The Nuclear Royal Commission’s main preoccupation will be Public Opinion

scrutiny-Royal-Commission-1Pro nuclear Submissions for the Draft Terms of Reference for South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission gives  an insight into the preoccupations of Australia’s nuclear lobby.

Dennis Matthews, of South Australia, took the trouble to analyse the themes raised in  pro nuclear submissions, and supply me with brief outlines.

The overwhelming concern of the nuclear lobby appears to be – the need to win over the public to supporting the nuclear industry – the necessity of “educating” the public.  (It struck me that their idea of education might be similar to British tobacco’s idea of informing the public of the benefits of cigarette smoking.)

The second most important topic was the benefits of “Generation IV nuclear technology”, particularly Small Modular Recators. (They don’t even exist yet – but never mind)

Way behind these two topics, were arguments for the nuclear industry on grounds of economics, politics, locations for reactors, waste disposal, need to change Australia’s laws, and fixing climate change.

A very few submissions dealt with (in this order) military advantages, radiation no real threat, energy demand, Australia’s international role, benefits to Aborigines, expertise, and medical uses.

Chart issues raised in TOR submissions 15

So I guess we can expect that the first onslaught of the pro nuclear campaign will be an allout publicity and “educational” effort – no doubt supported by a sycophantic media, and by educational institutions who know which side their bread is buttered.

ISSUES RAISED BY THE PRO-NUCLEAR SUBMISSIONS TO THE

DRAFT TERMS OF REFERENCE

SCARCE COMMISSION INTO EXPANDING THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY

(Total of 142 issues noted here. For my post above I left out 15 – ones that were not clearly pro nuclear – CM.) 

The issues are divided into two sections VESTED INTERESTS and OTHER.

A          VESTED INTERESTS (at least 18 submissions; not all vested interests were declared)

  1. Criteria need to be established to perform risk assessments in which the wider community can be confident.

 

  1. Whether the wider community is ready to accept nuclear and radioactive waste storage in SA.

 

  1. Is there any possibility of shifting community attitudes?

 

  1. Community engagement strategy will need to include media management and engagement with remote indigenous communities.

 

  1. ANSTO, CSIRO, the CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of Environment (Univ SA) may need to expand their research into nuclear waste transport and disposal, and the impacts on humans and the environment.

 

  1. How Australia deals with waste generated from the export of uranium.

 

  1. Broaden the national discussion about sources of clean energy.

 

  1. New generation of reactors which are more fuel efficient and

 

  1. Australia’s political leadership is bound to consider nuclear energy as one option to satisfy growing energy (electricity?) demand.

 

  1. Consider synergies between spent nuclear fuel storage and reprocessing.

 

  1. South Australia is looking to build upon its existing base of uranium mining and milling.

 

  1. Focus on reducing existing regulatory or other barriers.

 

  1. How advances in small modular reactor technology would reduce electricity network costs especially for remote mining.

 

  1. Should not revisit existing Federal policies in relation to nuclear materials for or from military uses.

 

  1. Replace “impact” with “costs and benefits”.

 

  1. Define “radioactive material” to avoid being distracted by enquiries into the thorium fuel cycle.

 

  1. Uranium is a by-product of copper production at Olympic Dam (whose expansion shouldn’t be included in ToR ?)

 

  1. Create a complete nuclear industry supply chain.

 

  1. Feasibility study into potential models for funding infrastructure including a 100% government, and a public-private partnership.

 

  1. ToR should include other fuel cycles as well as the classical low-enriched one.

 

  1. Multiple highly robust small modular reactor (SMR) designs of 50MW or lower which fitr the needs of Australia.

 

  1. There is a massive world market for SMRs to power remote townships and minesites.

 

  1. Some 30% of fuel going into civilian nuclear reactors over the last 15 years has been downblended U from decommissioned Russian and US nuclear weapons. You do not want to deny access to this waste.

 

  1. The cores of nuclear submarine reactors are small enough to go on the back of a ute.

 

  1. Consider turning the capabilities of SA carmaking and shipbuilding facilities to making small safe reactors for remote communities worldwide.

 

  1. Test the veracity of a witness, documents or other material. Ensure the witnesses, documents, and other material is tested for rigour, certification and qualification.

 

  1. Furture options for prospecting, mining, processing of Thorium and associated rare earths.

 

  1. Use CANDU reactor that can operate using unenriched uranium and spent fuel from conventional light reactors.

 

  1. Give close consideration to new generation, and safer reactor technologies currently under development, eg., liquid fluoride thorium reactor.

 

  1. Low levels of (ionising) radiation are beneficial (hormesis).

 

  1. The uranium industry sees the commission as acknowledgement of the positive performance of the industry in safely producing and transporting uranium oxide for peaceful use over many decades.

 

  1. The community has little concern for background (ionising?) radiation (often encouraged by media and activists) but sees similar levels of (ionising) radiation from the nuclear industry as very dangerous.

 

  1. Unless the community can be clearly informed about the real effects of low-dose radiation and have their fears allayed, any subsequent commendations by the commission are vulnerable to attack byfear mongers.

 

  1. There are well developed designs of reactors which may have better applicability to Australia such as small modular reactors and breeder reactors that can be fuelled by U-238 from spent fuel.

 

  1. If its OK to use the products of a nuclear reactor in the form of Cesium-137 and other radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine including the treatment of cancer then it is acceptable to use nuclear reactors to produce carbon-free

 

  1. Radium Hill for storing reprocessed reactor rods.

 

  1. Commission to report on the extent to which lack of knowledge influences attitudes to nuclear power and storage of nuclear waste.

 

  1. A nuclear waste facility open to other countries would reduce climate change by encouraging foreign nuclear power plants instead of coal fired plants.

 

  1. Generation IV reactors which can run on used fuel rods threaten the viability of uranium mining in SA.

 

  1. Australia can do little about nuclear weapons except avoid them.

 

  1. The Chernobyl disaster was due to poor reactor design and management. That was a mistake which is most unlikely to be repeated.

 

  1. Nuclear waste starts off dangerous but becomes less dangerous over time.

 

  1. Absence of a solution to the nuclear waste problem has not stopped its production.

 

  1. The clear winner in the contest to host a nuclear waste repository is Australia.

 

  1. Mechanisms for expansion of exploration, extraction or milling are already in place through legislation.

 

  1. Consider the intellectual, institutional and legal capabilities for any future nuclear energy roles.

 

  1. Identify key community concerns and ensure that a balanced, open and scientific discussion can occur.

 

  1. Nuclear reactor in region between Roxby Downs and the Spencer Gulf.

 

  1. The potential to generate large quantities of cheap, green power from a fuel source readily available from a nearby existing mining operation.

 

  1. Storage of nuclear waste both domestic and foreign in excavation voids underground at the Olympic Dam mine would provide a cheap stable storage solution.

 

  1. Take advantage of the existing uranium extraction operations to co-locate enrichment and fabrication

 

  1. Incorporate lessons learnt from international nuclear programs including effective funding models and how to engage effectively with social and environmental groups.

 

  1. Effectively inform public opinion to allow fact based public debate that is not misdirected by emotive arguments.

 

  1. Provide clarity of key barriers and enablers.

 

  1. Potential economic and social flow-on and implications to broader state development.

 

  1. There is a growing demand and market for nuclear power.

 

  1. Pre-enrichment (conversion?) allows retention of depleted uranium which is not waste but the future of nuclear power.

 

  1. U-238 can be used to breed Pu-239 for millennia of nuclear power.

 

  1. It is ethically and scientifically inappropriate that we should not be facilitating nuclear power in other countries.

 

  1. Debunking the myths perpetuated around nuclear power is important.

 

  1. Leading international participation in radioactive (nuclear) waste management would make a significant contribution to expanding Australia’s global influence.

 

  1. There would be an opportunity for income generated from a nuclear waste facility to support the community development of Aboriginal People in education and health as well as offering significant employment

 

  1. The nuclear industry has been less than successful in communicating effectively with the broader population.

 

  1. Trust in the communication process seems to be more important than specific information on technical matters.

 

  1. A recommendation for further involvement in the nuclear cycle could founder as a result of an ill-informed public response.

 

  1. Further Australian involvement in the nuclear industry has been held back by uncertainty, duplication and confusion about regulatory responsibilities between the Commonwealth, the States and the Territories.

 

  1. Establish a national regulator to regulate nuclear fuel activities.

 

 

 

B          OTHER (Up to  24 submissions)

  1. The topic is often ignored because of perceived political difficulties.

 

  1. The economics of generation mean that nuclear power may or may not become feasible for Australia.

 

  1. Response to climate change should be considered as a suite of options that can be deployed to mitigate the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

 

  1. Mining uranium has made a positive economic contribution to South Australia and an environmental contribution to the world.

 

  1. The debate should be a purely economic argument.

 

  1. The debate should not be based on emotions.

 

  1. Arguments relating to previous nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima are completely defunct. It is an argument based on ideology not good reason, science or understanding.

 

  1. Public investment in a nuclear reactor may turn out to be a white elephant due to the cost of construction, maintenance and decommissioning.

 

  1. Thorium has significant advantages over conventional nuclear fuels:

Fail-safe reactor operation

Resistance to weapons proliferation

Less radioactive waste

Higher fuel utilisation

Consumes nuclear waste

Australia has high reserves

 

  1. Work towards allaying public concerns relating to waste transport.

 

  1. Define “radioactive material” to avoid being distracted by enquiries into the thorium fuel cycle.

 

  1. Uranium is a by-product of copper production at Olympic Dam (whose expansion shouldn’t be included in ToR ?)

 

  1. The cost of nuclear power is forbidding and the financing even more difficult. Governments should take control or assume responsibility by being a guaranteed purchaser of supply.

 

  1. Energy (electricity?) policy choices should keep open the widest set of options.

 

  1. Renewable sources face significant barriers of financing and scaling-up.

 

  1. Nuclear energy (electricity) can provide a major source of energy (electricity) at competitive costs and with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

 

  1. China and Korea can drive down the cost.

 

  1. Without fossil or nuclear power it is hard to see how we can make the transition to renewable energy whilst maintaining secure and reliable energy (electricity?) at affordable prices.

 

  1. We need to have an adult conversation about our energy (electricity?) needs in a time of climate change.

 

  1. Energy (electricity?) demand is growing because of economic and population growth.

 

  1. Government projections based on economic and technology modelling cannot be used as forecasts. Only technologies understood today can be effectively modelled.

 

  1. Those with the best data or the loudest voices tend to have a vested interest in presenting such data in a particular way.

 

  1. Existing policy positions such as “no nuclear” act as a constraint on government modelling.

 

  1. The world is embarking on a period of substantial growth in nuclear power, driven mainly by China, Russia and South Korea.

 

  1. Thorium based nuclear energy:

Thorium is common and easily found.

Meltdown cannot occur

All the thorium is consumed

The waste is a very short lived isotope of uranium.

The cost of thorium per unit of energy is 1/30,000 that of coal.

The technology was developed many years ago.

Reactors can be made relatively small.

The health risks are small compared to conventional nuclear and coal.

 

  1. Consider the non-energy applications of nuclear technology in medicine, agriculture and industry.

 

  1. Acknowledge the international implications.

 

  1. 1500-2000MW nuclear power station for Port Augusta. Waste heat for desalination.

 

  1. Uranium enrichment for Port Pirie.

 

  1. Treatment plant for imported spent fuel at Port Pirie. With residue stored underground at Olympic Dam mine site.

 

  1. Technical support for nuclear powered SA built ships and submarines.

 

  1. Integrated nuclear fuel leasing with cradle-to-grave open nuclear fuel cycle.

 

  1. Contribution to global Non-Proliferation Treaty enforcement.

 

  1. Include item in ToR about (ionising?) radiation, cancer and risks.

 

  1. Chernobyl caused far less cancers than BBQ’s.

 

  1. Nuclear energy the only energy source that has a chance of tackling climate change.

 

  1. Nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima all had major flaws in the planning and maintenance.

 

  1. Current reactor designs under investigation in India and China are able to process waste into fuel.

 

  1. Liquid fuelled (thorium?) reactors produce magnitudes less waste than solid fuelled reactors. The waste has a half-life of around 300 years compared with thousands of years for existing waste, and the waste is highly valuable for targeted chemotherapy and thermal nuclear rockets.

 

  1. Solar and wind technologies have high material costs. Wind turbines use huge amounts of neodymium, a rare earth mineral (element). Solar cells require excesses of silver.

 

  1. Use a military consignment to ship waste from other countries to Darwin.

 

  1. Manufacture and management of nuclear fuel for the powering of the future Australian nuclear submarine

 

  1. The nuclear industry has been held back by a general misunderstanding of nuclear power and the barrage of anti-nuclear propaganda that has underpinned this misunderstanding.

 

  1. Require assessment of potential and feasibilities to be carried out on the basis of recognised factual/scientifically peer-reviewed information.

 

  1. Where the likely impact of public opinion is included in the conclusions, that should be clearly indicated and its relative weighting defined.

 

  1. Major breeder reactor on our coast.

 

  1. The Greens (no nukes at any cost – even if we freeze in the dark) cannot be allowed to prevent the development.

 

  1. Safety is scarcely an issue for low and intermediate waste. After 40 years the (ionising) radiation becomes negligible.

 

  1. Renewable energy technology is not applicable.

 

  1. The area around Arcoona station (40km north of Woomera) is probably of no genuine interest to any aborigines.

 

  1. A suitable unloading port for nuclear waste may be the one planned for Spencer Gulf export of Centrex Metals iron ore.

 

 

25th April 2015

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