Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Response to Ben Heard’s misinformation on the proposed nuclear waste importing plan

text-relevantThe only way to avoid gambling hundreds of millions or billions of SA taxpayers’ dollars would be in the wildly improbable scenario that potential client countries would take that gamble.

Taipower clearly states that it would not consider sending waste to another country unless and until that country has developed a repository. Yet the economic case developed by Jacobs and MCM collapses if revenue (and waste) is not received before construction of a repository.

Finally, Mr Heard’s promotion of fast breeder reactors is beyond stupid….. Most of the countries that invested in fast breeder reactors have given up, deciding not to throw good money after bad. Last year, Japan decided to give up on the Monju fast breeder reactor, a fiasco that will cost Japanese taxpayers A$17.3 billion in construction, operation and decommissioning costs despite the fact that the reactor rarely operated.

The Royal Commission completely rejected proposals advanced by Heard and others for ‘advanced fast reactors’, noting in its final report that such reactors are unlikely to be feasible or viable in the foreseeable future; that the development of such a first-of-a-kind project would have high commercial and technical risk

Friends of the Earth Australia has today written to all Members of the SA House of Assembly and Legislative Council, and SA political representatives in the Federal Parliament, responding to the latest round of misinformation from those proposing to turn SA into the world’s high-level nuclear waste dump.

——————————————————————————–

To: Members of the SA House of Assembly and Legislative Council

From: Jim Green
National nuclear campaigner
Friends of the Earth, Australia     Feb. 3, 2017

EXPOSING THE LATEST MISINFORMATION FROM THE NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP LOBBY

Dear Members of the SA House of Assembly and Legislative Council,

heardbenThe Advertiser has today run an article including false claims from nuclear lobbyist / uranium industry consultant / PhD student Ben Heard that Jay Weatherill’s plan to turn SA into the world’s high-level nuclear waste dump could be pursued without the need to gamble hundreds of millions or billions of dollars with no guarantee of any return on the investment.

Mr Heard is quoted saying that the “notion of high upfront cost to South Australia is a persistent and deliberate lie first peddled by deceitful environmental groups and now, sadly, taken up by the Liberal Party.”

In fact, the necessity of gambling hundreds of millions or billions of dollars ‒ without the slightest guarantee of any return on the investment ‒ is clearly spelt out by Jacobs, the economics consulting firm commissioned by the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

Jacobs Project Manager / Consultant Tim Johnson told the SA Joint Select Committee that “total expenditure prior to the decision to proceed” is likely to be from around A$300 million to in excess of A$600 million, depending on the timing of the decision to proceed. (Letter to Joint Standing Committee, 5 July 2016.)

Dr Johnson told the Joint Select Committee that the project entails very significant economic risks: “It isn’t a risk-free process to go into this. There is a very significant risk.” Yet the nuclear waste dump lobby persist with the fabrication that the project can be pursued without economic risks.

Jacobs noted the potential for initial outlays in the billions in its report for the Royal Commission: “Under the cash-flow assumptions of the baseline, where no revenues ahead of delivery are assumed (a deliberately conservative assumption), there is an initial outlay of A$2.4 billion (real) in net terms.” (Jacobs, Paper 5, sec 4.4, Cash flow profile for the baseline, p.205.)

Any suggestion that the nuclear waste dump project could be a quick fix for the SA economy were dispelled by the Royal Commission’s report, which stated (emphasis added): “Careful characterisation over several decades is required to confirm the suitability of the geological conditions.”

The only way to avoid gambling hundreds of millions or billions of SA taxpayers’ dollars would be in the wildly improbable scenario that potential client countries would take that gamble. If anyone needs any convincing as to the improbability of that scenario, it came late last year in correspondence from the Taiwanese government’s energy and nuclear agencies. As Daniel Wills reported in The Advertiser: “TAIWAN’S state-owned energy company has bluntly rejected Investment and Trade Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith’s claim the country would consider paying to help set up a nuclear waste dump in SA, saying in a letter that it “hereby declares this is a false information”.”

Taipower clearly states that it would not consider sending waste to another country unless and until that country has developed a repository. Yet the economic case developed by Jacobs and MCM collapses if revenue (and waste) is not received before construction of a repository. The Final Report of the Royal Commission states (p.300) (emphasis added): “Figure J.8 also demonstrates that a facility configuration scenario is viable only with the establishment of a surface interim storage facility capable of accepting used fuel prior to construction of geological disposal facilities. Configurations 3 and 4, which did not include interim storage facilities (see Table J.1), did not generate profits because of the delay in receiving waste and associated revenues.”

Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council is clearly sensitive to SA public opinion, pointing to the Citizen Jury’s rejection of the proposal and noting that: “Without the understanding and support from Australian … nuclear waste storage cannot be developed.”

The nuclear waste dump lobbyists are hanging on to the ludicrous proposition that potential client countries will gamble hundreds of millions or billions of dollars on a waste dump plan that is:
* Opposed by three political parties in SA (Liberals, Greens, NXT) and by many within the ALP.
* Opposed by a majority of South Australians (e.g. 31% support vs. 53% opposition in the SA Government’s statewide consultation process; and a November 2016 poll commissioned by the Sunday Mail found just 35% support.)
* Opposed by a vast majority of Aboriginal Traditional Owners on whose land the high-level nuclear waste dump would necessarily be located. (The SA government’s Community Views Report said: “There was a significant lack of support for the government to continue pursuing any form of nuclear storage and disposal facilities. Some Aboriginal people indicated that they are interested in learning more and continuing the conversation, but these were few in number.”)
* Rejected by two-thirds of the 350-strong Citizens’ Jury “under any circumstances”.

Taiwan has clearly stated that it has no intention of gambling vast sums of money on a nuclear dump in SA and it is equally improbable that any other potential client country would do so. In which case South Australians would need to gamble hundreds of millions or billions of dollars on a project with no guarantee of any return on the investment.

Late last year, Mr Heard had to correct a statement falsely claiming that most South Australians support the high-level nuclear dump plan and he begins 2017 with another falsehood. He should have the decency to apologise to the Liberal Party and to environment groups for his latest falsehood and slander. Interestingly, the statement falsely claiming that most South Australians support the high-level nuclear dump plan was endorsed by SA’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Leanna Read. Shamefully, the state’s chief fact-checker didn’t bother to check her facts.

Mr Heard also conveniently ignores real-world experience with nuclear waste projects:
* Estimates of the clean-up costs for a range of (civil and military) UK nuclear sites including Sellafield have nearly doubled from a 2005 estimate of £56 billion (A$91.6 billion) to over £100 billion (A$163.6 billion)
* In 2005, the French government’s nuclear waste agency Andra estimated the cost of a deep geological repository at between €13.5 and €16.5 billion (A$19.0‒23.2 billion). In 2016, Andra estimates the cost of the repository at between €20 billion to €30 billion (A$28.1‒42.2 billion). As with the UK, the latest French estimates are nearly double the earlier estimates.
* Between 2001 and 2008, the estimated cost of constructing the Yucca Mountain high level nuclear waste repository in the USA and operating it for 150 years increased by 67%, from US$57.5 billion to US$96.2 billion (A$75.1 billion ‒ $125.7 billion). Yucca Mountain was abandoned – so the USA wasted US$13.5 billion (A$17.6 billion) and still doesn’t have a repository.

The Nuclear Economics Consulting Group report commissioned by the SA Joint Select Committee concluded that the nuclear waste import project could be profitable under certain assumptions but the report then raises serious questions about most of those assumptions. The NECG report notes that the Royal Commission’s economic analysis didn’t even consider some important issues which “have significant serious potential to adversely impact the project and its commercial outcomes”; that assumptions about price are “overly optimistic” and if that is the case “project profitability is seriously at risk”; that the 25% cost contingency for delays and blowouts is likely to be a significant underestimate; and that the assumption the project would capture 50% of the available market had “little support or justification”.

Finally, Mr Heard’s promotion of fast breeder reactors is beyond stupid. For all the rhetoric about Generation IV fast breeder reactors, and the US$100+ billion invested worldwide, only five such reactors are operating worldwide (three of them experimental) and only one is under construction (in India). Most of the countries that invested in fast breeder reactors have given up, deciding not to throw good money after bad. Last year, Japan decided to give up on the Monju fast breeder reactor, a fiasco that will cost Japanese taxpayers A$17.3 billion in construction, operation and decommissioning costs despite the fact that the reactor rarely operated.

The Royal Commission completely rejected proposals advanced by Heard and others for ‘advanced fast reactors’, noting in its final report that such reactors are unlikely to be feasible or viable in the foreseeable future; that the development of such a first-of-a-kind project would have high commercial and technical risk; that there is no licensed, commercially proven design and development to that point would require substantial capital investment; and that electricity generated from such reactors has not been demonstrated to be cost competitive with current light water reactor designs.

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February 4, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, South Australia, spinbuster, wastes

3 Comments »

  1. Ben Heard regards UNSCEAR as the “peak body” investigating radiation effects. “Impeccably credentialed”, he says, “the foremost experts”. Heard claims that “The generally accepted evidence is that 100mSv per year is the minimum long term dose at which ANY increased cancer risk is perhaps detectable” and , re Fukushima, “The possibility of any latent fatality is exceedingly low.”

    I wonder what he makes of UNSCEAR’s 2013 report?

    ” E7. The lifetime baseline risk of solid cancer in the general population of Japan is about 35% on average (males about 41%; females about 29%) [W12]. Following a hypothetical exposure of a group from the same population corresponding to an acute uniform whole-body dose of 1 Sv (equivalent to an absorbed dose of 1 Gy of low-LET radiation to all organs and tissues of the body), the Committee previously estimated the additional lifetime risk of solid cancer due to that exposure to be approximately 13% on average (annex A, table 70 in the Committee’s 2006 Report [U9]). Following doses of 0.1 Sv and 0.01 Sv, the additional lifetime risk due to the exposure was estimated to be smaller by factors of about 10 and 100, respectively.

    “31. Adults living in the city of Fukushima were estimated to have received, on average, an effective dose of about 4 mSv in the first year following the accident; estimated doses for 1-year-old infants were about twice as high. Those living in other districts within the Fukushima Prefecture and in neighbouring prefectures were estimated to have received comparable or lower doses; even lower doses were estimated to have been received elsewhere in Japan. Lifetime effective doses (resulting from the accident) that, on average, could be received by those continuing to live in the Fukushima Prefecture have been estimated to be just over 10 mSv; this estimate assumes that no remediation measures will be taken to reduce doses in the future and, therefore, may be an overestimate. The most important source contributing to these estimated doses was external radiation from deposited radioactive material.”.
    http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2013/13-85418_Report_2013_Annex_A.pdf

    The population of Fukushima Prefecture is about 2 million. Anyone can do the figures. Even the 100% pro-nuclear UNSCEAR’s own estimates point to an eventual additional cancer total over the next 80 years of about 2,600.

    Comment by Chris Murray | March 28, 2017 | Reply

  2. Thanks indeed, Chris Murray, for this fine reminder of what UNSCEAR REALLY said. I do disagree with you on one point. I don’t think that UNSCEAR is anywhere near 100% pro nuclear .

    It’s true that UNSCEAR, like the WHO is to some degree beholden to the IAEA. But both agencies, within the limits set on them, do make efforts to tell the truth on nuclear matters, and on ionising radiation.

    The 2013 report was shamefully distorted in the news releases about it. A chief offender was Dr Wolfgang Weiss head of the German delegation to UNSCEAR, Dr. Weiss served as rapporteur and chair of UNSCEAR. He took it upon himself to issue an extraordinarily pro nuclear news statement, which did not reflect the real content of those UNSCEAR findings – as you have shown.

    Comment by Christina MacPherson | March 29, 2017 | Reply

  3. My apologies. I have made an error here. The UNSCEAR statement

    “Lifetime effective doses (resulting from the accident) that, on average, could be received by those continuing to live in the Fukushima Prefecture have been estimated to be just over 10 mSv”

    does not mean that the 2 million population there will receive a 10 mSv average dose, but that they COULD receive UP TO 10 mSV. This is clear from Table C14 on page 193, which gives a 1.1 – 11 mSv range of doses for adults.

    I therefore withdraw my argument that these particular UNSCEAR figures point to thousands of cancers from Fukushima.

    However, I still argue that UNSCEAR’s 48,000 collective dose estimate does so. Since there is no known safe dose of radiation, there is no good reason to truncate casualty estimates at 10 mSv. For example, Richard Doll, David Brenner and a group of radiation experts stated in 2003 that

    “decreasing the number of damaged cells by a factor of 10 would be expected to decrease the biological response by the same factor of 10; i.e., the response would decrease linearly with decreasing dose. One could not expect qualitatively different biological processes to be active at, say, 1 mGy that were not active at 10 mGy, or vice versa. The argument suggests that the risk of most radiation-induced endpoints will decrease linearly, without a threshold, from ≈10 mGy down to arbitrarily low doses.”
    Cancer risks attributable to low doses of ionizing radiation: Assessing what we really know

    UNSCEAR’s figures do seem to state that the 2 million population Fukushima Prefecture alone will receive doses of at least 1 mSv. That alone would point to hundreds of extra cancers, and applying UNSCEAR’s full collective dose would point to 5,000 extra fatal cancers, mostly across Japan, over the next 80 years.

    Comment by Chris Murray | September 20, 2017 | Reply


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