Kevin Scarce sometimes scarce on nuclear reality, Online opinion, Noel Wauchope, 7 July 15
On June 29 Kevin Scarce, chief of South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission, was interviewed by Ian Henschke on ABC Radio 891 Adelaide. Scarce had just returned from a Royal Commission whirlwind tour of Taiwan, Japan, Europe and the UK. The interview can be heard here.
I was pretty amazed, not only at the speed at which the Commission examined the nuclear industry, at so many places, from 26 May 12 June 2015, and at the complicated facilities that they examined, but also at how much information was left out of Scarce’s report, and at the apparent inadequacy of their grasp of current developments in the nuclear industry.
First and most obvious were two questions, both which Kevin Scarce had emphasised at his pre-tour community forums in South Australia. Scarce had stressed that the Commission would be consulting people on both sides of the nuclear debate – those for the nuclear industry, and those against it. In the whole interview, in all the places and organisations that Scarce described – not one word about meeting anyone remotely anti-nuclear.
Secondly, at the pre-tour meetings, Scarce had repeatedly said that the Commission would be studying renewable energy as well as nuclear. In his talk with Ian Henschke, it was clear that the Commission had not visited any renewable energy organisations or facilities. Indeed, when the interviewer brought up the subject of renewable energy, Scarce glossed over it very quickly – pointing out that Germany was “a way away’ from their renewables goal, and saying “We are certainly looking at renewables”.
Their first visit was to Taiwan, as Scarce said “to talk to the Taiwanese about their spent reactor fuel and about how they were going to manage it.” Well, it’s not surprising that Scarce did not go on to explain how the Taiwanese are going to manage their spent nuclear fuel, because the Taiwanese themselves do not know what to do with it. They are probablyretiring one reactor early, due to its accumulating wastes, and are also trying to work out a plan to export their nuclear wastes, but facing opposition in their legislature to this plan.
Then on to Japan…….
Reporting on France, Scarce was fairly reticent, considering that they spent so much time talking to AREVA, the State owned nuclear company. But that’s understandable. The South Australian Nuclear Royal Commission arrived at AREVA on 4th June. On 3rd June, the French government announced the break-up of AREVA, due to its disastrous financial record, to prevent it from bankruptcy……..
Questioned about new Generation IV nuclear reactors, Scarce emphasised their safety features, and, to be fair to him, he did point out the “enormous uncertainty” about when they would be commercially available – “not much before 2040″. He was asked about thorium reactors, and again, admitted to not knowing much about them, and that “2040 might be optimistic for thorium reactors“. Scarce said that with these reactors, thorium, not uranium, is the source of power. That’s not actually correct, as uranium 233 is the power source in thorium reactors. They need plutonium or enriched uranium to trigger the transformation of the inert thorium, to the fissile uranium.
To give credit to Kevin Scarce, he did mention the fact that this process is not so clean, meaning that plutonium or enriched uranium are a radioactive problem issue. He said “so some of your benefit in terms of a clean fuel source isn’t there”.
Also, to be fair to Kevin Scarce, he did point out that thorium reactors have been tried in the past, in America, and closed down, and that he was doubtful about their future.
Henschke asked Scarce if he saw “state of the art” nuclear reactors. Yes, the Commission had been to both Olkiluoto and to Flamanville in France, and had seen the pressurised water reactors – the very ones that are now described as afinancial and safety fiasco. No wonder that Scarce did not elaborate on these visits……. http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=17489