Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Issues Summary: SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE ROYAL COMMISSION

Should SA accept high-level nuclear waste from overseas?
How much money might be made by taking nuclear waste from other countries? There is no precedent to base an estimate on. It is doubtful whether it would generate any more
than a fraction of the revenue that some lobbyists claim it might. There are many constraints, such as the fact that some countries with significant nuclear power programs − such as Russia, France, and India − operate reprocessing plants so would be unlikely to want to send spent fuel to Australia. BHP Billiton’s submission to the Switkowski Review states
that the utilities to which it sells uranium “generally regard their spent fuel as an asset”.
Prof. John Veevers from Macquarie University states: “Tonnes of enormously dangerous
radioactive waste in the northern hemisphere, 20,000 kms from its destined dump in
Australia where it must remain intact for at least 10,000 years. These magnitudes − of
tonnage, lethality, distance of transport, and time − entail great inherent risk.
scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINSOUTH AUSTRALIA’S NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE ROYAL COMMISSION ISSUES- SUMMARY -May 2015 Prepared on behalf of the Conservation Council SA by Dr Jim Green, Friends of the Earth, Melbourne. The Conservation Council of South Australia (Conservation SA) is the peak environment group in the state, representing around 50 non-profit environmental organisations.
Conservation SA does not support an expansion of South Australia’s role in the nuclear cycle. Uranium mining in SA has a history of very significant environmental impacts that show no signs of abating. The nuclear industry has caused suffering and displacement of Aboriginal communities over many decades, from the toxic legacy of Maralinga nuclear testing, uranium mining operations and attempts to impose unwanted nuclear waste dumps.
All forms of energy generation have some environmental impact. To determine the lowest impact options, we need to assess each technology across its entire life cycle. Unfortunately, this is rarely done. Emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle will increase as relatively high-grade uranium ores are mined out and are replaced by the mining of lower-grade ores. Nuclear power brings with it a range of unavoidable risks to public health and safety that other energy options simply do not. Nuclear is also a high-cost option that has never been viable without generous taxpayer support.
The Royal Commission provides an opportunity for all of the impacts of the nuclear fuel cycle to be assessed, and Conservation SA will be actively participating to ensure that it does. This document outlines a summary of our thinking. For more information see the full issues paper.
URANIUM MINING

From the mid-2000s until the Fukushima disaster in 2011, expectations of a significant global
expansion of nuclear power drove a sharp increase in uranium exploration and the startup
of numerous mines. However nuclear power has maintained its long-standing pattern
of stagnation. Some uranium mines have shut down, some are operating at a loss. The
uranium price is lower than the average cost of production − and well below the level that
would entice mining companies to invest capital in new projects………..

URANIUM ENRICHMENT

The establishment of a uranium enrichment industry in SA is being promoted as a way to
‘value add’ to uranium exports. However the 2006 Switkowski Review concluded that
“there may be little real opportunity for Australian companies to extend profitably” into
enrichment. Conditions are no more conducive to the establishment of an enrichment
industry now than they were in 2006. Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve
Kidd noted in July 2014 that “the world enrichment market is heavily over-supplied”.
Proposals to expand South Australia’s role in the nuclear fuel cycle would inevitably have
weapons proliferation implications, regardless of intent:……………
FUEL LEASING 
Fuel ‘leasing’ proposals could involve:
 uranium export, and the import and storage or disposal of high-level nuclear waste
arising from the use of that uranium in power reactors overseas; or
 comprehensive ‘front end’ processes (uranium mining, conversion into uranium
hexafluoride, enrichment, fuel fabrication) and ‘back end’ management of spent fuel
(reprocessing and re-export, storage and/or disposal).
Among other problems and obstacles, the simpler of those options − uranium export and
spent fuel take-back − would likely be unacceptable to at least some of Australia’s major
uranium customers. In its submission to the Switkowski Review BHP Billiton said: “BHP Billiton
believes that there is neither a commercial nor a non-proliferation case for it to become
involved in front-end processing or for mandating the development of fuel leasing services
in Australia.”
NUCLEAR POWER
A renaissance?
Despite the promotion of a nuclear power ‘renaissance’ over the past decade, the
number of ‘operable’ power reactors fell from 443 to 437 in the 10 years to January 2015.
In 2014, worldwide nuclear capacity increased by 2.4 gigawatts (GW). Approximately 100
GW of solar and wind power capacity were installed in 2014, up from 74 GW in 2013.
The International Energy Agency said in its World Energy Outlook 2014 report: “A wave of
retirements of ageing nuclear reactors is approaching: almost 200 of the 434 reactors
operating at the end of 2013 are retired in the period to 2040, with the vast majority in the
European Union, the United States, Russia and Japan.”
Cost
Nuclear power is subject to a ‘negative learning curve’ − it is becoming more expensive
over time. Even the large-scale, standardised French nuclear power program has been
subject to a negative learning curve………
A response to climate change?
Nuclear power could at most make a modest contribution to climate change abatement.
The Switkowski Review stated that the construction of 12 power reactors from 2025−2050
would reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions by just 8% relative to business as usual,
assuming that nuclear power displaces coal. Emissions savings would be lower if the
assumption is that nuclear power displaces gas………
Next generation reactors?
The International Atomic Energy Agency states: “Experts expect that the first Generation IV
fast reactor demonstration plants and prototypes will be in operation by 2030 to 2040.” The
Generation IV International Forum, which brings together 12 countries plus Euratom, states:
“Depending on their respective degree of technical maturity, the first Generation IV
systems are expected to be deployed commercially around 2030−2040.”
Clearly the commercial deployment of Generation IV reactors is a significant way off.
Moreover, it is doubtful whether the purported benefits of Generation IV reactors will be
realised. Whether Generation IV concepts deliver on their potential depends on a myriad
of factors, not just the resolution of technical difficulties. Moreover some of the ‘new’
concepts are not new. For example the history of ‘fast neutron’ reactors has been one of
extremely expensive, underperforming and accident-prone reactors which have
contributed to WMD proliferation problems.
POSSIBLE SITES FOR NUCLEAR POWER REACTORS
The Australia Institute identified possible sites for nuclear power plants in a 2007 report.
Using a range of criteria, the report identified possible sites in several states including the
following sites in SA: Mt Gambier / Millicent, Port Adelaide, Port Augusta, and Port Pirie.
NUCLEAR ACCIDENTS AND ATTACKS
In a 2010 paper, academic Benjamin Sovacool documented 99 accidents at nuclear
power plants from 1952 to 2009 that resulted in the loss of human life and/or more than
US$50,000 of property damage. Of the 99 accidents, 57 occurred since the Chernobyl
disaster in 1986, and 56 were in the USA, refuting the notion that severe accidents are
relegated to the past or to countries without modern US technology and oversight.
Claims that the safety of nuclear power is comparable to that of renewable energy
sources do not stand up to scrutiny, for the following reasons (among others):……
claims ignore the long-term cancer death toll from major accidents, in
particular Chernobyl and Fukushima. For Chernobyl, the World Health Organization
estimates up to 9,000 excess cancer deaths in Belarus, the Russian Federation and
Ukraine. Credible estimates of the Chernobyl cancer death toll across Europe range
from 16,000 to 93,000. For Fukushima, the long-term cancer death toll will be in the
thousands. Based on UN data on human radiation exposure, UK radiation biologist Dr
Ian Fairlie estimates around 5,000 fatal cancers from Fukushima fallout.
   Thirdly, such claims ignore or downplay human radiation exposure from routine
emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the
Effects of Atomic Radiation has estimated the collective effective dose to the world
population over a 50-year period of operation of nuclear power reactors and
associated nuclear fuel cycle facilities at two million person-Sieverts. Applying a risk
estimate of 0.05−0.1 fatal cancers per person-Sievert gives a total of 100,000−200,000
fatal cancers.
Exposure to even low-level radiation is a health hazard. That is the position of all relevant
expert bodies such as the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic
Radiation. As the the US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on the Biological
Effects of Ionising Radiation states, “the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower
doses without a threshold and … the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small
increase in risk to humans.”
RADIOACTIVE WASTE
The waste produced in nuclear reactors − called spent nuclear fuel − is orders of
magnitude more radioactive than fresh uranium fuel. It takes around 200,000 years for the
radioactivity of spent fuel to decline to that of the original uranium ore body……….
AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES WITH RADIOACTIVE WASTE
In the late-1990s, the Australian government carried out a clean-up of the Maralinga
nuclear test site. It was done on the cheap and many tonnes of plutonium-contaminated
debris remain buried in shallow, unlined pits in totally unsuitable geology……….
Should SA accept high-level nuclear waste from overseas?
How much money might be made by taking nuclear waste from other countries? There is
no precedent to base an estimate on. It is doubtful whether it would generate any more
than a fraction of the revenue that some lobbyists claim it might. There are many
constraints, such as the fact that some countries with significant nuclear power programs
− such as Russia, France, and India − operate reprocessing plants so would be unlikely to
want to send spent fuel to Australia. BHP Billiton’s submission to the Switkowski Review states
that the utilities to which it sells uranium “generally regard their spent fuel as an asset”.
Prof. John Veevers from Macquarie University states: “Tonnes of enormously dangerous
radioactive waste in the northern hemisphere, 20,000 kms from its destined dump in
Australia where it must remain intact for at least 10,000 years. These magnitudes − of
tonnage, lethality, distance of transport, and time − entail great inherent risk.”………http://www.conservationsa.org.au/images/Nuclear_Royal_Commission_issues_summary.pdf
Advertisements

May 13, 2015 - Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: