Valdis Dunis – a caution on #NuclearCommissionSAust’s enthusiasm for nuclear waste importing
Valdis Dunis comments on important aspects of #NuclearCommissionSAust’s enthusiasm for importing nuclear wastes and storing them in South Australia – on soil behaviour, seismic risks, poor history of waste disposal world-wide, delays and cost overruns, and problems of financing and insurance.
“Limited Financing and Insurance Sources for Nuclear Projects: As nuclear programs in Europe, Japan, China and USA have shown, commercial banks usually decline funding nuclear programs due to the risk factors of repeated technical problems, delays and construction and maintenance cost rises seen in many projects involving nuclear fuel. Funding thus falls to government, government-linked banks and the companies building the projects themselves (such as EDF in China and Europe). This limits who funds can be sourced from.
Similarly, commercial insurance companies do not insure nuclear installations, with the risk falling on governments”
Valdis Dunis’ Response on NFCRC’s Tentative Findings, 17 Mar 16 “………My comments below apply to the one area where your initial findings found that our state has a chance to have a significant profitable business, namely storage of high-level nuclear waste from other countries.
(1) Soil Behaviour: I would suggest you recommend that more research is taken by the state government in to the stability of our soils for underground tunnels before we commit, especially:
When tunnels are excavated deep down where there is high pressure on the soil. As per the experiences with tunnels in USA and Germany has found that the original promises that salt would be stable and hold out moisture came out to be false. In fact, as per the articles below, they have found in less than 50 years, some tunnels started caving in (in Germany), and salt under pressure allows moisture through (in USA). Do we really know how our soils in SA would react over a few thousand years to a tunnel drilled deep down where pressures are high? Relevant articles on this are at http://news.discovery.com/earth/nuclear-waste-burial-sites-may-become-leaky-151204.htm (Dec 2015) and https://www.newscientist.com/article/2075615-radioactive-waste-dogs-germany-despite-abandoning-nuclear-power/ (Jan 2016)
- Although we have less earthquakes than other regions in the world, they still do occur at times across a wide proportion of the state as below. Do we really know how our soils will react during an earthquake when an opening / tunnel is created deep underground?
(2) Track Record for Handling Nuclear Waste: I believe we should analyse deeper the track record for handling nuclear materials at storage sites currently existing in USA and Europe, especially human error and factoring the chances and costs of leakage occurring at the port, rail and/or repository. For example, a single nuclear storage site in USA (a country with decades of nuclear experience) had in less than a year two failures: …….
(3) Factoring in Delays and Cost Overruns prevalent in Nuclear Industry: I would suggest you are much more conservative and sceptical about the costs and timeframes supplied by the nuclear industry to complete major projects. Also, potential costs from human errors or inferior components being used that cause later leakage and the associated repair costs:
Costs of nuclear infrastructure in Europe and USA have repeatedly been significantly over original cost forecasts given by nuclear companies, including EDF’s reactors in Finland, France and UK (triple original costs in France – see Financial Times summary below), and 5-10 years behind schedule. In the UK, their reactor has not yet started being built, yet costs have doubled and the promised completion date has been pushed out repeatedly and is now moved from 2017 to 2025, and costs have risen from £16 billion to £24.5 billion (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/nuclearpower/11404344/Hinkley-Point-new-nuclear-power-plant-the-story-so-far.html) .
Specifically for nuclear waste repositories, one of the most experienced countries, USA, had to abandon its major site and sunk costs: “After more than 30 years and at least US$11 billion of spending, Yucca Mountain remains an abandoned hole in the ground, another tombstone to the unsolved, and potentially unsolvable, problem of radioactive waste. In 2010 the Obama administration moved to abandon the Yucca Mountain dump, officially cancelling it in April 2011. Had it gone forward, the projected cost would have been at least US$96 billion.” (https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/8703-Burying-the-problem-how-the-US-has-mismanaged-its-nuclear-waste (Mar 2016))
- Costs from human error and equipment failure need to be considered at higher amounts because they can be significant, for example the rupture of one container at a waste site in USA has resulted in: “The Energy Department has said it would cost about US$240 million to bring WIPP back into operation and tens of millions of dollars more in additional capital costs” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-mexico-presses-ahead-on-nuclear-waste-plant-reopening-1456655406 (Feb 2016))
(4) Limited Financing and Insurance Sources for Nuclear Projects: As nuclear programs in Europe, Japan, China and USA have shown, commercial banks usually decline funding nuclear programs due to the risk factors of repeated technical problems, delays and construction and maintenance cost rises seen in many projects involving nuclear fuel. Funding thus falls to government, government-linked banks and the companies building the projects themselves (such as EDF in China and Europe). This limits who funds can be sourced from.
Similarly, commercial insurance companies do not insure nuclear installations, with the risk falling on governments. As has been seen recently in Fukushima, Tepco effectively went bankrupt from a lack of funds and insurance cover, and the costs of clean up have now fallen on the Japanese government.
Hinkley Reactor C is the most current example of the issues facing the UK government to build a nuclear plant, with no commercial banks funding it, forcing them to secure funds from China’s government linked fund, and the builder EDF, who in turn is trying to get
French Government to fund it with no conclusion yet, as per these two Jan 2016 links:http://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2016/jan/27/edf-hinkleypoint-nuclear-power-strategy-uk-george-osborne-chinese-sizewell-bradwell and http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/26/edf-struggling-to-fund-new-hinkleypoint-nuclear-reactors
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