Points for #NuclearCommissionSAust Submission to Issues paper 2 – “Further Processing” – theme for this week
Submissions on this Issue are due by August 3rd. Check tips on submitting.
Questions.2.2 and 2.4. – (feasible for South Australia to make more radioactive substances? What will be future demand for conversion, uranium enrichment, nuclear fuel processing?)
It would not be economically, socially or environmentally feasible for South Australia to further manufacture radioactive substances.
On economics, South Australia would be producing a product whose market is declining.
In Canada, Cameco’s failed laser uranium enrichment project added to its losses in 2014.(1).
“The nuclear industry is in decline: The 388 operating reactors are 50 fewer than the peak in 2002, while the total installed capacity peaked in 2010 at 367 GW before declining to the current level, which is comparable to levels last seen two decades ago.” (2)
Socially, people are becoming more aware of the hazards of uranium enrichment plants. Even in China – Jiangmen residents protested against proposed uranium processing plant (3)
Massive amounts of depleted uranium are created by uranium enrichment, causing social concern a social problem as well as an environmental problem.
Most of the byproducts (garbage) “from uranium enrichment (96%) is depleted uranium (DU)… There are vast quantities of depleted uranium in storage. The United States Department of Energy alone has 470,000 tons. About 95% of depleted uranium is stored as uranium hexafluoride (UF6).” (4)
2.5. (South Australia to get involved in emerging nuclear technologies)
As to new and emerging technologies, it is becoming ever clearer that the untested technologies, such as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, will not be developed for very many years, during which time renewable energy technologies, including battery storage, are racing ahead. By the time the “Generation IV nuclear reactors are developed, (if they ever are), they will have no appeal in the 21st Century modern energy scene. Even now, their cost is astronomic, and they cannot attract investment. Their only hope is tax payer funding. No Generation IV nuclear reactor will be ready before 2050 (5) .
2.6 (What are the specific models for best practice in these activities?)
As to specific models – there is the failed Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX facility) at USA’s Savannah River site – an environmental and financial disaster (6)
2.11 (What are the security implications?)
From uranium enrichment, and further processing, danger arises not only from the depleted uranium waste produced, but also from the transport of enriched uranium, – the danger of accidents or of terrorist attacks:
“The transportation of UF6 is dangerous, both because of what it is – a hazardous chemical and radioactive substance; and what it is a part of – the production process of nuclear reactor fuel, nuclear bombs, and uranium ammunition. It is documented that a release of UF6 in a populated area could have catastrophic consequences. Cylinders used to transport UF6will result in quantities of uranium and hydrofluoric acid (HF) in the immediate vicinity far exceeding levels dangerous to health (both chemically and radiologically).
Despite the danger, the dominant belief within governments and the nuclear industry is that UF6 transport is safe. This belief, regrettably, is mainly based on two assumptions shown to be false. These assumptions are that UF6 does not present a significant radioactive hazard, and cylinders used to transport UF6 are built strong enough to survive accident conditions. It is noted, however, that deciding whether or not the transportation of UF6 is dangerous involves qualitative moral and ethical decisions as well as analysis of quantitative, technical data.” (7)
2.13. (How to estimate the financial benefit to South Australians?)
This question is a joke. Given the unfathomable costs and the disastrous history of U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) , it is ludicrous to expect any accurate assessment of the costs, let alone the very hypothetical benefits.(8)
2.14.(What impacts on other sectors of the economy?)
Whereas in the past, countries like France and USA were complacent about setting up nuclear industries, and not worried about the effects on clean industries – farming, vineyards, fisheries, those days are over.
“The increased exposure of contaminants to crops and livestock, and the natural environment and cumulative “food chain” events of unregulated agricultural products, have the potential for significant safety and health risks to consumers. Perhaps more importantly, the public perception of risk or danger from uranium may also result in serious negative repercussions for the marketability of agricultural products from the nearby regions” (9)
“A nuclear facility in Washington State’s prime wine country is leaching radioactive groundwater….the DOE report released last year that indicated trace amounts of the radioisotope tritium were found in wine samples collected”. (10)
Any nuclear facility – from uranium mining through to waste facility poses a real impediment to tourism, as well as to agriculture. In England, the Lake District is currently facing this threat – Tourism, Milk and Cheese or Nuclear? (11)
All uranium/nuclear activities bring the danger of radioactive leakage to groundwater, with impacts on all agricultural industries. (12_)
So far, I have considered only the effects on industries of the normal operations of advanced uranium and fuel fabrication processes. But what if there’s an accident? (13) Chernobyl and Fukushima give an illustration here, of what happens to farming and fishing industries.
Fukushima’s fish industry is yet to recover. (14) Chernobyl: “Agriculture was hardest hit, with 784 320 hectares taken from production. Timber production was halted in 694,200 hectares of forest. Remediation made “clean food” production possible in many areas but led to higher costs in the form of fertilizers, additives and special cultivation processes.
Even where farming is safe, the stigma associated with Chernobyl caused marketing problems and led to falling revenues, declining production and the closure of some facilities. Combined with disruptions due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, recession, and new market mechanisms, the region’s economy suffered, resulting in lower living standards, unemployment and increased poverty. All agricultural areas, whether affected by radiation or not, proved vulnerable”. (15)
- The Standard July 12, 2013
- Some Problems And Hazards Associated With The Transportation Of Uranium Hexafluoride by Miles Goldstick
- Maggy J. Lewis http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=wmelpr
- . SLAC Scientists Search for New Ways to Deal with U.S. Uranium Ore Processing Legacy New Field Project Tests Link Between Organic Materials and Persistent Uranium Contamination http://www.newswise.com/articles/slac-scientists-search-for-new-ways-to-deal-with-u-s-uranium-ore-processing-legacy
- Possible Effects of Nuclear Radiation Accidents on Agriculture http://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgiarticle=1439&context=utk_agbulletin?