Australian news, and some related international items

Past week in nuclear news Australia

n.b. Australia’s top nuclear expert Jim Green on ABC Radio National “Ockham’s Razor” next Sunday 18 October at 7.45 a.m. EST (later available as podcast) Dr Helen Caldicott to speak at Sydney University on Sat 17th October.

a-cat-CANCritical scrutiny on Australia’s stance on nuclear weapons.

Secrecy on nuclear waste plans, as Fed govt delays announcing site for radioactive trash dump.

Govt to investigate ERA’s Ranger uranium mine burnoff and subsequent Kakadu fire.

Unable to sell them at home, Westinghouse trying to flog uneconomic nuclear reactors to Australia.

Labor Party to launch a managed, predictable, energy transition process.

South Australia Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission -an Aboriginal group slams its processes.   Is the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) a lemon? – a critical look at the public hearing held on October 7th.   Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce says South Australia as radioactive trash dump is our best nuclear bet.

CLIMATE CHANGE. AUSTRALIA’S SHAME: getting UN climate draft to drop action to help climate refugees.  Displacement Solutions (NGO for climate refugees) targets Australia as worst climate offender. Climate draft for Paris leaves Australia further behind in its lack of climate plan.   Climate Change Authority gets five new board members in possible reprieve.   Talking about bushfires: we should be talking about climate change too.

Trans Pacific Partnership‘s Investor-State Dispute Settlement [ISDS] provisions are bad for environment.

RENEWABLE ENERGY PM Turnbull could end the govt’s war on wind farms; but will he?  New South Wales town Uralla shows the way to 100% renewable energy.  Perth home entirely powered by solar energy shows the way. New low-cost, high efficiency solar panel launched in Australia. Study finds that storage for solar energy can replace gas in our electricity networks.

Water. Australia’s Great Artesian Basin – what will its future be?

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

#NuclearCommissionSAust hearing – is the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) a lemon?

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINPlough your way through the transcript of the October 7th hearing of the South Australia Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission, and amidst all the technical hype, you will find some sobering points.

The speaker was  Mr Thomas Marcille, of Holtec International, developer of the SMR-160, who enthused about that SMRs future, and explained its safety features etc.

Yet there were bits that would make even a greedy Australian nuke enthusiast pause: 

“COMMISSIONER: Would it be fair to say that you’re expecting SMR or the 30 application of them outside the US more than inside?

MR MARCILLE: No question ……As a data point, I think that would suggest that the vast market is outside of the United States………, it’s possible for a national regulator outside the United States to first licence the SMR-160.”

He goes on to explain that the USA’s now more rigourous licensing process “part 52 or design certificate” is “far too arduous in terms of time and cost and risk.

[translation – nobody in USA wants to buy the SMR, and it can’t get licensing there] 

our concept is to develop a preliminary design specification and a preliminary safety analysis report and to then achieve an opportunity with a commercial client to submit that preliminary safety analysis report under the  review of a competent regulator for consideration of granting a construction permit. At such time the design will matriculate through the engineering specifications, the procurement specifications and the construction drawings. It’s unlikely that Holtec will continue to develop towards final safety analysis and final design unless a client steps forth.” 

[translation – we’re not going ahead with licensing until after we’ve signed up an overseas buyer, such as Australia]  [Holtec will]   “continue the investment in the business and the technology if and as the marketplace develops”

SMRs Australia

The Commissioner asked Mr Marcille about “ comparison to larger plants the cost economies and the advantages of small modular reactors.” and about “the extent to which companies expect to have an order book of plants to manufacture and the extent to which they can enjoy economies of scale 25 because they’re manufacturing multiple versions of the same item “. 

MR MARCILLE: Let me help by saying that – let me liken a large light-water reactor to a large apple and suggest that a lot of people think of small modular reactors as little apples. I would ask you to think of a small modular reactor like the SMR160 not as a little apple but a little orange. So now I’m comparing a big apple to a little orange and they’re entirely different. The apple is sweet, 40 the orange is sour. You get the picture…….

Mr Marcille continued with a lengthy and complex answer to this question, which included stressing the large costs of large reactors. I did not find it convincing .


October 10, 2015 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016 | Leave a comment

Low doses of radiation shown to be harmful to living organisms

highly-recommendedRadiation Impact Studies: Chernobyl and Fukushima, Dissident Voice,  by Robert Hunziker / September 23rd, 2015 Some nuclear advocates suggest that wildlife thrives in the highly-radioactive Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, animals like it, and not only that, a little radiation for anybody and everybody is harmless and maybe good, not bad. This text-relevantmay seem like a senseless argument to tackle were it not for the persistence of positive-plus commentary by nuke lovers. The public domain deserves better, more studied, more crucial answers.

Fortunately, as well as unfortunately, the world has two major real life archetypes of radiation’s impact on the ecosystem: Chernobyl and Fukushima.  Chernobyl is a sealed-off 30klm restricted zone for the past 30 years because of high radiation levels, whereas PM Abe’s government in Japan has already started returning people to formerly restricted zones surrounding the ongoing Fukushima nuclear melt-down.

text ionisingThe short answer to the supposition that a “little dab of radiation is A-Okay” may be suggested in the title of a Washington Blog d/d March 12, 2014 in an interview of Dr. Timothy Mousseau, the world-renowned expert on radiation effects on living organisms. The hard answer is included further on in this article.

Dr. Mousseau is former Program Director at the National Science Foundation in Population Biology, Panelist for the National Academy of Sciences’ Panels on Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities and GAO Panel on Health and Environmental Effects from Tritium Leaks at Nuclear Power Plants, and a biology professor – and former Dean of the Graduate School, and Chair of the Graduate Program in Ecology – at the University of South Carolina.

The title of the Washington Blog interview is:

“Chernobyl and Fukushima Studies Show that Radiation Reduces Animal and Plant Numbers, Fertility, Brain Size and Diversity… and Increases Deformities and Abnormalities”

Dr. Mousseau made many trips to Chernobyl and Fukushima, making 896 inventories at Chernobyl and 1,100 biotic inventories in Fukushima. His mission was to test the effects of radiation on plants and animals. The title of his interview (above) handily serves to answer the question of whether radiation is positive for animals and plants. Without itemizing reams and reams of study data, the short answer is: Absolutely not! It is not positive for animals and plants, period.

Moreover, low doses of radiation, aka “radiation hormesis”, is not good for humans, as advocated by certain energy-related outlets. Data supporting their theory is extremely shaky and more to the point, flaky.

Furthermore, according to the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s journalBiological Reviews, including reported results by wide-ranging analyses of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over 40 years, low-level natural background radiation was found to have small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA and several measures of good health.

Dr. Mousseau, with co-author Anders Møller of the University of Paris-Sud, examined more that 5,000 papers involving background radiation in order to narrow their findings to 46 peer-reviewed studies. These studies examined plants and animals with a large preponderance of human subjects.

The scientists reported significant negative effects in a range of categories, including immunology, physiology, mutation and disease occurrence. The frequency of negative effects was beyond that of random chance.

There is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation.

With the levels of contamination that we have seen as a result of nuclear power plants, especially in the past, and even as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima and related accidents, there’s an attempt in the industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting, because maybe it’s only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level…. But they’re assuming the natural background levels are fine. And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants……

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Govt to investigate ERA’s Ranger uranium mine burnoff and subsequent Kakadu fire

bushfireKakadu bushfire: Dept of Environment to investigate Ranger mine burn-off that spread to national park, ABC News, 9 Oct 15   The federal Environment Department says it will investigate a fire started by Energy Resources Australia (ERA) that spread into Kakadu National Park, threatening important cultural sites.

The fire started at ERA’s Ranger uranium mine a week ago and spread into the World Heritage-listed park, threatening several culturally sensitive Indigenous sites. In a statement to the ABC, a spokesman for Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt described the fire as a “very serious matter”.”Minister Hunt has asked the Department and Parks Australia to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the cause of the fire,” the statement said.

“No permission was sought and no approval was received for the lighting of the fire by ERA.

“We will not hesitate to seek reimbursement for the costs of firefighting if negligence or wrongdoing are in any way shown.

“Additionally, a breach of the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act can result in fines of up to $8.5 million.”

The ABC understands the NT Department of Mines and Energy will also be investigating the fire………

Aboriginal groups angry over fire

Justin O’Brien from the Gunjeihmi Corporation, which represents the area’s traditional owners, said ERA needed “to be taught about the sensitive environment” they operate in. “There’s an argument to say they should be prosecuted for what they’ve done, this is the second year in a row that they’ve done this, It’s almost a replica of last year,” he said.

“They are not learning so they need to be taught about the sensitive environment which they’re operating in.”

The Northern Land Council (NLC) said it was not confident a federal investigation would find anyone accountable for the fire.

Joe Morrison, CEO of the NLC, said he wanted to see traditional fire management practices reinstated.

“There’s been lots of fires and lots of investigations in relation to Kakadu and surrounds for a long time, we wouldn’t want to hold our breath,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said he wanted to see Aboriginal people “take control of that agenda and reinstate their traditional fire management practices”.

October 10, 2015 Posted by | - incidents, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Results of Major Landmark Study on Low Dose Radiation (July 2015)

highly-recommendedRadiation Impact Studies: Chernobyl and Fukushima, Dissident Voice,  by Robert Hunziker / September 23rd, 2015

text-relevant“…….A consortium of researchers coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, examined causes of death in a study of more than 300,000 nuclear-industry workers in France, the United States and the United Kingdom, all of whom wore dosimeter badges.1

The workers received on average just 1.1 millisieverts (mSv) per year above background radiation, which itself is about 2–3 mSv per year from sources such as cosmic rays and radon. The study confirmed that the risk of leukemia does rise proportionately with higher doses, but also showed that this linear relationship is present at extremely low levels of radiation.

The study effectively “scuppers the popular idea that there might be a threshold dose below which radiation is harmless.”


Even so, the significant issue regarding radiation exposure for humans is that it is a “silent destroyer” that takes years and only manifests once damage has occurred; for example, 200 American sailors of the USS Reagan have filed a lawsuit against TEPCO et al because of radiation-related illnesses, like leukemia, only four years after radiation exposure from Fukushima…..

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment