Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Only the Australian Greens have the courage to reject ANSTO’s push for new nuclear reactors

June 25, 2017
Dissenting Report – Australian Greens, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Australian Greens Senator, 
While not always supporting the outcomes, the Australian Greens have acknowledged previous JSCOT inquiries on nuclear issues for their diligence and prudence. We are disappointed on this occasion to submit a dissenting report into the Generation IV Nuclear Energy Accession. The inquiry process into the Framework Agreement for International Collaboration on Research and Development of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems has been unduly rushed and lacked adequate public hearings or detailed analysis and reflection of public submissions. This is particularly disturbing given that this inquiry relates to public spending for an undefined period of time towards a technology that is prohibited in Australia.
The Australian Greens’ dissent to Report 171 (Section 4: Generation IV Nuclear Energy Accession) is based on a range of grounds, including:
The lack of transparency regarding the costs to the Australian taxpayer over an undefined period of time;
The technology that this agreement relates to is prohibited under Australian law and its promotion is inconsistent with the public and national interest;
The lack of consideration of the global energy trends away from nuclear technology;
The lack of procedural fairness in refusing adequate public hearings and consideration of public submissions;
An unjustified reliance on the submissions from the highly partisan Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). The Australian Greens note that ANSTO is not a disinterested party in this policy arena. Furthermore, ANSTO has made a number of unfounded assertions, particularly regarding the Agreement’s impact on Australia’s standing on nuclear non-proliferation.

Unchecked capacity and resourcing

The timeframe for the agreement is loosely stated as being between 10 and 40 years. Over this period there is a commitment for Australia to pledge resources and capacity at the expense of Australian taxpayers. In exchange for this undefined public expense for an undefined period of time, there is no clear public benefit – given that the technology is, properly and popularly, prohibited in this country.
Point 4.20 states that the Framework is in essence about spreading the significant costs associated with the development of Generation IV reactors. In public submissions made to JSCOT there are detailed cost estimates for individual projects that are all in the range of billions of dollars. There have been numerous delays, cost constraints and problems with the various types of reactors described as Generation IV. While some countries continue to pursue this technology, there is no clear end-game in sight and many nations are stepping away from this sector. Most Generation IV reactors only exist on paper while some others are modified plans of expensive failed projects but are still just conceptual.
It is understandable that countries who are invested in Generation IV would seek to transfer costs and inflate the potential benefits. It is unreasonable, however, for a Government agency to commit Australian resources to fund and develop this technology which is decades away from being anything more than a concept.
ANSTO submits in the National Interest Analysis that the “costs of participation in the Systems Arrangements will be borne by ANSTO from existing funds”. The Australian Greens note that in the last financial year ANSTO reported a loss of $200 million (including $156 million in subsidies). The commitment of funds and resourcing from an agency that operates with an existing deficit that is already funded by the Australian people is fiscally irresponsible and has not been investigated through the JSCOT process.
The Australian Greens maintain that there is a particular need for the rationale of any contested public expenditure to be rigorously tested. Sadly, this Committee has failed in this role.
Point 4.24 of the report states that “Australia was required to demonstrate that it could contribute to the research and development goals of the GIF” yet the inquiry process failed to establish exactly what form those contributions will take and the cost of those contributions to the Australian people.

Prohibited Technology

Point 4.39 on the question of nuclear power in Australia brushes aside the fundamental issue that the future of nuclear energy in Australia is entirely dependent on changing Commonwealth laws.
Report 171 section 4 fails to acknowledge that the technology in question is prohibited under two separate pieces of Commonwealth legislation:
Section 37J of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
Section 10 of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.
These Acts reflect considered positions, public opinion and the environmental and economic risk associated with nuclear technology which has repeatedly proved to be dangerous and expensive. The position reflected in these laws has been repeatedly reiterated in subsequent Government reports into the technology and prospects for development in Australia. For example:
The Switkowski Report – Uranium Mining, Processing, and Nuclear Energy – opportunities for Australia? (2006)
The Australian Power Generation Technology Report – Summary (Nov 2015)
Department of Energy and Science Energy White Paper (2015)
Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (South Australia) (May 2016)
These reports all arrive at the same conclusion: that there is no case to develop nuclear power in Australia, albeit for different reasons. These reasons include costs, time constraints, legal constraints, public opposition, restrictions on availability of water and other environmental factors.

Lack of Procedural Fairness and over reliance on evidence from ANSTO

ANSTO has pursued this agreement, signed the agreement, will be responsible for enacting the agreement, drove the National Interest Analysis and were the only agency invited to present at a hearing. This agency is publicly funded, has run at a deficit, and is seeking to further commit Australian resources to a technology that is not only unpopular but is prohibited under Australian legislation.
There is a wide range of experts and public interest groups who have lodged detailed submissions and requested an audience with the Committee to offer some scrutiny and balance to the highly selective view of Generation IV options presented by ANSTO.
These submissions are barely mentioned in Report 171 and additional public hearings were denied. This level secrecy and denial of procedural fairness is of grave concern and, while out of character for JSCOT, is very much in line with the secrecy synonymous with ANSTO and the wider nuclear industry.

Australia’s accessibility to nuclear technology and standing on nuclear non-proliferation

ANSTO claim in the NIA that a failure to accede “would impede Australia’s ability to remain constructively engaged in international nuclear activities and would limit our ability to forge links with international experts at a time when a significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway……. It would diminish Australia’s standing in international nuclear non-proliferation and our ability to influence international nuclear policy developments in accordance with our national economic and security interests.”
The Australian Greens understand that Australia currently pays $10 million per annum to the International Atomic Energy Agency which grants us access to the safety and regulatory fora and to publicly published research. Where there is a commercial interest in the technology this would no doubt be made available to Australia at a price – but a price not borne by the taxpayer in this crude subsidy by stealth proposed in report 171 (Section 4).
Claims that our failure to accede would somehow diminish our standing on nuclear non-proliferation are absurd. While the industry might promote Generation IV as addressing issues of nuclear non-proliferation there is little concrete evidence that it can or ever would be done. It was the same promise industry proponents made about Generation III reactors and failed to deliver.
Australia’s standing on nuclear non-proliferation is currently being diminished because this Government is actively boycotting the current UN process supported by 132 nations on negotiating a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, not because our country has not been funding research into nuclear power.
The Australian Greens fundamentally dissent from this Committee’s findings and believe that no compelling or credible case has been made to proceed with the treaty action. Rushed, limited and opaque decision making processes are a poor basis for public funding allocations in a contested policy arena.
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Australian Labor politicians criticise Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems, but support GIF anyway

June 25, 2017

MPs  Michael Danby, Josh Wilson ,  Susan Templeman  and Senator Jenny McAllister support the recommendation that binding treaty action be taken to enable further collaboration in relation to international research and development of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems.

At the same time, they note Labor’s policy :

       Labor will [inter alia]:
 
       Prohibit the establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle in        Australia.
On that basis, they :
make it clear we strenuously disagree with the argument put by Mr Barry Murphy  that the Framework Agreement will provide an opportunity for Australia to develop a nuclear energy program. It does no such thing, nor should it
The labor politicians  are:
grateful for the joint submission from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Friends of the Earth Australia (FOE), and the submission from the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, both of which provide a detailed and cautionary context for the consideration and pursuit of ‘next generation’ or ‘Generation IV’ reactors…more http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/CITES/Report_171/section?id=committees%2freportjnt%2f024073%2f24870

Senator Scott Ludlam’s very inconvenient questions on Australian government’s nuclear waste plan

June 13, 2017

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for

so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.

ECONOMICS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE, Department of Industry – RADIOACTIVE WASTE  1st June 2017

 Full Transcript here: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/estimate/e3ddf88b-3e9c-4546-9d90-8f646689a98c/toc_pdf/Economics%20Legislation%20Committee_2017_06_01_5134.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

Senator Canavan: I have been to Hawker and I am going there again tomorrow, and I would like to put on record my thanks to many in the Hawker community who engage in this process. Some have certainly changed their mind as they have come to have more understanding of it. I think you have probably been to Lucas Heights, and it I think it makes a big difference to people when they see it. There is a lot of misinformation spread about this, and we are trying to engage with people in a genuine way in good faith to give them the information to make informed decisions.

Senator LUDLAM: Who is spreading this information, Senator Canavan?

Senator Canavan: I hear it from time to time. I do not have any particular allegations to make about individual groups here, but you do hear lots of information from time to time about the potential danger of this material. But, of course, as you would probably know, much of the low-level waste is stored safely at Lucas Heights, a place where people go to and from work every day. 

Senator LUDLAM: That begs the question of why it needs to move. ..….

Senator LUDLAM: Staying in South Australia: has there been any consideration at all—this is for the department or the minister, whoever wants to take this one on—of the tension between the proposed national radioactive waste facility and the existing South Australian legislation, which would be the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000? The tension between the fact that your entire project is presently illegal under South Australian law: what is being done about that?

Mr B Wilson: We are certainly aware of the South Australian prohibition under their law. However, the National Radioactive Waste Management Act that we operate under overrides South Australian law. 

Senator LUDLAM: And that is it? You are just going to squash them? Or are there discussions progressing with the South Australian government?….

Senator LUDLAM: Is the department, or you, Senator Canavan, or any of the federal agencies or other actors in communication with the South Australian government environment or heritage departments, or representatives of any body, actually, in relation to the tension between the two acts?

Senator Canavan: I have raised it with the South Australian government. They have indicated that they may seek to make changes. I am not aware of the status of that at the moment. Obviously, they have their own process, which is a separate to ours, on radioactive waste. Certainly, the issue has been raised. Mr Wilson is also right that we are confident that is not a barrier to this project. But Mr Wilson will be giving you that.

Mr B Wilson: We engage—I would have to characterise it as infrequently—with the South Australian government. It is more in the line of updating where we are. We have not had any recent engagements. They are certainly very well aware of the prohibitions under their law about what the South Australian government and its officials can do in this space….

When I said that the National Radioactive Waste Management Act overrides South Australian law, that is the fact. But what we are trying to do in the development of this project is to develop it and act in a way that is consistent with requirements under other South Australian legislation. For instance, in terms of Indigenous heritage protection and other aspects. While we are not necessarily bound by those laws we want to act in a way that is consistent with them.

Senator LUDLAM: With waste that is as dangerous as this, I am very glad to hear it! Is the department still accepting site nominations?

Senator Canavan: The government remains open to further nominations, as we announced on selecting the Hawker site last year. But the ones we have announced are those that we are proceeding with at this stage.

Senator LUDLAM: Wallerberdina and two at Kimba. (more…)

Senator Scott Ludlam probes the influence of USA on Australia’s negative approach to nuclear weapons ban treaty

June 12, 2017

Senator LUDLAM: …I want to turn to the opening day of the nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations, 27 March this year. Having failed to prevent these negotiations occurring, the Trump administration’s ambassador to the UN held a protest outside the UN General Assembly Hall. Did Australia participate in the protest?

Senator LUDLAM: So we just stood there in mute solidarity with the Trump administration? As 130 UN member states started serious work on negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty, we were outside the room in a protest?

It is a shame that there will be no Australian representatives at the UN because these talks are scheduled to conclude at the end of June or early July

FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE, UN – Nuclear Weapons Ban, 31st May 2017   http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/estimate/0a6ef7dd-2f88-423a-a01b-23b5c5b4e4c0/toc_pdf/Foreign%20Affairs,%20Defence%20and%20Trade%20Legislation%20Committee_2017_05_31_5055.pdf;fileType=application/pdf

Pg- 20

Senator LUDLAM: Can I speak to someone on the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons?

Senator LUDLAM: Can I speak to someone on the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons?

Mr Sadleir: Yes, Senator.

Senator LUDLAM: It is good that you are here, Mr Sadleir, because I want to ask a couple of questions about a meeting that occurred between 4 and 8 July 2016 that I understand you were present at. You and Ms Jane Hardy travelled to Washington, DC to meet with a range of, I understand, quite senior State Department and National

Pg – 21

Security Council people to discuss what was then referred to as the UN open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament. Can you confirm for us on the record that that meeting occurred and that you were in attendance?

[Here it took an extraordinarily long time for Mr Sadleir to admit that he was at this meeting]

‘……..Senator LUDLAM: I have not asked what you discussed yet. Were you in attendance at that meeting?
Mr Sadleir

?
Mr Sadleir: I was certainly in Washington. I would need to check my diary to get the precise dates but I was certainly there around that time.

Senator LUDLAM: I think that what will happen when you check the dates is that you will come back and confirm that you were in fact there. I will let you check the record. I would appreciate that. What was the purpose of those meetings? (more…)

Uncertainty about the clean-up of Ranger uranium mine in Australia’s Northern Territory

June 12, 2017

Environment and Communications Legislation Committee 23/05/2017 Estimates
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO
Clean Energy Regulator

Full Transcript: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=0;query=Dataset%3AcomSen,estimate%20Dataset_Phrase%3A%22estimate%22%20CommitteeName_Phrase%3A%22environment%20and%20communications%20legislation%20committee%22%20Questioner_Phrase%3A%22ludlam,%20sen%20scott%22;rec=5;resCount=Default

CHAIR: I welcome the Office of the Supervising Scientist.

Senator LUDLAM: I understand that ERA is in the process of starting to get on with closing the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu and have notified stakeholders—presumably including yourselves—that they are intending to vary the way that they are depositing the tailings back into pit 3, and that they are proposing to change from an aerial tailings deposition to subaqueous deposition. For the non-specialists, could you describe maybe in plain English the difference in technique they are proposing.

Mr Tayler : The previous tailings deposition methodology had tailings being dredged from the tailings dam and tailings coming from the mill being deposited onto a beach, essentially. The new methodology that ERA is proposing involves depositing tailings through water; hence the subaqueous versus subaerial. Essentially, it was being put onto a tailings beach; the new method will be depositing it through the water column itself.

Senator LUDLAM: Is the decommissioning of the mine being treated as a nuclear action under the EPBC Act?

Mr Tayler : No.

Senator LUDLAM: Can you describe for us why not?

Mr Tayler : I would prefer that questions specific to the EPBC Act were directed to the Environmental Standards Division, or we could take it on notice if that is okay.

Senator LUDLAM: I think that is fair enough. If you can take it on notice, but I guess the answer is not going to come from you, is it? I think we have already let these people go.

Mr Tayler : Yes, it is a legal point, and I would not want to comment on that in case I got it wrong.

Senator LUDLAM: That is fine. I understand there is an interception trench, which intersects the saline plume coming out from under the tailings storage facility. We have been asking your predecessors in this office for years about this. My understanding is that ERA is currently monitoring that plume of saline water. There is a certain amount of dewatering that is being done. How long is it expected that monitoring and dewatering operations would continue beyond 2020?

Mr Tayler : In relation to the seepage—

Senator LUDLAM: In 2026, I beg your pardon. In relation to the monitoring of that saline plume and the dewatering.

Mr Tayler : Specifically related to the tailings dam?

Senator LUDLAM: Yes.

Mr Tayler : That is not information that we currently have. It is on ERA’s work program to conduct some detailed groundwater modelling of the TSF footprint. The TSF will not be decommissioned for several years yet, so I could not give you a specific answer to that question at this time.

Senator LUDLAM: When is the expected decommissioning date for the tailings storage facility?

Mr Tayler : I would have to take that on notice for the exact date. I believe it was towards the end of the rehabilitation process, which would put it in the 2024-25 period, but I will confirm that for you.

Senator LUDLAM: I will tell you what the purpose of these questions is: we have a plume of saline water that ERA was a bit reluctant to concede even existed, seeping out from under the dam, carrying goodness knows what other processed chemicals and radionuclides and whatever with it. We have the company with interception trenches, possibly bores, trying to get a sense of how much water is falling out the bottom of the TSF. We have an interception trench which is allowing them to remove some of that water and presumably process it and clean it up. That is a very active process of maintenance. How long is it anticipated to last?

Mr Tayler : Yes, I understand the question. At this stage, I do not have sufficient information to answer that question.

Senator LUDLAM: In terms of a yes/no. Is that because you do not have it at the table or you do not think that knowledge exists at this time?

Mr Tayler : I do not think that knowledge exists at this time. We need ERA to complete some proposed groundwater modelling. That will model the movement of that plume. That will give some indication of how long that plume will take to move, how long it will take to dilute and what management, if any management, will be required. That work has not yet been undertaken.

Senator LUDLAM: It is 2017. How does the ERA not know that already? I have been asking about this for about eight years, and this was an issue way before I came along.

Mr Tayler : Operationally, I think the issue has been quite well managed. We can provide an update on that if that would be helpful. From a long-term closure sense, the focus has been on looking at the groundwater impacts from the pits. Further work is still required on quantifying exactly what is beneath the TSF and what that may look like in the future.

Senator LUDLAM: So they still do not really know what is coming out from underneath the dam?

Mr Tayler : In an operational sense, we know very well exactly what is moving now. How that will behave over the long term into the future is not yet quantified.

Senator LUDLAM: Could you provide us with an estimate of how much water is seeping out from under the TSF every year? We have had order of magnitude estimates going back a couple of years.

Mr Tayler : For the whole dam? I would have to take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you. What I am trying to find out is whether that process is still going to be underway beyond 2026 or if it is within the company’s work plan that it is all well and truly done.

Australia’s Parliamentary Inquiry in Generation IV nuclear reactors: analysing submissions

May 25, 2017

Should Australia invest funds and resources in developing Generation IV nuclear reactors? Online opinion, 

By Noel Wauchope, 23 May 2017 Without any fanfare, with no media coverage, Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) is presently considering Australia signing up to the International Framework for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems (GIF), which will commit this nation to take part in developing new nuclear reactors.Dr Adi Paterson, CEO of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, signed up to this GIF Framework last year. However, that does require confirmation by the Australian government. Hence there was the need for the JSCOT Committee to at least take a look at it, before the government completes the membership. Apparently there is no need for public discussion, or probably even Parliamentary discussion.

This Committee very quietly invited submissions, and very few were in the know about this. Now the received submissions have been published – at http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/NuclearEnergy/Submissions.

Anyway, it looks as if ANSTO is the driving force behind this process, and judging by the submissions received, the nuclear lobby was in the know, even if the public was not. Fourteen submissions were received. Of these, eleven were strongly pro- nuclear, and three were opposed. The opposing submissions came from Friends of the Earth (FOE), (jointly with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF ), Medical Association For The Prevention of War (MAPW), and myself, (I came upon the Parliamentary website just by chance).

In assessing these submissions, of course, I have to admit to bias on my part. Still, I think that any reader would find that there is one submission that stands out for clarity, and a detailed, factual discussion of the GIF plan. That is the one written by Jim Green and Dave Sweeney, for FOE and ACF.

Green and Sweeney respond to assertions made in ANSTO’s National Interest Analysis. They question claims that the new reactors reduce weapons proliferation risks, are economic, efficient, and solve waste problems. They rebuke the claim of ANSTO that “a significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway “, listing the overall decline in nuclear power growth, with the exception of China. They discuss at length the very long time frame expected even by nuclear industry experts, before any Generation IV reactors could be commercially viable.

They go on to discuss each of the six proposed new nuclear reactors, giving a detailed history of the attempts to develop each, and factual information that refutes those claims made by ANSTO. For all of their statements, Green and Sweeney provide evidence and references.

The Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW)’s submission questions the government’s high subsidising of ANSTO, and points out the poor prospects for private investment in new nuclear power. It refutes the argument that Gen IV reactors would solve the nuclear waste problem, quoting analysis by the US National Academy of Sciences. They discuss the history of attempts to develop Gen IV nuclear reactors: ” a track record of repeated failure and massive cost”. They discuss the direct and indirect costs, and ANSTO’s secrecy about nuclear costs. Safety and reliability issues, and proliferation risks, are examined. They also point out that the recent Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) was not supportive of new nuclear technology. The Commission proposed:

…monitoring and reporting” of new designs, not participation in research and active subsidization. The Royal Commission also places emphasis on economic value for nuclear power generation, which is clearly entirely absent from fast reactor operations.

My own submission also discusses non-proliferation, nuclear waste, and claims about climate change, but it focuses on the lack of public information and discussion. In view of Australia’s laws prohibiting the development of nuclear power in Australia, I find it disturbing that the government is about to put money and resources into developing new nuclear reactors.

Now – to the eleven pro nuclear submissions. In general these faithfully repeat the claims made by ANSTO, stressing the value of Australia participating in an international forum. (e.g: submission from Australian Nuclear Association)

Now – to the eleven pro nuclear submissions. In general these faithfully repeat the claims made by ANSTO, stressing the value of Australia participating in an international forum. (e.g: submission from Australian Nuclear Association)

  • Most submissions praise ANSTO and universities ANU and UNSW for their expertise.
  • Then there’s the claim that nuclear power will decarbonise the economy. (submission by The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE)). (and from Barrie Murphy)
  • Joining GIF will increase the visibility of Australia’s cutting-edge research (from Nuclear Engineering Research Group, School of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, UNSW Sydney)
  • Would increase Australia’s ability to influence international policy – will increase the international status of ANSTO and Australia’s universities. (from Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering)
None of these submissions discussed the proposed reactors or provided any evidence for those claims…….http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=19049

Australia to join in developing Generation IV nuclear reactors, WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC DISCUSSION??

May 18, 2017

Submission to:  Inquiry: The Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession. by Noel Wauchope, 24 April 2017

First of all, I find it very strange that this agreement has been signed up to in advance, not by any elected representative of the Australian Parliament, but by Dr Adi Patterson CEO of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, apparently pre-empting the results of this Inquiry!

I find it disturbing that this Inquiry is being held without any public information or discussion. Are we to assume that the decision to join this “Charter” is being taken without prior public knowledge?

It is a pretty momentous decision. According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework agreement “formally commits them (signatories) to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.”

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 currently prohibits the development of nuclear power in Australia. Nuclear power cannot be approved under either the EPBC Act or the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.  These prohibitions are, as I understand it,  supported by all major parties in Australia?

This would be an extraordinary step for Australia to take, especially in the light of the recent South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) pro-nuclear Royal Commission, which, while recommending South Australia for an international nuclear waste dump, nevertheless stated that

The recent conclusion of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), which issued updated projections for fast reactor and innovative systems in January 2014, suggests the most advanced system will start a demonstration phase (which involves completing the detailed design of a prototype system and undertaking its licensing, construction and operation) in about 2021. The demonstration phase is expected to last at least 10 years and each system demonstrated will require funding of several billion US dollars. As a result, the earliest possible date for the commercial operation of fast reactor and other innovative reactor designs is 2031. This timeframe is subject to significant project, technical and funding risk. It extends by six years a similar assessment undertaken by GIF in 2002. This means that such designs could not realistically be ready for commercial deployment in South Australia or elsewhere before the late 2030s, and possibly later.”

This was hardly a ringing endorsement of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

The South Australian Citizens Jury, Community Consultations, numerous economists, and the S.A. Liberal Party all rejected that nuclear waste plan, as not economically viable.  A huge amount of preparation was done by the NFCRC in investigating the phases of the nuclear Fuel Cycle (more accurately Chain) to arrive at their rather negative view of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

That makes it all the more extraordinary that the Australian government would be willing to sign up so quickly to ANSTO’s request that Australia put resources into these untested, and so far, non-existent nuclear technologies.

I hope that the Committee is aware of the present financial troubles of the giant nuclear corporations, such as AREVA, Toshiba, and Westinghouse Electric. Nuclear power is turning out to be a financial liability wherever it is not funded by the tax-payer, (as in China and Russia). (1)

The World Nuclear Association describes the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) as countries for whom nuclear energy is significant now or seen as vital in the future. Australia’s situation in no way fits these criteria.

Nuclear energy is not significant now in Australia, and even the NRCRC nuclear proponents do not see it as vital for Australia’s future. It is almost laughable, that right now, renewable energy systems are taking off in Australia – both as large solar and wind farms, and as a huge increase in small decentralised systems such as home and business solar panel installations.

That’s where Australia should be putting its resources of human energy, talent, and funding.

The claims made by the nuclear lobby, ANSTO and some politicians, notably Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, about Generation Iv nuclear reactors, do not stand up to scrutiny:

Non proliferation “-   Furthering Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives.” The well-known claim that a “conventional” nuclear bomb cannot be made from these new types of reactor, might be true, to a certain extent. However, IFRs and other plutonium-based nuclear power concepts fail the WMD proliferation test, i.e. they can too easily be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The use of thorium as a nuclear fuel doesn’t solve the WMD proliferation problem. Irradiation of thorium (indirectly) produces uranium-233, a fissile material which can be used in nuclear weapons.  These materials can be used to make a “dirty bomb” – irradiating a city or other target.  They would require the same expensive security measures that apply with conventional nuclear reactors.

If the purpose in joining the GIF is to strengthen non-proliferation and safety – why is ANSTO the implementing agent not the Australia Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office?

Solving nuclear waste problem? Claims that these new nuclear reactors will solve the problem of nuclear wastes are turning out to be spurious. For example, Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations. (2) Even at the best of times, the “new nuclear” lobby admits that their Gen IV reactors will produce highly toxic radioactive wastes, requiring security for up to 300 years.
The Integral Fast Reactor is called “integral” because it would process used reactor fuel on-site, separating plutonium (a weapons explosive) and other long-lived radioactive isotopes from the used fuel, to be fed back into the reactor. It essentially converts long-lived waste into shorter lived waste. This waste would still remain dangerous for a minimum of 200 years (provided it is not contaminated with high level waste products), so we are still left with a waste problem that spans generations. (3)

Climate change. The claim that new nuclear power will solve climate change is spurious. This ignores life-cycle CO2 emissions

Nuclear energy is not zero carbon.

Emissions from nuclear will increase significantly over the next few decades as high grade ore is depleted, and increasing amounts of fossil fuels are required to access, mine and mill low-grade ore.

To stay below the 2 degrees of global warming that climate scientists widely agree is necessary to avert catastrophic consequences for humans and physical systems, we need to significantly reduce our emissions by 2050, and to do this we need to start this decade. Nuclear is a slow technology:

The “Generation IV” demonstration plants projected for 2030-2040 will be too late, and there is no guarantee the pilots will be successful.

Nuclear Economics. For “a time when significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway” – this is a laughable falsehood. In reality, nuclear power economics are in a state of crisis, most notably in America, but it is a world-wide slowdown. (4)

The vagueness of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) agreement is a worry. Australia is to formally commit to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.  Surely Australia is not going to sign up to this, without any detail on what kind of research, what kind of reactor, what amount of funding we would be committing to the GIF.

And all this without any public discussion!

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/11/toshiba-losses-uk-moorside-nuclear-plant-westinghouse
  2.  https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603731/nuclear-energy- startup-transatomic-backtracks-on-key-promises/
  3. https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4555
  4.  http://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-industry-crisis-29735/

Generation IV nuclear reactors for Australia?- Useless for waste disposal, astronomically expensive for tax-payers

May 15, 2017

Here’s another fine submission to Australia’s Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia joining the Framework Agreement for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems . This one blows out of the water any idea that these so far non existent reactors could solve any nuclear waste problem, or be in any way economically viable.  It also throws the spotlight on The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Just how much of tax-payers’ money is going to this secretive organisation?

The latest reason for generation IV reactors centres on the unsolved problem of how to safely dispose of spent nuclear fuel. The proposition is that plutonium and other long lived transuranics in reactor fuel (that like plutonium also create a disposal problem) could be used up in so called “burner” reactors.

Analysis by the US National Academy of Sciences found this proposal to have such very high cost and so little benefit that it would take hundreds of years of recycling to reduce most of the global inventory.

Should ANSTO propose collaboration can occur without further cost to the taxpayer, then a funding review should be conducted to establish what research is already being done by ANSTO, at what cost, for what purpose and at whose behest. With an average loss of A$200 million annually, ANSTO should be able to provide disaggregated accounts for both transparency and accountability.

Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession  Submission Medical Association for Prevention of War  (MAPW) PO Box 1379, Carlton VIC 3053 Australia (03) 9023 195 m. 0431 475 465 e. eo@mapw.org.au w. http://www.mapw.org.au

Executive Summary

MAPW recommends strongly against Australia becoming a party to this agreement. There is no proposal for Australia to get a nuclear power program.

This framework agreement applies to technologies that are economically, socially, environmentally, and from a nuclear security perspective, very dubious. Generation IV reactors are an assortment of proposed technologies that have been put forward over the last 70 years, tried and failed.

ANSTO is already very heavily subsidised by the Australian government, and extending its operations into this research sphere will require further scientific effort, expertise and funding. This is highly inappropriate given the current major constraints on government spending, and the urgent need to focus research energies on realistic, financially viable and proven measures to contain emissions from electricity generation.

Collaboration would mean taxpayer subsidies would go to an industry which has already wasted many billions in public funds and resulted in major adverse legacies. No private industry is prepared to invest in this research without large government subsidies because none are prepared to lose so much money.

It is also clear that Australia has no policy to use these long promised and never commercially delivered reactors. Therefore any involvement just subsidises those who hope to use them. If Australia wishes to expand its nuclear expertise, then research into “non nuclear waste” generating technologies (such as those to produce medical isotopes) would be much more productive and also be of positive benefit to the Australian population.

Background

Objectives of GIF Framework Agreement

1)The objective of this Framework Agreement is to establish a framework for international collaboration to foster and facilitate achievement of the purpose and vision of the GIF: the development of concepts for one or more Generation IV Systems that can be licensed, constructed, and operated in a manner that will provide a competitively-priced and reliable supply of energy to the country(ies) where such systems may be deployed, while satisfactorily addressing nuclear safety, waste, proliferation and public perception concerns.

2) Collaboration under this Framework Agreement shall be conducted only for peaceful purposes and in accordance with non-proliferation objectives and the Parties’ international obligations relating thereto; and on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, and reciprocity.

The Generation IV International Forum notes in its introduction:

For more than a decade, GIF has led international collaborative efforts to develop next generation nuclear energy systems that can help meet the world’s future energy needs. Generation IV designs will use fuel more efficiently, reduce waste production, be economically competitive and meet stringent standards of safety and proliferation resistance. Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession

The Gen IV International Forum guidelines aim for a lifecycle cost advantage over other energy sources and to have a level of financial risk comparable to other energy projects.

However the reality is dismal track record for both objectives. Fast neutron reactors providing easy access to plutonium for weapons.1

Statements that collaboration under the agreement will “only be used for peaceful purposes” clearly ignore the evidence from past use of this technology. An estimated $100 billion has been spent on development over more than six decades, with no commercially viable model found.2

Justifications for Generation IV systems

In the 1960’s there was concern was that global uranium supplies were limited. At this stage generation IV reactors were described as “breeder” reactors, aiming to solve long term energy supply problems by requiring much less uranium. But exploration since then has shown there are ample reserves of uranium globally. Russia and India have been two of the nations most concerned about uranium supply in the past, and continue to be among the nations most heavily subsidising these systems, despite changes in global availability of cheap uranium ore.

The next justification given for generation IV research was the difficulties arising from storing and disposing of spent fuel wastes from standard light-water reactors. The storage issues could be partially ameliorated by reprocessing, which separates out the one percent plutonium in the spent fuel. This does not remove the problem of ultimate disposal, but does provide a short term measure and defers the very difficult issue of how to safely dispose of spent nuclear fuel.

It was planned that the plutonium separated out could then be used as fuel for fast neutron reactors. However the increase in spent fuel reprocessing has significantly increased stockpiles of weapons grade plutonium.1 This clearly represents an increase in risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The latest reason for generation IV reactors centres on the unsolved problem of how to safely dispose of spent nuclear fuel. The proposition is that plutonium and other long lived transuranics in reactor fuel (that like plutonium also create a disposal problem) could be used up in so called “burner” reactors. These would hypothetically leave behind mostly shorter lived isotopes that would be much less of a disposal problem.

Analysis by the US National Academy of Sciences found this proposal to have such very high cost and so little benefit that it would take hundreds of years of recycling to reduce most of the global inventory.3

In addition an economic analysis of reprocessing versus direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel found uranium found that uranium would need to cost more than $340 /kg to favour the use of fast reactors on a financial basis

  1. 3. The current price of uranium (March 2017) is $54/kg.

Generation IV reactors – a track record of repeated failure and massive cost

The unbridled optimism and powerful lobbying of the nuclear industry have been sadly let down over the many decades of investment in research in this area. Promises of electricity that was “too cheap to meter” have failed to materialise. Global nuclear capacity is one tenth of what was projected in the early 1970s. As can be seen from the 2010 table below, [on original]  the vast majority of fast reactors have been shut down.4

Since this table was published:

In September 2016 the Japanese government abandoned plans to restart the Monju fast breeder reactor, due to many failures. These include sodium coolant leakage and fires, accidents and failure to conduct safety inspections on safety critical equipment. The Japanese government had spent US$12 billion, and in 2012 it was estimated decommissioning would cost US$3 billion.56

India’s Department of Atomic Energy has promised construction of hundreds of fast neutron reactors, yet its test reactor (FBTR) took 26 years from planning approval to operation, and design work for a larger prototype (PFBR) started in 1985 and construction started in 2004. It has yet to start operating.

China has an experimental 20Mwe fast reactor, which has operated for less than one month in the 63 months from start up in 2010 to October 2015. Plans for a 600MWe and a 1000Mwe reactors have yet to be approved. According to the World Nuclear Association, at best China may have one commercial scale reactor by 2034.7

Russia has three fast reactors in operation and has announced plans for 11 reactors in the next 14 years, but their nuclear program (like India) has a history of very ambitious projections that fail to materialise. The current economic crisis in Russia means it is likely most new reactors will be cancelled.8

Germany, the UK and the US have all cancelled their prototype fast reactors, and France is considering a fast reactor but will not decide until the end of the decade.

Cost Issues

Economists classify costs as direct and indirect.

Direct Costs of fast reactors have been outlined, with an estimated over US$100 billion spent over six decades on development with no commercially viable model found.9

5 Running Monju reactor for 10 years would cost gov’t 600 billion yen extra August 29, 2016 Mainichi Japan http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160829/p2a/00m/0na/017000c accessed 25th April 2017

6 Decommissioning of troubled fast-breeder reactor Monju would cost 300 billion yen February 16, 2016 Mainichi Japan http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160216/p2a/00m/0na/005000c accessed 25th April 2017

7 World Nuclear Association, China’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle 6th December 2016 http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/china-nuclear-fuel-cycle.aspx accessed 22 April 2017

8 Slivyak , V. Russia is planning new reactors but prospects are murky August 2016 Nuclear Monitor https://www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/829/nuclear-monitor-829-24-august-2016 accessed 22nd April 2017

9 Cochran, T.B. et al. It’s Time to Give Up on Breeder Reactors Bulletin of Atomic Scientists http://thebulletin.org/2010/may/its-time-give-breeder-reactors accessed 22 April 2017 Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession

In Australia the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is a statutory body of the Australian government. It would be the Implementing Agent in the framework agreement. The enthusiasm of this organisation for this agreement needs to be carefully weighed up by looking at cost and benefit.

In the 2015-16 financial reports ANSTO received A$156.7 million from the government in both the 2015 and 2016 financial years, and additionally had deficits of A$56.3 million and A$40.9 million respectively. So in the two most recently reported financial years, the government is already spending A$213 million and A$198 million annually on nuclear issues.10 Given the current climate of budget deficits and fiscal restraint it seems highly inappropriate to commit further expenditures, especially to an endeavour with such high costs and such a conspicuous lack of success. Interested parties however continue to push for increased role and subsidies, regardless of the likely outcomes.

Should ANSTO propose collaboration can occur without further cost to the taxpayer, then a funding review should be conducted to establish what research is already being done by ANSTO, at what cost, for what purpose and at whose behest. With an average loss of A$200 million annually, ANSTO should be able to provide disaggregated accounts for both transparency and accountability.

Allison MacFarlane, former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently made this sarcastic assessment of fast reactor technology: “These turn out to be very expensive technologies to build. Many countries have tried over and over. What is truly impressive is that these many governments continue to fund a demonstrably failed technology.”11

Even the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission found the outlook for the deployment of fast reactors and other innovative designs had many significant challenges.

“Presently there are no operational fast reactors or other innovative designs that can be used to validate their potential for commercial deployment. Several countries have research and development programs for improved fast reactors, with some being in place since the 1950s, with significant challenges still to be overcome before commercial operation is achieved.”12

Indirect costs can also be referred to as opportunity costs. Any resources put towards this Framework Agreement means those resources cannot be directed to other crucial areas. Given the

10 Annual Report of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) for the period 1 July 2015 to 30 June

  1. September 2016 http://www.ansto.gov.au/Resources/Publications/AnnualReports/index.htm accessed 5th March 2017

11 Stapczynski,S. and Urabe,E. Japan’s Nuclear Holy Grail Slips Away With Operator Elusive 1st June 2016 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-31/nuclear-holy-grail-slips-away-from-japan-with-operator-elusive accessed 25th April 2017

12 South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report 6th May 2016 South Australian Government http://nuclearrc.sa.gov.au/ accessed 25th April 2017

clear need for emissions reduction in energy production, committing resources to renewable energy and developing energy storage would be far more likely to have a successful commercially viable outcome, without the major safety issues, nuclear proliferation risks and unsolved very long term toxic waste issues inherent in fast reactors. Existing light-water reactors are already too expensive compared with other forms of energy production.

131415 Even if eventually a commercial model was developed, the likelihood of fast reactors providing cheaper electricity than existing reactors is very remote, given their complexity, and major reliability and safety problems.

If the motivation of the government is to be a good global citizen, it could deliver a demonstrable benefit much more cost effectively and safely by subsiding reputable foreign aid organisations to deliver projects such as vaccination of children, or famine relief in East Africa.

Safety issues

Fast reactors have particular safety problems that have been a major factor in why they are so often shut down for long periods. Existing fast reactors use liquid metals such as sodium for coolant, which reacts violently with water and burns if exposed to air. Sodium fires have been responsible for shut downs in a large proportion of countries who have experimented with fast reactors. Indeed, in the 30 years of operating Russia’s BN-600, it has had over 30 incidents connected with sodium leaks and fires.16

Reliability issues

The vast majority of demonstration fast reactors have been shut down for most of the time that they should have been generating electricity. It is very difficult to maintain and repair equipment that is immersed in sodium, given the already described properties that make sodium likely to explode or catch fire when exposed to water or air. To undertake repairs the fuel has to be removed, the sodium drained and the entire system very carefully flushed to remove any residual sodium. This means repairs can take months or years. The world’s only commercial-sized fast reactor, France’s

13 Sophie Vorrath & Giles Parkinson 26 November 2015 Nuclear priced out of Australia’s future energy equation in new report Renew Economy http://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-priced-out-of-australias-future-energy-equation-in-new-report-67465/ Accessed 25th April 2017

14 Nuclear power The dream that failed 12 march 2012 The Economist http://www.economist.com/node/21549936 accessed 28th April 2017

15 Next-Generation Nuclear Reactors Stalled by Costly Delays February 2nd 2017 Bloomberg Markets https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-02/costly-delays-upset-reactor-renaissance-keeping-nuclear-at-bay accessed 28th April 2017

16 Galina Raguzina August 4th 2014 Holy grail or epic fail? Russia readies to commission first plutonium breeder against uninspiring global track record http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/nuclear-russia/2014-08-holy-grail-epic-fail-russia-readies-commission-first-plutonium-breeder-uninspiring-global-track-record accessed 25th April 2017 Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession

Superphenix, was famous for its lengthy shutdowns. Its lifetime capacity factor (from time of grid connection in January 1986 to shut down in December 1996) was less than 7 % of what is would have been had it operated at full capacity. Japan’s Monju, the UK Dounreay and Prototype Fast Reactors and the US Enrico Fermi 1 Demonstration reactors similarly had very extensive shutdowns. Russia’s smaller BN-600 has done better, but only because of a willingness to continue to operate despite multiple sodium fires.

Proliferation risk

Fast reactors require the separation of plutonium from spent fuel. Any increase in this process increases access for creation of nuclear weapons, by both state and non-state actors. Indeed, India used plutonium from its fast reactor program to create its first nuclear weapon. This happened despite signed undertakings that India’s reactor technology would only be used for peaceful purposes. India continues to refuse to put its fast reactors under international safeguards so that plutonium production cannot be monitored.17 The significance of keeping their fast reactor outside of the safeguards regime has not been lost, especially on Pakistan. France used its Phenix fast reactor to make weapons grade plutonium.

Australia’s position on nuclear energy

The recent South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission made a detailed exploration of the prospects of Australia commencing a nuclear power program.12 The Royal Commission found:

“Taking into account the South Australian energy market characteristics and the cost of building and operating a range of nuclear power plants, the Commission has found it would

not be commercially viable to develop a nuclear power plant in South Australia beyond 2030 under current market rules.

Given the prospect that new reactor designs, and in particular smaller reactors, might be viably integrated in the Australian electricity network, the Commission recommends that the South Australian Government also collaborate with the Australian Government to commission expert monitoring and reporting on the commercialisation of new nuclear reactor designs that may offer economic value for nuclear power generation.”

It is of note that the Royal Commission proposed “monitoring and reporting” of new designs, not participation in research and active subsidization. The Royal Commission also places emphasis on economic value for nuclear power generation, which is clearly entirely absent from fast reactor operations.

17 Ramana, M.V. A fast reactor at any cost: The perverse pursuit of breeder reactors in India 3rd November 2016 http://thebulletin.org/fast-reactor-any-cost-perverse-pursuit-breeder-reactors-india10124 accessed 25th April 2017 Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession

Research is open access

The hypothesis that being a party to this Framework Agreement would keep Australia “in the loop” and on top of the science is deeply flawed. This is publicly funded civilian nuclear research which is published in peer reviewed articles, so any interested party can get access to the science. If it is not accessible then we have to assume a) it involves weapons research; or b) it is unlikely to withstand peer scrutiny. Either way, as an important member of the IAEA, Australia can avail itself of the evolving research without participation – the two are not contingent.

Should Australia wish to increase its expertise in the nuclear research field, it would be of much greater benefit to research into “non nuclear waste” generating technologies (such as those to produce medical isotopes). Cyclotron manufacture of isotopes is the fastest growing branch of nuclear medicine. Such research would lend itself to international collaboration and most importantly have outcomes that are much more achievable and would actually be of benefit to the Australian population.

Conclusion

With any proposal, it is always worthwhile to closely examine the underlying motivation of the parties advocating for change, and who exactly is likely to benefit. Given Australia has no plans to have a nuclear reactor, and that all legitimate research in this area will be publicly accessible, it is difficult to see any community benefit in Australia participating. After 60 years of research there is still no commercially viable fast reactor, and these reactors pose major nuclear proliferation and safety hazards. No matter how elegant the physics behind the process, the outcomes have been very poor.

In an era of fiscal restraint, subsidising research on clearly failed, expensive and dangerous technologies is not in the public interest. Australian scientific effort, expertise and funding would be much better focused on areas where there will be a real benefit to the Australian community.

1 Cochran, T. B. et al. Fast Breeder Reactor Programs: History and Status February 2010

https://www.google.com.au/search?q=Cochran%2C+T.+B.+et+al.++Fast+Breeder+Reactor+Programs%3A+History+and+Status+&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b&gfe_rd=cr&ei=HNr-WPOTEqHM8gf_3YH4Ag accessed 22 April 2017

2 Cochran, T.B. et al. It’s Time to Give Up on Breeder Reactors Bulletin of Atomic Scientists http://thebulletin.org/2010/may/its-time-give-breeder-reactors

3 Bunn, M. et al. The economics of reprocessing vs. direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel January 2005 Nuclear Technology 150 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237772055_The_economics_of_reprocessing_vs_direct_disposal_of_spent_nuclear_fuelaccessed 25th April 2017

4 Cochran, T. B. et al. Fast Breeder Reactor Programs: History and Status February 2010

Destroyed! – the very poor case for Australia to develop Generation IV nuclear reactors

May 13, 2017

Today, I am taking the unusual step of publishing an entire submission. That’s because it is so good.  The nuclear lobby pulled a swifty on Australians, by having government and media very quietly do what is sure to be a “rubber stamp” job on Australia joining up to the Framework Agreement for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems.

They allowed a very short time for submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry. The nuke lobby must have been in the know, as they put in 11, whereas there were only 3, (one mine) critical of the plan.

Fortunately the critical ones contain compelling information. So, here, in full, is the:

Submission from Friends of the Earth Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation .

Contacts:

• Jim Green (Friends of the Earth, Australia) jim.green@foe.org.au, 0417 318 368

• Dave Sweeney (Australian Conservation Foundation) dave.sweeney@acf.org.au, 0408 317 812

Contents

1. Introduction and Response to National Interest Analysis

2. Generation IV Reactor Concepts ‒ Introduction

3. Decades Away

4. Purported Benefits

5. French Government’s IRSN Report

6. US Government Accountability Office Report

7. The Slow Death of Fast Reactors

8. Integral Fast Reactors

9. Thorium 10. Small Modular Reactors 11. Fusion Scientist Debunks Fusion

  1. INTRODUCTION AND RESPONSE TO NATIONAL INTEREST ANALYSIS Friends of the Earth Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation welcome the opportunity to make a submission to this inquiry and would welcome the opportunity to appear before a hearing of the Committee.

The Committee will likely receive submissions promoting the construction of Generation IV reactors in Australia and it is therefore worth noting comments by the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in its May 2016 Final Report: “[A]dvanced fast reactors and other innovative reactor designs are unlikely to be feasible or viable in the foreseeable future. The development of such a first-of-a-kind project in South Australia would have high commercial and technical risk. Although prototype and demonstration reactors are operating, there is no licensed, commercially proven design. Development to that point would require substantial capital investment. Moreover, electricity generated from such reactors has not been demonstrated to be cost competitive with current light water reactor designs.”1

Here we provide brief responses to a number of comments in the National Interest Analysis (NIA).2

The NIA asserts that participation in the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) will further Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives. No evidence is supplied to justify the tenuous assertion. There is much else that Australia could do ‒ but is not doing ‒ that would demonstrably further non-proliferation objectives, e.g. a ban on reprocessing Australian Obligated Nuclear Materials (AONM); a reversal of the decision to permit uranium sales to countries that have not signed or ratified the NPT; or refusing uranium sales to countries that refuse to sign or ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. There is much else that Australia could do ‒ but is not doing ‒ that would demonstrably further safety objectives, e.g. revisiting the decision to sell uranium to Ukraine in light of the ongoing conflict in that country, refusing to supply uranium to nuclear weapon states that are not fulfilling their NPT obligations, insisting that uranium customer countries establish a strong, independent regulatory regime (as opposed to the inadequate regulation in a number of customer countries, e.g. China, India, Russia, Ukraine and others).

Nuclear non-proliferation would also be far better realised by active Australian engagement in the current UN process around the development of a nuclear weapons ban treaty. Instead Australia has spurned this pivotally important initiative and is refusing to participate. If Australia is serious about its international standing, our representatives would be at the table in New York.

The NIA states that ongoing participation in GIF will help Australia maintain its permanent position on the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors. ANSTO routinely makes such arguments ‒ in support of the construction of the OPAL reactor, in support of the development of nuclear power in Australia, and now in support of Australian participation in GIF. Australia has held a permanent position on the IAEA’s Board of Governors for decades and there is no reason to believe that participation or non-participation in GIF will change that situation.

The NIA asserts that accession to the Agreement and participation in GIF will have important economic benefits. No evidence is supplied to justify that tenuous assertion. There are no demonstrated economic benefits from participation in GIF ‒ however there are clear costs.

The NIA states that the “costs of participation in the System Arrangements will be borne by ANSTO from existing funds.” ANSTO should be required to provide a detailed account of past expenditure relating to this Agreement and anticipated future expenditure.

The NIA states that ongoing participation in GIF “will improve the Australian Government’s awareness and understanding of nuclear energy developments throughout the region and around the world, and contribute to the ability of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to continue to provide timely and comprehensive advice on nuclear issues.” Those arguments are tenuous, especially given that little about GIF is secret.

The NIA states that “Generation IV designs will use fuel more efficiently, reduce waste production, be economically competitive, and meet stringent standards of safety and proliferation resistance.” Those false claims are rebuked in later sections of this submission.

The NIA states that the success of Australia’s bid for membership of GIF was based in part on ANSTO’s “world-class capabilities and expertise” in the “development of nuclear safety cases.” ANSTO should be asked to justify that assertion. ANSTO could also be asked whether, based on its “world-class” expertise in nuclear safety, whether it considers it is appropriate for Australia to sell uranium to countries with demonstrably inadequate nuclear regulatory regimes, e.g. China, India, Russia, Ukraine and others.

The NIA asserts that “a significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway or under consideration by a number of countries, including several in the Asia Pacific region.” In fact:

  • Globally, nuclear power has been stagnant for the past 20 years.
  • For the foreseeable future, there is zero likelihood of a “significant” nuclear expansion of nuclear power and there will be an overall decline unless growth in China matches the decline elsewhere. Declines can be predicted with great confidence in North America, across all EU countries combined, in Japan, and in numerous other countries and regions ‒ and a very large majority of the world’s countries (about five out of six) are nuclear-free and plan to stay that way.
  • No country in the Asia Pacific or South East Asia is seriously planning to introduce nuclear power. The only country that was seriously planning to introduce nuclear power in the region ‒ Vietnam ‒ abandoned those plans last year.

The NIA states that Australia’s participation in GIF falls within the existing functions of ANSTO under Section 5 of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Act 1987. The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties should assess whether Australia’s participation in GIF is consistent with legislation banning nuclear power in Australia (the EPBC and ARPANS Acts). 2.

2. GENERATION IV REACTOR CONCEPTS ‒ INTRODUCTION (more…)

Submissions until 28 April to Australian govt’s secret nuclear inquiry, but nobody knows about this

April 26, 2017

The gift of the ‘GIF’: Generation IV International Forum, Independent Australia,  19 April 2017 The Turnbull Government has quietly signed Australia up to the GIF Framework Agreement for the development of Gen IV nuclear reactors and is currently conducting a Parliamentary Inquiry of which most of us are unaware, writes Noel Wauchope.

YOU HAVE probably never heard of the “GIF”.

I hadn’t, until just this week when by chance, I heard of the Parliament Inquiry into the Framework Agreement for International Collaboration on Research and Development of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems.

The Committee consists of nine Liberal MPs, six Labor and one Green.

That inquiry is being held now and the Committee calls, or more correctly, whispers, for submissions by 28 April 2017.

It is all about the GIF — Generation IV International Forum. The Australian Government signed up to this, in 2016, without any public discussion.

What is The Generation IV International Forum (GIF)?

An international collection of 14 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, the UK and the USA (original charter members, 2005); Switzerland, Euratom, China, Russia and Australia (signed later).

The World Nuclear Association describes the collection as countries for whom:

‘ … nuclear energy is significant now and also seen as vital for the future’.

What is the 2005 Framework Agreement AKA “the charter”?

According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework Agreement:

‘ … formally commits them [signatories] to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.’

Australia signed the charter on 22 June 2016 represented by Dr Adi Patterson, COE of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). — pending this Joint Standing Committee on Treaties review. ANSTO is to be the implementing agent.

When the Australian Government quietly signed up to the GIF, it made no commitment to any particular action towards developing new nuclear reactors.  Other countries – including Japan, Canada, France, South Korea – have committed to working on particular types of Generation IV reactors. Australia might be expected to not only fully sign up as a member of the charter but perhaps also to provide funding and resources to develop one or more types.

Australia’s signing of the GIF

Media reports indicate Australia made a bid, or approach, to join GIF. The active seeking out of such an agreement that is at odds with public opinion, at odds with the current government’s policy position on nuclear power and is inconsistent with Australian laws, which prohibit the use of this technology, is astounding…….

ANSTO makes a number of questionable assumptions about Australia joining in developing new nuclear reactors. For example, ANSTO claims that it would ‘further Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives’, and ‘further strengthen our claim as the most advanced nuclear country in SEAP’ and will position Australia to develop Generation IV reactors.

There are so many questions about — one hardly knows where to start:…….https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-gift-of-the-gif-generation-iv-international-forum,10215#.WPbL2mlNX7g.twitter