Australian news, and some related international items

DELAY is the most salient reason why Small Modular Nuclear Reactors can’t work in Australia

7 reasons why Small Modular Nuclear Reactors are a bad idea for Australia, more,13010

International news reports that, in a failed missile test in Russia, a small nuclear reactor blew up,  killing five nuclear scientists, and releasing a radiation spike.

In Australian news, with considerably less media coverage, Parliament announced an Inquiry into nuclear energy for Australia, with an emphasis on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Submissions are due by September 16.

A bit of background.  The U.S. government and the U.S. nuclear industry are very keen to develop and export small modular nuclear reactors for two main reasons, both explained in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018     Firstly, with the decline of large nuclear reactors, there is a need to maintain the technology and the expertise, trained staff, necessary to support the nuclear weapons industry. Secondly, the only hope for commercial viability of small nuclear reactors is in exporting them – the domestic market is too small.  So – Australia is seen as a desirable market.

The USA motivation for exporting these so far non-existent prefabricated reactors is clear.  The motivation of their Australian promoters is not so clear.

These are the main reasons why it would be a bad idea for Australia to import small modular nuclear reactors.

  1. COST.Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy concluded that the SMR industry would not be viable unless the industry received “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies” over the next several decades. For a company to invest in a factory to manufacture reactors, they’d need to be sure of a real market for them – Australia would have to commit to a strong investment up front.

The diseconomics of scale make SMRs more expensive than large reactors.  A 250 MW SMR will generate 25 percent as much power as a 1,000 MW reactor, but it will require more than 25 percent of the material inputs and staffing, and a number of other costs including waste management and decommissioning will be proportionally higher.

study by WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff, commissioned by the 2015/16 South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, estimated costs of A$180‒184/MWh (US$127‒130) for large pressurised water reactors and boiling water reactors, compared to A$198‒225 (US$140‒159) for SMRs.

To have any hope of being economically viable, SMRs would have to be mass produced and deployed, and here is a “Catch-22″  problem The economics of mass production of SMRs cannot be proven until hundreds of units are in operation. But that can’t happen unless there are hundreds of orders, and there will be few takers unless the price can be brought down. Huge government subsidy is therefore required

  1. Safety problems. Small nuclear reactors still have the same kinds of safety needsas large ones have. The heat generated by the reactor core must be removed both under normal and accident conditions, to keep the fuel from overheating, becoming damaged, and releasing radioactivity.   The passive natural circulation coolingcould be effective under many conditions, but not under all accident conditions. For instance, for the NuScale design a large earthquake could send concrete debris into the pool, obstructing circulation of water or air.  Where there are a number of units, accidents affecting more than one small unit may cause complications that could overwhelm the capacity to cope with multiple failures.

Because SMRs have weaker containment systems than current reactors, there would be greater damage if a hydrogen explosion occurred.  A secondary containment structure would prevent large-scale releases of radioactivity in case of a severe accident.  But that would make individual SMR units unaffordable. The result?  Companies like NuScale now move to projects called “Medium” nuclear reactors – with 12 units under a single containment structure.  Not really small anymore.

Underground siting is touted as a safety solution, to avoid aircraft attacks and earthquakes. But that increases the risks from flooding.  In the event of an accident emergency crews could have greater difficulty accessing underground reactors.


Proponents of SMRs argue that they can be deployed safely both as a fleet of units close to cities, or as individual units in remote locations. In all cases, they’d have to operate under a global regulatory framework, which is going to mean expensive security arrangements and a level of security staffing.  ‘Economies of scale’ don’t necessarily work, when it comes to staffing small reactors.   SMRs will, anyway, need a larger number of workers to generate a kilowatt of electricity than large reactors need.  In the case of security staffing, this becomes important both in a densely populated area, and in an isolated one.

  1. Weapons Proliferation.

The latest news on the Russian explosion is a dramatic illustration of the connection between SMRs and weapons development.

But not such a surprise. SMRs have always had this connection, beginning in the nuclear weapons industry, in powering U.S. nuclear submarines. They were used in UK to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Today, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to use SMRs  as part of “dual use” facilities, civilian and military. SMRs contain radioactive materials, produce radioactive wastes – could be taken, used part of the production of a “dirty bomb” The Pentagon’s Project Dilithium’s small reactors may run on Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) , nuclear weapons fuel – increasing these risks.

It is now openly recognised that the nuclear weapons industry needs the technology development and the skilled staff that are provided by the “peaceful” nuclear industry. The connection is real, but it’s blurred.  The nuclear industry needs the “respectability” that is conferred by new nuclear, with its claims of “safe, clean, climate-solving” energy.

  1. Wastes.

SMRs are designed to produce less radioactive trash than current reactors. But they still produce long-lasting nuclear wastes, and in fact, for SMRs this is an even more complex problem. Australia already has the problem of spent nuclear fuel waste, accumulating in one place – from the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.  With SMRs adopted, the waste would be located in many sites, with each location having  the problem of transport to a disposal facility.  Final decommissioning of all these reactors would compound this problem.   In the case of underground reactors, there’d be further difficulties with waste retrieval, and site rehabilitation.

6. Location. 

I have touched on this, in the paragraphs on safety, security, and waste problems.  The nuclear enthusiasts are excited about the prospects for small reactors in remote places. After all, aren’t some isolated communities already having success with small, distributed solar and wind energy?   It all sounds great. But it isn’t.

With Australia’s great distances, it would be difficult to monitor and ensure the security of such a potentially dangerous system, of many small reactors scattered about on this continent. Nuclear is an industry that is already struggling to attract qualified staff, with a large percentage of skilled workers nearing retirement. The logistics of operating these reactors, meeting regulatory and inspection requirements, maintaining security staff would make the whole thing not just prohibitively expensive, but completely impractical.

  1. Delay. 

 For Australia, this has to be the most salient point of all. Economist John Quiggin has pointed out that Australia’s nuclear fans are enthusing about small modular nuclear reactors, but with no clarity on which, of the many types now designed, would be right for Australia.  NuScale’s model, funded by the U.S. government, is the only one at present with commercial prospects, so Quiggin has examined its history of delays.   But Quiggin found that NuScale is not actually going to build the factory: it is going to assemble the reactor parts, these having been made by another firm, – and which firm is not clear.  Quiggin concludes:

Australia’s proposed nuclear strategy rests on a non-existent plant to be manufactured by a company that apparently knows nothing about it.

As  there’s no market for small nuclear reactors, companies have not invested much money to commercialise them. Westinghouse Electric Company tried for years to get government funding for its SMR plan, then gave up, and switched to other projects. Danny Roderick, then president and CEO of Westinghouse, announced:

The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it’s not the deployment ‒ it’s that there’s no customers. … The worst thing to do is get ahead of the market. 

Russia’s  programme  has been delayed by more than a decade and the estimated costs have ballooned.

South Korea decided on SMRs, but then pulled out, presumably for economic reasons.

China is building one demonstration SMR, but has dropped plans to build 18 more, due to diseconomics of the scheme.

There’s a lot of chatter in the international media, about all the countries that are interested, or even have signed memoranda of understanding about buying SMRs, but still with no plans for actual purchase or construction.

Is Australia going to be the guinea pig for NuScale’s Small and Medium Reactor scheme?  If so,when?  The hurdles to overcome would be mind-boggling. The start would have to be the repeal of Australia’s laws – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 Section 140A and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998. Then comes the overcoming of States’ laws, much political argy-bargy, working out regulatory frameworks, import and transport of nuclear materials, – finding locations for siting reactors, – Aboriginal issues-community consent,  waste locations.  And what would it all cost?

And, in the meantime, energy efficiency developments, renewable energy progress, storage systems – will keep happening, getting cheaper, and making nuclear power obsolete.

August 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste: Kimba committee even discussed transitioning out of the site selection process

Life after nuclear decision discussed, Eyre Tribune, Rachel McDonald  16 Aug 19, 

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Problems of safety from radiation and heat at the Tokyo Olympics

Controversy over radiation and heat surrounding Tokyo Olympics, HANKYOREH

By Kim Chang-geum, staff reporter : Aug.14,2019

  “…… Safety from radiation and heat at the Tokyo Olympics

Most of the issues related to the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, which are now only a year away, boil down to safety concerns over radiation and extreme heat. Some baseball and softball matches are scheduled to be held in a stadium located close to the Fukushima nuclear reactor that took direct damage during the 2011 earthquake. Korean civic groups have also pointed out that the Japanese government has failed to properly control water contaminated by radiation from the reactor. Plans to source some of the rice and ingredients for the Tokyo Olympics Athletes Village from Fukushima are adding to these concerns. Although the level of radiation measured in such rice is within the acceptable standards in Japan, it is believed to exceed Korean standards.

Extreme heat is another potential issue. After an open water test competition in Odaiba Seaside Park, Tokyo, on Aug. 11, Sports Nippon reported, “Many athletes complained about a foul odor and the high water temperature, and one male athlete made the shocking claim that it ‘smelled like a toilet.’” Although the Olympic Committee did not reveal the water temperature on that day, it has been reported that the temperature was 29.9 degrees Celsius at 5am. The International Swimming Federation (FINA) cancels events if the water temperature reaches 31 degrees Celsius. There have also been warnings about road races. On August 8, Yusuke Suzuki, Japan’s star race-walker and world record holder in the men’s 20km, stated, “I tried training on the Tokyo Olympics race-walking course. There was no shade, so it could cause dehydration.”
Tokyo Olympics delegation heads meeting from Aug. 20-22It appears that the issue of safety from radiation and concerns about food ingredients will be conveyed during the upcoming three-day meeting with the leaders of each country’s delegation in Tokyo on Aug. 20-22, and a request will be made to the Japanese Olympic Committee to change the name of Dokdo used on maps. If the representatives from each country do raise the radiation issue, the IOC will have no choice but to intervene. The Korean Sport & Olympic Committee is also considering providing separate Korean food to Korean athletes through specially prepared meals or lunchboxes.  ….

August 17, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Beautiful Flinders Ranges – no place for a nuclear waste dump

Beautiful Flinders, The Advertiser, MICHELE MADIGAN, 15 Aug 19

RE Susan Andersson’s letter “No nuclear move” (The Advertiser, yesterday): As I travelled south along the highway from Coober Pedy this week, the glorious Flinders Ranges to the east were an inspiring sight.

One can only wonder at a Federal Government, which proposes to build a low-level nuclear dump (toxic for 300 years) and, even more concerning, as the letter stated, to simply store intermediate nuclear waste (toxic for 10,000 years) at such an iconic Australian site.

Neither does it make sense to build and store such literally halfway across the country in the international grain farming area of the Kimba region.

Yes, surely, both for residents and we travellers, it is safer (and better for the SA economy) to store the intermediate-level waste where it is – under the eyes of the nuclear experts.


August 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

South Australian students plan more climate action -“No jobs on a dead planet”

No jobs on a dead planet”: The SA students who won’t give up on the climate change strike, InDaily  Jessica Bassano, 16 Aug 19, 

Tom Webster and Guthrow Taylor Johnson are among 12 student protesters skipping school between 9am and 3pm on Friday each week with no intention of stopping in the near future.

The weekly strikes follow mass school walkouts across the globe earlier this year, including in South Australia.

On March 15, thousands of high school and university students swarmed King William Street demanding politicians take a firmer stance on climate change.

During the event, Adelaide School 4 Climate spokesperson Doha Khan called on her peers to boycott Friday classes until the Federal election.

lthough the election came and went, Taylor Johnson said the group wouldn’t stop protesting until their key demands were met.

“We want no more new fossil fuel projects in Australia,” he said.

“Starting with saying no to Adani, which is going to be the biggest coal mine in the Southern Hemisphere if the government allows them to build it.

“We also want 100 per cent renewables by 2030 and we want a just transition for workers in fossil fuel industries for them to go into renewables.”

The South Australian climate strikes are part of an international movement led by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

In 2018, Thunberg spent every school day sitting outside of Sweden’s parliament protesting the country’s inaction on climate change. Thunberg later reduced her strikes to every Friday, kicking off a movement of Friday school protests.

A wave of school and university strikes demanding more progressive climate policy has since erupted across the globe.

Last Friday, the National Union of Students led university students in Australian capital cities in striking against climate change.

Webster said while many of their fellow weekly protesters were attending the strike he and Taylor Johnson – who are both still in high school – felt it was important to continue their parliamentary protest as well.

Taylor Johnson said the pair planned to join the next major climate strike, to be held on September 20, and hoped to see his peers there.

“Right now, in Australia, [there’s] a lot of climate deniers. So, it’s up to Australia to both lead the way in climate policies and set an example to other countries,” Taylor Johnson said.

A Seaton High School year 11 student, Taylor Johnson said he originally struggled to find a balance between his studies, social life and activism but has managed to navigate the three successfully….

August 17, 2019 Posted by | climate change - global warming, South Australia | Leave a comment

Pacific islander nations fed up with Australia’s inaction on climate change

Pacific Island nations will no longer stand for Australia’s inaction on climate change, The Conversation, Michael O’Keefe. Head of Department, Politics and Philosophy, La Trobe University, August 16, 2019  The Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu this week has ended in open division over climate change. Australia ensured its official communique watered down commitments to respond to climate change, gaining a hollow victory.

Traditionally, communiques capture the consensus reached at the meeting. In this case, the division on display between Australia and the Pacific meant the only commitment is to commission yet another report into what action needs to be taken.

The cost of Australia’s victory is likely to be great, as it questions the sincerity of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s commitment to “step up” engagement in the Pacific.

Australia’s stance on climate change has become untenable in the Pacific. The inability to meet Pacific Island expectations will erode Australia’s influence and leadership credentials in the region, and provide opportunities for other countries to grow influence in the region.

An unprecedented show of dissent

When Morrison arrived in Tuvalu, he was met with an uncompromising mood. In fact, the text of an official communique was only finished after 12 hours of pointed negotiations.

While the “need for urgent, immediate actions on the threats and challenges of climate change”, is acknowledged, the Pacific was looking for action, not words.

What’s more, the document reaffirmed that “strong political leadership to advance climate change action” was needed, but leadership from Australia was sorely missing. It led Tuvaluan Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga to note:

I think we can say we should’ve done more work for our people.

Presumably, he would have hoped Australia could be convinced to take more climate action.

In an unprecedented show of dissent, smaller Pacific Island countries produced the alternative Kainaki II Declaration. It captures the mood of the Pacific in relation to the existential threat posed by climate change, and the need to act decisively now to ensure their survival.

And it details the commitments needed to effectively address the threat of climate change. It’s clear nothing short of transformational change is needed to ensure their survival, and there is rising frustration in Australia’s repeated delays to take effective action.

Australia hasn’t endorsed the alternative declaration and Canberra has signalled once and for all that compromise on climate change is not possible. This is not what Pacific leaders hoped for and will come at a diplomatic cost to Australia.

Canberra can’t buy off the Pacific

Conflict had already begun brewing in the lead up to the Pacific Islands Forum. The Pacific Islands Development Forum – the brainchild of the Fijian government, which sought a forum to engage with Pacific Island Nations without the influence of Australia and New Zealand – released the the Nadi Bay Declaration in July this year.

This declaration called on coal producing countries like Australia to cease all production within a decade.

But it’s clear Canberra believes compromise of this sort on climate change would undermine Australia’s economic growth and this is the key stumbling block to Australia answering its Pacific critics with action.

As Sopoaga said to Morrison:

You are concerned about saving your economy in Australia […] I am concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu.

And a day before the meeting, Canberra announced half a billion dollars to tackle climate change in the region. But it received a lukewarm reception from the Pacific.

The message is clear: Canberra cannot buy off the Pacific. In part, this is because Pacific Island countries have new options, especially from China, which has offered Pacific island countries concessional loans……

August 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL | Leave a comment

How will Zali Steggall vote, in the Liberal Coalition’s Parliamentary Nuclear Inquiry

The parliamentary inquiry into nuclear power will be a test for Australia’s newest, prominent climate campaigner, Zali Steggall, the member for Warringah on Sydney’s lower north shore.
Steggall, who is a member of the committee conducting the inquiry, didn’t want to pre-empt it by expressing a view towards nuclear power.  …..Financial Review 15 Aug 19

Coalition MPs are usually loyal to the government. If Taylor didn’t want to build the case for nuclear power, it is hard to see why he would have commissioned the inquiry.

In that case, it may be that the process is more important than the outcome. Get ready for a nuclear sales job.

August 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Australian investigative journalist Mark Davis explodes the myths around Julian Assange

While the Internet was meant to democratise the transmission of information we see a few giant technology companies, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, have near total control of what is seen and shared.

The situation is even worse in Australia with two or three media companies and the same technology giants having control. And the Government of Australia has granted them ever wider market access to extend their monopolies.

Slowly, instance by instance, the malicious and deceitful smears of Julian Assange’s character have been exposed for what they are; an effort to destroy trust in a system of anonymous leaking that will educate everyone.

WikiLeaks’ threat to the powerful was recognised and every effort was, and is, being made to criminalise anonymous leaking, which would be akin to criminalising Gutenberg’s printing press, but there is not much chance this criminalisation will succeed.

It’s time to bring Julian Assange home. Torturing and punishing him has never been legitimate and serves absolutely no purpose.

Media dead silent as Wikileaks insider explodes the myths around Julian Assange, Michael West, by Greg Bean — 16 August 2019 – It is the journalists from The Guardian and New York Times who should be in jail, not Julian Assange, said Mark Davis last week. The veteran Australian investigative journalist, who has been intimately involved in the Wikileaks drama, has turned the Assange narrative on its head. The smears are falling away. The mainstream media, which has so ruthlessly made Julian Assange a scapegoat, is silent in response.

August 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Russian Doctors Say They Weren’t Warned Patients Were Nuclear Accident Victims

Russian Doctors Say They Weren’t Warned Patients Were Nuclear Accident Victims
One doctor was reportedly later found to have a radioactive isotope in their muscle tissue.

August 17, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Nuclear’s disadvantages – greenhouse gases and costs

Michele Madigan, Advertiser, August 19, Re‘Nuclear Benefits’ (Advertiser 31/7/19), according to the 2006 Switkowski Report, nuclear power emits three times more greenhouse gases than wind power. In these drought years, Australians may prefer other uses for the 35 to 65 million litres per day that reactors typically consume. It’s a long wait – 15 years or more to develop nuclear power in Australia.

The nuclear power industry survives only because of huge taxpayer subsidies an estimated A$40 billion for Hinkley Point’s two reactors in the UK. Finally, the awkward matter of very possible accidents with Chernobyl and Fukushima being only more recent and catastrophic examples: modern technology notwithstanding. No surprise then that insurance companies do not insure against the risk of nuclear accidents. Given the inconvenient facts, nuclear power mightn’t seem such a good idea after all.


August 17, 2019 Posted by | climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

August 16 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “How To Save A Sinking Island Nation” • Kiritimati has a dark past of British colonialism and nuclear weapons testing. It gained independence from the UK on 12 July 1979, when the Republic of Kiribati was established to govern a group of 33 islands that straddle the equator in the area. Now, it […]

via August 16 Energy News — geoharvey

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Radiation Levels Big Concern as Japan Preps for 2020 Olympics — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

August 13, 2019 The 2020 Olympics are set to take place in Japan, but there is a growing concern about the safety of those heading overseas. In the time following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan saw the release of harmful radioactive pollutants or radionuclides, such as iodine‑131, cesium‑134, cesium‑137, strontium‑90, and plutonium‑238. This resulted […]

via Radiation Levels Big Concern as Japan Preps for 2020 Olympics — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Japan releasing contaminated water of Fukushima would only create another disaster — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

“The idea of releasing the contaminated water before it has been entirely treated for radioactivity is completely unacceptable. For the Japanese government to make a unilateral decision about a multilateral matter that endangers the health of not only its own citizens but also the citizens of its neighbors is both irresponsible and immoral.” The storage […]

via Japan releasing contaminated water of Fukushima would only create another disaster — Fukushima 311 Watchdogs

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bankrupted traditional owner vows to keep opposing Adani

Bankrupted traditional owner vows to keep opposing Adani,  SBS, 16 Aug 19, A Queensland traditional owner forced into bankruptcy by Adani after failed legal actions says it means nothing to him.  A traditional owner forced into bankruptcy by Adani after numerous failed legal actions against them has vowed to continue to speak out against its Queensland coal mine.

Wangan and Jagalingou man Adrian Burragubba was formally bankrupted in the Federal Court in Brisbane on Thursday.

Mr Burragubba’s property will be held until $600,000 in legal costs are paid to the miner following unsuccessful legal attempts to stop the Galilee Basin project……

August 17, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Queensland | Leave a comment

Australia tells Pacific Islands to “reflect” on climate action, dial down “crisis” talk — RenewEconomy

More detail on Australia’s efforts with the red pen at the Pacific Islands Forum, deleting all but one mention of coal, and pushing for climate “reflection” rather than action. The post Australia tells Pacific Islands to “reflect” on climate action, dial down “crisis” talk appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Australia tells Pacific Islands to “reflect” on climate action, dial down “crisis” talk — RenewEconomy

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment