Australian news, and some related international items

Michele Madigan sets former Minister Christopher Pyne straight on nuclear waste dump plan

Funny how after all this time – since 1998 as he acknowledges, former Minister Christopher Pyne (Advertiser 7th December) has not yet caught up with the fact that the federal nuclear waste dump is not just’ a low-level nuclear waste facility.’ Over 90% of the waste measured in radioactivity in fact is intermediate level waste which will remain radioactive for an unimaginable10,000 years. I’d say that will probably be for every generation of South Australians to come.

And mentioning the former Senator Nick Minchin as Mr Pyne does, would that be the same Senator Minchin who in July 2004 made a ‘rolled gold’ promise, that ‘never again’ would the federal Coalition  government seek to impose a federal nuclear waste dump on South Australia?
Senator Minchin’s announcement made banner headlines on the Advertiser front page that day. I still look at it occasionally.

December 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) if they work, will arrive too late to make a difference to global heating

Is nuclear power the answer, DECEMBER 8, 2020 JOHN QUIGGIN

The last (I hope) extract from the climate change chapter of Economic Consequences of the Pandemic. I’m in two minds about whether this is really needed. The group of pro-nuclear environmentalists seems to be shrinking towards a hard core who can’t be convinced (and some of them, like Shellenberger turn out to have been concern trolls all along). But every now and then I run across people who seem open-minded enough, but haven’t caught up with the bad news on nuclear.

Debates about decarbonizing electricity generation inevitably raise the issue of nuclear power. Since nuclear power generates no carbon dioxide emissions (except in the construction phase) it is a potential solution to climate change, with a strong body of advocates.

Some of this advocacy may be dismissed as point-scoring. Rightwing pundits who oppose any action on climate change simultaneously promote nuclear power as carbon free, with the aim of embarrassing environmentalist. There is, however, a small but vocal group of nuclear power advocates who are convinced that a massive expansion of nuclear power is the only way to replace coal-fired power………

Today the choice is not between new nuclear and new or existing coal. It is whether to allocate investment to building nuclear plants or to accelerating the shift to solar and wind energy.

The key problem is not safety but economics. New plants are safer and more sophisticated than those that failed in the past, but they are also massively more expensive to build, and quite costly to operate. The capital costs of recent projects in the US, France and Finland (none yet complete) have been around $10/kw, compared to $1/kw or less for solar. And, whereas solar PV is essentially costless to operate, the operating costs of nuclear power plants are around 2c/kwH. Even when solar PV is backed up with battery storage, it is cheaper to build and to operate, than new nuclear.

The facts speak for themselves. Over the last decade, only two or three reactors have commenced construction each year, not even enough to replace plants being retired. This isn’t the result of pressure from environmentalists or alarm about the safety of nuclear plants. The slowdown is evident in countries like China, where public opinion has little influence on policy decisions, and in countries where public opinion is generally favorable to new nuclear power. China failed to reach its 2020 target of 58 GW of installed power, and currently has only about 15 GW of nuclear power under construction. That compares to 55 GW of new solar and wind capacity installed in 2019 alone.

It is clear by now that large-scale nuclear reactors have no future. The last hope for nuclear power rests on Small Modular Reactors. The idea is that, rather than building a single large reactor, typically with a capacity of 1 GW, smaller reactors will be produced in factories, then shipped to the site in the required number. The leading proponent of this idea is Nuscale Power, which currently has a contract with UAMPS to supply a pilot plant with a dozen 60MW modules.

It remains to be seen whether SMR’s will work at all. Even if they do, it is not clear that the reduced costs associated with off-site manufacturing will offset the loss of the scale economies associated with a large boiler, let alone yield power at a cost competitive with that of solar PV.

In any case, the issue is largely irrelevant as far as the climate emergency is concerned. NuScale’s pilot plant, with a total capacity of 720 MW, is currently scheduled to start operation in 2029. Large-scale deployment will take at least a decade more .

If we are to have any chance of stabilising the climate, coal-fired power must be eliminated by 2030, and electricity generation must be decarbonized more or less completely by 2035. SMRs, if they work, will arrive too late to make a difference. ….

December 8, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia’s Liberal and National Parties got their arithmetic wrong on nuclear waste dump opinion polls

LIBS NATS FAILED MATHS,  Kim Mavromatis, 8 Dec 20, Where did these people go to school? – I expect they failed maths because they can’t do % sums.
452 in favour of the dump from 824 eligible Kimba voters = 54.85% of the Kimba community.
Not 62%.
And Barngarla Native Title Holders, who were deliberately left out of the Kimba ballot,
had their own vote : 0 in favour of the dump from 209 eligible voters.
Combined Kimba and Barngarla votes = 43.75% in favour of the dump from eligible voters,  Does Not equate to Broad Community Support.
No mention by Pyne that the Govt want to dump radioactive Spent Nuclear Fuel, and  reprocessed SNF on SA farmland that is 10,000 x more radioactive than uranium ore.
No mention by Pyne that the Dump legislation removes Judicial Review – no rights of appeal  or independent scrutiny.
No mention by Pyne that all SA surveys consistently overwhelmingly Do Not support the dump on SA farmland near Kimba.
And Christopher, my mum died of an inoperable brain tumour 2 years ago – using nuclear  medicine as an excuse to dump radioactive nuclear waste on SA farmland is BS.
Why on earth would you knowingly dump radioactive nuclear waste on SA Farmland????

December 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics | Leave a comment

Analysing Christopher Pyne’s article enthusing about proposed Kimba nuclear waste dump

Examining Pyne’s article in The Advertiser – Outdated leftie ideas let nuclear option go to waste.    G. Bannon 8 Dec 20
Pyne claimed to be in the thick of things with Nick Minchin in 1998 when

Howard was wanting to get a dump established.  There are so many things wrong with his article, – (but if you try to address every single one no one would ever listen to you.

He knows how many jobs they were talking about in his day but says there will be 45 jobs during construction and 25 permanent jobs.  When he was involved they were talking about 5 jobs – we’ve all heard that blow out to 15, then 45 and then more than 45.  25 permanent jobs are not part of the current script!  Does that 25 including the Agency in Adelaide and does it include the 12/15? security guys as well as the nuclear physicists in white overalls driving all the forklifts?

* He doesn’t mention Intermediate Level Wastes (ILW)
* He wonders where in the world those opposing the dump think
Australia’s waste should go.  I haven’t heard one person who opposes the
dump say Australia’s waste should go somewhere else.
* He thinks it’s a “no brainer” that the waste should go in “Outback
South Australia”.  Kimba is remote, but it’s cleared, developed, settled and populated – it’s not “Outback”.  Woomera might be getting closer to “Outback”.  He doesn’t mention that.
* He reckons those opposing the dump have “outdated leftie ideology”
and Penny Wong “should be putting Kimba above kale” (Good, funny old Pyney -It’s such a clever line he says it twice)!  I wonder how the kale harvest went at Kimba this year?  I assume that big shed by the road, just before you get into Kimba, stores all the bales of kale to feed those leftie,
Greenie, tree-hugging, NIMBY activists!
* He, Pitty, Rowan and all their mates just want to get this done! Its
hung around too long.  “It’s time” (sounds like a Labor slogan from the
past, doesn’t it?) to make the hard decisions.  I say always be very wary of
people who want to push you into making quick decisions!  What’s the saying?
– “Decide in haste, repent at leisure!”
* He says it is a $200 million project and says the community will
benefit by $31 million.  We know the breakdown – $20 million for the
Community Benefit Programme, $8 million ($2 million/year for 4 years) to
assist businesses to take part in construction and $3 million for Indigenous training and engagement: 20 + 8 + 3 = $31 million – Who or what gets the remaining $169 million?
* He reckons that a dump in Kimba “would be preferable to the more
than 40 sites in the CBD”, then says that the Bill might be defeated by “not in my backyard NIMBYism”.  He lives in Adelaide and wants the stuff to go to Kimba – Not In His Back Yard!

December 8, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Canada’s Coalition for Responsible Energy Development sceptical about Small Nuclear Reactors

Questions abound about New Brunswick’s embrace of small nuclear reactors
Critics question business case, but CEO says the market is ‘screaming’ for the units,
 Jacques Poitras · CBC News Dec 07, 2020

When Mike Holland talks about small modular nuclear reactors, he sees dollar signs.

When the Green Party hears about them, they see danger signs.

The loquacious Progressive Conservative minister of energy development recently quoted NB Power’s eye-popping estimates of the potential economic impact of the reactors: thousands of jobs and a $1 billion boost to the provincial economy.

“New Brunswick is positioned to not only participate in this opportunity, but to be a world leader in the SMR field,” Holland said in the legislature last month.

Green MLAs David Coon and Kevin Arseneau responded cheekily by ticking off the Financial and Consumer Services Commission’s checklist on how to spot a scam.

Is the sales pitch from a credible source? Is the windfall being promised by a reputable institution? Is the risk reasonable?

For small nuclear reactors, they said, the answer to all those questions is no. 

“The last thing we need to do is pour more public money down the nuclear-power drain,” Coon said, reminding MLAs of the Point Lepreau refurbishment project that went $1 billion over budget. …….

Premier Blaine Higgs is a fervent supporter, but in the last provincial election the Liberals promised they’d do even more than Higgs to promote them.

Under Brian Gallant, the Liberals handed $10 million to two Saint John companies working on SMRs, ARC Nuclear and Moltex Energy.

Greens point to previous fiascoes

The Greens and other opponents of nuclear power fear SMRS are the latest in a long line of silver-bullet fiascoes, from the $23 million spent on the Bricklin in 1975 to $63.4 million in loans and loan guarantees to the Atcon Group a decade ago.

“It seems that [ARC and Moltex] have been targeting New Brunswick for another big handout … because it’s going to take billions of dollars to build these things, if they ever get off the drawing board,” said Susan O’Donnell, a University of New Brunswick researcher.

O’Donnell, who studies technology adoption in communities, is part of a small new group called the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development formed this year to oppose SMRs.

“What we really need here is a reasonable discussion about the pros and cons of it,” she said……..

What we didn’t see was a market analysis,” O’Donnell said. “How viable is the market? … They’re all based on a hypothetical market that probably doesn’t exist.”

O’Donnell said her group asked for the full report but was told it’s confidential because it contains sensitive commercial information………..

The market is screaming for this product,”  Rory O’Sullivan, CEO of Moltex said, adding “all of the utilities” in Canada are interested in Moltex’s reactors ……

ARC’s CEO Norm Sawyer is more specific, guessing 30 per cent of his SMR sales will be in Atlantic Canada, 30 per cent in Ontario and 40 per cent in Alberta and Saskatchewan — all provincial power grids.

O’Donnell said it’s an important question because without a large number of guaranteed sales, the high cost of manufacturing SMRs would make the initiative a money-loser.

The cost of building the world’s only functioning SMR, in Russia, was four times what was expected.

An Australian government agency said initial cost estimates for such major projects “are often initially too low” and can “overrun.”

Up-front costs can be huge

University of British Columbia physicist M.V. Ramana, who has authored studies on the economics of nuclear power, said SMRs face the same financial reality as any large-scale manufacturing.

“You’re going to spend a huge amount of money on the basic fixed costs” at the outset, he said, with costs per unit becoming more viable only after more units are built and sold.

He estimates a company would have to build and sell more than 700 SMRs to break even, and said there are not enough buyers for that to happen. ….

O’Sullivan says:    “In fact, just the first one alone looks like it will still be economical,” he said. “In reality, you probably need a few … but you’re talking about one or two, maximum three [to make a profit] because you don’t need these big factories.”

‘Paper designs’ prove nothing, says expert

Ramana doesn’t buy it.

“These are all companies that have been started by somebody who’s been in the nuclear industry for some years, has a bright idea, finds an angel investor who’s given them a few million dollars,” he said.

“They have a paper design, or a Power Point design. They have not built anything. They have not tested anything. To go from that point … to a design that can actually be constructed on the field is an enormous amount of work.

Both CEOs acknowledge the skepticism about SMRs.

“I understand New Brunswick has had its share of good investments and its share of what we consider questionable investments,” said ARC’s CEO Norm Sawyer….

But he said ARC’s SMR is based on a long-proven technology and is far past the on-paper design stage “so you reduce the risk.”

Moltex is now completing the first phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s review of its design, a major hurdle. ARC completed that phase last year.

But, Ramana said there are problems with both designs. Moltex’s molten salt model has had “huge technical challenges” elsewhere while ARC’s sodium-cooled system has encountered “operational difficulties.” …..

federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan told CBC earlier this year that he’s “very excited” about SMRs…..

O’Donnell said while nuclear power doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, it’s hardly a clean technology because of the spent nuclear fuel waste.

Government support is key

She also wonders why, if SMRs make so much sense, ARC and Moltex are relying so much on government money rather than private capital.

…….. So far, Ottawa hasn’t put up any funding for ARC or Moltex. During the provincial election campaign, Higgs implied federal money was imminent, but there’s been no announcement in the almost three months since then.

Last month the federal government announced $20 million for Terrestrial Energy, an Ontario company working on SMRs.

…….O’Donnell said her group plans to continue asking questions about SMRs.

“I think what we really need is to have an honest conversation about what these are so that New Brunswickers can have all the facts on the table,” she said.


December 8, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Nuclear-powered vehicles -not such a great idea.

December 8, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

A bright future for solar in Australia and APAC — RenewEconomy

The Australian solar market continues to grow and is becoming increasingly important throughout the region; Mr Luke Lu, Vice President of LONGi Solar global, shares his insight into the future of solar in Australia and APAC. The post A bright future for solar in Australia and APAC appeared first on RenewEconomy.

A bright future for solar in Australia and APAC — RenewEconomy

December 8, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 7 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Happy Birthday To The Arctic Refuge” • Sixty years ago, on December 6, 1960, Public Land Order 2214 established a National Arctic Wildlife Range. Before that, business and environmental interests had feuded over the region since the late 1920s, as military and business leaders wanted to open the land for oil and gas […]

December 7 Energy News — geoharvey

December 8, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia still back of the global pack on climate, despite best efforts of states — RenewEconomy

Australia again ranks as one of the worst countries for climate action, with only the Trump Administration having worse climate policies, a new assessment finds. The post Australia still back of the global pack on climate, despite best efforts of states appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Australia still back of the global pack on climate, despite best efforts of states — RenewEconomy

December 8, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do no harm? How Australia’s regulators fumbled the transition to wind and solar — RenewEconomy

The “do no harm” connection rules introduced a few years ago have had the opposite effect – increasing costs, delays and creating more problems. The industry wants them changed. The post Do no harm? How Australia’s regulators fumbled the transition to wind and solar appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Do no harm? How Australia’s regulators fumbled the transition to wind and solar — RenewEconomy

December 8, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment