Australian news, and some related international items

Global failure of the nuclear industry

nuclear-costs1Not just Toshiba – the global nuclear industry is in crisis everywhere, Ecologist, Jim Green 3rd February 2017   Global nuclear power capacity grew slightly in 2016, writes Jim Green, but it was more a dead cat bounce than the promised ‘nuclear renaissance’. The collapse of Toshiba, the direct result of its failing nuclear ventures, is indicative of the crisis faced by nuclear contractors and utilities worldwide. Another sign of the industry’s poor outlook: no major commodity had a worse 2016 than uranium.

Recent revelations that nuclear giant Toshiba faces multi-billion dollar losses and write-downs and may rule itself out of future nuclear construction bids around the world have dominated the world’s financial press.

Toshiba was only just recovering from a 2015 accounting scandal in which it padded reported profits by about US$1.3bn over seven years.

The ripple-effects of Toshiba’s latest problems will be many and varied. Japan’s ambitions to develop a large nuclear export business are in tatters.

As recently as last year, Toshiba said it hoped to win 50 contracts to build new nuclear plants in India and China over the next decade. Also up in the air are reactor construction projects being planned in the UKTurkey, and elsewhere.

Toshiba says it is “re-examining its relationship” with Westinghouse, its struggling US subsidiary. Delays and cost overruns on nuclear construction projects in the US will be expressed as write-downs that could be as high as US$7 billion.

As Toshiba, so the entire nuclear industry

Toshiba’s 2006 acquisition of Westinghouse has turned out to be a “pivotal moment in Toshiba’s decline” according to Bloomberg. Even pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman says the looming massive write-down has “doomed” the company’s US nuclear business.

He adds that it “also apparently ends the so-called nuclear renaissance in the US for full size reactors. During 2007-2010 there were more than two dozen applications expected for new reactors, but now only a few licenses have been completed and they do not have any links to near term plans to build the units.”

But it’s not just Toshiba. Other nuclear utilities around the world are also in deep trouble. Their problems were summarised in the July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report:

“Many of the traditional nuclear and fossil fuel based utilities are struggling with a dramatic plunge in wholesale power prices, a shrinking client base, declining power consumption, high debt loads, increasing production costs at aging facilities, and stiff competition, especially from renewables.

  • In Europe, energy giants EDF, Engie (France), E.ON, RWE (Germany) and Vattenfall (Sweden), as well as utilities TVO (Finland) and CEZ (Czech Republic), have all been downgraded by credit rating agencies over the past year. All of the utilities registered severe losses on the stock market.
  • French utility AREVA has accumulated €10 billion (US$10.9 billion) in losses over the past five years. Share value 95% below 2007 peak value. Standard & Poor’s downgraded AREVA shares to BB+ (‘junk’) in November 2014 and again to BB- in March 2015. The company is to be broken up, with French-state-controlled utility EDF taking a majority stake in the reactor building and maintenance subsidiary AREVA NP will then be opened up to foreign investment. The rescue scheme has not been approved by the European Commission.
  • The AREVA rescue scheme could turn out to be highly problematic for EDF as its risk profile expands. EDF struggles with US$41.5 billion debt, downgraded by S&P, shares lost over half of their value in less than a year and 87% compared to their peak value in 2007.
  • RWE shares went down by 54% in 2015.
  • In Asia, the share value of the largest Japanese utilities TEPCO and Kansai was wiped out in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and never recovered. Chinese utility CGN (EDF partner for Hinkley Point C), listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange since December 2014, has lost 60% of its share value since June 2015. The only exception to this trend is the Korean utility KEPCO that operates as a virtual monopoly in a regulated market.
  • In the US, the largest nuclear operator Exelon has lost about 60% of its share value compared to its peak value in 2008.”

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shell’s solar plant plans – with gas as backup

Shell plans Australian solar plants that can switch to gas The Anglo-Dutch oil giant is looking to invest in Australian solar plants that can switch to gas when needed. THE AUSTRALIAN, , 4 Feb 17

 Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell is looking to invest in Australian solar plants that can switch to gas when needed to deliver baseload power supply as debate rages over renewable energy security in the wake of South Australia’s ­crippling power outages.

Shell, which is Australia’s biggest LNG exporter and one of the world’s largest oil companies, has revealed that Australia was one of three global locations, along with Oman and Brunei, where it was studying pairing renewable energy with gas, after last year flagging “new energies” would be a potential major source of growth for the fossil fuel company beyond 2020.

“We believe we are in the ­middle of an energy transition that is unstoppable and we want to be in the vanguard of that,” Shell’s global chief Ben van Beurden said after the company’s fourth-­quarter earnings release in Britain on Thursday.

He said renewables alone would not be enough to provide the world with cleaner power.

“An integrated offering of gas and renewables, which cannot only deal with interruptibility and everything else of renewables but also give that second leg that a growing economy needs, is a sensible offering,” Mr van Beurden said.

Chief financial officer Simon Henry confirmed Australia was one of the regions where combined gas and renewables were being studied……..

Shell’s plan, to develop economically viable renewable power stations where a gas switch could be flicked when needed, could ­reduce the need for both coal-­baseload power and expensive gas-only peaking plants…….

While Shell’s renewables focus has been on wind farms so far —,it won a bid in December to build a 700MW wind farm off the coast of Holland — it is understood Shell is investigating solar power, paired with gas, in Australia…….

February 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Cameco to lose $1.3bn as Japan’s TEPCO cancels uranium contract

Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

The writing is on the wall. Ban uranium mining now: “Tepco’s termination of the contract would affect about 9.3 million pounds of uranium deliveries through 2028, worth about $1.3 billion in revenue.”


Cigar Lake, in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, is the world’s highest-grade uranium mine.

Uranium miner Cameco (TSX:CCO; NYSE:CCJ) is weighing its options after a key Japanese customer attempted to cancel its contract, which would mean $1.3 billion in lost revenue for the Canadian company.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), the operator of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, issued a termination notice for a uranium supply contract on Jan. 24 and, earlier this week, it said it would not accept a delivery that was scheduled for Feb.1.

Such contract cancellation would affect about 9.3 million pounds of uranium deliveries through 2028, including about 855,000 pounds annually in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Cameco said.

Shares collapsed on the news. They…

View original post 173 more words

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear disaster: Worker sues Tepco over cancer

Fukushima 311 Watchdogs


The plaintiff helped build scaffolding to repair the damaged No 4 reactor at the Fukushima plant

A Japanese court has begun hearing the case of a man who developed leukaemia after working as a welder at the damaged Fukushima nuclear site.

The plaintiff, 42, is the first person to be recognised by labour authorities as having an illness linked to clean-up work at the plant.

He is suing Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the complex.

The nuclear site was hit by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, causing a triple meltdown.

It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. An exclusion zone remains in place around the site as thousands of workers continue clean-up efforts.

‘Expendable labourer’

The man, from Japan’s Fukuoka prefecture, was a welder for a sub-contractor.

He spent six months working at Genkai and Fukushima No 2 nuclear plants before moving to the…

View original post 573 more words

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Record high fatal radiation levels, hole in reactor 2 detected

Fukushima 311 Watchdogs


Deadly radiation estimated inside reactor vessel

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says its latest estimation of the radiation level inside one of the reactors was extremely high and had the potential to be lethal to a human within a short period of time.

Tokyo Electric Power Company conducted an inspection inside the containment vessel of the plant’s No.2 reactor last month using a remote-controlled camera, as part of a survey to scrap the reactor.

An analysis of the images found that the radiation was up to 530 sieverts per hour at a concrete cylinder supporting the reactor.

The level is enough to be lethal to a human within a short period of time, despite a possible error margin of up to 30 percent.

A survey conducted 1 year after the nuclear accident at a different part inside the same containment vessel logged 73 sieverts per hour.

View original post 454 more words

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kimba Mayor wants a referendum first, before any decision on nuclear waste dump



Kimba wants to take nuke waste, Peter Jean, The Advertiser. p.6 of print version. “…….Kimba mayor Dean Johnson said a referendum of residents should be held before a final decision was made to build a waste dump in the district ….”

February 3, 2017 Posted by | South Australia, wastes | Leave a comment

S Aust property owners offer land for nuclear waste – at Napandee and Lyndhurst, near Kimba

greed copySA landowners offer up two more properties as sites for federal nuclear dump Another two properties near Kimba in South Australia have been put forward as potential sites for the nation’s first nuclear waste dump.

Six sites around Australia, including two others near Kimba, were previously shortlisted by the federal government to store low- and intermediate-level waste.

Wallerberdina station near Barndioota in the Flinders Ranges was the only one to reach a formal consultation phase, which remains ongoing.

The nomination of the previous sites caused significant divisions within the Kimba community, but two other local landowners have since offered up their properties, called Napandee and Lyndhurst.

Bruce Wilson from the federal resources department said Industry Minister Matt Canavan had not decided on whether to take the proposals forward. “By no means has there been any decision to accept the nominations at this point,” Mr Wilson said. “We are hopeful that in the next few weeks there will be a decision made.”

Mr Wilson said a French nuclear delegation would visit the region, as well as the Flinders Ranges, next week to discuss storage of radioactive waste with locals.

“The French delegation has been invited by the Kimba Council to come down,” he said.”It’s an opportunity for them to ask questions about the issues they’re concerned about.”

Napandee is about 25 kilometres west of Kimba, while Lyndhurst is about 20km north-east of the town.

Kimba mayor Dean Johnson said he was not surprised other local landowners had nominated their properties for nuclear waste storage, and welcomed the chance to meet with the delegation.

“The more information we can get the better, so hopefully this will provide some real answers,” he said.

“The entire question remains around community consent.”

The Federal Government’s selection of Wallerberdina station for further consideration has proved highly controversial and generated a backlash within the local community.

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Ben Heard, of nuclear front group “Bright New World” in unfair attack on S Aust Liberals


In his latest pro nuclear spiel, on his front group “Bright New World” Ben Heard attacks South Australia’s Liberal Party. He attacks them for ignoring the evidence of (so-called) “Independent” experts.

Those experts are in fact, highly biased pro nuclear lobbyists. Dr Tim Johnson of Jacob Consulting, a leading advocate for underground nuclear storage in S.A. Jim Voss the ex-MD of Pangea Resources – a failed joint venture attempt to bring High Level nuclear waste to Australia in the late 1990s. Voss has global links in the nuclear industry at the highest level. Through UCL he lectured South Australians on the glories of nuclear.

February 3, 2017 Posted by | South Australia, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Nuclear propaganda group to visit Port Augusta

buyer-beware-1French nuclear delegation to visit Port Augusta, The Transcontinental Matt Carcich@MattCarcich  1 Feb 2017 Port Augusta will host French radioactive waste experts and those who have lived next to a radioactive waste management facility to share their experiences.

The discussion will be held at the Standpipe Golf Motor Inn on Wednesday February 8, from 11am – 12pm (presentation) and 12pm – 2pm (lunch).

The group will also visit Hawker, Quorn and Kimba.

The delegation from France’s radioactive waste management organisation, Andra, and surrounds, was organised after discussions with the Hawker community and after a specific invitation from Working for Kimba’s Future, who are supporting new land nominations from their area.

The four person delegation will comprise of the following:

  • Mayor of Fresnay and champagne producer, Pierre Jobard.
  • Mayor of Soulaines and local tourism board member, Philippe Dallemagne.
  • Director of the Aube Disposal Facility, Patrice Torres.
  • Andra International Business Manager, Jelena Bolia.

The group will hold a number of community presentations that are open to the public.

Staff from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Geoscience Australia will also be available for questions.

Head of the Resources Division in the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Bruce Wilson, said the group will be spending a number of days within the area, including visiting the nominated site at Barndioota………

The proposed site,160 kilometres north of Port Augusta, will store low-level and some intermediate-level nuclear waste.

The low level purpose-built repository would be about the size of four Olympic size swimming pools with a 60 hectare buffer on the 25,000 hectare property.

Designs have not been prepared for the national repository but it will be modelled on above-ground storage and disposal facilities overseas.

The 95-hectare Aube facility in Northern France manages low and intermediate level radioactive waste…..

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel – an intelligent voice for Australia’s energy future

finkel-alanEight reasons why Dr Finkel is great news for Australia’s energy future By  on 1 February 2017

Our electricity grid looks likely to progress more systematically to a cleaner more secure future thanks to Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel being brought in – to lead the analysis and policy recommendations. For those who could not make Tuesday night’s 2.5 hour session in Adelaide with him, here are some of the key comments made by him and his team:

1.      Dr Finkel and SA’s Chief Scientist Leanna Read both see the grid becoming 100% renewable powered as the end point. Continue reading

February 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Turnbull govt wants to use Clean Energy Finance Corporation to finance new coal power stations

logo CEFC

The stranded asset risks of investing in new coal-fired power plants are clear to almost all,” Buckley said. “At some point a carbon tax or ETS is inevitable and would need to be priced in.”

Buckley said if that happened, the CEFC could well be stranded with any loan it’s given to coal power stations.

How Malcolm Turnbull could ignore the facts and fund the myth of ‘clean’ coal, Guardian,   2 Feb 17  The Coalition could use the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to finance new coal power stations but it wouldn’t be cheaper than renewables Just a few months ago, the idea that a new coal power station would ever be built in Australia seemed laughable. Banksenergy companies and even the Turnbull government seemed to accept the inevitable decline of the coal industry.

But, since then, the Turnbull government has been furiously talking up the idea of “clean” coal. And while no bank is likely to finance the building of a new coal-fired power station here, Turnbull and his ministers have been indicating the government might themselves fund them.

There’s been a lot of spin in this debate, so here are some facts……..

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation cannot currently fund coal (but the government could change the rules) Continue reading

February 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics | Leave a comment

Texans, fearing nuclear war, are spending up big on bunkers

bunker-17DOOMSDAY DUNGEONS/  (PICTURES)   Inside the nuclear bomb shelters being installed throughout Texas as residents prepare for global apocalypse. The bunkers range from £31,000 to £6.6million THE SUN,   BY SAM WEBB 2nd February 2017 

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Australia in position to be renewable leader, stabilise Australia’s energy system with supergrid

electricity-interconnectorSA in ‘pivotal position’ to harness sun and wind to stabilise our energy system, says expert. Tory Shepherd, Political Editor, The Advertiser,February 2, 2017 A SUPERGRID connecting South Australia to the west and the east to harness and transport sun and wind could stabilise our energy system, one of the nation’s top experts says.

And because the sun is shining in Western Australia after it has gone dark in SA, and its rays hit SA when it is still dark in WA, supply and demand would be evened out.

Professor Andrew Blakers from the Australian National University is working on supergrids and ideas for energy storage in SA. He said there were no financial figures yet, but that SA was in a “pivotal position”.

“An HVDC (high-voltage, direct-current) cable across the desert west to Perth would stabilise the SA system and allow time-shifting … WA is two or three hours behind,” he said. “That would reduce the storage.

“The idea would be you run west. There’s great sun and wind all the way from the head of (Spencer) Gulf to Perth. You’d pick up wind and solar farms along the way.”

The interconnector could then be connected to a new interconnector to the east coast, an option currently under discussion.

Prof Blakers, a professor of engineering, is also talking to the State Government about energy storage through pumped hydro. He says the technology – where water is pumped up to a small reservoir when energy is cheap then released when demand is high – could see SA powered by renewables alone.

Federal opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler has described pumped hydro as one of a number of “exciting” technologies that could transform the market.  “There’s a really exciting race on between different technologies that are all being supported at different stages here in Australia and all around the world,” he said.

State Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said any extra interconnector would need approval, but that the Government was in favour of the east coast leg.

“The State Government believes a new interconnector to New South Wales would put downward pressure on prices and improve grid security, while at the same time allowing more renewables to be exported to the east coast,” he said……..

February 3, 2017 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

Hitachi to face big loss, like Toshiba, following nuclear business failure

scrutiny-on-costsHitachi to take a 70 billion yen hit after U.S nuclear project fails, Asahi Shimbun By SATOSHI SEII/ Staff Writer February 2, 2017 Electronics giant Hitachi Ltd. is set to lose tens of billions of yen this fiscal year due to the withdrawal from a project to develop a new method of uranium enrichment by a joint venture in the United States.

The loss, forecast by Hitachi on Feb. 1, was disclosed shortly after Toshiba Corp. made a similar announcement last month of deficits brought on by its nuclear power business.

Hitachi is expected to report a 70 billion yen ($620 million) non-operating loss by the time books are closed for fiscal 2016 at the end of March, said Mitsuaki Nishiyama, a senior vice president of the Tokyo-based conglomerate, in a news conference on the company’s performance through the third quarter.

The deficit is largely attributed to the joint venture GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Inc. withdrawing from the uranium enrichment project. Due to this decision, Hitachi no longer expects any profits from the North Carolina-based company, of which it owns 40 percent and the rest by General Electric.

After allocating the losses, the value of Hitachi’s share of the joint venture comes to only about 11 billion yen……

Hitachi and GE were expecting more nuclear power plants to be built when they launched the joint fuel enrichment business, but orders have been sluggish across the globe, forcing the project to be shelved…… 

February 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Australia’s Nullarbor Plain – a wasteland for nuclear wastes?

At Woomera, I go to look at the grave monuments in the cemetery on the hill outside the town. There are multiple still births and infant deaths, often in the same family. People don’t like to talk about it, but there are stories of women wailing in the streets, driven by unassuagable grief. A local urban myth held that if a pregnant woman stood on the hill facing Maralinga during a bomb test, the sex of the foetus would be revealed in x-ray silhouette……….

This land is already a nuclear waste dump. The locations and proposals change, but the same apparent “emptiness” that brought rockets, nuclear tests and detention centres now attracts commercial interest in storing nuclear waste from other nations. It’s the end of a cycle that starts with the mining and export of Australian uranium. The redistribution of uranium is a very Anthropocene process, part of the dismantling and reassembling of the planet.

Friday essay: trace fossils – the silence of Ediacara, the shadow of uranium, The Conversation, Senior Lecturer in archaeology and space studies, Flinders University , February 3, 2017 As an archaeologist working in the remote areas around Woomera and the Nullarbor Plain, my understanding of South Australia was first informed by rocks and soil. This was a landscape of fossils and trace fossils – the preserved impressions left by the passage of a living body through sediment – jostling for attention. On this land surface, SA presents an arc extending from the “death mask” fossils of early multicellular life to the human leap into the solar system. Sure, you might say, this could be said of other locations on Earth. But here it seems laid bare for any who can read the distinctive pattern of signs.


This was once a shoreline in a silent world. ……..
The fossilised fronds and pancake worms of the fauna from theEdiacaran geological period (635–542 million years ago) are now on display at the South Australian Museum. ……..
Aboriginal people would have noted but passed over the sedimentary rocks that preserved the Ediacara fauna. Instead, they searched for chalcedonychert, and silcrete. With an understanding of how these stones fracture, you can make a cutting edge sharper and more sterile than a metal surgical blade. Glassy veins of such stone, nacreous in their own way, occur throughout the Nullarbor plain…….
Uranium and rockets   Continue reading

February 3, 2017 Posted by | environment, South Australia | Leave a comment