Australian news, and some related international items

New “clean” coal plants would cost $billions in taxpayer subsidies, and not clean anyway

Map Turnbull climateNew coal plants wouldn’t be clean, and would cost billions in taxpayer subsidies, The Conversation, Director, Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, Australian National University February 2, 2017 Following a campaign by the coal industry, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has argued for new coal-fired power stations in Australia. But these plants would be more expensive than renewables and carry a huge liability through the carbon emissions they produce.

Major Australian energy companies have ruled out building new coal plants. The Australian Energy Council sees them as “uninvestable”. Banks and investment funds would not touch them with a barge pole. Only government subsidies could do it.

It may seem absurd to spend large amounts of taxpayers’ money on last century’s technology that will be more costly than renewable power and would lock Australia into a high-carbon trajectory.

But the government is raising the possibility of government funding for new coal plants, with statements by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg. The suggestion is to use funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. For this to happen, presumably the CEFC’s investment mandate would need to be changed, or the meaning of “low-emissions technologies” interpreted in a radical way.

It should come to nothing, if minimum standards of sensible policy prevailed.

But an ill wind is blowing in Australia’s energy and climate policy debate. The situation in parliament is difficult, and the Trump presidency is giving the right wing in the Coalition a boost.

Definitely not ‘clean’……

February 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

USA intelligence agencies to study whether the Russian and Chinese leadership could survive a nuclear attack

US Congress orders review of Russian & Chinese leadership’s nuclear strike ‘survivability’ 30 Jan, 2017 The US Congress has directed intelligence agencies and the Pentagon’s Strategic Command to evaluate the ‘survivability’ of Russian and Chinese leaders in the event of a nuclear strike on their aboveground and underground defense facilities.

The comprehensive study will be carried out by the US intelligence agencies as well as the Strategic Command, which is in charge of the American nuclear forces. They will evaluate whether the Russian and Chinese leadership could survive a nuclear attack and continue to operate in a post-strike environment, according to a little-reported section of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Read more
If we are in arms race, US started it by pulling out of ABM treaty – Putin

The review will include “an identification of which facilities  various senior political and military leaders of each respective country are expected to operate out of during crisis and wartime,” as well as the “location and description of above-ground and underground facilities important to the political and military leadership survivability.

“Key officials and organizations of each respective country involved in managing and operating such facilities, programs, and activities” should also be identified, says the document, which is somewhat reminiscent of an elaborate war plan.

“Our experts are drafting an appropriate response,” Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, spokesman for the Strategic Command, said in an email to Bloomberg on Monday. While “it’s premature to pass along any details at this point, we can update you further at a later date.”

Although the study was ordered before Donald Trump took office, it appears to coincide with his statement that he would unconditionally support strengthening US strategic arsenals. In an incendiary tweet in December, Trump wrote that Washington “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Later in the month, Trump stunned arms control experts, reportedly telling Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ program: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

The remarks came despite Trump’s separate statement that he would consider a rapprochement with Moscow in response for a possible new deal on nuclear arms reduction……….

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

Chief Scientist Finkel says ‘clean coal’ has to stack up



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February 3, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Why emissions reductions from coal remain a pipe dream

clean-coal.highly-recommendedClean coal explained: Why emissions reductions from coal remain a pipe dream   ANALYSIS

Advocates use the phrase to describe two different technologies: carbon capture and storage; and highly efficient, lower emissions coal-fired power stations.

Carbon capture and storage is based on the principle of catching the carbon emissions, or CO2, from burning coal before they are released into the atmosphere.

It works by forcing the exhaust from a coal-fired power plant through a liquid solvent that absorbs the carbon dioxide, heating the solvent to liberate the gas, then compressing it and sending it away for storage underground.

Great in principle, but the technology faces big hurdles in practice.

One is the huge cost and logistical challenge of transporting all the captured carbon dioxide and burying it.

It would require a vast network of pipelines and storage sites. As one doubter observed: “Collectively, America’s coal-fired power plants generate 1.5 billion tons per year. Capturing that would mean filling 30 million barrels with liquid CO2 every single day — about one-and-a-half times the volume of crude oil the country consumes.”

The cost of building the required infrastructure would be enormous and the time periods involved may be too long to prevent the risk, identified by the consensus of expert scientists, of potentially catastrophic climate change.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that the world would need to capture and store almost 4 billion tonnes per annum of CO2 in 2040 to keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Far more would be needed to limit it to 1.5C, the target agreed to by 195 nations at the Paris climate conference in 2015.

Yet current carbon capture capacity for projects in operation or under construction sits at approximately 40 million tonnes per annum.

We also don’t know if all gas would stay buried. While scientists are confident that there are geologically stable areas that could keep the carbon underground for very long periods, there is a risk of carbon seeping into the atmosphere.

To date, the technology is not commercially viable.

‘Cleaner coal’ sometimes mislabelled ‘clean coal’ efficiency, low-emission power stations, also known as ultracritical or supercritical coal-fired power plants, are sometimes also labelled as “clean coal”.

Continue reading

February 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Coal does not bring down the cost of energy

Turnbull climate 2 faced How Malcolm Turnbull could ignore the facts and fund the myth of ‘clean’ coal, Guardian,   2 Feb 17  “…..  Turnbull said in his National Press Club speech on Wednesday that “it’s security and cost that matter most, not how you deliver it”.

But new coal technology is not cheaper than renewable energy.

The US Energy Information Agency recently compared the cost of energy from various types of coal power plants and renewable energy plants.

They found that ultra supercritical coal power plants were about twice as expensive to build per unit of energy, compared to wind farms, and almost 40% more expensive than solar farms. Then coal power stations have higher ongoing maintenance costs, as well as significant fuel costs, compared with the wind and solar where the fuel is free.

Dylan McConnell from the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne said if those costs were recovered through energy prices, that would push energy prices up.

Tennant Reed from the Australian Industry Group recently pointed outthat wholesale electricity prices that are currently worrying big energy consumers have been sitting at about $75 per MWh. But recent projections by the CSIRO suggest the ultra supercritical coal generators would produce electricity at a cost of about $80 per MWh.

“To build a coal plant with such costs, investors would need to expect wholesale prices to rise even above looming levels and stay there for decades,” Reed wrote.

Reed also pointed out that the $80 per MWh projection was optimistic, since it was assuming that the power plants were being used at about 80% of their capacity, which was much higher than was generally the case.

Meanwhile, new wind and solar will produce electricity at about $75-85/MWh today and that price will decrease in coming years.

Buckley says: “So renewables are already at grid parity or cheaper than new USC coal-fired power, they can be built more modularly and five times faster, they have 100% emissions reduction relative to the PR spin called ‘clean coal’, they conform to our Paris CO2 commitments and they are likely to get finance – unlike a new coal-fired power plant.”

February 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s faulty concept of “acceptable risk”

the nuclear manufacturers—Westinghouse and General Electric—.. refuse to participate in any project unless they are guaranteed to be free of any liability for any offsite accident consequences. If they believed the NRC risk calculations, they would have no difficulty in accepting the litigation risk—but they obviously don’t. In short, the organizations most highly knowledgeable about nuclear safety don’t trust the NRC’s probabilistic calculations………
A definition of risk that placed greater emphasis on avoiding large-consequence events would be more in line with the common sense of the public whom the NRC is supposed to be protecting. If nuclear power is to have any long-term future, it will have to go beyond even that level of protection….Just as the nuclear manufacturers don’t want to bet their companies on calculations of nuclear safety, neither do people at large want to bet their cities and countrysides.

nrc-jpgWhen 10,000 square miles of contamination is an acceptable risk: The NRC’s faulty concept, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 9 JANUARY 2017 Victor Gilinsky In making safety decisions, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uses accident probability calculations that are much more optimistic than anything that nuclear manufacturers like General Electric and Westinghouse actually believe. The result is weak public protection. A good example is the NRC commissioners’ rejection in 2014 of a proposal to limit the possible severe consequences of spent fuel pool fires in nuclear power plants because the proposal’s cost, however modest, exceeded the value of the expected reduction in “risk.”

Spent fuel pools are where highly radioactive (and thus thermally hot) used reactor fuel is stored after it is removed from the reactor core. If a pool loses its water supply, the spent fuel can overheat and eventually burn, releasing large quantities of radioactivity. Continue reading

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

Two Kimba landowners offer their properties for nuclear wastes

TWO fresh sites nominated at Kimba for nuclear waste facility  2 Feb 2017 TWO Kimba landowners have nominated their properties to be the site for the federal government’s National Radioactive Waste Management Facility. 

The site nominations come after the Working for Kimba’s Future Group invited representatives from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science to Kimba earlier this year, to assess and revisit the potential for a nuclear waste facility in this district.

Kimba was previously considered as a potential site for a national facility but following community consultation last year, the government chose another site at Barndioota, in the state’s far north, for further investigations.

Federal Minister for Resources, Senator Matt Canavan said no decision had been made as to whether the nominations would be accepted.

The government has always said it remains open to receiving new land nominations, and that each would be assessed on the individual merits of the site,” Mr Canavan said.

“I have asked my department to begin reviewing the new nominations, and advise as to whether either should be progressed further and shortlisted.”

Under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012, a landowner may nominate land to host this facility until a final site is decided upon by the Australian government.

The government has said both new sites will be subject to a comprehensive analysis, including scoring them on measures such as technical suitability, community wellbeing, health, safety and the environment.

“If that is the case, and I progress a nomination, public consultation of no less than 60 days would begin to determine if broad community support exists to take this nomination to a further, second phase of detailed technical review and consultation,” Mr Canavan said.

The second-phase assessment of a nominated site at Barndioota is continuing and includes an Independent Heritage Assessment, site-specific technical studies and detailed public consultation.

Details of the site selection process are available at, and details of nomination guidelines and multi-criteria analysis can be found at

February 3, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment