Nuclear Royal Commission South Australia – secretive, confused, incompetent?

March 26, 2015

incompetenceWe wait to find out just who are to be the experts on South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission, (and what their agendas might be). We already know that the Terms of Reference exclude important issues, – so that the whole thing is likely to end up as just an eminently forgettable PR exercise for the nuclear lobby.

The Royal Commission received well over 1000 Submissions on its Terms of Reference. But now it seems that all have been removed from its website.

Could this be because the submissions were so overwhelmingly critical of the proposed Terms of Reference, that the nuclear lobby is embarrassed?

The nuclear submarine lobby and it’s chairman’s conflict of interest

March 26, 2015

Nuclear submarine option pushed by industry Financial Review  by John Kerin, 24 Mar 15,  Australia’s peak defence industry group has urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reconsider buying or leasing a nuclear submarine fleet to replace the ageing Collins class, saying the absence of a supporting domestic nuclear power industry no longer presents a hurdle.

Australian Industry Group Defence Council chairman Chris Jenkins, who is also the Australian chief of French industry giant Thales, said today’s submarine nuclear power plants were so efficient and required so little maintenance that an onshore nuclear power industry was hardly a requirement.


He said nuclear submarine powerplant technology was constantly improving and you would need a trained workforce but not necessarily a power industry to support it.

The defence council is the peak body representing the’s $8 billion 24,000 strong defence sector. “That’s been said [you need a nuclear power industry] but I think nuclear energy these days is much more modularised than people think….like anything else [the submarine] powerplant is manageable,” Mr Jenkins said.

“The idea of a nuclear industry as a fundamental necessity, I am not convinced, but I did think it was quite a good thing that there was a call for a really deep review from South Australia in to nuclear energy,” Mr Jenkins said.

Mr Jenkins was referring to a royal commission called by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill into the development of nuclear power.

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews will deliver the opening address at a major two-day summit on Australia’s Future Submarine, where experts are expected to fiercely debate the competitive evaluation process given ongoing concerns over the future of Adelaide based ASC and jobs in Adelaide……..

the French firm DCNS has offered a diesel powered version of its 5000 tonne Barracuda submarine.The nuclear version of the Barracuda will be in service with the French Navy from 2017.

 Prime Minister Tony Abbott commissioned advice from his own department last year on nuclear submarine options including the 8000 tonne US Virginia class but the government continues to rule out the option.

But its understood DCNS could offer the nuclear version of the Barracuda from around 2030 if Canberra wished to go down that route……..

Mr Jenkins said. “Given the concern over jobs, South Australia should be as keen to know the answer as anyone because itwould undoubtedly be the centre of Australia’s nuclear industry,” he said.

Ten things to worry about concerning South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission

March 26, 2015

scrutiny-Royal-CommissionRadioactive Waste Management in Australia: The federal government’s revised search for a national facility ACF briefing paper: March 2015 Continuing issues and concerns:  “……·      The Government seems determined to establish a site before the next federal election, which is expected in the second half of 2016. There is no apparent plan in place if a suitable site cannot be found according to the assessment criteria in the proposed timeframe. There are no social or technical reasons to rush a decision that demands the highest quality decision-making, as the facilities currently storing the majority of Australia’s nuclear waste are secure and can provide adequate storage for many years.

  • Despite a wide range of civil society organisations calling for an independent Inquiry into the full range of nuclear waste management options, including decentralised storage, the Government appears set on a centralised co-located facility without an objective assessment of other management options.
  • The revised process allows for nominations of land from any State or Territory. South Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory all have legislation in place prohibiting the storage or disposal of externally produced nuclear waste on their land. The National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012, (section 19) provides the federal government with the power to override these laws. Such a scenario undermines the commitment to ‘volunteerism’, as the democratic rights of the affected electorate would be violated. The federal government has stated that if ‘a freehold landowner put forward a site to become a nuclear waste dump, states or territories would not have veto powers, but the Government did not want to impose its decision without consultation’.
  • The Government has asked all nominators to give consent to public disclosure of the nomination and currently states that it will make nominations public. Ongoing monitoring during the nomination period is required to ensure this occurs and to inform our understanding of community attitudes in nominated regions.
  • The Government has stated its intention to engage with the regional communities in which short-listed sites are located, but does not declare consent by the community to be a condition for final site selection. Furthermore, an Independent Advisory Panel has been established whose objective is partly to develop a site identification methodology that best reflects stakeholder and community values. However, a truly inclusive approach should go beyond the identification stage and include actual consent to the siting. So far, the Department of Industry has only expressed that it may seek evidence of community support.
  • ‘A package of benefits may also be negotiated with the community of the selected site in recognition of the potential development, construction and operational impacts of the facility.’ No details have so far been given on the potential amount and duration of benefits, and this remains a point to observe and brief targeted communities on.
  • Further clarity is also needed in relation to the proposed National Repository Capital Contribution Fund – a fund of at least $10 million, which is a provision of the Act to enhance public services and/ or infrastructure in the State or Territory hosting the selected site. It remains unclear who makes decisions referring to this allocation and on what basis.
  • According to the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012, section 9 (3) the Minister does not have a duty to consider a nomination. This leaves potential for the un-justified preference of some nominations over others and requires monitoring.
  • It is currently uncertain what the position of the Government is on the potential withdrawal of nominations. This, however, seems to be an essential factor to consider in relation to ‘volunteerism’ and the decision making of interested landowners.
  • Compensation for the acquisition of the declared site is open to negotiations but supposed to be guided by a Land Value Calculation and a premium of 3 times the established market price. For 100 hectares of land in remote Australia, this does not equate to a large financial incentive for the landowner. Furthermore, ‘the Commonwealth reserves its right to determine, at its sole discretion, any offer it makes for the acquisition of property’, potentially making the compensation issue less transparent.
  • The actual declaration of a nominated site as the chosen one for a facility gives the Minister the right to acquire adjacent or related land required to access the declared site and may therefore affect the rights of community members, again a potential interference with the concept of ‘volunteerism’ and an issue to alert affected communities to…..

Important issues carefully left out of South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission

March 26, 2015

scrutiny-Royal-CommissionRadioactive Waste Management in Australia: The federal government’s revised search for a national facility ACF Briefing paper compiled by Anica Niepraschk, March 2015

“…………Related issues/ wider impact

As the current process focuses on the selection of a site, it leaves some issues untouched that are of high importance when establishing a National Radioactive Waste Facility:

  •  The safety of workers at the facility as well as in the wider nuclear waste industry (such as in the transport and securing of waste) needs to be ensured.
  • Not only the community in near proximity of the site will be affected but also the communities along the transport routes between the facilities producing or currently storing nuclear waste and the newly established facility. A clear plan on how to engage with these communities and ensure their safety should be developed. At the current stage, there is no indication any such engagement will take place and once again, resistance among the transport routes can indirectly interfere with the proposed concept of ‘volunteerism’.
  • Communities are organic mechanisms and so are characterised by change. Engaging with the affected community at the selected site only during the selection process does not live up to the requirements of such a high-safety issue. Continuous engagement, including consultations and sensitisations as well as transparent access to information, is required beyond the selection process, encompassing the establishment and day-to-day operations of the facility for its whole lifespan.

 For questions, comments or additional information please contact:

Dave Sweeney – Nuclear Free Campaigner, ACF:

Anica Niepraschk – Nuclear Free Campaign Intern, ACF:

Natalie Wasley – Beyond Nuclear Initiative (BNI):

Solar farm in Victoria – independent of any tax-payer funding

March 26, 2015

what makes the Mildura plant so special is that it was built without a cent of government grants being tipped in.

helps illustrate how solar’s smaller, highly modular scale and fast construction time could allow it to play a far greater role in ensuring the target for the large-scale RET is met

Belectric have a developed a standardised 3MW solar power installation system they call the 3.0 MegaWattBlock (pictured below) which they roll-out across the globe.


Australia’s biggest solar farm powers-up but solar’s potential shines elsewhere, Business Spectator, TRISTAN EDIS  23 MAR 

Australia’s largest ever solar power plant, AGL’s 102 megawatt Nyngan – has begun feeding power into the grid. But there’s a far more interesting solar power plant no one is talking about in Mildura.

The Nyngan plant in Western NSW now has its first 25MW of capacity, involving 350,000 solar modules made by First Solar, generating power that is exporting power to the grid. Further generation will progressively be brought online over the next three months as the remaining three sections of the plant are individually commissioned.

It’s unambiguously good news, yet I’m far more excited about the solar power plant in Mildura even though it’s substantially smaller – 3MW of capacity versus Nyngan’s 102MW. In fact it’s quite astounding that the completion of the Mildura plant has received no press whatsoever, because when it started feeding power to the grid in April last year it was the second largest operational solar power plant in the country at the time, and remains comfortably the largest in Victoria.

Of course 3MW is nothing special; in the overall scheme of things it’s actually tiny. Over the last few years we’ve averaged over 800MW of solar installations per annum (mainly household installations of 5 kilowatts or smaller). Indeed the average coal power station is typically 200 times the size of the 3MW plant in Mildura.

But what makes the Mildura plant so special is that it was built without a cent of government grants being tipped in. Meanwhile AGL will receive $166.7 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and a further  $64.9 million from the NSW Government to build Nyngan and its associated 53MW plant in Broken Hill. In addition, other large-scale solar plants like FRV’s 56MW plant in Moree, the 10MW plant in Carnarvon and the 6.7MW Rio Tinto plant in Weipa are all recipients of significant government grants covering around half the capital cost. Other solar projects in the ACT benefit from government feed-in tariffs which pay a significant premium over the market price of the electricity and renewable energy certificates the projects create.

Yet the Mildura solar farm will operate based solely on the revenue it earns from the large-scale Renewable Energy Target and the electricity it produces, via a long-term power purchase agreement with Diamond Energy – an upstart power retailer focussed on renewable energy.

In this respect the Mildura project provides a vastly more convincing case that solar PV could be a significant player in not just competing at the retail level on rooftops, but also the wholesale electricity market. The project also helps illustrate how solar’s smaller, highly modular scale and fast construction time could allow it to play a far greater role in ensuring the target for the large-scale RET is met than many currently expect…..

Essentially, they [The Germany company that built the project – Belectric –] approach it as a simple electrical installation rather than a large customised construction project. Belectric have a developed a standardised 3MW solar power installation system they call the 3.0 MegaWattBlock (pictured above) which they roll-out across the globe.

By keeping projects at a moderate size and employing simple, standardised equipment and framing, the project becomes a cookie-cutter exercise – not unlike like a household solar installation – just repeated over and over again. This enables them to employ local, small electrical contractors, keeping competition high and pricing sharp, avoiding the union-dominated, high-cost labour typically involved in large-scale construction projects in Australia. It also means they’ve become very quick at rolling these projects out because they’ve done them several times before. It’s utility scale power as mass production rather than one-off construction project……..

Australians please note. Small Nuclear Reactors coast more than large ones do

March 22, 2015
. Small Reactors and the UK’s Long-Term Nuclear Strategy. nuClear News, March 2015  “……..A recent House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee investigation into small reactors looked at SMRs but also PRISM reactors – 311MW sodium-cooled fast reactors being promoted as a way of using up the plutonium stockpile at Sellafield – and reactors fuelled by thorium rather than uranium. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) SMR proponents suggest that mass production of modular reactors could reduce costs, but others agree that SMRs are likely to have higher costs per unit of output than conventional reactors. (5) Even if SMRs could eventually be more cost-effective than larger reactors due to mass production, this advantage would only come into play if large numbers of SMRs were ordered. But utilities are unlikely to order an SMR until they are seen to produce competitively priced electricity. This Catch-22 suggests the technology will require significant government financial help to get off the ground.
The Washington-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) says mass production could create new reliability vulnerabilities – if one reactor is discovered to have a fault, all other reactors manufactured in the same facility are likely to have the same fault, so all would have to be taken off-line at the same time. Millions of cars, presumably made to high quality control standards, for instance, are routinely recalled. Additionally IEER has serious concerns in relation to both safety and proliferation. (6) By spreading SMRs around the globe we will increase the proliferation risk because safeguarding spent fuel from numerous small reactors would be a much more complex task than safeguarding fewer large reactors. (7)…….
None of the designs, including the most credible, which are based on scaled-down versions of currently deployed PWR technology, is yet ready. NNL speaks of ‘detailed technical challenges’ not yet resolved. It is therefore no surprise that no-one has yet built a single SMR let alone made a commitment to building the large numbers that would be needed to make the economic case remotely credible. And the safety licensing process that will need to follow design completion would, according to the Chief UK nuclear inspector, take up to 6 years in the UK.
The cost of SMRs is essentially unknowable at the moment, but there is evidence to suggest they will be even more expensive than existing reactors…..

Australians please note. Small Nuclear reactors still result in radioactive wastes

March 22, 2015
1. Small Reactors and the UK’s Long-Term Nuclear Strategy. nuClear News, March 2015 “……Waste Implications The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has looked at the waste implications of a 75GW programme [ i.e Small Modular Reactor or PRISM] which would be equivalent to a programme of over 50 new large-scale reactors.
It said that since the Government has, so far, been mainly talking about the waste inventory from only a 16GW nuclear new build programme, it should consider defining a maximum size for a deep geological facility (GDF) and make clear that we might need multiple GDFs. (15)
The Environment Agency (EA) has already set a limit on the risk that may be caused by the burial of radioactive wastes of 10-6 (i.e. one in a million). (16) Figures from the NDA Disposability Assessment Report for waste arising from new EPR reactors (17) suggest that a programme equivalent to 50 large reactors would require around four GDFs.1
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has built up a momentum for SMRs by throwing hundreds of millions of dollars in cost-shared funding to jump-start the industry…..
first someone needs to build a massive supply chain. Money for that would presumably come from customer orders – if there were any. The problem is it appears that no one actually wants to buy one
So what are prospects for small reactors, both in the UK and globally? Former CoRWM Chair, Professor Gordon Mackerron says no SMR (properly defined) has yet been commercialised anywhere in the world, and work on them has been waning because the developers cannot find a market. This is unsurprising as their cost per unit of output is higher than the already expensive conventional, larger reactors, unless hundreds can be sold to give manufacturing economies……

Roundup of the week’s nuclear news -Australia and International

March 20, 2015


South Australia Royal Commission into nuclear industry expansion. Governor Hieu Van Le has signed off to mark the official start of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission. Note the word “cycle”.  That word already implies a circular process, which is indeed the intention of the nuclear lobby. Their story is that nuclear waste will be transformed into fuel for fleets of new (untested) Small Modular Nuclear Reactors. Waste problem solved!

But no. The promised geewhiz little reactors that Australia is supposed to buy en masse, DO themselves produce highly toxic wastes, and will themselves eventually become radioactive corpses requiring burial.

So -rather than a nuclear fuel cycle, Premier Weatherill’s plan would mean  a nuclear fuel chain – around our necks!

So far just one Commissioner appointed – the pro nuclear Kevin Scarce. The Term of Reference do not include examining the uranium industry, nor South Australia’s global nuclear role, nor the connection with nuclear weapons. Already it is implied that the proposed nuclear waste dump will be on Aboriginal land.

South Australian voters reject expansion of nuclear industry

A number of articles on these issues are on my website– under the categories “South Australia” and “politics” (Also note below:  USA Nuclear lobby looking for tax-payer funded guinea pigs to test their new gimmicks )

National. Nuclear waste that originated in Lucas Heights is due to return to Australia soon. Why don’t people realise the distinction between the relatively small amounts of nuclear waste (originating at Lucas Heights) that Australia is contracted to take back, and the greedy dream of some to import nuclear wastes from other countries?

On  a positive note – The Senate voted “Yes” to Greens  Senator Lee Rhiannon’s motion, backing a local Councils’ a solar powered initiative in western New South Wales. On a negative note, Family First Senator Bob Day  won enough Senate support to formally welcome the nuclear commission, with his motion passing 34 to 33. I think that he’s carrying his religious fervour for the nuclear family too far!

Queensland . French nuclear giant AREVa (itself in financial trouble)  has permanently abandoned its plans to mine uranium in Queensland- due to the new government’s policy and to the ever slumping uranium market. New Labor govt says no to uranium mining.  

In New South Wales, only one company has taken up the government’s invitation to get an exploring license.New South Wales’s Labor would turn Hunter Valley into a renewable energy hub

Australian Capital Territory rejects hosting radioactive waste dump

Media. Vanuatu cyclone disaster. Australian media seems to have decided that it’s not nice manners to mention climate change having any connection.

Renewable Energy Target impasse continues. That’s the way the Abbott govt likes it – slowly killing investment for future development. Greens Senator Larissa Waters strongly advocates for keeping the RET


Iran nuclear talks reaching deadline.  White House urges US Congress not to sabotage Iran nuclear negotiations

Asian and Pacific Green Parties unite in aim for nuclear free region

Anti nuclear protest: 45,000 people march in Taiwan. Anti nuclear rallies in over 200 German towns

Climate. IAE finds that renewable energy and efficiency are significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Japan. Govt aims to end nuclear power ban – but legal obstacles remain. Five old nuclear reactors to bite the dust.  Japanese public to bear the costs of scrapping them.   As Japan has no solution to nuclear wastes, closing reactors should start the end of nuclear industry. “Nuclear village” , like USA’s “military industrial complex” allows TEPCO to go unscathed. Another major leak of radioactive water at Fukushima nuclear facility. Fukushima’s bags ofradioactive trash pile up

Europe. Legal case developing against EU’s approval of State subsidies for Hinkley nuclear plant. Renewable Energy Target to be raised in Norway and Sweden

USA. Revolving door for job between US Department of Energy and nuclear corporation. Nuclear lobby looking for tax-payer funded guinea pigs to test their new gimmicks.    100% renewable energy for Hawaii by 2040/

Canada. Nuclear reactors are not needed for medical isotopes

UK. In just one year, Sellafield nuclear clean-up bill jumps an extra £5bn

France.  Nuclear company AREVA – too big to fail?

South Korea blames North Korea for nuclear power cyber attack

The nuclear lobby sets out its agenda for South Australia

March 20, 2015

What does the nuclear lobby want, for South Australia?, Online Opinion, 

By Noel Wauchope    19 March 2015 “….It is difficult to work out exactly what is planned in nuclear industry expansion for South Australia. The plans involve some or all of these industries: uranium enrichment, nuclear power, importation and storage of nuclear wastes, 4th Generation nuclear reactors, and expansion of uranium mining.
However, we can be grateful to ABC Radio’s Ockham’s Razor programme, as it provided the nuclear lobby with a platform for setting out succinctly their intentions. Oscar Archer, a well -known voice for the nuclear industry, explains……
Australia should get a fleet of PRISM small nuclear reprocessing reactors – Archer’s plan is for  “IFS+IFR: Intermediate Fuel Storage and Integral Fast Reactor, namely the commercially offered PRISM breeder reactor from General Electric Hitachi.”What he means here is the Power Reactor Innovative Small Module

Archer then sets out the sequence of events that would lead to the establishment of this fleet. In Archer’s words “it goes like this. Australia establishes the world’s first multinational repository for used fuel – what’s often called nuclear waste”

However, he notes that “This is established on the ironclad commitment [my emphasis] to develop a fleet of integral fast reactors to demonstrate the recycling of the used nuclear fuel”……

the sting in the tale of his plan is really exactly what he calls the first step – the overturning or weakening of Federal and State laws. The Federal Act protects against nuclear reprocessing and expanded nuclear industries. ARPANSA sets safety standards for exposure to ionising radiation. South Australian State Law would have to be overturned, too – under the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000
These laws are not frivolous products of tree huggers – and are there for sound health and environmental reasons.

The central premise of Oscar Archer’s promotion of this nuclear chain of events is that Australia should go out on a limb – be the first country in the world to import nuclear wastes and to order a mass purchase of PRISM reactors…..

The PRISM reactor exists only on paper and its development is decades away from completion. David Biello, in Scientific American comments “Ultimately, however, the core problem may be that such new reactors don’t eliminate the nuclear waste that has piled up so much as transmute it. Even with a fleet of such fast reactors, nations would nonetheless require an ultimate home for radioactive waste, one reason that a 2010 M.I.T. report on spent nuclear fuel dismissed such fast reactors.”


The PRISM can’t melt down in the way that conventional nuclear reactors can. However, its essential use of plutonium entails hazardous transport – vulnerability to terrorism and use as a “dirty” bomb. And – finally the PRISM reactor itself becomes radioactive waste requiring security and burial.

There is another, underlying premise here that needs to be examined. This is the premise that it is OK for Australia and the world to continue to consume energy endlessly…….


The plan purports to reduce greenhouse emissions by means of thousands of little reactors, (and big ones) – but their development is so many decades away that it would be too late for climate change action.

We are left with a plan that looks suspiciously as if the troubled nuclear industries of USA, Canada and UK have selected Australia as the guinea pig for a plan to reverse their industries’ present decline.

corruptionIt is a worry that the South Australian Government is looking to Canada to take part in the Royal Commission. If ever there were a troubled nuclear industry, it is in Canada. The World Bank’s Corrupt Companies Blacklist is Dominated By Canada, because of one company, SNC Lavalin, – exporter of small nuclear reactors………

South Australia’s Royal Commission is, from the very start, pro uranium, so pro nuclear

March 20, 2015

Nuclear Royal Commission will ignore the elephant in the room 20 Mar 15, The biggest hole in the nuclear Royal Commission isn’t the proposed open cut pit at Olympic Dam, but rather the omission of any consideration as to whether South Australia should be LESS involved in the nuclear industry, rather than MORE involved, according to Greens SA State Parliamentary Leader, Mark Parnell MLC.

“Despite the Premier’s assurance that he has an “open mind”, the most fundamental question of SA’s role in the global nuclear industry won’t be considered at all.  The Royal Commission is only charged with considering NEW ADDITIONAL involvement or expanding our existing involvement; it won’t be looking at whether SA should extract itself entirely from the nuclear cycle.” said Mark Parnell.

“If you don’t ask all the questions, you won’t get all the answers.

“Clearly, there are many South Australians who are opposed to South Australia’s involvement in the nuclear cycle.  With our natural advantages and nation-leading performance in wind and solar, South Australians see that the future is to embrace clean renewable energy, rather than flirting with dangerous, dirty and expensive nuclear power.  Becoming the nation’s or world’s nuclear waste dump is not most people’s vision for our State’s future or the legacy that we want to leave our children.”


Now that the Royal Commission is underway, the next critical decisions will be around the selection of key staff including “Counsel assisting the Royal Commission” and any technical or other research staff.

“Choosing people who are partisan or have vested interests will be seen by the public as evidence of a biased process and the credibility of any findings will be diminished.”

The Royal Commission also needs to announce how it intends to conduct its inquiry, including opportunities for personal submissions, public hearings, site visits and how all South Australians can engage with the process.

“The Greens will engage with the process, but we won’t hesitate to publicly criticise the Royal Commission if it becomes secretive, biased or otherwise limits the ability of South Australians to have their say on their State’s future.” said Mr Parnell.


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