commission.  Vague and confusing Issues Paper No 3 released – ELECTRICITY GENERATION FROM NUCLEAR FUELS. 

Nuclear wastes. Iron ore miner and Councillor in Western Australia apply to host  low level nuclear waste facility Community opposition to a national radioactive waste dump in Western Australia. Morawa Shire not happyabout Gindalbie Metals nuclear dump proposal, and no right to veto. Australia IS obligated to take back wastesoriginating from Lucas Heights nuclear reactor

American military buildup  in Australia

Politics. Greg Hunt, Australia’s Environment Minister makes moves towards removing the tax exempt status of donations to environment groups , with a Committee to inquire into and report on the Register of Environmental Organisations. Submissions addressing the Committee’s terms of reference are due by by 21 May 2015 

Aboriginal Land Councils distrust Northern Territory Government, reject it for running Indigenous outstation services. Uranium mining companies are selectively buying off Indigenous people

Australia’s uranium companies overseas. World Bank warns Malawi not to re-open Paladin Australia’s uneconomic uranium mine. In Greenland , environmental groups oppose Australian uranium/rare earths mining project.

Renewable energy. Labor and business groups say No to reviews of Renewable Energy Target. Queensland government pledges 50% renewable energy by 2030. Victoria wants its own renewable energy target, in light of Abbott govt’s anti climate policies.   Australia has the most affordable solar systems in the developed world.Electricity utility Origin launches solar energy leasing programme. We need a proper judicial investigation of wind farm danger claims.

Climate change. As CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology warn on extreme weather, Federal Budget ignores climate change. University of Western Australia praised for ditching Bjorn Lomborg Consensus Centre. Climate Council exposes Bjorn Lomborg’s climate fallacies. Sea level rise a serious consideration for Mid North Coast councils.


Nuclear Non Proliferation Talks continue, amidst accelerating weapons race.

Nuclear power industry. Paris Climate Talks will be the focus of the global nuclear lobby’s strategyNo new Generation IV Nuclear designs will be ready for build before 2050

Japan: Expert panel says 3 faults beneath Shika nuclear power plant may be active. Opponents of nuclear waste sitehold symposium to counter gov’t forum on same day. Taiwan is banning import of all foodstuffs from Japan. North East Japan rocked by M6.8 earthquake.

Fukushima10,000 lawsuits against TEPCO, operator of Fukushima nuclear power plant. High radiation doses in 991 Fukushima Daiichi workers.

Iran. Gulf leaders support nuclear deal with Iran.

France‘s nuclear safety worries as fires break out close to 3 nuclear power plants. AREVA’s nuclear options narrowin attempt to save the company

USA. Alarm in New York following explosion at Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Anti nuclear activists Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed still in prison with no sentence at all. Weapons proliferation and other risks inUSA’s marketing of nuclear technology to China. Elizabeth Warren makes a compelling case against the Trans-Pacific Partnership

UK. Safety limits relaxed at Sellafield nuclear facility.

Ukraine. Serious concerns over the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear waste storage.

Cyprus, Greek and Turkish groups unite to stop Turkish nuclear plant

Uranium. Things look crook for the uranium market – no respite in sight. Canadian review board knocks back Areva’s planned uranium mine as uneconomic.

Renewable energy. I can’t actually cope with keeping up on this. From now on – I’ll just put headlines  brief notes on my website.


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