Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

NO PUBLIC DISCUSSION! Australia’s Generation IV Nuclear Energy Accession

Submission to:  Inquiry: The Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession. by Noel Wauchope, 24 April 2017

First of all, I find it very strange that this agreement has been signed up to in advance, not by any elected representative of the Australian Parliament, but by Dr Adi Patterson CEO of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, apparently pre-empting the results of this Inquiry!

I find it disturbing that this Inquiry is being held without any public information or discussion. Are we to assume that the decision to join this “Charter” is being taken without prior public knowledge?

It is a pretty momentous decision. According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework agreement “formally commits them (signatories) to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.”

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 currently prohibits the development of nuclear power in Australia. Nuclear power cannot be approved under either the EPBC Act or the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.  These prohibitions are, as I understand it,  supported by all major parties in Australia?

This would be an extraordinary step for Australia to take, especially in the light of the recent South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) pro-nuclear Royal Commission, which, while recommending South Australia for an international nuclear waste dump, nevertheless stated that

The recent conclusion of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), which issued updated projections for fast reactor and innovative systems in January 2014, suggests the most advanced system will start a demonstration phase (which involves completing the detailed design of a prototype system and undertaking its licensing, construction and operation) in about 2021. The demonstration phase is expected to last at least 10 years and each system demonstrated will require funding of several billion US dollars. As a result, the earliest possible date for the commercial operation of fast reactor and other innovative reactor designs is 2031. This timeframe is subject to significant project, technical and funding risk. It extends by six years a similar assessment undertaken by GIF in 2002. This means that such designs could not realistically be ready for commercial deployment in South Australia or elsewhere before the late 2030s, and possibly later.”

This was hardly a ringing endorsement of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

The South Australian Citizens Jury, Community Consultations, numerous economists, and the S.A. Liberal Party all rejected that nuclear waste plan, as not economically viable.  A huge amount of preparation was done by the NFCRC in investigating the phases of the nuclear Fuel Cycle (more accurately Chain) to arrive at their rather negative view of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

That makes it all the more extraordinary that the Australian government would be willing to sign up so quickly to ANSTO’s request that Australia put resources into these untested, and so far, non-existent nuclear technologies.

I hope that the Committee is aware of the present financial troubles of the giant nuclear corporations, such as AREVA, Toshiba, and Westinghouse Electric. Nuclear power is turning out to be a financial liability wherever it is not funded by the tax-payer, (as in China and Russia). (1)

The World Nuclear Association describes the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) as countries for whom nuclear energy is significant now or seen as vital in the future. Australia’s situation in no way fits these criteria.

Nuclear energy is not significant now in Australia, and even the NRCRC nuclear proponents do not see it as vital for Australia’s future. It is almost laughable, that right now, renewable energy systems are taking off in Australia – both as large solar and wind farms, and as a huge increase in small decentralised systems such as home and business solar panel installations.

That’s where Australia should be putting its resources of human energy, talent, and funding.

The claims made by the nuclear lobby, ANSTO and some politicians, notably Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, about Generation Iv nuclear reactors, do not stand up to scrutiny:

Non proliferation “-   Furthering Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives.” The well-known claim that a “conventional” nuclear bomb cannot be made from these new types of reactor, might be true, to a certain extent. However, IFRs and other plutonium-based nuclear power concepts fail the WMD proliferation test, i.e. they can too easily be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The use of thorium as a nuclear fuel doesn’t solve the WMD proliferation problem. Irradiation of thorium (indirectly) produces uranium-233, a fissile material which can be used in nuclear weapons.  These materials can be used to make a “dirty bomb” – irradiating a city or other target.  They would require the same expensive security measures that apply with conventional nuclear reactors.

If the purpose in joining the GIF is to strengthen non-proliferation and safety – why is ANSTO the implementing agent not the Australia Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office?

Solving nuclear waste problem? Claims that these new nuclear reactors will solve the problem of nuclear wastes are turning out to be spurious. For example, Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations. (2) Even at the best of times, the “new nuclear” lobby admits that their Gen IV reactors will produce highly toxic radioactive wastes, requiring security for up to 300 years.
The Integral Fast Reactor is called “integral” because it would process used reactor fuel on-site, separating plutonium (a weapons explosive) and other long-lived radioactive isotopes from the used fuel, to be fed back into the reactor. It essentially converts long-lived waste into shorter lived waste. This waste would still remain dangerous for a minimum of 200 years (provided it is not contaminated with high level waste products), so we are still left with a waste problem that spans generations. (3)

Climate change. The claim that new nuclear power will solve climate change is spurious. This ignores life-cycle CO2 emissions

Nuclear energy is not zero carbon.

Emissions from nuclear will increase significantly over the next few decades as high grade ore is depleted, and increasing amounts of fossil fuels are required to access, mine and mill low-grade ore.

To stay below the 2 degrees of global warming that climate scientists widely agree is necessary to avert catastrophic consequences for humans and physical systems, we need to significantly reduce our emissions by 2050, and to do this we need to start this decade. Nuclear is a slow technology:

The “Generation IV” demonstration plants projected for 2030-2040 will be too late, and there is no guarantee the pilots will be successful.

Nuclear Economics. For “a time when significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway” – this is a laughable falsehood. In reality, nuclear power economics are in a state of crisis, most notably in America, but it is a world-wide slowdown. (4)

The vagueness of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) agreement is a worry. Australia is to formally commit to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.  Surely Australia is not going to sign up to this, without any detail on what kind of research, what kind of reactor, what amount of funding we would be committing to the GIF.

And all this without any public discussion!

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/11/toshiba-losses-uk-moorside-nuclear-plant-westinghouse
  2.  https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603731/nuclear-energy- startup-transatomic-backtracks-on-key-promises/
  3. https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4555
  4.  http://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-industry-crisis-29735/

 

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May 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, reference, secrets and lies, spinbuster, technology | 2 Comments

Big solar energy projects taking off across Australia

12 from 12: ARENA’s big solar plans take off across the country http://reneweconomy.com.au/12-from-12-arenas-big-solar-plans-take-off-across-the-country-81918/ By Giles Parkinson on 16 May 2017  The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has announced that all 12 of the projects that won funding under its large-scale solar program have now reached financial close and will begin construction shortly, if they haven’t already.

The last of the 12 projects to get to financial close – the 20MW White Rock solar farm in northern NSW – did so late last week. Funding was never really in doubt considering that the project is owned by Chinese giant Goldwind, which is building a 175MW wind farm by the same name at the same place.

ARENA, however, used the milestone to hail its $90 million initiative as a huge success, helping to bring down the cost of large-scale solar to the level of wind energy – and five years ahead of what had been expected.

The 12 projects have also benefited from $320 million in low-cost finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, as the country’s major banks tried to wrap their mind around this new technology.

But there is every sign that they have, and have lowered the risk quotient on their financing, at least for those with long-term power purchase agreements. While the ARENA program will deliver 490MW of large-scale solar, another 1,500MW is thought to be also under construction, or about to begin, around the country.

“This competitive round is the perfect demonstration of how ARENA is accelerating Australia’s shift to a low emission, renewable energy future,” Frischknecht said in a statement. “From zero to more than 20 plants in five years, Australia’s large-scale solar industry has grown at a tremendous pace thanks to concerted efforts by ARENA and the CEFC.

“We know of at least six new plants that are being developed without any ARENA grant funding support.”

He said the ARENA program had unlocked $1 billion in investment from other sources and regional economies would benefit, with an estimated 2,300 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs expected to be created by these plants.

Frischknecht said planning, developing and financing large-scale solar projects remained a complex task involving multiple different parties. That’s why the knowledge gained from the project is so valuable. “ARENA believes in the power of shared knowledge. That’s why we require project developers to share the learning from each stage of development, construction and connection with the renewable energy sector,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Our support for Whitsunday Solar Farm assisted project developer Edify Energy to secure debt finance for two additional plants, Hamilton Solar Farm in Queensland and Gannawarra Solar Farm in Victoria. ARENA is benefitting from knowledge sharing activities across the three projects.”

The projects are expected to be completed between late-2017 and mid-2018, and will help reduce wholesale prices in all three states where these projects will be built when they come on stream.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | 1 Comment

Hacking group claims that it has data on nuclear programmes of nations

The hacking group that leaked NSA secrets claims it has data on foreign nuclear programs, WP,  May 16 2017The hacking group that leaked the bugs that enabled last week’s global ransomware attack is threatening to make public even more computer vulnerabilities in the coming weeks — potentially including “compromised network data” pertaining to the nuclear or missile programs of China, Iran, North Korea and Russia, as well as vulnerabilities affecting Windows 10, which is run by millions of computers worldwide.

A spokesperson for the group, which calls itself the Shadow Brokers, claimed in a blog post Tuesday that some of those computer bugs may be released on a monthly basis as part of a new subscription-based business model that attempts to mimic what has proved successful for companies such as Spotify, Netflix, Blue Apron and many more……..

Marcy Wheeler, a longtime independent researcher, said in a blog post Tuesday that the Shadow Brokers’ post “brings the hammer” down both on Microsoft, whose products could be affected by any further leaks, and the U.S. National Security Agency, whose information the Shadow Brokers leaked in April. That leak led indirectly to the creation of WannaCry and the subsequent crisis, security experts say.

“Simply by threatening another leak after leaking two sets of Microsoft exploits, Shadow Brokers will ratchet up the hostility between Microsoft and the government,” Wheeler wrote…….

The group’s new claim that it possesses information on the nuclear programs of state governments is extremely worrisome, said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington think tank. “While they don’t seem to have the most amazing PR department,” he said, “they’ve already proved that they had some pretty serious access. The nuke facility stuff is particularly concerning, [speaking] as a former physicist.”

Previously, the group had sought to sell its hacking tools to the highest bidder. Few buyers came forward, the group said in its blog post. But now, the monthly subscription model might mean the bugs will find their way into the hands of more people, spreading far and wide, Hall said. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/05/16/the-hacking-group-that-leaked-the-nsas-secrets-claims-it-has-data-on-foreign-nuclear-programs/?utm_term=.f5e34496f378

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cybersecurity

David Lowry’s Blog 15th May 2017 The cyber security attack on Friday has highlighted the vulnerability of UK national infrastructure to malicious cyber threats. So far it is the impact on the NHS that has hit the headlines.

But it could be far worse: what if it were our nuclear power plants that were disrupted? Next week- from 22 to 24 May – the Vienna –based World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) , headed by the former head of security at Sellafield, Dr Roger Howsley, is participating in the 2nd Annual Industrial Control Cyber Security Nuclear Summit, in Warrington, organised by Cyber Senate entitled with an important presentation entitled“Transformation, Preparedness and Developing Cyber Security Assurance”.

It is instructive to listen to the words of Russian cyber security expert, Eugene Kasperksy, founder and ceo of the Moscow-based Kasperksy Labs, warns governments engaged in cyber warfare that “everything you do – it’s a boomerang: it will get back to you.”

Four years ago he warned that Russian nuclear power plant infected by Stuxnet malware programme – widely believed to have been created by the US and Israel – had infected a Russian nuclear power plant.

Speaking at the Canberra Press Club 2013 in Australia’s capital city. Kasperksy recounted a story from “the Stuxnet time” when a friend of his working in an unnamed nuclear power plant reported that the plant’s computers were “badly infected by Stuxnet”. Kaspersky criticized government departments responsible for engineering cyber-attacks, The Stuxnet virus was first discovered in June 2010 and was found to specifically target industrial control systems manufactured by Siemens. The initial target of
the virus is widely thought to have been the centrifuges used in Iran’s uranium enrichment programme. Although the goal of the virus was extremely specific, its method of proliferation was indiscriminate and the code has since been found on computers across the world…… http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/cyber-threats-you-aint-seen-nothin-yet.html

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Top UK fund manager divests from fossil fuels, incl BHP Billiton

Guardian 15th May 2017, Archbishop of Canterbury plays crucial role in BMO Global Asset Management’s decision to dump £20m of shares in firms such as BHP Billiton  One of Britain’s biggest managers of ethical funds is to dump £20m of shares in fossil fuel companies in one of the biggest divestments so farbecause of climate change.

Shares in BHP Billiton, the Anglo-Australian mining giant, will be among those sold by BMO Global Asset Management’s range of “responsible” funds, which manage £1.5bn of assets. They were previously known as the “stewardship” funds, the first ethical funds launched in Britain. The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, played a crucial role in the divestment, as president of BMO’s responsible investment council. The Church of England has already pulled out of investing in companies that make more than 10% of its revenues from thermal coal or oil from tar sands….. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/15/top-uk-fund-manager-divests-from-fossil-fuels

May 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Western Australia: renewable energy going ahead in leaps and bounds

Solar power has become so popular in some parts of Western Australia that there are more households equipped with panels than without.

The national leader is Baldivis, south of Perth, where two-thirds of households feature rooftop solar. Other strong WA performers include Byford (56%) and Rockingham (53%).

There is now six gigawatts of solar power installed across the country. The Australian Photovoltaic Institute chair, Renate Egan, said an additional 1GW was added over the past year by household-scale solar in tandem with commercial and large-scale solar farms.

Once considered an eco-warrior’s pipe dream, renewable energy is rapidly gaining ground in the traditional mining state of Western Australia, Guardian, Max Opray, 15 May 17, Along the remote southern coastline of Western Australia, the locals have cottoned on to a new, surefire way to keep their beer cold. Continue reading

May 17, 2017 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Repeated warnings preceded collapse of a Hanford tunnel storing deadly wastes

Thousands of workers were forced to shelter after a roof collapsed at a waste site created in the 1950s and mostly ignored since then, Center for Public Integrity, By Peter CaryPatrick Malone, May 13, 2017 
A series of warnings by state and federal experts, stretching back more than thirty years, preceded this week’s cave-in of a tunnel in Hanford, Washington, that holds lethally radioactive debris from the U.S. nuclear weapons program, according to government documents.

A report in 1980 for the Energy Department, which oversees safety and cleanup work at the site, said that wooden beams holding up the tunnel had lost a third of their strength by then. A contractor for the department pointed to the issue again in 1991, warning that by the year 2001, the beams would be further degraded.

A group of academic experts, working under contract to the department, said more alarmingly in a 1,969-page report in August 2015 that the roof of the tunnel in question had been seriously weakened and that a “partial or complete failure” could expose individuals even 380 feet away to dangerous levels of radiation.

No action was taken by the department in response, and earlier this month — the precise date remains uncertain because conditions at the site were not closely monitored — a portion of the roof collapsed at the tunnel, creating a 20-foot square hole. Afterward, the managers of the Hanford site were forced on May 9 to order 3,000 workers to shelter indoors. But instead of shoring up the beams inside the tunnel in question, they poured in 54 new truckloads of dirt.

The tunnel was one of two at the Energy Department’s Hanford reservation used as dumping grounds from 1960 to 2000 for radioactive machine parts, vessels, and other equipment. It was, in short, a tangible expression of the department’s policy of covering over some of its nuclear bomb-making detritus and effectively pretending it isn’t there.

The neglect followed a blunt warning 26 years ago from the State of Washington — cited in a 1991 Energy Department contractor’s report — that the tunnels were not a safe repository and that the wastes should be moved elsewhere.

Under an agreement overseen by a federal court in eastern Washington, the department was supposed to start crafting a way to deal with the tunnel’s lethal dangers by September 2015, but it missed the deadline and promised to do it later this year as part of an overall agreement with the state and the Environmental Protection Agency to push back completion of the site’s overall cleanup from 2024 to 2042. (Hanford remains the most toxic site in America and the government’s most costly environmental cleanup task.)…….

In the 1991 report, by Los Alamos Technical Associates, Inc., the authors made clear after conducting an internal inspection of the tunnel that the DOE knew the timbers holding up the roof had been substantially weakened as early as 1980. It predicted that by 2001, they would be at 60 percent of their original strength and recommended another evaluation in 2001. But records indicate that it never happened.

A Department of Ecology inspection in 2015 noted that because the tunnels were closed up, “no permanent emergency equipment, communications equipment, warning systems, personal protective equipment, or spill control and containment supplies” were located inside — deficiencies that could complicate emergency efforts in the case of a tunnel fire or other safety incident.

A Government Accountability Office estimate in 2016 placed the total cost of cleaning up the toxic legacy of the U.S. nuclear weapon program at more than $250 billion. https://www.publicintegrity.org/2017/05/12/20862/repeated-warnings-preceded-collapse-hanford-tunnel-storing-deadly-wastes

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All coral reefs could be dead by 2050

Dahr Jamail | Coral Reefs Could All Die Off by 2050, May 15, 2017, By Dahr JamailTruthout | Report “…… over the last two years, the Great Barrier Reef, which is so dear to Miller and countless others who revel in the beauty and mysteries of the oceans, has been dying off at an unprecedented rate due primarily to warming ocean waters.

Coral bleaching occurs when corals become stressed by warmer-than-normal water, causing them to expel symbiotic algae that live in their tissues, from which they get their energy. Coral turns completely white when it bleaches. If it remains bleached long enough, it dies.

One scientist has already gone so far as to declare the Great Barrier Reef is now in a “terminal stage.” Most of those studying the reef agree that what is happening is unprecedented. This is because, at a minimum, two-thirds of the 1,400-mile long reef bleached out last year, which led to 22 percent of it dying. Now another bleaching event has resulted in at least two-thirds of the reef bleached again.

The bleaching this year has moved much farther south and has taken scientists by surprise in its severity and extent,” Miller said. And he fears the state of the reef could be even worse than scientists realize, since only aerial surveys have been conducted to assess the damage and no research vessel is currently active on the reef to provide finer details.

With ocean temperatures rising across the globe as anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) continues to pick up speed, the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral ecosystem on Earth, may well be an example of what is happening to all of the coral on the planet.

“This Is New for All of Us”…….. Continue reading

May 17, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, environment, Queensland | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobby’s misleading and inaccurate critiques of renewable energy

  • Overcoming the military-industrial complex: nuclear has always been a centralized industry, with just a few firms that have very close contacts to the government. And keeping nuclear skills for military purposes seems to be a driver in the UK’s push for new nuclear.
The US (and Australian) nuclear camp critiques studies for 100% renewables. Without reading them. Energy Transition ,by Craig Morris, 15 May 2017

Over the past year, the Anglo world has become interested in nuclear as a complement for wind and solar towards “deep decarbonization,” or a (nearly) 100% carbon-free supply of energy or possibly just electricity. Today, Craig Morris reviews a few papers by Americans and Australians and advises them to tackle the best European studies for 100% renewables head-on, not ignore them.

The first paper is by Stephen Brick and Samuel Thernstrom. Thernstrom has been calling nuclear “an essential part of the puzzle” since at least 2010. The paper is peer-reviewed; unfortunately, none of the reviewers noticed the oversights I found. Continue reading

May 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | Leave a comment