Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s national government falters on climate policy. Victoria races ahead

Victoria-sunny.psdVictoria steps up climate ambition. Turnbull takes two steps back, REneweconomy, By  on 30 January 2017

As an increasingly divided Turnbull government rules out any new policy tools to cut power sector emissions or boost renewable energy development, Victoria’s Labor government has upped the ante on climate action, pledging to cut state emissions by up to 20 per cent within three years on the road to its ultimate target of zero net emissions by 2050.

The new interim target, announced by Victoria’s energy and climate minister Lily D’Ambrosio on Sunday, aims to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by between 15-20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.

Details on how the Andrews government aims to meet that target were released alongside the party’s Climate Change Framework, which maps out a plan to 2020 to put it on track for its 2050 goal.

As has been noted, the majority of the 2020 target will be met through the March closure of the state’s Hazelwood coal power station, following a decision made by the plant’s French owners, Engie, last year. But it will also require other cuts through energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

The state has set renewable energy targets of 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025, on which it is currently being advised by former ACT climate minister and renewables policy mastermind, Simon Corbell.

Adding to Victoria’s emissions reduction momentum will be the TAKE2 program – Australia’s first state government-led climate change pledging program, which calls on local governments, schools and businesses to take action to reduce emissions.

As part of the program, the Andrews government has pledged to reduce its reported emissions from government operations by 30 per cent below 2015 levels by 2020.

However it winds up being reached, the new target puts Victoria at the front of the pack on government climate ambition, further highlights the disconnect between the states and Canberra, and tightens the screws on a PM faced with renewed internal discord on climate and renewables.

In a speech at a Young Liberals conference in Adelaide on Sunday, former PM Tony Abbott­ called on Turnbull to scrap the RET – an electoral promise he himself was never able to fulfil – and said that the party’s “first big fight this year must be to stop any further mandatory use of renewable power.”

Frequent assurances from both Turnbull and Frydenberg that the national RET will not be increased, and the complete absence of any renewables target beyond 2020, suggest Abbott & Co have little to worry about on that count.

But according to a report released by Melbourne-based carbon consultancy RepuTex on Monday, the renewable targets set by Labor state governments in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the ACT are combining to effectively increase the federal RET to 35 per cent by 2030…….


February 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Victoria | Leave a comment

Goodbye to the dream of cheap nuclear power – it’s OVER!

nuclear-costs1The dream of cheap nuclear power is over, Crains, By: NOAH SMITH, January 31, 2017  For much of my life, I loved the idea of nuclear power. The science was so cool, futuristic and complicated, the power plants so vast and majestic. I devoured science-fiction novels like “Lucifer’s Hammer,” where a plucky nuclear entrepreneur restarts civilization after a comet almost wipes us out. I thought of accidents like Three Mile Island and even Chernobyl as stumbling blocks to a nuclear future.

Then, in 2011, two things happened. First, a tsunami knocked out the nuclear reactor at Fukushima, forcing a mass evacuation and costing Japan hundreds of billions of dollars. Second, I learned that progress in solar power had been a lot faster and steadier than I had realized. I started taking a closer look at whether nuclear was really the future of energy. Now I’m pretty convinced that my youthful fantasies of a nuclear world won’t come true anytime soon.

Safety is part of the problem — but a much smaller part than most people realize…….

The biggest problem with nuclear isn’t safety — it’s cost. The economics of nuclear are almost certain to keep it a marginal part of the energy mix, especially in the U.S.

Many energy sources involve relatively small upfront costs. To increase solar power, just build more panels. Fracking also has lower fixed costs than traditional oil drilling. But nuclear’s fixed costs are enormous. A new nuclear plant in the U.S. costs about $9 billion to build — more than 1,000 times as much as a new fracking well, and more than 3,000 times as much as the world’s biggest solar plant.

Raising $9 billion is a daunting obstacle. It’s more money than Apple Inc., the U.S.’s most valuable company, borrowed in 2016.The plucky young entrepreneur raising enough money to build his own nuclear plant in “Lucifer’s Hammer” was pure fantasy; in reality, nuclear plants get build by giant corporations such as General Electric Co. and Toshiba Corp., with huge assistance from the government in the form of loan guarantees.

It’s hard to raise money for projects with giant fixed costs and long horizons for repayment, because they’re inherently risky. If something goes badly wrong with the project, all of that up-front money is lost. If competition makes a project un-economical in five or 10 years in the future, the financiers will take a big loss. It’s very hard to make predictions of more than a few years, especially about competing technologies.

For nuclear power, that’s the main risk — rapid advances in competing technologies. Solar power is already cheap and is plunging in price, while energy storage is also becoming much more affordable. If these trends continue, a nuclear power plant that’s economical today will be out-competed in a few years. In other words, there will be no way the owner could recover the fixed costs.

What’s worse, nuclear doesn’t look like it’s getting any cheaper. A recent paper by the Breakthrough Institute shows that in most countries, nuclear costs haven’t changed much in recent decades: Constant or rising nuclear construction costs, matched with dramatically falling solar and storage costs, mean that anyone who ponies up the $9 billion to build a nuclear plant today is taking a gargantuan risk.

Another source of risk is safety — not the well-known threats of accidents and storage leaks, but the unknown unknowns. If terrorists figure out how to bomb nuclear plants, or hackers find ways to invade their software and cause them to melt down, the destruction could be catastrophic. But no one really knows how likely or remote those threats will be a decade from now. And even if those risks can be prevented, doing so will probably will cause large unanticipated costs.

So nuclear power hasn’t become the futuristic dream technology the old science-fiction novels envisioned. Instead, it’s a huge, risky government-subsidized corporate boondoggle. Someday we may have fusion power or small, cheap fission reactors, and the old dream of nuclear will be realized. But unless one of those breakthrough technologies comes to fruition, nuclear isn’t the power of tomorrow.

Noah Smith writes for Bloomberg View.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dispelling the myth about why thorium nuclear reactors were never commercially developed

Thorium-pie-in-skyThorium Reactors: Fact and Fiction, Skeptoid  These next-generation reactors have attracted a nearly cultish following. Is it justified?   by Brian Dunning  Skeptoid Podcast #555  January 24, 2017

Podcast transcript     “………True or False? Thorium reactors were never commercially developed because they can’t produce bomb material.

This is mostly false, although it’s become one of the most common myths about thorium reactors. There are other very good reasons why uranium-fueled reactors were developed commercially instead of thorium-fueled reactors. If something smells like a conspiracy theory, you’re always wise to take a second, closer look.

When we make weapons-grade Pu239 for nuclear weapons, we use special production reactors designed to burn natural uranium, and only for about three months, to avoid contaminating it with Pu240. Only a very few reactors were ever built that can both do that and generate electricity. The rest of the reactors out there that generate electricity could have been any design that was wanted. So why weren’t thorium reactors designed instead? We did have some test thorium-fueled reactors built and running in the 1960s. The real reason has more to do with the additional complexity, design challenges, and expense of these MSBR (molten salt breeder) reactors.

In 1972, the US Atomic Energy Commission published a report on the state of MSBR reactors. Here’s a snippet of what was found:

A number of factors can be identified which tend to limit further industrial involvement at this time, namely:

  • The existing major industrial and utility commitments to the LWR, HTGR, and LMFBR.
  • The lack of incentive for industrial investment in supplying fuel cycle services, such as those required for solid fuel reactors.
  • The overwhelming manufacturing and operating experience with solid fuel reactors in contrast with the very limited involvement with fluid fueled reactors.
  • The less advanced state of MSBR technology and the lack of demonstrated solutions to the major technical problems associated with the MSBR concept.

In short, the technology was just too complicated, and it never became mature enough.

It is, however, mostly true that, if we’re going to use a commercial reactor to get plutonium for a bomb, recycling spent fuel from a uranium reactor is easier, and you can get proper weapons-grade plutonium this way. It is possible to get reactor-grade plutonium from a thorium reactor that can be made into a bomb — one was successfully tested in 1962 — but it’s a much lower yield bomb and it’s much harder to get the plutonium.

The short answer is that reduced weapons proliferation is not the strongest argument for switching from uranium fuel to thorium fuel for power generation. Neither reactor type is what’s typically designed and used for bomb production. Those already exist, and will continue to provide all the plutonium that governments are ever likely to need for that purpose.

There’s every reason to take fossil fuels completely out of our system; we have such absurdly better options. If you’re like me and want to see this approach be a multi-pronged one, one that major energy companies, smaller community providers, and individual homeowners can all embrace, then advocate for nukes. You don’t need to specify thorium or liquid fuel or breeders; they’re already the wave of the future — a future which, I hope, will be clean, bright, and bountiful.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Solar power now taking off in a big way in Western Australia

map-WA-solarWest Australians embrace solar panels at record rate By Kathryn Diss WA households and businesses are installing solar panels at a record rate, with installations up 33 per cent last year, driven by rising power prices and the falling cost of the technology, new research has found.

The data, compiled by solar industry consultancy SunWiz, also revealed ten of the nation’s top 20 solar-adopting suburbs were in WA, with Wanneroo, Mandurah and Armadale leading the way.

Sunwiz managing director Warwick Johnston said two factors were driving the uptake in WA.

“We’re seeing solar prices have come down to levels they’ve never been before — prices in Perth are at their lowest compared to the eastern states — and we’re also seeing the electricity price rises really kicking in in Western Australia”, he said.

“In Perth electricity prices started climbing again and [are] expected to do so for a number of years, so I think that’s in people’s minds, in people’s consciousness when they’re thinking about solar power.

“Those factors are really making solar something people are interested in.”

The huge uptake in solar panels during 2016 provided a boon for solar installers across the state.

Solargain WA sales manager James Baverstock has been selling solar panels since 2008 but 2016 was his best year yet, with unprecedented sales during the last three months of the year.

“Towards the end of 2016 we saw record numbers — we were 80 per cent up compared to the same time during the previous year,” he said.

“The average size of the system has also gone up, we’ve seen that go up a kilowatt to a kilowatt and a half. That’s been a steady increase and [it has] certainly accelerated a little bit more recently.

Leading change

The research came as more than 40 interest groups joined forces in WA to call for action on climate change. Headed by doctors, farmers and church groups, the coalition wants the government to commit to an ambitious renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2030.

General practitioner Richard Yin spoke on behalf of the coalition and said a shift towards renewable energy was essential.  “We understand the target is ambitious but it’s been modelled as being possible and it’s been modelled in such a way we believe it can achieved,” he said.

“Everything has a cost. To not proceed down this line has an effect on our climate, to not proceed has a health impact, the combustion from coal kills many thousands of people in Australia each year and the estimated cost is about $2.6 billion in terms of our health cost.” Former WA doctor and surgeon Kingsley Faulkner is also behind the movement.

He now chairs Doctors for the Environment and said climate change was having a big impact on public health.

“In medicine we have a real responsibility to not only treat individual patients but to be involved with public health matters, and climate change and other environmental challenges are amongst the biggest of those matters,” he said.

Increasing use of solar panels has come at a time when, according to the state’s economic watchdog, households are increasingly struggling to pay their power bills on time.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Radiation, cancer and death – a personal story

radiation-emanatingFlag-USAJames Knieling  no high level international nuclear waste dump in south australia, 30 Jan 17 

 Funny thing about Radiation debris, once it drops into your house, its like the “Relatives Visiting From Hell!” I watched the biggest ever above ground Nuke go off from 75-miles away, while my dad hoisted it into position at the Mercury’s Nevada Test Site. *It was dark with only the lights of Fremont Street’s Casinos at 0530 and then the brightest light you ever did not look at went on. Then a 50mph wind struck us, and it felt like a hundred little bee stings on my bare arms, legs, and face

Then it was gone. About 20-years later they found Nuclear Hot Particles in the attics of our street. My dad built and operated 67-above ground nuclear bomb hoists in 1956-7. He died of his exposure, never being warned that his badge had gone red hot, with Small Cell Lung & Bone Cancer.

My field was Radiation Health Technology to work at the Nevada Test Site so when I had the chance to go to Bikini Atoll and see all the on-site data and films I went. I went on the 60-yr post-blast and we took reading for a week. The coconuts were lethal, the coconut crabs were lethal, the ground was, even with 17″ of protection fill, still off gassing lethal hot particles.

We were billeted in structures built several feet off the ground with blowers underneath to vent the radiation. We were told not to walk bare foot, and not sit, or linger on the ground. We were told to “Never, Ever turn off the A/C and Never, Ever to shut the fresh air vent!” Funny thing about being safe to visit. Only a 150+ people had a problem with the “OK to Visit” notice, and they dropped dead. See the sign below from the Bikinian Cemetery? Guess who’s in it? Answer~!The Bikinians the US Govt suckered as “Its safe to come home!” Not, they started dropping like flies!

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Labor leader Shorten – Renewables will create real jobs

green-collarRenewables will create “real jobs”, says Shorten, REneweconomy  By  on 31 January 2017  Federal Labor leader, Bill Shorten, has taken a swipe at his opposite number in his National Press Club address, noting that a “proper renewable energy policy” would create “real jobs” for Australians.

“There are real jobs, not just jobs for the scientists, but jobs for blue collar workers, jobs for engineers, jobs for designers,” Shorten said in his speech on Tuesday, one day before the Prime Minister is to take the same stage. Shorten, whose NPC address focused on the issue of jobs, has faced heavy criticism from the Turnbull government and the Conservative press for his party’s proposed target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, in contrast with the Coalition’s dialled down target of 23 per cent by 2020.

In its editorial on Tuesday, The Australian Financial Review neatly summed up this point of view by describing Labor’s 50 per cent RET as a “policy joke that will lumber Australians with high power prices and a lack of baseload electricity.”

This argument, however, has been skewered by many independent analysts who warn that a failure to act on climate change and to decarbonise the economy will incur a much greater cost, both economic and environmental.

Shorten, in his speech, made a similar point. “There is a bigger bill to pay if we don’t act on climate change,” he said. “We will hold our ground on climate change. He [Turnbull] is about protecting his job.”……..

February 1, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Companies must meet RET obligations: regulator

(subscribers only)

February 1, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

With Toshiba’s financial nuclear disaster, Britain’s Moorside nuclear project might not go ahead

This includes the proposed nuclear new build at Moorside, near Sellafield.

Last month Toshiba announced its US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, may have overpaid – by several billion dollars – for another nuclear construction and services business. Following this, its shares fell dramatically.

Toshiba confirmed yesterday it is now reviewing its involvement in all other overseas projects as a way of dealing with this situation. It also plans to sell its semiconductor business.

Its president and chief executive Satoshi Tsunakawa said: “Going forward, we will revise the positioning of the nuclear business as our main focus business in the energy sector, and review the future of nuclear businesses outside Japan.”…….

Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, said: “I would be very concerned if this had any impact on NuGen.

“We will be seeking further information about their position and will be concerned if they is any effect on what would be the biggest single private sector investment that Cumbria has ever seen.”

To compound matters, Toshiba is also embroiled in an accounting scandal and it was yesterday announced that several Japanese banks may be about to launch a lawsuit against it.

A decision on whether to proceed with Moorside is due in 2018……

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian govt’s $1bn Adani loan for coal railway line opposed by majority of Australians, including Liberal voters

coal CarmichaelMine2Most Australians oppose government’s $1bn Adani loan for coal railway line

More than half of Liberal voters also oppose plan to loan Indian company $1bn to build a rail line between proposed Carmichael coalmine and Abbot Point, Guardian, , Three-quarters of Australians, including most Liberal voters, oppose the government giving a $1bn loan to Adani to build a rail line between its proposed Carmichael coalmine and the Abbot Point shipping terminal.

The government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (Naif) granted Adani “conditional approval” for a $1bn loan in December last year.

The rail line, if built, would allow Adani to build the country’s biggest coalmine and open up the Galilee Basin to further mines by linking them to an export terminal.

Coral scientists have argued the coal needs to stay in the ground if the Great Barrier Reef is to be protected from the impacts of climate change.

The government has argued there is no definite link between the coal from the Adani mine being burned and climate change, and the resources minister, Matthew Canavan, has said the mine would “be a good thing for the environment”.

But a ReachTel poll of 2,126 people across Australia conducted on 12 January, commissioned by GetUp, found 74.4% of respondents said “no” when asked whether “lending $1bn to an offshore mining company to build a coal rail line is a good use of public money”.

Just 16.2% of respondents thought it was a good use of public money, with 9.5% saying they didn’t know.

The opposition was strong regardless of voting intention, with 53.7% of those who said they would vote Liberal opposing the loan. Just over 80% of “undecided” voters, 85.5% of Labor voters and 89.9% of Greens voters said the loan was a bad use of public money.

A previous survey of people living in the region that would host the mine found two-thirds opposed public money being used to support the mine. Analysis from Greenpeace has suggested the rail project does not meet the requirements for a loan under the scheme, since it will not be “of public benefit” and it is not clear Adani will be able to repay the loan.

GetUp’s Miriam Lyons said: “A mere 16% of Australians think this is a good way to invest public money. While we see hospitals and schools starved of resources, the government sees fit to hand over a billion bucks to build Adani’s shiny new train.”

Lyons called on Malcolm Turnbull to stop the loan going ahead.

“Prime minister Turnbull’s not even playing for his own team – only 32% of Liberal voters agree with this use of public money,” she said.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

Jobs booster for South Australia, as Snowy Hydro joins Equis to build Australia’s largest solar farm

map solar south-australiaJobs boost as Snowy Hydro and Equis to build $200m solar power plant near Tailem Bend, Daily Telegraph  David Nankervis, The Advertiser January 31, 2017 SOUTH AUSTRALIA’s largest solar farm — with capacity for battery storage back up — will be built at a cost of more than $200 million at Tailem Bend this year.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Snowy Hydro turns to solar

Snowy Hydro turns to solar – (subscribers only )

February 1, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment