Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

This week in climate/nuclear news Australia and beyond

I never want to minimise the nuclear perils. But, it is a dying industry, and can look irrelevant as news about the climate crisis continues to be revealed.

One thing about nuclear power – the mainstream media continues to mindlessly hype the industry as the climate solution, while in fact nuclear is the third highest carbon emitter after coal-fired plants and natural gas. Even if they were “zero carbon”, nuclear reactors would never be installed in time to make a difference.

CLIMATE – where to start? Combined environmental crises could trigger ‘global systemic collapse‘, scientists warn.  Some climate modelling is now predicting an unprecedented and alarming spike in global temperatures — perhaps as much as 5 degrees Celsius.   Ya know that things are getting serious when it hits industry and markets –  The northern hemisphere winter has been unusually mild: That’s making life difficult for oil and gas traders,

Antarctica posts a record high temperature. Arctic ice melt is changing ocean currents .  Coronavirus likely to be connected to climate change – bats the likely first vector. Fires and floods: Australia already seesaws between climate extremes – and there’s more to come. Delhi’s disaster – disappearing water supplies.

A little bit of good news – Nuclear energy exhibit to be closed, turned into clinic for doctor-hungry Yamaguchi town

AUSTRALIA

NUCLEAR.

Flooding events highlight the danger to proposed uranium mining sites Yeelirrie and Wiluna.

CLIMATE

Coalition hands out $4 million to pursue new coal generator in Queensland.   Private investors won’t touch new Coalition-backed coal plant, Labor says.

Why can’t the Australian government do the right thing by the persecuted Julian Assange?

RENEWABLE ENERGY – lotsa news – check out reneweconomy.com.au

INTERNATIONAL

Climate emergency plans must have a ‘no new nuclear’ clause.

Nuclear power went backwards in 2019, and the outlook is bleak.

Nuclear power and harm to animals.

Permafrost thawing -“fast and dramatic, affecting landscapes in unprecedented ways.ar compensation claims from Tahiti.

February 11, 2020 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Philip White shows folly of nuclear activities for Victoria: Submission No.112

Submission 112 Philip White to Victorian govt INQUIRY INTO NUCLEAR PROHIBITION

A very brief summary of conclusions that can be drawn from the attached submission with respect

to each of your  inquiry’s terms of reference are as follows:

(1)investigate the potential for Victoria to contribute to global low carbon  dioxide energy production through enabling exploration and production of uranium and thorium The notion that nuclear energy is low carbon is superficial. A deeper analysis shows that nuclear energy is an obstacle to realisation of a low carbon economy (refer “c. environmental

impacts” in the attached submission).  Hence the idea that uranium and thorium exploration and production could make a useful contribution to global low  carbon

dioxide energy production is mistaken.  

(2) identify economic, environmental and social benefits for Victoria, including those related to medicine, scientific research, exploration and mining.

Nuclear energy related facilities tend to create host communities which are economically dependent

on these  facilities and which are therefore under huge pressure to overlook the safety and environmental risks associated  with these facilities (refer “b. health and safety” in the attached submission). The safest approach is not to build  these facilities in the first place.  (I assume the phrase “including those related to medicine, scientific research, exploration and mining” is not meant to exclude nuclear power plants and other aspects of the  nuclear fuel cycle.)  It is doubtful whether exploration and mining could generate significant 

economic benefits given that the long‐term  prospects for nuclear energy are so uncertain. Refer

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019:  https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/WNISR2019Assesses‐Climate‐Changeand‐the‐Nuclear‐Power‐Option.html  

(3) identify opportunities for Victoria to participate in the nuclear fuel cycle The attached submission provides many reasons why it would be unwise for

Victoria to participate in the nuclear  fuel cycle.

(4) identify any barriers to participation, including limitations caused by federal or local laws

 and regulations. 

There are many legitimate barriers to nuclear fuel cycle activities, including safety, environmental protection, non‐ proliferation concerns and lack of public acceptance, but ultimately the barrier that is most likely to

stick is that  nuclear energy is not economically viable (refer “d. energy affordability and reliability and  economic feasibility” in  the attached submission- below).

Submission to the Inquiry into the Prerequisites for Nuclear Energy in Australia …….

For reasons outlined below, nuclear energy is not and will not in the foreseeable future be a desirable option to supply Australia’s energy needs. The specific terms of reference are addressed below, with particular attention to issues and perspectives that proponents of nuclear energy are inclined to neglect or downplay:

a. waste management, transport and storage ………

b. health and safety ……

c. environmental impacts …….

d. energy affordability and reliability, and e. economic feasibility …….

f. community engagement and i. national consensus ……..

g. workforce capability …….

h. security implications ……

j. any other relevant matter

Based on the above analysis, it would be unwise for Australia to embark on a nuclear energy program and it is very sensible to declare this in the clearest possible terms. In this regard, I am encouraged to see in the Terms of Reference for this inquiry the statement that “Australia’s bipartisan moratorium on nuclear energy will remain in place.” https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/epc-lc/article/4348

    

February 11, 2020 Posted by | politics, Victoria | Leave a comment

Coronavirus likely to be connected to climate change – bats the likely first vector

The Wuhan Coronavirus, Climate Change, and Future Epidemics…...TIME, 10 Feb 2020, 

“………The strain of coronavirus that’s spreading now is different than Candida for many reasons, but its likely animal vector—bats—provides an interesting example of how temperatures relate to the spread of infectious disease. Like humans, bats are mammals that maintain a warm body temperature that protect them from disease. But while our body temperature rests around 98.6°F and spikes a few degrees when we’re sick, bats’ body temperatures can regularly jump to as high as 105°F.
That means they can carry a whole slew of pathogens without suffering from them. In the near future, as global temperatures inch up, bats will continue to be protected by their body heat, while the pathogens they carry are better able to harm us.
For decades, scientists have recognized that climate change would lead to a range of public health consequences. A 1992 report from the National Academy of Sciences, for example, cited a number of ways climate change could lead to the spread of infectious disease and described the lack of resources devoted to studying the impact of climate change on disease as “disturbing.” Four years later, a widely-cited paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association warned that climate change could increase the spread of everything from malnutrition to malaria, and called for concerted study between doctors, climate scientists and social scientists. That same year the World Health Organization published a 300-page tome on the topic, looking at a slew of ties between climate and health, but at the same time noting that the links are “complex and multifactorial.”https://time.com/5779156/wuhan-coronavirus-climate-change/

February 11, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Fires and floods: Australia already seesaws between climate extremes – and there’s more to come

February 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Coalition compares wind and solar to “dole bludgers”, pushes for coal, nuclear  

Coalition compares wind and solar to “dole bludgers”, pushes for coal, nuclear  https://reneweconomy.com.au/coalition-compares-wind-and-solar-to-dole-bludgers-pushes-for-coal-nuclear-41714/  Giles Parkinson, 10 February 2020 The wind and solar industries are bracing for another verbal assault and an extended period of policy indifference from the federal government, after a senior Coalition MP likened renewable energy to “dole bludgers’, the government funnelled $4 million into a study for a new coal fired power station in Queensland, and so-called government “moderates” declared their support for nuclear.

Despite the plunging costs of solar, wind and storage, the war against renewables is accelerating dramatically as the government comes under pressure to improve its climate policies, and even consider re-instating the long term zero carbon pledge for 2050 that it scrapped, along with the carbon price, in 2014, and which all states have since adopted.

But the language against wind and solar is now being scaled up to levels not seen since the Abbott government, when the prime minister, the then Treasurer Joe Hockey and others railed against the sight of wind farms, including on their drive down to Canberra.

Barnaby Joyce, the former deputy prime minister whose electorate of new England hosts some of the state’s biggest wind and solar projects, ranted against both wind and solar last week after losing his bid to regain the leadership of the LNP.

Matt Canavan, the former resources minister who backed Joyce in that failed leadership bid, and resigned after revealing his membership of a sports club that received a $20 million loan from a government fund that Canavan had responsibility for, went one step further on Monday.

“Renewables are the dole bludgers of the energy system, they only turn up to work when they want to,” Canavan wrote in an opinion piece in the Courier Mail that also got a page one headline. The opinion piece – from the man who likes to describe himself as “Mr Coal” – argued that only coal would support Australia’s mining and manufacturing industries.

The views of the LNP and the hard right of the Liberals are well known, but even so-called “moderate” Liberals are now arguing that wind and solar cannot be relied upon to power a modern economy, and nuclear should be open as a low carbon choice.

Katie Allen,the MP for Higgins, wrote as much in Nine Media over the weekend, repeating a claim she made in her parliamentary debut. Those views are reportedly supported by other Liberals also described as moderates, including Trent Zimmerman, and Tim Wilson, whose previous job was climate policy director for the climate-denying Institute of Public Affairs.

The demonisation of wind and solar also extends to the media. The Murdoch position against wind and solar is well established, but it is infused also into the ABC, which – appallingly – ran as its headline story on radio National on Monday morning a split in the Coalition between “cheap” coal and low emissions technology, as though it was matter a fact.

This is either the result of ignorance, or stupidity. In either case, it is inexcusable, although sadly not atypical. There is no study that points to new coal generators being the cheapest option to replace Australia’s ageing coal, polluting and increasingly decrepit fleet.

AEMO, in its Integrated System Plan, also makes it clear that renewables can power Australia’s modern economy and manufacturing sector. Its 20 year blueprint assumes a 74 per cent share of renewables in Australia’s grid as a minimum by 2040, and up to 90 per cent – a level that will dramatically reduce emissions – by around 90 per cent. The lights will stay on.

The ability of wind and solar to lower prices is now being witnessed in Australia’s main grid, with AEMO citing a 39% increase in wind and solar output in the last quarter, along with a fall in coal output due to outages and coal shortages, for a significant fall in prices to their lowest level since 2016.

The claim that renewables cannot power industry also flies in the face of the experts, including chief scientist Alan Finkel, who has mapped out a hydrogen strategy that could, and should, be fuelled by wind and solar. Others point to the potential of the country going “700 per cent renewables” to give it a global advantage in clean fuel exports and “green metals”.

Those supporters include Professor Ross Garnaut, who says Australia could likely reach 100 per cent reenables by the early 2030s, thereby slashing electricity costs and creating the base for more industrial growth.

Billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest are investing tens of millions in one of several massive projects designed to export solar, or wind, to Asia countries. Forrest’s iron ore company Fortescue is investing huge amounts adding solar and battery storage to the Pilbara grid to lower the cost of electricity for his mines and improve reliability.

But it is impossible to name a single federal Coalition MP that recognises the potential of wind and solar, even though the state Liberal government in South Australia, for instance, has a target of “net 100 per cent renewables” by around 2030, and sees its economic future built on becoming a wind and solar energy powerhouse.

UNSW scientist Matt Edwards laments the government’s insistence that lower emissions could only be accompanied by either higher taxes or higher electricity costs. In an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, he said the Coalition is being “wilfully blind” to the economics of renewables, which “wipe the floor” compared to coal, gas and nuclear.

Edwards pointed to the conclusions of the CSIRO and AEMO studies mentioned above.

“One of the greatest frustrations as a scientist is to see interpretations of data misrepresented by politicians,” he writes. “Unfortunately in Australia, much of this bluster has come from the far-right side of conservatives, part of our broad church, whose members have traditionally prided themselves on prudence and level-headedness.

“We must fight the political expediency of appealing to a voter base spooked by fossil fuel scare campaigns and the denialists in the media, while avoiding getting rolled by rogue elements within the party, those whom Malcolm Turnbull labelled “terrorists” at our Climate Conversations event on Wednesday night, “willing to blow the joint up if they don’t get their way”.

“Our conservative politicians should ideally act according to conscience, free market principles and prudence. They should also seize upon the opportunity for Australia to become a renewables export powerhouse, alleviating global emissions reduction well beyond the 1.6 per cent often quoted as our share, and providing vast economic stimulus at the same time.”

We’ve been waiting for that to happen for more than two decades. There’s still no sign of it.

February 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Why can’t the Australian government do the right thing by the persecuted Julian Assange?

Bravo Alison Broinowski and Independent Australia . I am utterly fed up with the Australian government, and the mainstream media’s abject failure to even consider the plight of Australian citizens speaking truth – especially re Julian Assange. I did admire Ita Buttrose’s spirited defence of the freedom of the press – UP TO A POINT. But she, and the rest of the media pack were completely hypocritical in pretending that the persecution of Julian Assange had nothing to do with them.

February 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

Nuclear power – the industry in its terminal agonies

Nuclear power went backwards in 2019, and the outlook is bleak

Jim Green, RenewEconomy, 11 Feb 2020  

https://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-power-went-backwards-in-2019-and-the-outlook-is-bleak-61834/

Nuclear power went backwards last year with the permanent shutdown of nine power reactors and the startup (grid connection) of six. Startups were concentrated in Russia (three) and China (two), with one in South Korea. The shutdowns were spread across eight countries.

Worse still for the industry – much worse – is the paucity of reactor construction starts. There were just three construction starts in 2019: one each in China and Russia, and Bushehr-2 in Iran which faces an uncertain future. No countries entered the nuclear power club in 2019 (construction starts or grid connections).

The average age of the global reactor fleet passed 30 years in 2019. That’s an old fleet, increasingly prone to accidents, large and small; increasingly prone to extended outages and thus increasingly uncompetitive in electricity markets.

As a result of the ageing of the reactor fleet, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) anticipates the closure of up to 139 GW from 2018‒2030 – more than one-third of current global capacity of 395 GW (including idle reactors in Japan). Based on IAEA figures, the industry will need about 10 new reactors (10 GW) each year just to match shutdowns.

The industry did indeed average nearly 10 construction starts from 2008‒13. But the number has sharply declined in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and catastrophic cost overruns. There were more construction starts in 2010 (16) than in 2016‒19 combined (15).

This table captures the birth, mid-life crisis (Fukushima) and death of the nuclear power mini-renaissance:

6-year period 2002-07 2008‒13 2014‒19
Construction starts 24 59 26
Average 4.0 9.8 4.3

Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, Vice-Chair of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group, notes in the foreword to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2019: “Trend indicators in the report suggest that the nuclear industry may have reached its historic maxima: nuclear power generation peaked in 2006, the number of reactors in operation in 2002, the share of nuclear power in the electricity mix in 1996, the number of reactors under construction in 1979, construction starts in 1976. As of mid-2019, there is one unit less in operation than in 1989.”

The number of power reactors under construction has been falling slowly but steadily in recent years, from 68 in 2013 to 46 as of Jan. 2020 (52 according to the IAEA).

The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning

Currently, nuclear power reflects two contradictory dynamics. The earlier mini-renaissance is evident but will subside by the mid-2020s. The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning is in its infancy (with nine reactor closures, historians may mark 2019 as the beginning of this qualitatively new era) and will be in ever-sharper focus by the mid-2020s.

The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning will be characterised by a decline in the number of operating reactors; an increasingly unreliable and accident-prone reactor fleet as aging sets in; countless battles over lifespan extensions for aging reactors; an internationalisation of anti-nuclear opposition as neighbouring countries object to the continued operation of aging reactors; and escalating battles over and problems with decommissioning and waste disposal.

Until such time as the rot sets in, the nuclear industry can console itself with these 10-year figures indicating a marginal increase or decrease depending on whether reactors in long-term outage (most of them in Japan) are included or excluded. Including reactors in long-term outage is “misleading” and “clearly ridiculous” according to former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd, because many of them may never operate again.

Year Number of operable reactors Capacity (GW)
31 Dec. 2009 437 371
31 Dec. 2019

Including reactors in long-term outage

Excluding reactors in long-term outage

 

442

415

 

392

~366

Pro-nuclear spin

So how are the nuclear industry and its supporters responding to the industry’s miserable state? Mostly with denial and delusion.

Here are the ‘top 6 nuclear power achievements‘ of 2019 according to the executive editor of POWER magazine.

1. World’s first EPR nuclear power plant enters commercial operation with the Sept. 2019 commencement of commercial operation of the second of two EPR reactors in Taishan, China.

The original 2013/14 startup dates for Taishan 1 and 2 were missed by five years due to construction problems and safety concerns (including the extraordinary Creusot Forge scandal in France). Excavation work for the Taishan reactors began in 2008 and construction of the two reactors formally began in 2009 and 2010. China General Nuclear Power Corporation acknowledged a cost increase of 40 percent for the two Taishan reactors to US$11 billion. As a result of delays and cost overruns, the market for EPRs in China has all but evaporated.

The EPR reactor under construction at Flamanville, France, is 10 years behind schedule: construction began in Dec. 2007, the planned startup date was 2012, and EDF now says that commercial operation cannot be expected before the end of 2022. The current cost estimate of €12.4 billion (US$13.7 billion) is 3.8 times greater than the original estimate of €3.3 billion (US$3.6 billion).

The EPR reactor under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland, is 10 years behind schedule: construction began in April 2005, startup was anticipated in 2010, and startup is now scheduled in 2020. The current cost estimate of about €11 billion (US$12.2 billion) is 3.7 times greater than the original €3 billion (US$3.3 billion) price tag.

The estimated combined cost of the two EPR reactors under construction at Hinkley Point, UK, including finance costs, is £26.7 billion (US$35.0 billion) (the EU’s 2014 estimate of £24.5 billion plus a £2.2 billion increase announced in July 2017). A decade ago, the estimated construction cost for one EPR reactor in the UK was almost seven times lower at £2 billion. The UK National Audit Office estimates that taxpayer subsidies for Hinkley Point will amount to £30 billion (US$39.4 billion), while other credible estimates put the figure as high as £50 billion (US$65.6 billion).

Undeterred, POWER magazine claims that a 6-unit EPR project in India will be the world’s largest nuclear power plant “if completed as planned”. It would be a miracle if the project is completed as planned; indeed it would be a minor miracle if it even begins given funding constraints.

2. World’s first ACPR-1000 nuclear power plant begins commercial operation in China

Grid connections of ACPR-1000 reactors in China in 2018 and 2019 mark a significant achievement. But the broader picture is highly uncertain. There has only been one reactor construction start in China in the past three years. The number of reactors under construction has fallen sharply from 20 in 2017 to 10 currently. No-one knows whether or not the Chinese nuclear program will regain momentum. Wind and solar combined generated nearly double the amount of electricity as nuclear in 2018.

3. Akademik Lomonosov connects to grid

Estimated construction costs for Russia’s floating nuclear power plant (with two 32-MW ice-breaker-type reactors) increased more than four-fold and eventually amounted to well over US$10 million / megawatt (US$740 million / 64 MW). A 2016 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report said that electricity produced by the plant is expected to cost about US$200 / MWh, with the high cost due to large staffing requirements, high fuel costs, and resources required to maintain the barge and coastal infrastructure.

The primary purpose of Russia’s floating nuclear power plant is to help exploit fossil fuel reserves in the Arctic – fossil fuel reserves that are more accessible because of climate change. That isn’t anything to celebrate; it is disturbing and dystopian.

4. Vogtle nuclear expansion progresses

Construction of the twin-AP1000 project in the US state of Georgia began in 2013 and the planned startup dates were April 2016 and April 2017. The project is 5.5 years behind schedule and it is unlikely that the revised completion dates of Nov. 2021 and Nov. 2022 will be met.

In 2006, Westinghouse claimed it could build one AP1000 reactor for as little as US$1.4 billion. The current cost estimate for the two Vogtle reactors – US$27‒30+ billion – is 10 times higher.

The Vogtle project only survives because of mind-boggling, multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies including US$12+ billion in loan guarantees, tax credits and much else besides. Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in 2017, largely as a result of its failed AP1000 projects in South Carolina (abandoned after the expenditure of at least US$9 billion) and Georgia, and Westinghouse’s parent company Toshiba was almost forced into bankruptcy and survives as a shadow of its former self.

5. NRC approves Clinch River nuclear site for small modular reactors (SMRs)

6. NuScale’s SMR design clears Phase 4 of NRC review process

But who will pay for SMRs? Industry won’t budge without massive taxpayer subsidies. A 2018 US Department of Energy report states that to make a “meaningful” impact, about US$10 billion of government subsidies would be needed to deploy 6 gigawatts of SMR capacity by 2035.

And the pro-nuclear authors of a 2018 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science argue that for SMRs to make a significant contribution to US energy supply, “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies would be needed to support their development and deployment over the next several decades”.

The prospects for SMRs are just as bleak in other countries.

And as the AEMO/CSIRO GenCost 2019-20 report notes, SMRs in Australia would be 2-4 times more expensive per kW than wind and solar.

Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter.

February 11, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Some climate models now predict unexpected , unprecedented spike in global temperatures

A few climate models are now predicting an unprecedented and alarming spike in temperatures — perhaps as much as 5 degrees Celsius, Business Insider, CONNOR PERRETT FEB 9, 2020  

  • A handful of climate projections are predicting much higher rise in global temperatures than scientists have seen in the models before.
  • While there’s concern over the number, some scientists hope the latest projections are outliers.
  • A 2-degree rise in temperature could lead sea level to jump, coral reefs to die, and water to become dangerously scarce in some parts of the world. Some models right now predict a 5-degree rise.
Several recent climate models have suggested the Earth’s climate could warm to a far higher temperature than scientists previously predicted, according to a report from Bloomberg.

The startling anomaly first appeared in models from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which suggested that if Earth’s atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration doubles (as it’s expected to do by the end of the century), the planet could wind up 5.3 degrees hotter. That’s 33% higher than the group’s previous estimate.

About a fifth of new climate-model results published in the past year have indicated similarly stark global temperature spikes, according to Bloomberg. The UK-based Met Office Hadley Centre predicted a 5.5 degrees of warming, the US Department of Energy calculated a 5.3°-degree jump, French scientists estimated a 4.9-degree increase, and a model from Canadian scientists predicted the largest rise: 5.6 degrees

Scientists hope the models are an “overshot,” Bloomberg reported. It will take scientists a significant amount time – at least months – to figure out how to interpret the results.

The climate models estimate “climate sensitivity,” which tells scientists how much warmer the planet will get as a result of rising CO₂ concentrations. For four decades, the expected temperature rise if CO2 levels double has been about 3 degrees.

These models have a proven track record of accurately forecasting climate change. A recent study from the American Geophysical Union found that climate projections over the past five decades have largely been accurate – actual climate observations aligned with the models’ predictions.

Still, there’s a hope among climate scientists that the new projections are outliers. About a dozen other models are still due to be released, Bloomberg reported, and they could help paint a clearer picture……. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/global-warming-climate-models-higher-than-usual-confusing-scientists-2020-2?r=US&IR=T

February 11, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment