Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Dr Helen Caldicott on the unsafety of Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

HELEN CALDICOTT: Small modular reactors — same nuclear disasters  https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/helen-caldicott-small-modular-reactors–same-nuclear-disasters,13087

By Helen Caldicott | 9 September 2019  The Morrison Government has opened the door to the notion of nuclear power as peddled by the nuclear sociopaths.

Now that the “nuclear renaissance” seems dead and buried following the Fukushima catastrophe (one-sixth of the world’s nuclear reactors were closed after the accident), the corporations invested in making nuclear plants and radioactive waste –including Toshiba, Nu-Scale, Babcock and Wilcox, GE Hitachi, General Atomics and the Tennessee Valley Authority – are not to be defeated.

Their new strategy is to develop small modular reactors (SMR), which can be sold around the world without, they say, the dangers inherent in large reactors — safety, cost, proliferation risks and radioactive waste.

There are basically three types of SMRs which generate less than 300 megawatts of electricity compared to the current 1,000-megawatt reactors.


Light water reactor 
designs

These will be smaller versions of present-day pressurised water reactors using water as the moderator and coolant but with the same attendant problems as Fukushima and Three Mile Island. They are to be built underground, which obviously makes them dangerous to access in the event of an accident or malfunction.

They will be mass-produced (turnkey production) and large numbers must be sold yearly to make a profit. This is an unlikely prospect because major markets – China and India – will be uninterested in buying U.S. reactors when they can make their own.

If a safety problem arises, such as with the Dreamliner plane, all of them will have to be shut down — interfering substantially with electricity supply.

SMRs will be expensive because the cost of unit capacity increases with decrease in the size of the reactor. Billions of dollars of government subsidies will be required because Wall Street will not touch nuclear power. To alleviate costs, it is suggested that safety rules be relaxed — including reducing security requirements and a reduction in the ten-mile emergency planning zone to 1,000 feet.


Non-light water
 designs

These are high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) or pebble bed reactors. Five billion tiny fuel kernels of high-enriched uranium or plutonium will be encased in tennis-ball-sized graphite spheres which must be made without cracks or imperfections — or else they could lead to an accident. A total of 450,000 such spheres will slowly be released continuously from a fuel silo, passing through the reactor core, and then re-circulated ten times. These reactors will be cooled by helium gas operating at very high temperatures (900 C).

The plans are to construct a reactor complex consisting of four HTGR modules located underground to be run by only two operators in a central control room. It is claimed that HTGRs will be so safe that a containment building will be unnecessary and operators can even leave the site — “walk-away-safe” reactors.

However, should temperatures unexpectedly exceed 1600 degrees Celsius, the carbon coating will release dangerous radioactive isotopes into the helium gas and at 2000 C, the carbon would ignite creating a fierce graphite Chernobyl-type fire.

If a crack develops in the piping or building, radioactive helium would escape and air would rush in igniting the graphite.

Although HTGRs produce small amounts of low-level waste, they create larger volumes of high-level waste than conventional reactors.

Despite these obvious safety problems and despite the fact that South Africa has abandoned plans for HTGRs, the U.S. Department of Energy has unwisely chosen the HTGR as the “Next Generation Nuclear Plant”.


Liquid metal fast reactors 
(PRISM)

It is claimed by the proponents that fast reactors will be safe, economically competitive, proliferation-resistant and sustainable.

They are to be fueled by plutonium or highly enriched uranium, and cooled by either liquid sodium or a lead-bismuth molten coolant creating a potentially explosive situation. Liquid sodium burns or explodes when exposed to air or water and lead-bismuth is extremely corrosive producing very volatile radioactive elements when irradiated.

Should a crack occur in the reactor complex, liquid sodium would escape burning or exploding. Without coolant, the plutonium fuel would melt and reach critical mass, inciting a massive nuclear explosion. One-millionth of a gram of plutonium induces cancer and it lasts for 500,000 years. Yet it is claimed that fast reactors will be so safe that no emergency sirens will be required and emergency planning zones can be decreased from ten miles to 1,300 feet.

There are two types of fast reactors, a simple plutonium fueled reactor and a “breeder”. The plutonium reactor core can be surrounded by a blanket of uranium 238, the uranium captures neutrons and converts to plutonium creating ever more plutonium.

Some are keen about fast reactors because plutonium waste from other reactors can be fissioned converting it to shorter-lived isotopes like caesium and strontium which last “only” 600 years instead of 500,000. But this is fallacious thinking because only ten per cent is fissioned leaving 90 per cent of the plutonium for bomb-making and so on.

Construction

Three small plutonium fast reactors will be arranged together forming a module. Three of these modules will be buried underground and all nine reactors will connect to a fully automated central control room. Only three reactor operators situated in one control room will be in control of nine reactors. Potentially, one operator could simultaneously face a catastrophic situation triggered by the loss of off-site power to one unit at full power, in another shut down for refuelling and in one in start-up mode.

There are to be no emergency core cooling systems.

Fast reactors will require a massive infrastructure including a reprocessing plant to dissolve radioactive waste fuel rods in nitric acid, chemically removing the plutonium and a fuel fabrication facility to create new fuel rods. A total of 15,000 to 25,000 kilos of plutonium are required to operate a fuel cycle at a fast reactor and just 2.5 kilos is fuel for a nuclear weapon.

Thus, fast reactors and breeders will provide the perfect plan for nuclear weapons proliferation and despite this danger, the industry plans to sell them to many countries.

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September 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, technology | Leave a comment

Labor Party highlights Liberal Coalition’s recommended spots for nuclear reactors

Labor demands nuclear be wiped off options,  https://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/6368008/labor-demands-nuclear-be-wiped-off-options/ Australian Associated Press 10 Sept 19, Ever enjoyed a holiday to Noosa, Sussex Inlet or French Island? How would you feel if there was a nuclear power station in your idyllic vacation spot?

The vast majority are around the country’s beloved coastlines, and almost all are near residential communities. Some sites, like Townsville, Toowoomba and Wagga Wagga have been proposed multiple times, a map collated by the Parliamentary Library shows.

“Instead of indulging the policy fantasies of his restive backbench, (Prime Minister Scott) Morrison should reject the nuclear option or be upfront with Australians about exactly where he wants to build nuclear reactors,” Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler said on Thursday.

A parliamentary committee is looking at whether nuclear is a feasible, suitable and palatable solution for Australia’s future energy needs.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor asked for the inquiry amid growing calls from coalition backbenchers for the option to be seriously examined

Last Thursday, the committee was warned by Ziggy Switkowski – who led a Howard government review into the power source – that there was a real risk of “catastrophic failure” if Australia adopted nuclear energy.

 

September 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Australians concerned about climate change: few support nuclear power

The survey indicates nuclear energy, which has been revived as a prospect by some Morrison government MPs, remains divisive with voters.

Only one in five put nuclear in their top three preferred energy sources, and 59% of the survey put nuclear in their bottom three.

Australians increasingly fear climate change-related drought and extinctions

Climate of the Nation survey shows growing support for net zero emissions by 2050 and rapid phase-out of coal power 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/10/australians-increasingly-fear-climate-change-related-drought-and-extinctions?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0d1YXJkaWFuVG9kYXlBVVMtMTkwOTEw&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayAUS&CMP=GTAU_email  Katharine Murphy Political editor

Drought-hit land 40km north-east of Coonabarabran in NSW. More than 80% of Australians are worried about drought and floods linked to climate change.

Australians are increasingly concerned about droughts and floods, extinctions and water shortages associated with climate change, and most people think all levels of government aren’t doing enough to combat the effects of global warming, according to new research.

The annual Climate of the Nation survey, which has been tracking Australian attitudes to climate change for more than a decade, finds concern about droughts and flooding has risen from 74% of the survey in 2017 to 81% in 2019. Continue reading

September 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

In Australia, women and the young about climate changeare most concerned

Climate change survey shows Australians want action on emissions, but are divided on nuclear, ABC 10 Sep 19 The majority of Australians blame increasing energy costs on “excessive profit margins” of energy companies, and 64 per cent think we should be aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050.

But we’re still divided on how to get there, with solar energy topping the list of preferred energy sources and nuclear power continuing to polarise opinion.

These are some of the findings from The Australia Institute’s annual Climate of the Nation report, which shows Australians are becoming increasingly unhappy over a range of climate and energy issues.

Of the 1,960 people surveyed, general concern about climate change was highest among 18 to 34-year-olds, with more than 81 per cent of respondents saying climate change worried them, compared to 67 per cent of those aged 55 and over.

The overall acceptance by Australians that climate change is happening is on par with 2016 — the equal highest rate since the surveys began in 2007.

However, attitudes to climate change are divided along gender lines, with women more likely than men to think climate change is happening. Nearly 80 per cent of women said they are either “very concerned” or “fairly concerned” about climate change, versus 70 per cent of men. Continue reading

September 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Unprecedented threat to human rights – Climate Change

Climate crisis is greatest ever threat to human rights, UN warns   https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/sep/09/climate-crisis-human-rights-un-michelle-bachelet-united-nations  

Rights chief Michelle Bachelet highlights role in civil wars.  ‘The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope’ Agence France-Presse in Geneva, 10 Sep 2019 Climate change is not only having a devastating impact on the environments we live in, but also on respect for human rights globally, the UN has warned.

The UN rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, cited the civil wars sparked by a warming planet and the plight of indigenous people in an Amazon ravaged by wildfires and rampant deforestation.

She also denounced attacks on environmental activists, particularly in Latin America, and the abuse aimed at high-profile figures such as the teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg.

“The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope,” she told the UN human rights council in Geneva.

“The economies of all nations, the institutional, political, social and cultural fabric of every state, and the rights of all your people, and future generations, will be impacted” by climate change, she warned. Continue reading

September 10, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Extreme heat a killer for Australians

Extreme heat a far greater threat for most Australians than extreme cold weather, study finds, SMH, By Peter Hannam, September 10, 2019, Extreme heat is a far greater threat for most Australians than extreme cold weather, with the risks falling largely on the elderly.

Research published on Tuesday in the Climatic Change journal examined the deaths of 1.717 million Australians between 2006-2017. It found about 2 per cent were attributable to heat, while “close to zero” were caused by cold days, said Thomas Longden, a senior researcher at the University of Technology, Sydney, and author of the paper…….

In regions with hot, humid summers – such as Townsville, Cairns and Darwin – as many as 9 per cent of deaths were related to heat.

Scientists expect climate change will create longer, more intense and more frequent heatwaves for much of Australia, a trend that would exacerbate the risks of heat-related deaths.

“In the future we’re going to get some very extreme events that really may start pushing people, who have not had an issue in the past, over a threshold,” Dr Longden said. “Hospitalisation, ambulance call outs and deaths can occur after that.”

The elderly, in particular, will face more pressure on their health as temperatures rise, Dr Longden said.

Separately, the Australia Institute on Tuesday released its Climate Of The Nation report, which has tracked attitudes to climate change since 2007.

The survey of 1960 Australians aged 18 years and older by YouGov Galaxy was taken between July 25 and August 1. It found 77 per cent of respondents agreed the climate was changing, matching the highest level recorded in 2016. Some 81 per cent said there were concerned the shift would result in more droughts and floods, up from 78 per cent in 2018.

Other findings included 78 per cent of respondents saying they were worried climate change would lead to water shortages in Australian cities, up 11 percentage points in two years. More than two-thirds backed “an orderly phase-out of coal” and a similar ratio supported Australia reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Australians are rightly concerned about more extreme heat waves, droughts and bushfires, and they want the Morrison government to show leadership on climate change and do more to prepare for the impacts that are already locked in,” said Zali Steggall, the independent MP for Warringah, who launched the report. https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/extreme-heat-a-far-greater-threat-for-most-australians-than-extreme-cold-weather-study-finds-20190909-p52ph1.html

September 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Climate change deniers favour nuclear power!

It doesn’t make sense –  seeing that the nuclear lobby is desperately pushing the idea that nuclear is needed to solve climate change

About 30 per cent of Australians “not at all concerned” by climate change favoured nuclear power, compared to five per cent of those who were “very concerned” by it.

Nuclear divisions across Australia: report  https://www.macleayargus.com.au/story/6376142/nuclear-divisions-across-australia-report/, Rebecca Gredley, 10 Sept 19,  

September 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

America’s zombie uranium mines

When toxic waste piles — either solid rock or liquid confined behind earthen dams — are left unaddressed, the potential increases for “catastrophic failure

WHILE ‘ZOMBIE’ MINES IDLE, CLEANUP AND WORKERS SUFFER IN LIMBO As the governor of West Virginia and other mine owners warehouse their operations and avoid cleanup, the Trump administration stifles attempts to write rules that could restrict the practice. Center for Public Integrity, 8 Sept 19

…….RADIOACTIVE LEGACY

Remnants of America’s nuclear past litter the Grants Mining District in northwest New Mexico: signs warning of radioactivity, a spiked drill bit outside the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants, businesses offering to help retired miners get U.S. Department of Labor health benefits.

Mount Taylor — “Tsoodzil” to the Navajo Nation — towers over the landscape. At the base of the 11,305-foot-tall inactive volcano sits the Mount Taylor Mine, idled in 1990 and allowed to flood.

The heyday of Southwestern uranium mining lasted just 30 years. Much of the industry, including this mine, has since remained in standby. Continue reading

September 10, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australians fear extinction and drought, food, water problems from climate change — RenewEconomy

Despite Coalition’s climate-lite – and climate denying – approach to policy, more than 80% of Australians side with science on global warming, and believe we’re feeling the impacts already. The post Australians fear extinction and drought, food, water problems from climate change appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Australians fear extinction and drought, food, water problems from climate change — RenewEconomy

September 10, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

September 9 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Energy Transition Startups Shake Up The Business World” • The shift to a low-carbon future is turning the economy inside out. Christoph Frei, secretary general and CEO of the World Energy Council, said start-ups “deliver this kind of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and the necessary attitude. They have no fear of reinventing everything.” [CleanTechnica] ¶ […]

via September 9 Energy News — geoharvey

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Australia’s main grid hits new peak of 41 per cent wind and solar — RenewEconomy

Wind and solar hit new record share of output in Australia’s main grid on Saturday. The post Australia’s main grid hits new peak of 41 per cent wind and solar appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Australia’s main grid hits new peak of 41 per cent wind and solar — RenewEconomy

September 10, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do Australia’s coal generators need another subsidy? — RenewEconomy

Australia’s coal fired generators already enjoy huge subsidies. Do they need any more? The post Do Australia’s coal generators need another subsidy? appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Do Australia’s coal generators need another subsidy? — RenewEconomy

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Brigalow solar farm caught up in Queensland bush fires — RenewEconomy

Queensland solar farm at centre of legal battle with state government narrowly avoids being damaged by fire, in one of more than 60 blazes across the state. The post Brigalow solar farm caught up in Queensland bush fires appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Brigalow solar farm caught up in Queensland bush fires — RenewEconomy

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ARENA backs wave power generation pilot project off King Island — RenewEconomy

Australian Renewable Energy Agency will tip $4 million into a $12.3 million trial of Australian made wave energy technology off the coast of King Island, Tasmania. The post ARENA backs wave power generation pilot project off King Island appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via ARENA backs wave power generation pilot project off King Island — RenewEconomy

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