Australian news, and some related international items

Angus Taylor, Australia’s Minister for Coal and Nuclear, wants to launch Inquiry into nuclear power

Taylor presses nuclear button, as energy wars enter dangerous new phase, Giles Parkinson 5 August 2019

Australia’s energy minister Angus Taylor has campaigned against renewables since before he entered parliament in 2013, appearing at anti-wind events organised by an anonymous and unpleasant website, and vowing on many occasions to scrap the renewable energy target.

He has been powerless to stop the build out of wind and solar, although he has complained about it often enough. But now Taylor and the Coalition government have taken their war against wind and solar to its next inevitable phase: They’ve pressed the nuclear button.

Taylor revealed late Friday that he had asked the Environment and Energy Standing Committee to launch a new inquiry into nuclear energy, including its costs and issues of waste etc. They’ve got four months to produce a report.

Taylor insists that there is no intention to repeal the laws that outlaw nuclear energy in Australia. But that beggars the question. Why have the inquiry in the first place?

The answer is simple. As Taylor revealed in an interview on ABC’s AM program, he simply doesn’t accept that renewables can power the electricity grid. A view that is loudly shared by many of his Coalition colleagues, the Murdoch media, and of course the coal industry.

The timing of the announcement is interesting. It comes just a couple of days after the end of the parliamentary sitting week (they won’t be back again until September) and just as the country’s far-right conservatives got ready to gather at the Australian Conservative Political Action Conference.

Tellingly, this is the first policy or initiative that Taylor has announced since the shock re-election of the coalition government in May, and comes after a major push by the far right ideologues of this conservative government to reconsider the ban on nuclear.

And as we have noted before, the same Coalition MPs that have been pushing for nuclear are the very same Coalition MPs pushing for new coal generation, and the very same Coalition MPs who reject the science of climate change, or make a mockery of the urgings of young people that they should take it seriously.

This is no co-incidence. This is not about carbon emissions, and it is certainly not about cheap energy. The common enemy of these people is wind and solar, and the shift from a centralised system based around “baseload” fossil fuel generators to a renewable system that is largely decentlralised (and democratised), and based around renewables, storage and demand management.

Australia is one of those regions – like Germany and California – that is at the forefront of this transition, and the fossil fuel industry view is that it cannot be allowed to succeed.

So it is no coincidence that the biggest industry supporter of nuclear is the coal lobby itself, in the guise of the Minerals Council of Australia, which is also pushing for new coal generators and urging the government to do as little as possible on climate.

The MCA is cosy with the Coalition – its former CEO and deputy CEOs are now key advisors in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office, and its chair is the former Coalition minister Helen Coonan. Its current CEO, Tania Constable, was appointed by the Coalition government to the board of the ABC, over-riding independent recommendations.

A new dimension is also added.

One of the noisiest opponents of renewable energy technologies is Trevor St Baker, pushing for new coal generators and whose Vales Point coal generator in NSW – currently in the queue to get federal government funding to remain open beyond its schedule closure date – is also the founder of a company SMR Nuclear that looking at new “modular” nuclear technologies that Taylor suggests could be a focus of this inquiry.

Like St Baker, the likes of Constable argue that only nuclear is able to deliver 24/7 emissions free power. They insist it is “cheap”, but that is nonsense.

The International Energy Agency desperately wants nuclear to succeed, but it concedes that costs have surged, as this graph (above) from a recent report illustrates. While the cost of solar has fallen 95 per cent over the past decade, and the cost of battery storage by some 70 per cent, the cost of nuclear has more than trebled upwards.

Even re-fitting existing stations was considered more expensive than wind and solar, although as BloombergNEF founder and now commentator Michael Liebreich has pointed out, the costs might be close enough to convince some countries to extend their life.

But there is no economic case for new nuclear. Liebreich says. Cost blowouts are occurring in the UK with Hinckley, and in France and in Finland with their versions of the latest technology, as it is in China (which has begun no new projects in the last three years), and in the US.

This graph[on original] from Le Monde in France illustrates how costs have surged in its next generation technology at its flagship project in Flamanville. It was begun in 20017 with promises it would be finished in 2012 at a cost of €3.5 billion.The latest delay and cost blowout have pushed the assumed finish date to 2022 and the new estimate of costs to €11.5 billion.

As France’s own National Infrastructure Commission said last year, a focus on renewables ‘looks like a safer bet than constructing multiple new nuclear plants’”.

Into this debate recently landed Industry Super Australia, the union fund research body with a report that is quite possibly one of the most inept analyses of the energy industry that has been produced in Australia. And that says something because it has had strong competition. The ISA, and the ISF that oversees it, should be embarrassed that it is published in its name.

To address the issue of costs, the ISA report produces a completely nonsensical “capital cost” assumption that confuses output with capacity factors, multiplies it by the cost of solar plants built more than 5 years ago.

It delivers a figure of $16 billion per gigawatt for the cost of solar. It is not a rough “back of the envelope” calculation as the authors try to claim, it is complete and utter garbage.

Among its other laughable claims are that Australia would need “one hundred” Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro schemes, or 72,000 Tesla big batteries were it to go 100 per cent renewables.

It’s a preposterous number that completely misunderstands the workings of the energy system, and the role of storage technologies, and fails to appreciate that if we do electrify everything, then we will be using less energy, not more.

Apart from now being expensive and polluting, burning fossil fuels is hugely inefficient – most of it disappears as heat, be it in a coal fired power station or in the internal combustion engine of a car – and it is two or three times more wasteful than electric motors and batteries.

But the authors of this report seek to mislead, either deliberately or through their ignorance. They make the patently false claim that fossil fuel plants “do not need back up.” Try running that past anyone who actually operates an electricity  grid, and has to deal with large plants that need regular maintenance or which may trip for any number of reasons.

The study is so poorly researched it even claims that the Invanpah solar tower facility in California does not need back-up.

If the authors bothered to spend two minutes researching that project, rather than relying on the blogs of nuclear fantasists, they would have discovered that it has no storage, and needs gas plants to help fire it up in the morning. Yes, it was costly, but it turned out to be such a bad idea that no plant like it has or will be built again. All new solar towers do and will have storage.

But the authors’ minds were set. They even dismiss the reaction to the disasters at Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island to “behavioural bias” and compares the lot of the nuclear industry with that of a baseball pitcher in 1930s, Chad Bradford, who had an unusual throwing action.

  1. “They just judged him on the way he looked. So they demoted him to the minor leagues for a time,” they plead.
  2. For heavens sake, nuclear is not judged by the way it looks, or its throwing action, but for its costs. And the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator – like the IEA – have made it clear that nuclear – like new coal – costs a multiple more than the cheapest alternatives, wind and solar backed by dispatchable capacity, be that pumped hydro, batteries, or demand management.

You won’t see baseload mentioned in AEMO’s Integrated System Plan, the 20-year blueprint for the future. Neither will you see it championed by the grid operators in the UK, or China. The world has moved on.

AEMO says Australia has the technology and know-how to move to 100 per cent renewables, although they would differ about the time frame from the most enthusiastic renewables supporters.

The problem is that like the ISA report, the nuclear boosters in the Coalition are prone to accept garbage as gospel.

The energy industry has largely dismissed nuclear as an option in Australia, knowing that it is absurdly expensive, and that if it were built in Australia it would take so long – possibly two decades at the very least – that the country would be powered almost exclusively by much cheap wind and solar and dispatchable storage by that time (if allowed to).

But Ted O’Brien, the chair of the committee reviewing the nuclear issue (it is stacked with four out of seven members from the Coalition) has already made up his mind.

Like his Coalition colleague Craig Kelly, lampooned in the cartoon above, he’s long been a big fan of nuclear – and given his analysis of Labor’s energy policy – he said it would be a tax on Tim Tams – he might have been about as thorough in his assessment of nuclear as Homer Simpson.

Don’t laugh.These people really are that stupid. They are not interested in the advice of experts – be it on climate science, energy technologies,  or electric vehicles. But one thing they can’t admit is that the Greens – and now the rest of the energy industry – are right about wind and solar, and the focus on “dispatchable” power rather than “base-load”.

If Australia can demonstrate that a modern economy can be run on a predominantly renewables grid, it’s all over for the fossil fuel industry across the world. So expect this push to have some powerful friends, and not just in the media industry, and not just in Australia.

Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of Renew Economy, and is also the founder of One Step Off The Grid and founder/editor of The Driven. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Revie

August 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Liberal National Coalition wants to embrace nuclear power

Coalition wants to embrace nuclear power, 4 Aug 19   Australia’s decade-long energy wars have taken a new twist with the Morrison Government ordering a Senate inquiry into the feasibility of nuclear power in this country.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says the review will look at the economic, environmental and safety implications of lifting the moratorium on atomic energy as a source of baseload power.

The inquiry coincides with the United States flagging the deployment of intermediate missiles in Darwin after Donald Trump pulled the US out of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia

August 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear power in Australia to be examined by multi-party parliamentary inquiry

Nuclear power in Australia to be examined by multi-party parliamentary inquiry, By political reporter Jade Macmillan -4 Aug 19, Angus Taylor has asked for the first inquiry into nuclear power in over a decade

August 5, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

In drive to promote 2020 Olympics, Japan’s govt urges Fukushima evacuees to return home

Expert says 2020 Tokyo Olympics unsafe due to Fukushima | 60 Minutes

August 5, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

NuScale’s Small Modular Nuclear power is too risky

NuScale nuclear power is too risky,  [artist’s model above]    By Robert Goodman | The Public Forum, 4 Aug 19, NuScale’s nuclear power project is too much of a financial and environmental risk when there are cleaner energy alternatives.

Not only will NuScale’s virtually untested nuclear technology be an estimated 40% more costly than renewable energy portfolios, the project in Idaho Falls, Idaho, will also likely go exceedingly over budget.

Many recent nuclear projects nationwide have resulted in extreme cost overruns and project cancellations, the burden of which has often fallen on ratepayers. For instance, ratepayers in South Carolina will end up owing more than $6,000, to be paid in monthly installments for the next four decades for a failed nuclear power plant. And just this year, the Department of Energy gave $3.7 billion in taxpayer money to the ailing Southern Co.’s nuclear power project near Waynesboro, Ga.

Yes, UAMPS has promised a rate cap in order to protect ratepayers. But if the new, first-of-a-kind project goes over budget, will that rate cap stay? Will NuScale Power, an Oregon-based LLC, step up and pay the extra expense?

City officials in UAMPS districts should look beyond NuScale Power’s promotional presentations and consider economically competitive, safer and more sustainable energy portfolios through a more transparent, independent and robust procurement process.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Water shortage now hitting France’s fleet of nuclear reactors

Reuters 3rd Aug 2019 French utility EDF may curb power generation at its 3,000 megawatt Chooz nuclear reactor in the north of France due to the low flow rate of the
Meuse river which it uses to cool the two reactors at the plant. “Due to
flow forecasts of Meuse river, production restrictions are likely to affect
EDF’s nuclear generating fleet on Chooz production units starting
Thursday August 8,” the company said. EDF’s use of water from rivers as
coolant is regulated by law to protect plant and animal life. It is obliged
to reduce output during hot weather when water temperatures rise, or when
river levels are low.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Water shortage hitting Queensland town Stanthorpe

August 5, 2019 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Minerals Council CEO ecstatic about parliamentary inquiry into nuclear power

August 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Earthquake hits Fukushima Prefecture – there could be more to come

August 5, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Looks as if Malaysia will let Lynas keep its radioactive wastes there, after all

Malaysian minister capitulates on Lynas waste export condition, The Age,  By Colin Kruger, August 4, 2019   One of Lynas Corp’s fiercest critics in Malaysia has confirmed the country’s government will drop a requirement for the rare earths miner to export its radioactive waste from the country.

The confirmation, from Malaysian environment minister Yeo Bee Yin, all but secures Lynas licence to operate in the country beyond September 2 and could reignite a $1.5 billion bid for the business from Perth based conglomerate Wesfarmers.

Ms Yeo said the decision made by Cabinet to allow Lynas to setting up a permanent disposal facility (PDF) in Malaysia was a better outcome than earlier proposals, according to local press reports at the weekend.

A final decision from cabinet is expected later this month.

Ms Yeo had planned to visit Australia last month to discuss exporting the waste back to Australia, but the trip was cancelled after the West Australian and federal government rejected the proposal.

Lynas’ share price plunged in December when her ministry imposed a new condition on the extension of the company’s licence to operate in Malaysia beyond September this year. This included the removal of more than 450,000 of low level radioactive waste.

On Friday Lynas told the ASX it is scouting locations for a permanent disposal facility in Malaysia the day after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad suggested this is the compromise that will secure its licence.

In May, the company said it would spend $500 million by 2025 on value added processing in the US and Malaysia as well as setting up a processing plant in Western Australia, near its Mt Weld mine, to extract radioactive waste from its rare earths before it is shipped to Malaysia.

On Saturday, Lynas managing director, Datuk Mashal Ahmad, issued a statement to the local media that the company is looking at disused mines as potential sites.

“There are a number of disused mines in the state of Pahang that require rehabilitation and a PDF can be designed such that it assists in the rehabilitation of this land, providing environmental benefits in a sustainable way,” he said in a statement……

August 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Labor dismisses nuclear inquiry as a ‘frolic

Labor dismisses nuclear inquiry as a ‘frolic’, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the government was “off on a frolic” with its nuclear power inquiry because it has no real plan to resolve the nation’s energy needs.Energy Minister Angus Taylor has requested the Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy investigate nuclear as a power source even though it is currently …. (subscribers only)

August 5, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

‘Very dangerous’: Labor criticises government’s nuclear power inquiry

‘Very dangerous’: Labor criticises government’s nuclear power inquiry,   4 Aug 19 Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has criticised the federal government’s inquiry into nuclear power, saying the issue has been fully canvassed already.

Labor has demanded the federal government outline potential locations for nuclear power plants after establishing a parliamentary inquiry into an Australian industry.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has requested the Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy to investigate nuclear as a power source for Australia.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese suggested the inquiry showed the government was softening its position on lifting the ban on nuclear power.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

A winnable nuclear war? — Beyond Nuclear International

Trump won’t wipe Afghanistan “off the face of the Earth.” For now.

via A winnable nuclear war? — Beyond Nuclear International

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The denuclearization of the world? — Beyond Nuclear International

For us, the non-nuclear countries, our only solution is to enforce the law.

via The denuclearization of the world? — Beyond Nuclear International

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear power will ‘lumber into extinction,’ ex-regulator says

August 5, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment