Archive for the ‘TOPICS’ Category

Government study found Kimba and Flinders Range areas to be unsuitable for nuclear waste dump

October 12, 2019

Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste Dump In Flinders Ranges https://www.facebook.com/groups/941313402573199/ 11 Oct 19

A 2005 feasibility study by URS Australia for the SA government found both Flinders Ranges and Kimba unsuitable for Radioactive Nuclear Waste Dump. Anyone told Canavan and Marshall?

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Lyn Allen and Richard Ledger make a fine nuclear submission for the public good

September 28, 2019

Allen, Lyn and  Ledgar, Richard Submission No 30

to the FEDERAL. Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia…  Extracts “…..there are overwhelming economic, environmental and social reasons why nuclear energy is not an appropriate contributor to Australia’s energy mix.

If Australia is going to move to a sustainable future then we need to concentrate on producing energy from renewable resources. Uranium is not a renewable resource and even more so than coal, uranium mining produces waste that remains toxic for thousands of years.

Additionally, while nuclear power generation does not produce greenhouse gases, greenhouse gases are produced at every step in the process from mining to refinement and building nuclear power generation facilities. Like uranium mines, nuclear power stations expose the community and the environment in which they are built to significant risks ……

The future of Australia’s energy generation should to take advantage of our abundant natural resources such as sun, wind, tidal potential. Nuclear power station are massively expensive to build and take years to complete, whereas wind and solar generators and new storage technology (such as the batteries installed in South Australia) can be developed quickly and relatively inexpensively …

water. Generating nuclear power needs large quantities of water. Given Australia’s climatic conditions, the shortage of water in many of our major river systems,

Many countries around the world that currently use nuclear power are already starting to phase it out in favour of wind and solar generation. Australia can get in front of the energy production business by putting our skills, and efforts into an alternative energy grid that suits our climate, is safe for future generation and takes advantage of ‘free’ sources of energ

To Australia’s Federal Nuclear Inquiry – a Submission for the Public Good

September 24, 2019

Recommendation. There is no need to change Australia’s laws prohibiting nuclear activities. They were devised to protect Australians from the health, and safety risks of nuclear facilities, – far-sighted in that they have saved Australia from the unnecessary expense of a now collapsing industry. Meanwhile Australia is very well placed to put energy and funds into truly modern developments, and could become a world leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

To start with, the title of this Inquiry , featuring the word  “prerequisite” really makes clear the major issue.

What is the major prerequisite?

Obviously the one important  prerequisite is to repeal Australia’s laws banning nuclear activities. 

First the Federal Law would have to be repealed. (a1)

Then – State Laws –  Victoria’s  NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES (PROHIBITIONS) ACT (a2) -and South Australia’s Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000 (a3)

(a1)    https://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/what-is-protected/nuclear-actions

(a2)   http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/vic/consol_act/naa1983337/

(a3) https://www.legislation.sa.gov.au/LZ/C/A/NUCLEAR%20WASTE%20STORAGE%20FACILITY%20(PROHIBITION)%20ACT%202000.aspx

Once these laws are repealed, then nuclear industry proponents will be free to spend much money on publicising the benefits of the industry. With helpful politicians and press, particularly from the predominant Murdoch media, this will give the industry huge boost. As Australia moves further into drought and water shortages, they will claim that nuclear power is essential to solve climate change.  (Even if nuclear power could combat climate change, it would take decades to establish, and by then it would be too late.)

So – that is what the global nuclear industry needs, especially for South Australia, which has specific legislation against spending public money on promoting the nuclear industry .

While Australians have concerns about cost, safety, environment , health, wastes, Aboriginal rights, weapons proliferation etc, I am sure that the nuclear lobby will be able to overcome those hesitations, with an effective programme.

So, I have my doubts that the Terms of Reference matter all that much, but – here goes.  I understand that the emphasis in this Inquiry is on Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

a . waste management, transport and storage.    (more…)

Barrie Hill explains how Australia’s tax-payers must fund nuclear power development

September 12, 2019

Barrie Hill gives an insight into just what the global nuclear lobby wants from Australia.  They want to overturn Australia’ s laws prohibiting nuclear activities, and get the tax-payer to fund the development of the nuclear industry in Australia

His submission (no.60) to the FEDERAL. Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia is a fine example of the nuclear-lobby-speak that is turning up in these submissions from nuclear power experts.  He’s the Managing Director of SMR Technology, and makes sure to outline his impressive background in the industry.

His is a long submission, in 3 long documents.  Here are snatches from his main document.:

*****************************************************

Hill says that for Australia replacing coal with nuclear will be “ the least cost alternative “. He recommends a South Korean type nuclear chain. Says that “the viability and advantages of small modular reactors is fully covered in a separate submission”. Recommends setting up a Federal government authority to lead Australia’s nuclear program. Recommends the South Korean Advanced Power Reactor 1000MWe (APR1000).

It is recommended that the groundwork for an inevitable future nuclear power program is put in place beginning with the removal of all legislated prohibitions and increased support or familiarisation and training programs.”

the government will need to guarantee high level positions with appropriate salaries for  qualified persons coming from existing nuclear areas”

Recommends used fuel storage to be ready by 10 years from first plant commissioning “and that storage allow for eventual fuel recovery”. Wants high regulation and documentation, and sites for reactors chosen early.

Outlines his strong background in the nuclear industry.

Discusses the needs for electricity, and limitations of renewable energy. Criticises the electricity marketing structure. All existing subsidies should be removed. Says base-load power is critically needed. Wants a single independent Australian Electricity Commission to be set up.

Goes on at length and in detail about projected.electricity costs. The development of nuclear reactors for power generation provides a cost effective, safe, and reliable option for the progressive replacement of the current Australian base load generation fleet.” and suggests direct replacement by Small Modular Reactors.

Says that Westinghouse indicated a  good potential for widespread industry involvement within Australia”.

Hill attributes the “difficult acceptance” of nuclear power to “accident outcomes sensationalised by technically uninformed media.”

At an early point in the process the Federal and State governments should act to remove all legislative bans prohibiting a final decision to proceed so that the work may be developed unobstructed and finally judged on it’s merits. It is clear that the existence of the bans has restricted expenditure on thorough analysis to date particularly by government  agencies and has been a severe detriment to the establishment of a coherent energy policy for the nation.”

He moves on to “Stage 2” – a feasibility study, resulting in a “national investment decision”, the forming of a Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organisation, bring in many experts, including foreign experts for “high level knowledge” . Recommends Government Leadership and Continuous Investment in Nuclear Infrastructure….. “ The Australian government therefore should play a lead role in the program from the initial phase with investment funds, manpower selection, and appropriate planning –

With the existence of a firm financial guarantee from the government local and overseas companies will actively participate in the national nuclear power construction program with reduced risk. ”.

Only an Australian government agency can arrange and manage the required level of investment estimated to total $150B to eventually replace all retiring coal fired power stations, to ensure maximum benefit for the Australian community and minimum riskThe Reserve Bank has noted that this time of unprecedented low interest rates is the perfect  opportunity for government investment in productive new assets such as power stations.

Lengthy discussion on need for training and education especially tertiary. International co-operation, especially on safeguards. Need for a standard nuclear design.

[on nuclear wastes)”The work carried out for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission based in South Australia has provided sufficiently detailed pre-feasibility studies to commence final feasibility work for the implementation of used fuel storage in Australia. It is recommended that used fuel storage be available ten years from first plant commissioning and that storage allow for eventual fuel recovery.”

Recommends importing nuclear wastes, as a way to fund nuclear power development :“The economic viability and revenue streams defined for used fuel import storage as part of the work carried out by the South Australian Royal Commission could in the extreme provide sufficient revenue to fund the development of a nuclear power program for all of Australia. This massive economic opportunity cannot be overlooked”

Need for a strong independent regulator.

On insurance, Hill explains why beyond a certain level risk had to be socialised. It is now understood that the state needs to accept responsibility as insurer of last resort”

Hill dismisses the idea of any necessary connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons proliferation.

Discusses how to organise a leadership team, then process for choosing sites for reactors.

Discusses radiation at length, tending to minimise the health effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and reassures about the nuclear industry’s good safety culture.

Recent OECD and local studies suggest that Federal action to introduce nuclear power is the only economically viable option to meet minimum cost of supply, maximum reliability of supply, and key environmental imperatives for the Australian electricity sector.”

Hill gives detail on choosing a reactor type- recommending a Korean one.

On risk analysis – “Humans are poor risk managers, focusing too much on consequences and too little on probabilities – something insurance and lottery salesmen relish.Gives lengthy detail on risk identification and risk mitigation. He includes not only safety risks, but also financial risks, and ways to mitigate them.

Finally, Hill turns to the issue of climate change, recommending nuclear power for reducing greenhouse gases, and replacing coal power.

The Federal government will be required to manage the financing, construction and operation of all nuclear power stations for the foreseeable future.
A prerequisite for the investment is the establishment of a government leadership andmanagement control organisation the Australian Electricity Corporation”

“ It is time for the Australian Federal government to lead a strategy for change before all those benefits are
irretrievably lost.”

Australia is wise to have laws prohibiting nuclear power

September 7, 2019

 

Submission 25 Greig Myer   Hopefully this will be the final time that our elected representatives waste time and money on a form of energy that has no public support in pretty much every country on the planet. This has been indicated time and again when the general public has been allowed to have a referendum on the issue. Historically the Australian government has sensibly recognised this in its general moratorium on nuclear power. I will rely on others providing the facts backing up the following broad statements:

There remains no proven long term safe storage facility for nuclear waste anywhere in the world. All facilities to date have experienced increasing leakage risks or actual leakage as time has gone on. The waste also requires ongoing management far beyond the average extent of human planning ability and is based on the assumption of an extraordinarily long stability of government and human affairs that have historically never persisted.

This remains the most basic and fundamental reason that nuclear power should not be considered.

The health and safety risks of nuclear power are massive and exist end to end. From mining uranium, to operating the facility, to dismantling it and storing the waste, at all points humans and the natural environment are exposed to very real risk of radiation exposure, and that is assuming things are operating well.

Nuclear power is currently the most expensive form of electricity generation available, as well as the most dangerous and the most polluting. The estimated costs of generating nuclear power never include the dismantlement of the reactor at the end of its life as well as the multi-generational cost of storage of the waste. These costs must be included in an assessment of nuclear power.

If experts are to be sought to provide an overview of nuclear power then some should be sourced from Germany which is closing down all its nuclear power, and Japan that is currently dealing with the reality of nuclear power when it goes wrong.

Australia as a major supplier of uranium is an enabler of the nuclear waste problem that is going to plague the world for generations. Just because an industry provides profit or jobs does not make it a conscionable activity. Australia could make a major contribution to ensuring that nuclear waste is at least somewhat reduced by shutting down its uranium producing mines. –

Some nuclear proponents raise the red herring of carbon emissions as a reason for nuclear power. Carbon dioxide is only one form of pollution that humanity has to deal with it as a result of its activities. Replacing one form of pollution with a far more toxic alternative is not progress.

There is urgent need for focus on the long-term stabilisation of Australia’s energy grid and this would be a much more appropriate focus for a Parliamentary Inquiry. Solar and wind power are cheap and whatever problems they have they are insignificant compared to the extreme risks that exist with nuclear power.

Electric cars are coming and they provide a real opportunity to provide the grid stabilisation that is needed, if the Australian Government provides the appropriate guidelines (universal plug for all cars, all charging to be done between 10am and 2pm??). It is time to focus on the future and leave nuclear power in the past where it belongs. It has had 50 years to prove itself and it has failed comprehensively.

Australian govt tricking rural South Australians into a quiet plan for IMPORTING NUCLEAR WASTES?

August 30, 2019

Here’s a really good Submission to Australian Govt’s Nuclear Power Inquiry

August 24, 2019

Perhaps a better idea would be to lead the world in renewable energy and new battery storage technologies, rather than heading back down a path that the rest of the world has decided to leave behind. I trust that this information is of benefit.

j. other matters The idea that Australia needs a nuclear power industry is laughable. Australia has such rich renewable energy resources that it has the potential to generate power for all of SE Asia. The record deployment of renewable energy in Australia over the past 5 years has reached most parts of regional Australia with grid capacity. This deployment has also caused a reduction in the wholesale price of energy, which has rarely been passed down to the consumer. Consequently, we have witnessed the fastest uptake of rooftop solar in the world, most commonly to the lower income suburbs of Australia. We are now observing the uptake of rooftop solar into the commercial and industrial sectors, in combination with battery storage. Commercial power purchase agreements between renewable energy projects, direct to the customer are now commonplace, and the world is heading toward 100% renewable energy.

Dr Richard Finlay-Jones    Director. EcoEnviro Pty Ltd  

Addressing the terms of reference: 
a. Waste management, transport and storage Nuclear waste is a long term radioactive contaminant for soils, air and water. Nuclear waste is dangerous to many forms of life, including humans. Radiation from nuclear waste has a long half-life, which has the possibility to impact future generations. Nuclear power relies on this energy to function, hence nuclear power should not be considered a sustainable energy option in Australia’s energy mix.
  b. health and safety Whilst many nuclear power plants around the world have a strong safety record, there are a string of recorded incidents of failure of plants around the world, most notably Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and most recently Fukushima. These plants were all considered to be “safe” in their day, and each of them continues to be a radiation and health hazard to the environment. We can no longer afford to risk the safety of our community based on even low probability, especially when cheaper, safer options of energy generation are available. One of the largest nuclear generators in the world (Germany) is now closing and dismantling its power plants in favour of distributed renewable energy and local smart-grids.
  c. environmental impacts As in b. above the impacts to the environment from the mining, transport and utilisation of uranium for nuclear generation are avoidable. Cheaper, cleaner options of generation are now available to us on utility-scale wind and solar projects .
d. energy affordability and reliability Nuclear energy will not solve the energy affordability and reliability issues, that we are facing. Nuclear energy has a higher levelised cost of energy (LCOE) than renewables (Bloomberg New Energy Finance 2018), and has a long lead time to development, construction and operation of plant. Better options for affordability include the deployment of more wind and solar generation, in combination with battery storage. Battery storage has already demonstrated its effectiveness in South Australia and Victoria, with home battery storage becoming a fast-developing market due to improving cost effectiveness. Installation of high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines between the Eastern States, and also between the NEM and Western Australia could also prove to be effective in opening up new renewable energy opportunities and increasing the reliability of wind and solar.
The Pilbara has the best solar resource in the world, and the capacity to power all of Australia if there was some connectivity between the National Electricity Market (NEM), the North West Interconnected System (NWIS) and the South West Interconnected System (SWIS). This would be a far better use of funds, providing employment and training opportunities for Northern Australia and releasing opportunities for cheap clean energy generation Australia and possibly SE Asia.
  e. economic feasibility Based on a cost per megawatt of installed capacity, nuclear power is more expensive than renewables, which have less impact and less waste (BNEF 2018). The cost of developing nuclear in Australia would be more expensive, would require more land, and extensive community consultation and engagement. The location of any plant would need to be remote and would require significant investment in new high voltage transmission lines to deliver the power to the loads. Investment in such transmission lines would be better served in opening-up new regions with renewable energy opportunities.
f. community engagement Community engagement and participation in new generation projects is always challenging. Obtaining community approval to develop, construct and operate a nuclear facility in any region in Australia will probably be the most challenging project ever seen in Australia. The project will experience community objection from every corner of the country based on cost, risk, safety and health, visual amenity and environmental impact. And rightly so. There will be no social licence for such a plant to operate, without significant and probably excessive compensation to impacted parties and parties at risk from indirect impacts.
g. workforce capability The capability to develop, construct and operate a nuclear power plant in Australia exists, however the costs attached to each of these processes will be significantly higher than the cost to deploy cheaper, cleaner generation sources. There are more employment and training opportunities in renewables than there are for nuclear power.
h. security implications One of the issues of the centralised generation model, that we are now moving away from is the risk of energy security. Recently we have witnessed the impact of failing coal fired power plants which has caused significant market volatility and the need for load shedding. The impact of failure at a nuclear power plant can be multiplied and then multiplied again with respect to: • power pricing • health and safety risk • terrorist threat • grid stability and reliability
i. national consensus There is a school of thought that exists that nuclear could solve our present energy problems. The irony is that this “problem” was forecast over 20 years ago and nothing was done about it. The call for a nuclear solution is a “band aid” fast-fix idea that is fraught with cost and risk issues.
j. other matters The idea that Australia needs a nuclear power industry is laughable. Australia has such rich renewable energy resources that it has the potential to generate power for all of SE Asia. The record deployment of renewable energy in Australia over the past 5 years has reached most parts of regional Australia with grid capacity. This deployment has also caused a reduction in the wholesale price of energy, which has rarely been passed down to the consumer. Consequently, we have witnessed the fastest uptake of rooftop solar in the world, most commonly to the lower income suburbs of Australia. We are now observing the uptake of rooftop solar into the commercial and industrial sectors, in combination with battery storage. Commercial power purchase agreements between renewable energy projects, direct to the customer are now commonplace, and the world is heading toward 100% renewable energy.

Perhaps a better idea would be to lead the world in renewable energy and new battery storage technologies, rather than heading back down a path that the rest of the world has decided to leave behind. I trust that this information is of benefit. Submission6      EcoEnviro Pty Ltd has been consulting to the renewable energy industry sector in Australia since 2003. Its clients include major utilities, developers and engineering companies. EcoEnviro specialises in project development from greenfield development through to construction, operation and management of wind and solar projects. EcoEnviro is also developing its own wind and solar projects in Northern NSW and is contracting to Pilbara Solar in North West Western Australia. https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Environment_and_Energy/Nuclearenergy/Submissions  

Australia’s pro nuclear government dazzles the public with submissions with very short deadlines

August 22, 2019

1 FEDERAL Submissions about the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility in Kimba or the Flinders Ranges.  The Standing Committee on Environment and Energy are accepting submissions to the ‘Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia’ until 16 September 2019. Please write your own submission or use FOE’s online proforma

2. FEDERAL. Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia (Submissions close 16 September 2019 https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Environment_and_Energy/Nuclearenergy?fbclid=IwAR0Sw4LB2qdcxSI6U6l67lI7Mwz9IEWw7_0RIq3mtN-nfpkfBn4z2VkQGog

3, NEW SOUTH WALES. Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Repeal Bill 2019 (Submissions close 18 October 2019)

https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2525#tab-termsofreference

4 .Inquiry to explore Victoria going nuclear

ALSO Sustainability of energy supply and resources in NSW (Submissions close 15 September 2019)
https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2542#tab-termsofreference

Australia has long rejected nuclear power, and it is banned in Federal and State laws. The nuclear lobby is out to first repeal those laws, and then to get the Australian government to commit to buying probably large numbers of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) .  This could mean first importing plutonium and/or enriched uranium, as some reactor models, (thorium ones) require these to get the fission process started.  That would, in effect, mean importing nuclear wastes.

There’s an all-too short period for people to send in Submissions to the 4 Parliamentary Inquiries now in progress.

You can be sure that the well-paid shills of the nuclear industry will already have sent in their glossy submissions. But let’s remember –   these SMRs do not actually exist except as designs – they haven’t been tested. This would be a huge financial gamble by the tax-payer. And that’s just one of the drawbacks. For a few more, see //independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/seven-reasons-why-small-modular-nuclear-reactors-are-a-bad-idea-for-australia,13010

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – a REALLY bad idea for Australia

August 17, 2019

7 reasons why Small Modular Nuclear Reactors are a bad idea for Australia,  https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/seven-reasons-why-small-modular-nuclear-reactors-are-a-bad-idea-for-australia,13010  

International news reports that, in a failed missile test in Russia, a small nuclear reactor blew up,  killing five nuclear scientists, and releasing a radiation spike.

In Australian news, with considerably less media coverage, Parliament announced an Inquiry into nuclear energy for Australia, with an emphasis on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Submissions are due by September 16.

A bit of background.  The U.S. government and the U.S. nuclear industry are very keen to develop and export small modular nuclear reactors for two main reasons, both explained in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018     Firstly, with the decline of large nuclear reactors, there is a need to maintain the technology and the expertise, trained staff, necessary to support the nuclear weapons industry. Secondly, the only hope for commercial viability of small nuclear reactors is in exporting them – the domestic market is too small.  So – Australia is seen as a desirable market.

The USA motivation for exporting these so far non-existent prefabricated reactors is clear.  The motivation of their Australian promoters is not so clear.

These are the main reasons why it would be a bad idea for Australia to import small modular nuclear reactors.

  1. COST.Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy concluded that the SMR industry would not be viable unless the industry received “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies” over the next several decades. For a company to invest in a factory to manufacture reactors, they’d need to be sure of a real market for them – Australia would have to commit to a strong investment up front.

The diseconomics of scale make SMRs more expensive than large reactors.  A 250 MW SMR will generate 25 percent as much power as a 1,000 MW reactor, but it will require more than 25 percent of the material inputs and staffing, and a number of other costs including waste management and decommissioning will be proportionally higher.

study by WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff, commissioned by the 2015/16 South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, estimated costs of A$180‒184/MWh (US$127‒130) for large pressurised water reactors and boiling water reactors, compared to A$198‒225 (US$140‒159) for SMRs.

To have any hope of being economically viable, SMRs would have to be mass produced and deployed, and here is a “Catch-22″  problem The economics of mass production of SMRs cannot be proven until hundreds of units are in operation. But that can’t happen unless there are hundreds of orders, and there will be few takers unless the price can be brought down. Huge government subsidy is therefore required

  1. Safety problems. Small nuclear reactors still have the same kinds of safety needsas large ones have. The heat generated by the reactor core must be removed both under normal and accident conditions, to keep the fuel from overheating, becoming damaged, and releasing radioactivity.   The passive natural circulation coolingcould be effective under many conditions, but not under all accident conditions. For instance, for the NuScale design a large earthquake could send concrete debris into the pool, obstructing circulation of water or air.  Where there are a number of units, accidents affecting more than one small unit may cause complications that could overwhelm the capacity to cope with multiple failures.

Because SMRs have weaker containment systems than current reactors, there would be greater damage if a hydrogen explosion occurred.  A secondary containment structure would prevent large-scale releases of radioactivity in case of a severe accident.  But that would make individual SMR units unaffordable. The result?  Companies like NuScale now move to projects called “Medium” nuclear reactors – with 12 units under a single containment structure.  Not really small anymore.

Underground siting is touted as a safety solution, to avoid aircraft attacks and earthquakes. But that increases the risks from flooding.  In the event of an accident emergency crews could have greater difficulty accessing underground reactors.

Security 

Proponents of SMRs argue that they can be deployed safely both as a fleet of units close to cities, or as individual units in remote locations. In all cases, they’d have to operate under a global regulatory framework, which is going to mean expensive security arrangements and a level of security staffing.  ‘Economies of scale’ don’t necessarily work, when it comes to staffing small reactors.   SMRs will, anyway, need a larger number of workers to generate a kilowatt of electricity than large reactors need.  In the case of security staffing, this becomes important both in a densely populated area, and in an isolated one.

  1. Weapons Proliferation.

The latest news on the Russian explosion is a dramatic illustration of the connection between SMRs and weapons development.

But not such a surprise. SMRs have always had this connection, beginning in the nuclear weapons industry, in powering U.S. nuclear submarines. They were used in UK to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Today, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to use SMRs  as part of “dual use” facilities, civilian and military. SMRs contain radioactive materials, produce radioactive wastes – could be taken, used part of the production of a “dirty bomb” The Pentagon’s Project Dilithium’s small reactors may run on Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) , nuclear weapons fuel – increasing these risks.

It is now openly recognised that the nuclear weapons industry needs the technology development and the skilled staff that are provided by the “peaceful” nuclear industry. The connection is real, but it’s blurred.  The nuclear industry needs the “respectability” that is conferred by new nuclear, with its claims of “safe, clean, climate-solving” energy.

  1. Wastes.

SMRs are designed to produce less radioactive trash than current reactors. But they still produce long-lasting nuclear wastes, and in fact, for SMRs this is an even more complex problem. Australia already has the problem of spent nuclear fuel waste, accumulating in one place – from the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.  With SMRs adopted, the waste would be located in many sites, with each location having  the problem of transport to a disposal facility.  Final decommissioning of all these reactors would compound this problem.   In the case of underground reactors, there’d be further difficulties with waste retrieval, and site rehabilitation.

6. Location. 

I have touched on this, in the paragraphs on safety, security, and waste problems.  The nuclear enthusiasts are excited about the prospects for small reactors in remote places. After all, aren’t some isolated communities already having success with small, distributed solar and wind energy?   It all sounds great. But it isn’t.

With Australia’s great distances, it would be difficult to monitor and ensure the security of such a potentially dangerous system, of many small reactors scattered about on this continent. Nuclear is an industry that is already struggling to attract qualified staff, with a large percentage of skilled workers nearing retirement. The logistics of operating these reactors, meeting regulatory and inspection requirements, maintaining security staff would make the whole thing not just prohibitively expensive, but completely impractical.

  1. Delay. 

 For Australia, this has to be the most salient point of all. Economist John Quiggin has pointed out that Australia’s nuclear fans are enthusing about small modular nuclear reactors, but with no clarity on which, of the many types now designed, would be right for Australia.  NuScale’s model, funded by the U.S. government, is the only one at present with commercial prospects, so Quiggin has examined its history of delays.   But Quiggin found that NuScale is not actually going to build the factory: it is going to assemble the reactor parts, these having been made by another firm, – and which firm is not clear.  Quiggin concludes:

Australia’s proposed nuclear strategy rests on a non-existent plant to be manufactured by a company that apparently knows nothing about it.

As  there’s no market for small nuclear reactors, companies have not invested much money to commercialise them. Westinghouse Electric Company tried for years to get government funding for its SMR plan, then gave up, and switched to other projects. Danny Roderick, then president and CEO of Westinghouse, announced:

The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it’s not the deployment ‒ it’s that there’s no customers. … The worst thing to do is get ahead of the market. 

Russia’s  programme  has been delayed by more than a decade and the estimated costs have ballooned.

South Korea decided on SMRs, but then pulled out, presumably for economic reasons.

China is building one demonstration SMR, but has dropped plans to build 18 more, due to diseconomics of the scheme.

There’s a lot of chatter in the international media, about all the countries that are interested, or even have signed memoranda of understanding about buying SMRs, but still with no plans for actual purchase or construction.

Is Australia going to be the guinea pig for NuScale’s Small and Medium Reactor scheme?  If so,when?  The hurdles to overcome would be mind-boggling. The start would have to be the repeal of Australia’s laws – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 Section 140A and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998. Then comes the overcoming of States’ laws, much political argy-bargy, working out regulatory frameworks, import and transport of nuclear materials, – finding locations for siting reactors, – Aboriginal issues-community consent,  waste locations.  And what would it all cost?

And, in the meantime, energy efficiency developments, renewable energy progress, storage systems – will keep happening, getting cheaper, and making nuclear power obsolete.

Nuclear power for Australia? NO SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE (or anything else)

August 16, 2019

Friends of the Earth Australia Statement August 2019 http://www.nuclear.foe.org.au 

  1. Introduction 2. Nuclear Power Would Inhibit the Development of More Effective Solutions 3. The Nuclear Power Industry is in Crisis 4. Small Modular Reactors 5. Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Nuclear Winter 6. A Slow Response to an Urgent Problem 7. Climate Change & Nuclear Hazards: ‘You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.’ 8. Nuclear Racism 9. Nuclear Waste 10. More Information
  2. Introduction 

Support for nuclear power in Australia has nothing to do with energy policy – it is instead an aspect of the ‘culture wars‘ driven by conservative ideologues (examples include current and former politicians Clive Palmer, Tony Abbott, Cory Bernardi, Barnaby Joyce, Mark Latham, Jim Molan, Craig Kelly, Eric Abetz, and David Leyonhjelm; and media shock-jocks such as Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin). With few exceptions, those promoting nuclear power in Australia also support coal, they oppose renewables, they attack environmentalists, they deny climate change science, and they have little knowledge of energy issues and options. The Minerals Council of Australia – which has close connections with the Coalition parties – is another prominent supporter of both coal and nuclear power.

In January 2019, the Climate Council, comprising Australia’s leading climate scientists and other policy experts, issued a policy statement concluding that nuclear power plants “are not appropriate for Australia – and probably never will be”. The statement continued: “Nuclear power stations are highly controversial, can’t be built under existing law in any Australian state or territory, are a more expensive source of power than renewable energy, and present significant challenges in terms of the storage and transport of nuclear waste, and use of water”.

Friends of the Earth Australia agrees with the Climate Council. Proposals to introduce nuclear power to Australia are misguided and should be rejected for the reasons discussed below (and others not discussed here, including the risk of catastrophic accidents).

  1. Nuclear Power Would Inhibit the Development of More Effective Solutions 

Renewable power generation is far cheaper than nuclear power. Lazard’s November 2018 report on levelised costs of electricity found that wind power (US$29‒56 per megawatt-hour) and utility-scale solar (US$36‒46 / MWh) are approximately four times cheaper than nuclear power (US$112‒189 / MWh).

A December 2018 report by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator concluded that “solar and wind generation technologies are currently the lowest-cost ways to generate electricity for Australia, compared to any other new-build technology.”

Thus the pursuit of nuclear power would inhibit the necessary rapid development of solutions that are cheaper, safer, more environmentally benign, and enjoy far greater public support. A 2015 IPSOS poll found

that support among Australians for solar power (78‒87%) and wind power (72%) is far higher than support for coal (23%) and nuclear (26%).

Renewables and storage technology can provide a far greater contribution to power supply and to  climate change abatement compared to an equivalent investment in nuclear power. Peter Farley, a fellow of the Australian Institution of Engineers, wrote in January 2019: “As for nuclear the 2,200 MW Plant Vogtle [in the US] is costing US$25 billion plus financing costs, insurance and long term waste storage. For the full cost of US$30 billion, we could build 7,000 MW of wind, 7,000 MW of tracking solar, 10,000 MW of rooftop solar, 5,000MW of pumped hydro and 5,000 MW of batteries. That is why nuclear is irrelevant in Australia.”

Dr. Ziggy Switkowski ‒ who led the Howard government’s review of nuclear power in 2006 ‒ noted in 2018 that “the window for gigawatt-scale nuclear has closed”, that nuclear power is no longer cheaper than renewables and that costs are continuing to shift in favour of renewables.

Globally, renewable electricity generation has doubled over the past decade and costs have declined sharply. Renewables account for 26.5% of global electricity generation. Conversely, nuclear costs have increased four- fold since 2006 and nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation has fallen from its 1996 peak of 17.6% to its current share of 10%.

As with renewables, energy efficiency and conservation measures are far cheaper and less problematic than nuclear power. A University of Cambridge study concluded that 73% of global energy use could be saved by energy efficiency and conservation measures. Yet Australia’s energy efficiency policies and performance are among the worst in the developed world.

  1. The Nuclear Power Industry is in Crisis 

The nuclear industry is in crisis with lobbyists repeatedly acknowledging nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis”, a “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West” and “the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries”, while noting that “the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies” and engaging each other in heated arguments about what if anything can be salvaged from the “ashes of today’s dying industry”.

It makes no sense for Australia to be introducing nuclear power at a time when the industry is in crisis and when a growing number of countries are phasing out nuclear power (including Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Taiwan and South Korea).

The 2006 Switkowski report estimated the cost of electricity from new reactors at A$40–65 / MWh. Current estimates are four times greater at A$165‒278 / MWh. In 2009, Dr. Switkowski said that a 1,000 MW power reactor in Australia would cost A$4‒6 billion. Again, that is about one-quarter of all the real-world experience over the past decade in western Europe and north America, with cost estimates of reactors under construction ranging from A$17‒24 billion (while a reactor project in South Carolina  was abandoned after the expenditure of at least A$13.3 billion).

Thanks to legislation banning nuclear power, Australia has avoided the catastrophic cost overruns and crises that have plagued every recent reactor project in western Europe and north America. Cheaper Chinese or Russian nuclear reactors would not be accepted in Australia for a multitude of reasons (cybersecurity, corruption, repression, safety, etc.). South Korea has been suggested as a potential supplier, but South Korea is slowly phasing out nuclear power, it has little experience with its APR1400 reactor design, and South Korea’s ‘nuclear mafia‘ is as corrupt and dangerous as the ‘nuclear village‘ in Japan which was responsible for the Fukushima disaster.

  1. Small Modular Reactors 

The Minerals Council of Australia claims that small modular reactors (SMRs) are “leading the way in cost”. In fact, power from SMRs will almost certainly be more expensive than power from large reactors because of diseconomies of scale. The cost of the small number of SMRs under construction is exorbitant. Both the private sector and governments have been unwilling to invest in SMRs because of their poor prospects. The December 2018 report by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator found that even if the cost of power from SMRs halved, it would still be more expensive than wind or solar power with storage costs included (two hours of battery storage or six hours of pumped hydro storage).

The prevailing scepticism is evident in a 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on the insights of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers. They predict that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”.

No SMRs are operating and about half of the small number under construction have nothing to do with climate change abatement – on the contrary, they are designed to facilitate access to fossil fuel resources in the Arctic, the South China Sea and elsewhere. Worse still, there are disturbing connections between SMRs, nuclear weapons proliferation and militarism more generally.

  1. Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Nuclear Winter 

“On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilisation in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other. Yet that is what nuclear power does.” ‒ Australian

Nuclear power programs have provided cover for numerous covert weapons programs and an expansion of nuclear power would exacerbate the problem. After decades of deceit and denial, a growing number of nuclear industry bodies and lobbyists now openly acknowledge and even celebrate the connections between nuclear power and weapons. They argue that troubled nuclear power programs should be further subsidised such that they can continue to underpin and support weapons programs.

For example, US nuclear lobbyist Michael Shellenberger previously denied power–weapons connections but now argues that “having a weapons option is often the most important factor in a state pursuing peaceful nuclear energy”, that “at least 20 nations sought nuclear power at least in part to give themselves the option of creating a nuclear weapon”, and that “in seeking to deny the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, the nuclear community today finds itself in the increasingly untenable position of having to deny these real world connections.”

Former US Vice President Al Gore has neatly summarised the problem: “For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program. And if we ever got to the point where we wanted to use nuclear reactors to back out a lot of coal … then we’d have to put them in so many places we’d run that proliferation risk right off the reasonability scale.” 

Running the proliferation risk off the reasonability scale brings the debate back to climate change. Nuclear warfare − even a limited, regional nuclear war involving a tiny fraction of the global arsenal − has the potential to cause catastrophic climate change. The problem is explained by Alan Robock in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists“[W]e now understand that the atmospheric effects of a nuclear war would last for at least a decade − more than proving the nuclear winter theory of the 1980s correct. By our calculations, a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan using less than 0.3% of the current global arsenal would produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history and global ozone depletion equal in size to the current hole in the ozone, only spread out globally.” 

Nuclear plants are also vulnerable to security threats such as conventional military attacks (and cyber-attacks such as Israel’s Stuxnet attack on Iran’s enrichment plant), and the theft and smuggling of nuclear materials. Examples of military strikes on nuclear plants include the destruction of research reactors in Iraq by Israel and the US; Iran’s attempts to strike nuclear facilities in Iraq during the 1980−88 war (and vice versa); Iraq’s attempted strikes on Israel’s nuclear facilities; and Israel’s bombing of a suspected nuclear reactor site in Syria in 2007.

6. A Slow Response to an Urgent Problem 

Expanding nuclear power is impractical as a short-term response to climate change. An analysis by Australian economist Prof. John Quiggin concludes that it would be “virtually impossible” to get a nuclear power reactor operating in Australia by 2040.

More time would elapse before nuclear power has generated as much as energy as was expended in the construction of the reactor. A University of Sydney report states: “The energy payback time of nuclear energy is around 6.5 years for light water reactors, and 7 years for heavy water reactors, ranging within 5.6–14.1 years, and 6.4–12.4 years, respectively.”

Taking into account planning and approvals, construction, and the energy payback time, it would be a quarter of a century or more before nuclear power could even begin to reduce greenhouse emissions in Australia … and then only assuming that nuclear power displaced fossil fuels.

  1. Climate Change & Nuclear Hazards: ‘You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.’ 

“I’ve heard many nuclear proponents say that nuclear power is part of the solution to global warming. It needs to be reversed: You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.” ‒ Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum

Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to threats which are being exacerbated by climate change. These include dwindling and warming water sources, sea-level rise, storm damage, drought, and jelly-fish swarms.

At the lower end of the risk spectrum, there are countless examples of nuclear plants operating at reduced power or being temporarily shut down due to water shortages or increased water temperature during heatwaves (which can adversely affect reactor cooling and/or cause fish deaths and other problems associated with the dumping of waste heat in water sources). In the US, for example, unusually hot temperatures in 2018 forced nuclear plant operators to reduce reactor power output more than 30 times.

At the upper end of the risk spectrum, climate-related threats pose serious risks such as storms cutting off grid power, leaving nuclear plants reliant on generators for reactor cooling.

‘Water wars’ will become increasingly common with climate change − disputes over the allocation of increasingly scarce water resources between power generation, agriculture and other uses. Nuclear power reactors consume massive amounts of cooling water − typically 36.3 to 65.4 million litres per reactor per day. The World Resources Institute noted last year that 47% of the world’s thermal power plant capacity ‒ mostly coal, natural gas and nuclear ‒ are located in highly water-stressed areas.

By contrast, the REN21 Renewables 2015: Global Status Report states: “Although renewable energy systems are also vulnerable to climate change, they have unique qualities that make them suitable both for reinforcing the resilience of the wider energy infrastructure and for ensuring the provision of energy services under changing climatic conditions. System modularity, distributed deployment, and local availability and diversity of fuel sources − central components of energy system resilience − are key characteristics of most renewable energy systems.” 

  1. Nuclear RacismTo give one example (among many), the National Radioactive Waste Management Act dispossesses and disempowers Traditional Owners in every way imaginable:
    • The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste dump is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent.
    • The Act has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect archaeological or heritage values, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions.

The nuclear industry has a shameful history of dispossessing and disempowering Aboriginal people and communities, and polluting their land and water, dating from the British bomb tests in the 1950s. The same attitudes prevail today in relation to the uranium industry and planned nuclear waste dumps and the problems would be magnified if Australia developed nuclear power.

The Act curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage.

  • The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste dump.

9. Nuclear Waste

Decades-long efforts to establish a repository and store for Australia’s low-and intermediate-level nuclear waste continue to flounder and are currently subject to legal and Human Rights Commission complaints and challenges, initiated by Traditional Owners of two targeted sites in South Australia. Establishing a repository for high-level nuclear waste from a nuclear power program would be far more challenging as Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has noted.

Globally, countries operating nuclear power plants are struggling to manage nuclear waste and no country has a repository for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste. The United States has a deep underground repository for long-lived intermediate-level waste, called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). However the repository was closed from 2014‒17 following a chemical explosion in an underground waste barrel. Costs associated with the accident are estimated at over A$2.9 billion.

Safety standards fell away sharply within the first decade of operation of the WIPP repository ‒ a sobering reminder of the challenge of safely managing nuclear waste for millennia.

  1. More Information 
  • Climate Council, 2019, ‘Nuclear Power Stations are Not Appropriate for Australia – and Probably Never Will Be‘
  • WISE Nuclear Monitor, 25 June 2016, ‘Nuclear power: No solution to climate change‘
  • Friends of the Earth Australia nuclear power online resources