The global nuclear industry may pretend otherwise, but it is in crisis. The commercial nuclear industry is an economic disaster. The first and greatest nuclear nation, USA, has learned this. So has France. Britain now undergoes this painful realisation.
As these “old” nuclear countries realise the collapse of their nuclear industry, they turn to marketing nuclear technology overseas, in a desperate effort to make the industry viable. This gets complicated, because the desire for nuclear weapons is a strong motive for buyers – India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia? – countries that really do not need nuclear power, but like the option of nuclear weapons..
Within the nuclear industry there’s been a division between the interests of the big “conventional” uranium fired nuclear reactors, and the supporters of small nuclear reactors and thorium fuelled reactors.
Here’s where Australia comes in. Somewhat culturally isolated, Australia is a sitting duck for a clumsy plan to put all these technologies together, and for the global nuclear salesmen to present a united face, and try to sell the whole lot to Australia.
These nuclear marketers (Canada’s Lavalin, France’s AREVA, USA’s Westinghouse, GE Hitachi) are desperate for Australia to accept this scheme. Afflicted at home by public anxiety about radioactive trash, they really do need to be able to tell their citizens – “Don’t worry – Australia will take the trash – we can keep on making it.”
The world is still in the grip of the philosophy of endless growth, endless consumption of material “goods” and energy. Along with that goes the “throwaway mentality.
The result – not just the disappearance of precious resources – water, land , biodiversity – but also the dirty pollution of the ecosphere with wastes. One of the worst is radioactive wastes. (Don’t be caught by the nuclear lobby lie about the’nuclear fuel cycle’ – which is really a chain leading to toxic wastes needing burial)
However, environmentalists must wake up to the fact that nearly all of our advanced technology requires “rare earths” – cerium, 15 lanthanoid elements and one or both of the elements yttrium and scandium. Thorium is often classed with them. Mining these elements results in highly toxic radioactive tailings.
If we’re serious about not creating radioactive wastes disasters, such as the notorious ones in Malaysia and China then the answer must be – DESIGN – designing wind turbines, cell phones, lap-tops etc – in a such a way that the rare metals can be easily retrieved and used again.
“The situation clearly calls for international policy initiatives to minimize the seemingly bizarre situation of spending large amounts of technology, time, energy and money to acquire scarce metals from the mines and then throwing them away after a single use.”
The nuclear lobby is telling one of its finest whoppers – that there really is a “nuclear fuel cycle” – that toxic radioactive wastes can be turned into lucrative nuclear fuel – for a never ending glorious “cycle”
Not true. It is truly a Nuclear Fuel Chain – that the lobby hopes to put around Australians’ necks. The new geewhiz (not yet existing) Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) and Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), including the Power Reactor Innovative Small Module (PRISM) – all produce highly toxic wastes that have to be buried. Reprocessing is NOT a “cycle”
SECOND – Rare Earths involve highly radioactive wastes – and require a big switch in DESIGN – so that they can be recycled.
Environmentalists must wake up to this. There must be a paradigm shift from the thinking, (so entrenched in Australia) – from “dig it up – use it – throw it away” – to DESIGN.
The modern technologies that we value – from wind turbines to mobile phones must be redesigned, so that their rare earths can be easily retrieved and re-used.
Otherwise the planet will be further plagued by radioactive wastes from rare earths.
The worldwide nuclear mafia now faces the rising economic success of 21st Century renewable energy technologies, alongside the plummeting economic failure of nuclear energy.
The corporate power system that dominates the world economy, and world politics still promotes nuclear power and nuclear weapons – but they know they are up against the unaffordable financial costs. Money is what matters to them.
But money is not the whole story. The nuclear lobby consists of relatively few individuals – middle aged (mainly white) men, in business suits, in love with their own careers and monetary gain.
They don’t know who they’re up against – people in their millions who oppose the nuclear industry- people who “don’t matter” – women, young people, poor people, indigenous people
These millions include the poorly educated, and the highly educated, people of all colours, languages and religions -but all having respect for their precious land and water, and for the future of the world’s children. They matter, and they will prevail.
There is a global zeitgeist, or widespread feeling of enthusiasm for clean energy, and of rejection of the dirty, dangerous, nuclear industry, with its intrinsic connection to nuclear weapons. This can’t be measured, but it does exist. In country after country, while governments are beholden to the nuclear lobby, the people are not fooled.
People are appreciating the value of renewable energy systems, centralised ones, coming through the grid, and decentralised, local, ones, with solar or wind energy coming straight to the user.. Households, businesses, farms benefit also in selling energy back to the grid, through their small local solar or wind technologies. Such small decentralised technologies are being taken up in developing countries, where there is no grid, bringing energy with the FREE fuel of sun and wind.
Even more importantly, energy efficiency and energy conservation are being taken up, as people find that this saves money, too. The culture of endless consumption is now questioned.
World-wide, the public becomes more distrustful of the nuclear industry. Private investment shuns it. People are waking up to the lies of the nuclear lobby: the lie that nuclear power is “clean”, that it’s “safe”, that it’s “renewable”, that it has “no connection” with nuclear weapons.
People are increasingly waking up to nuclear cover-ups, nuclear corruption, and nuclear bribery of politicians. Governments that are beholden to the nuclear lobby are increasingly distrusted. The current wave of opposition to the big corporations includes opposition to the power of nuclear corporations over governments.
The Fukushima nuclear catastrophe continues to influence people away from nuclear power. This , and the global economic problems make the nuclear industry look more and more like a colossal waste of tax-payers’ money. And, underlying this, the continued work of anti- nuclear groups, over decades has pushed on this groundswell of public feeling.
Australia’s Nuclear Free and Clean Energy Movement stands more clearly than ever, to lead this country to a positive future.
Australians live in a limbo of ignornace on ethics and science. The cringing Murdoch media pushes the agenda of greedy and self-seeking businessmen, politicians, and some academics.
Consideration of the future for our children, grandchildren and beyond, is drowned out by the hype about more money, more jobs, more material consumption.
Cutting through this dishonest and unethical hype, Australians can hear the clear voices from the clean energy movement. There are many organisations, often under the umbrella of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA). And many individuals such as the heroic Northern Territory Aboriginals – Yvonne Margarula, Dianne Stokes, Jeefrey Lee. There are the world famous Dr Helen Caldicott, Senator Scott Ludlam, Dr Jim Green, Natalie Wasley, Dave Sweeney, Professor Ian Lowe, Dr Mark Deisendorf – and many others.
Solar power is now cheaper than retail electricity for millions of households. In the developed world, it can save countless homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, all across the developing world, solar power is actually cheaper than power generated from fossil fuels. Just as many people in the developing world leapfrogged from no phones to cell phones, these populations will leapfrog from no electricity to electricity from solar panels.
Democratizing the Energy System One of the major implications of solar power growth, electric vehicle growth and wind power growth to some extent (wind turbines are great additions to farms and small communities) is that they are essentially democratizing our energy system. They decentralize ownership and provide more societal power and more money to common citizens and small businesses. They create more energy independence and security for families, cities and nations, which I believe will ultimately contribute to greater peace in the world.
Also, there has got to be some positive psychological effect from people realizing that they are no longer burning the bones of dinosaurs (amongst other fossils!) for their energy needs, but are instead using renewable sources of energy such as sunlight and wind. http://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/27/communicating-renewable-energy-revolution/
I feel sorry for Australia’s TV comedian Sean Micallef. How can he possibly compete with what is going on in Canberra now? Liberal Coalition MPs falling all over themselves trying to work out how to keep their jobs, with what leader?
The general opinion seems to be that only with Malcolm Turnbull as leader can they have a hope in hell of still being in power after the next election – whether or not they boot Tony Abbott out at next Tuesday’s Party Meeting, or further down the track.
But – let’s remember – however silly our current Prime Minister might appear – knighting Prince Philip etc – the reason that Australians are fed up is fundamentally the unfairness of this government’s policies. Columnist Waleed Aly hit the nail on the head, with his incisive Age article Coalition needs a heart transplant, not a facelift
So – let’s remember, too, that Malcolm Turnbull might be a bit more progressive, a bit more subtle, than Tony Abbott – but he’d be still leading the Party with its policies dictated by the Institute of Public Affairs, on behalf of the polluting corporations.
But – let’s pretend that nuclear reactors really could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
TIME: To do that, 1500 one thousand megawatt-electric new reactors would be needed within a few yeas to displace a significant amount of carbon-emitting fossil generation
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology Study on “The Future of Nuclear Power” projected that a global growth scenario for as many as 1500 one thousand megawatt-electric new reactors would be needed to displace a significant amount of carbon-emitting fossil generation. Average 115 built per year would reduce our CO2 use by only 16%.
When we talk about Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – that 1500 reactors needed translates to millions, (and these SMRs are already shown to be more costly than large ones,)
COSTS: historically and now, the costs of the nuclear industry are staggering. Cost estimates have increased in the past decade from $1,000 to $7,000 per kW installed. And that’s before additional costs – e.g new safety measures, decommissioning are added. U.S. Vogtle project originally budgeted at $660 million, by 2013 cost $9 billion. Rating agencies consider nuclear investment risky and the abandoning of nuclear projects explicitly “credit positive”.
Meanwhile – if the nuclear “climate cure” were to be pursued, the enormous costs and efforts involved would take away from the clean, fast, and ever cheaper solutions of energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Of all countries, Australia stands out as being suitable for small scale solar technology. The reasons are simple. So much sunshine. Such great distances. It doesn’t make sense to build poles and wires for thousands of miles, when you can get your electricity directly, on the spot. Rural and remote Australia are taking advantage of these simple facts, with mining companies and faraway towns moving from diesel power to solar.
Australian politics seems curiously disconnected to this reality. You’d expect the National Party (traditionally based in country Australia) to wake up to the small scale renewable energy revolution, but they haven’t, so far.
Most Australians live in cities and towns, and here, solar panels are multiplying at a fast rate, particularly in politically and socially conservative Queensland.
‘800 MW (816.64 MW to be exact) of new small-scale capacity installed in 2014 was split amongst 185,950 different systems — with the average size of these systems being ~4.4 kW’ – December report of Green Energy markets
Commercial and Council buildings are getting solar power – again, most popular in rural areas, but also in cities. Both Sydney and Melbourne City Councils are actively using and promoted solar panels, as are many suburban councils, and rural councils.
Solar power on schools, nursing homes, commercial buildings is turning out to be a big financial advantage. There are innovative schemes, -too many to discuss here. But – my favourite – I can’t resist mentioning – is South Australia’s Sundrop Farms. The Sundrop Farms System allows land normally not deemed suitable for agriculture or horticulture to produce large quantities of food. The company claims its hydroponics based greenhouse growing methods yield 15-30 times more produce per hectare than conventional field production. Each hectare of Sundrop Farms greenhouses also directly employs between 5-7 people.
Australia has both an extraordinary opportunity to lead on climate change action, and an extraordinary role in promoting the polluting coal and nuclear industries. Australians can take their pick.
The choices before us:
To develop renewable energy, energy efficiency, and phase out coal and gas, and be a voice for action internationally. This can happen only with a change of government. We need a double dissolution. Australia has a uniquely strange Prime Minister, who doesn’t care if he is kicked out in the 2016 federal election, which he surely would be. Abbott is happy to carry out the corporate agenda of the Institute of Public Affairs, and then retire to comfortable well-funded complacency, knowing that he has served his IPA masters well.
To go along with the Abbott agenda – quite a complex business, involving ramping up the coal and gas industries, while now suggesting that well, perhaps there is a greenhouse gas problem – so therefore we need nuclear power.
Think about the illogicality of that. If nuclear power were, in fact, an answer to climate change (which it’s not – too slow, too polluting in itself) then there might be some argument for a little chilly country like Sweden to use nuclear power. For a big sunny, windy country like Australia – nuclear power makes no sense at all.
Look out for the Australian nuclear lobby, headed by the supposed
environmentalist Barry Brook, which is now enjoying global fame, a leadership position in the world’s pro nuclear campaign for 2015.
I hope that. in this busy week, readers will take time to read Jim Green’s letter to conservation scientists, refuting the extraordinary push for nuclear power that seems to have caught some of them up in Barry Brook’s zeal for the nuclear industry.
I also hope that by reading THE AUSTRALIAN’s account of Senator David Leyonhjelm’s quite eccentric ideas on nuclear power, readers will reflect on the plight of politics in Australia. Thanks to the smartaleck manipulations of Glenn Druery – we now have a situation where the Australian government can be strongly influenced by complete nutters and ignorami getting into the Senate on a miniscule sprinkling of votes.
One of these is Senator Leyonhjelm – whose response to the Sydney hostage drama was that Australian s should have MORE guns. I found myself applauding former prime minister John Howard for his outspoken stance, and his actions on gun control – and his response to the weapon-happy Leyonhjelm.
Like Senator Jacqui Lambie, darling of the fossil fuel industries, who is aiming to destroy the Renewable Energy Target, Senator Leyonhjelm is one of those undemocratically propelled into Parliament by the Druery-style manipulation of preference votes.
Well, I’m betting that Tony Abbott won’t be in government that long – and may Leyonhjelm and Lambie disappear from the scene at the same time.
It’s the anniversary year of the outbreak of World War 1. We will be hearing a lot about WW1 and ANZAC Day over the next 3 years. We salute the heroism of those soldiers, and mourn the deaths of so many, so young. At the same time, the forces of militarism will be glorifying war, even in these times of solemn remembrance.
Fortunately, Australia does have a number of organisations dedicated to peace. Their voices will be heard from now on. There is the Anzac Centenary 2015 A Coalition of Citizens and Organizations calling for a national conversation on Australia’s identity and the place of war in its past and future. The Gallipoli Centenary Peace Campaign‘s programme will focus on the human costs of militarism and of myths about the ANZACs. Both bring together diverse groups, both religious and secular.
To the nuclear industry the concept of ENOUGH is anathema. If you saw their slick advertising film “Pandora’s Promise” you would note that their major theme is endless GROWTH that will perpetually require ENDLESS ENERGY.
The nuclear industry’s shills, and there are many of them, love to portray the anti-nuclear movement as wanting to send people back to living in a “dark ages” style. Nothing could be further from the truth. Genuine environmentalists (as against nuclear lobby shills like Patrick Moore) want all people to have a life of more light, of reasonable comfort and leisure time, of enough of the good things of this world, rather than of too much.
World leaders met in Brisbane, Australia for a fairly pointles summit, devoted to “economic growth”. While the host country ruled by a scientifically illiterate Prime Minister Tony Abbott, insisted “no talk of climate change”, those words were indeed heard, around the traps. While the formal agenda of the G20 was pretty meaningless, as will be its formulaic communique, – perhaps the personal talks in the sidelines might reflect the reality that the global economy just cannot sustain this mindless growth
It’s time that governments, bankers, industry leaders woke up to the reality that the world economy is threatened by growth, threatened by the accelerating destruction of this planet’s air, water, land, and biodiversity. The destroyer is the growing human population and its growing consumption of ever more unnecessary products and unnecessary energy use.
It’s time that people stepped away from endless individualistic consumption, and towards a reasonable life of more cooperation, of working less hours. It’s time to move from our suicidal consumer culture, to a conserver culture.
The G20 Summit has come and gone watched by up to 3,000 domestic and international media representatives. Amnog the 4,000 delegates were US President Barack Obama, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minster David Cameron
The purpose of this summit ? to foster economic growth. Yes – a bigger world population, greater production of ‘goods’, greater consumption of ‘goods’ and energy. Supposedly all this is good for business. Climate change wasn’t meant to be on the agenda – Tony Abbott saw to that.
And yet, and yet. TV viewers saw the rapturous reception given by university students to President Obama, as he urged them to promote action on climate change. Obama moved freely and relaxedly amongst the students.
Could Tony Abbott do that? I bet not. Largely because of Tony Abbott’s climate change denialism, he cannot go anywhere near young Australians, for fear of the risks of booing and of rotten eggs flying at him.
Australia was once a leader in environmental consciousness. We understood that at the basis of a healthy economy was a healthy environment – earth, water, air. It is ironic that Australia should be hosting this international growthfest, under the leadership of Prime Minster Tony Abbott who has absolutely no idea of environment, nor of sustainable economics.
The nuclear connection is an underlying one. The nuclear industry, as shown by its advertisement film “Pandora’s Promise” . depends on the world accepting the need for endless growth and consumption, with ever increasing energy use – supplied by nuclear power. And – make no mistake – the Abbot government, (and its wimpy weak Labor opposition) has bought this idea – or more correctly, have been bought by the polluting industries.
There is a new philosophy emerging – but not from these so-called leaders, – the philosophy of the Conserver Society, as against the Consumer Society . This is well expressed by Frank Rotering in his concept of “Contractionism”
That we cannot go on as a species plagueing the planet, trashing it, and thinking that somehow humans can start it all over again on another planet. There must be a radical change in economic thinking, and as Frank Rotering suggests, this could well be led by business – by real leaders, who see that it makes financial sense to be truly conservative –