Electrical trades Union of Australia dispels the hype about Generation IV Nuclear Reactors
Electrical Trades Union, Graham Glover Submission to South Australian Government Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission http://nuclearrc.sa.gov.au/app/uploads/2015/09/Electrical-Trades-Union-03-08-2015.pdf
Extract .”……..‘Generation IV’ technologies are the fast breeder reactor, the integral fast reactor, the thorium reactor and the small modular reactor.
Because the fast breeder and integral fast reactors can ‘breed’ more nuclear fuel, in the form of plutomium-239, than they consume, their use could significantly reduce uranium mining and hence the carbon dioxide emissions from mining and milling.
But they are even more complex, expensive, dangerous and conducive to proliferation compared to older nuclear reactors. Despite several decades of pilot and demonstration plants, these technologies have not been successfully commercialised and may never be.
Nuclear proponents try to justify the integral fact reactor and the thorium reactor on the fallacious grounds that they cannot be used to produce nuclear weapons explosives. However, if not used according to instructions by governments that control it, the integral fast reactors can actually make it easier to extract weapons-grade plutonium.
Thorium is much more abundant than uranium, but to be useful as a nuclear fuel, thorium has to be converted to uranium-233, which can be fissioned either in a nuclear reactor or a nuclear bomb.ButThe small modular reactor has been a dream of the nuclear industry for decades, which hopes that mass production could make its electricity cheaper than from existing large reactors. However, offsetting this is the latter’s economy of scale. The Union of Concerned Scientists has serious safety and security concerns about small modular reactors.
Without even considering safety issues, there are a number of problems with nuclear power.
Firstly, it is expensive and relatively inefficient. The cost of building reactors is enormous and the price of subsequently decommissioning them also huge. Without massive government subsidy the nuclear industry cannot make money and building new plants is uneconomic compared to other methods of power generation.
Nuclear advocates often publish highly optimistic projections of the future cost of energy from nuclear reactors. However, past and present experience suggests that such projection have little basis in reality.
Apart from ‘new’ reactors mentioned earlier, which are not commercially available and hence cannot be costed credibly, the much touted current power reactors under construction (none are operating) are classified as Generation III+.
Two Generation III+ reactors are under construction in Europe, two in the USA and several in China. In Finland, Olkiluoto-3 is nearly a decade behind schedule and nearly three times budgeted cost; in France, Flamanville-3 is five years behind schedule and double budgeted cost; in Georgia USA, Vogtie is three years behind schedule.
The proposed new Hinkley C in the UK will receive a guaranteed inflation-linked price for electricity over 35 years, commencing at 9.25 p/kWh (about 18 AU c/kWh), double the typical wholesale price of electricity in the UK and over three times Australia’s; it will also receive huge loan guarantees and insurance backed by the British taxpayer.
For comparison, wind energy is around 8–10 c/kWh in certain sites in Australia and about half this at some sites in the USA. USA based SunEdison has contracted to supply electricity from a large solar power station in Chile in 2016 for the record low price of US 9 c/kWh. Both solar and wind are still becoming cheaper as their markets grow. [table here on original]
…….the costs per kWh of subsidieshelp make coal and oil and nuclear seem more economically competitive than they actually are as compared to renewables……
Clearly nuclear energy is an issue of national import. Australians around the country would be directly or indirectly impacted by the decision of any state to expand any element of the nuclear industry. This is particularly true of storage, enrichment and generation.
We submit that any state based inquiry and subsequent findings. Irrespective of the fact that it may be advice solely to the requesting state government, can be viewed as fundamentally flawed and manifestly lacking on that basis alone.
There have been numerous previous inquires, commissions, studies and reports into the nuclear industry in Australia which have culminated in the laws that we currently have. Expansion of Australia’s role in the nuclear fuel cycle, with the exception of uranium mining and milling, is currently prohibited under section 10 of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (Cth) and repeated in section 140 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).
We’ve already had the nuclear debate in Australia and the result was, unequivocally, that the vast majority, including South Australians, are against it. Why do it again at taxpayer expense?
The disadvantages of nuclear power include investment and financing risks, long construction times, persistently negative perceptions, especially regarding the long-term safety of nuclear waste disposal, and a possibility of accidents releasing harmful radiation. There is also a need to provide expensive specialist regulatory agencies and detailed safety regimes.
It is simply not necessary to even go down that path in Australia, particularly South Australia with abundant solar and wind, where we have an embarrassment of riches in safe alternatives be they renewable or traditional energy fuels.
It is our view that no matter how improved nuclear technology may be, the main risks of human error, natural disasters, terrorism and the unresolved question of long term nuclear waste storage condemns nuclear reactors and power as having unsolvable factors which make this form of energy production not worth the risk
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