Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government plan for a nuclear waste dump tears apart the small rural community of Kimba

Kimba: A town torn apart by nuclear waste proposal,15027 By Noel Wauchope | 28 April 2021 

Bogged down in the Australian Senate is a Bill that selects a farming area, Napandee, near Kimba, South Australia, as Australia’s national radioactive waste dump. If that Bill becomes law, that matter will be settled, and there will be no possibility of legal appeal against it.

From a small close-knit community, in a top Australian wheat-growing area, Kimba has become a place of tension. In 2016, a farmer, Jeff Baldock, offered part of his land, Napandee, for the radioactive waste facility, and the offer was accepted by the Federal Government. From then on, the debate has raged in the area, and beyond it. It’s not always a reasonable discussion, and social media has made this worse. Now, years later, there’s no sign of a resolution to this matter. Residents try to get on with their lives, in this uneasy situation. Some people have left town, some are not speaking to former acquaintances. Opinions are black and white, or the subject is avoided completely  – there’s no middle ground.

The Federal government’s plan for a nuclear waste facility at Kimba hit the Aboriginal community of the Eyre Peninsula hardest. The Barngarla people, Native Title holders, were excluded from the government’s ”community ballot” held in 2019. Voting was restricted to those living within the Kimba local council area . The Barngarla held their own ballot, resulting in a unanimous ”No” to the dump. Nevertheless, some Aboriginal people supported the plan, and this dispute has divided families.

  ”As an ally and advocate for Indigenous peoples for more than 30 years, I was appalled at the terrible toll fighting the nuclear waste facility took upon my friends.  I watched one of my closest friends visibly age as she surrendered her art practice and her enjoyment of life to dedicate herself to challenging it. ”

 – Felicity Wright – Submission to Senate Committee on National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 [Provisions] Submission 98

The non indigenous community has been equally affected. There were two community ballots held, 2017 and 2019. While in both cases the result favoured the nuclear waste facility, it was far from overwhelming support. At the final ballot, 824 people were eligible to vote: of 735 votes accepted, 452 said “Yes”.

The plan for the facility was pitched to the community as a medical necessity for Australia. It was an attractive idea. On the one hand Kimba could proudly provide a service to the nation. On the other hand, it was bringing a new industry, and new jobs, to a sometimes drought-stricken agricultural area. More immediate benefits: the farmer who volunteered land would be paid at 4 times the market value. A Community Benefits scheme brings up to $11 million to the town, over the next 4 years, and $20 million when the dump is up and running.

The plan was greeted with enthusiasm from some residents. They relied on the copious information provided by the the Department of Industry Innovation and Science, and by the former Resources Minister, Matt Canavan. When it was pointed out to Mr Canavan that some residents close to the selected site were ineligiblt to vote, he promised that their views would be included. But then he left that Ministry.

The Industry Department has controlled the information reaching the community, and has provided the visiting experts. There has not been any debate provided, with opposing views. Still, there is strong opposition, led by farmers. The group No Radioactive Waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SAis optimistic thar Kimba, despite the prevailing mood of anxiety, can survive and go ahead, without the waste facility.

The group, of 5 years’ standing has researched the issue, and sent submissions to Parliament. Radioactive waste is not recommended for agricultural land. There are concerns about possibile environmental pollution, damage to groundwater. Perception of the area is important, and the presence of a radioactive waste dump could be very damaging to its clean, green image .

Community understanding is at the heart of this problem. The current Resources Minister, Keith Pitt, enthused about the facility, describing it to the Nationals Federal Conference on 27 March 2021 as “a low-level nuclear waste facility to house the by-products from cancer treatment.”

That’s a misleading statement. The waste proposed to be taken to the nuclear dump is waste generated from the industrial production of these isotopes. – not their usage!

There is uncertainty about the toxicity of the nuclear wastes to be placed in “interim storage” at Napandee, with the classification of these wastes as “intermediate level”, but the same wastes classified in Fance as “high level”.

The Kimba community remains troubled, as this nuclear waste problem remains paralysed in the Senate. Freedom of Information documents revealed that the government is well aware of mental health problems likely to be caused by the issue.

Minister Pitt has the option of clearly designating Napandee as the site for the nuclear waste dump. That could solve the problem, and certainly bring clarity to the Kimba community. But, the hitch for the government is that if he does this, it will be possible for opponents of the plan to take legal action against it.

April 29, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

ICAN addresses Mount Isa City Council after nuclear appeal pledge

ICAN addresses Mount Isa City Council after nuclear appeal pledge
, Derek Barry

Mount Isa city councillors got to see the 2017 Nobel Peace prize medal as a deputation thanked council for a recent decision……. (Subscribersonly),

April 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

France and Russia portray nuclear hydrogen as ”green”- arousing anger of several European nations.

Atomic giants EDF and Rosatom push plan to sell nuclear-powered hydrogen as ‘green’Labelling nuclear hydrogen as green is likely to cause irritation among countries without atomic power or exiting it,  28 April 2021 By Bernd Radowitz , Recharge 

French and Russian state-owned nuclear energy giants EDF and Rosatom have teamed up to develop low carbon hydrogen projects in Russia and Europe in order to decarbonise mobility and industrial sectors – but their labelling of H2 produced from nuclear power as ‘green’ is likely to cause irritation elsewhere in Europe.

As part of a strategic cooperation agreement signed last month, the hydrogen is slated to be produced both from nuclear power and from methane conversion linked to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies……..

Any massive use of nuclear hydrogen on an EU level is strongly opposed by countries without atomic power, or exiting it, such as Germany and Austria. Andreas Feicht, secretary of state in Germany’s economics and energy ministry, at a late-2020 virtual conference on hydrogen organised by his ministry stressed nuclear is not an option for Germany’s energy system or for the production of hydrogen.

The French government (backed by some Eastern European countries), by contrast, is trying to push nuclear hydrogen and wants it to be entitled for state support, which would be a way to use French or EU funds to help its highly-indebted nuclear utility EDF and give new life to its ageing nuclear fleet.

……  Béatrice Buffon, group executive vice-president in charge of EDF’s International Division.

“The agreement with the Rosatom Group, our historical partner in Russia and one of the country’s key players in the field of decarbonised hydrogen, illustrates EDF’s desire to develop a new energy model with lower CO2 emissions wherever we operate.”

The two nuclear companies didn’t provide more detail on specific projects being studied.

April 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ukraine’s nuclear industry in crisis – corrupt, unsafe, with politicised decision-making

Could Ukraine’s nuclear industry face another Chernobyl?

Thirty-five years after the disaster, the nuclear industry is Ukraine’s most reliable economic lifeline. But critics say it faces a perennial crisis caused by corruption, safety problems and politicised decision-making. Aljazeera, By 

Mansur Mirovalev, 26 Apr 2021  ”…………………. The nuclear industry remains Ukraine’s most reliable economic lifeline.

But domestic and international critics claim that the industry faces a perennial crisis caused by corruption; safety problems with ageing, worn reactors; disruption of ties with a Russian nuclear monopoly; and a politicised switch to US-made nuclear fuel.

Industry insiders, environmentalists and politicians claim that the construction of a spent fuel storage facility near the capital, Kyiv, and the proximity of Europe’s largest nuclear station in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia to Europe’s hottest armed conflict add to their concerns about the possibility of a nuclear incident, particularly in a nation that went through two popular uprisings since 2005 and lost a chunk of its territory to Russia.

……….. uranium dioxide sealed in zirconium alloy tubes in the rods emits radiation that has to be contained in hermetically sealed reactors. Ukraine’s Soviet-designed rods are hexagonal, resembling bee cells, while Western-made rods are square.

The switch is far from simple – but necessary, because Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear monopoly that charged Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is controlled by the Kremlin. And the Kremlin has a well-known proclivity to use energy supplies as a political cudgel.

The switch to Westinghouse fuel is potentially dangerous,” Oskar Njaa, the Russia and Eastern Europe adviser for Bellona, a Norway-based nuclear industry monitor, told Al Jazeera.

In 2012, Westinghouse fuel rods had to be removed from the South Ukrainian power station after protective envelopes in two reactors were damaged.

Ukraine asked Rosatom for fuel and help – prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to remark gloatingly that Rosatom experts had “to solve complex technical problems, take [the Westinghouse fuel] out and load the Russian fuel back in”.

Ukraine’s losses amounted to $175 million, Mikhail Gashev, Ukraine’s top nuclear safety inspector at the time, claimed – and banned the use of Westinghouse fuel.

Ukrainian experts doubted his assessment, and his decision was overturned after he was fired among hundreds of pro-Russian officials following Ukraine’s second anti-Russian popular uprising, the 2014 Revolution of Dignity.

Former Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov, another pro-Russian political figure who fled Ukraine after the revolt, said in 2017 that the decision was made “in spite of Ukraine’s security interests”.

Westinghouse modified the rods – and no further incidents were reported.

“That might be a sign of a better culture for safety and security in the industry,” Njaa said adding that his group is, however, “worried that incidents might become more severe and greater in numbers due to the ageing equipment at the plants.”………

Apart from the fuel, observers are also concerned about Ukraine’s ageing, worn reactors, 12 of which began operating in the 1980s and were supposed to be shut down in 2020. But Energoatom extended their lifespan spending hundreds of millions on each, thanks largely to loans from the European Union.

This is a common practice worldwide – the average lifespan of almost 100 nuclear reactors in the US is 40 years, and 88 have been approved for another 20 years. But some experts are worried about the safety measures and upgrades.

“What we witness every time a decision [to extend the lifespan] is made, some of the safety upgrades have either not been made or have not been made in full,” Iryna Holovko, the Ukraine coordinator for Bankwatch, a Prague-based environmentalist group, told Al Jazeera.

Bankwatch has for years been urging Ukraine to stop extending the lifespan of its “zombie reactors” without correcting “safety deviations” and detailed assessments of all the environmental risks for the people living around the stations and in neighbouring nations……….

The fuel switch brought about another problem; unlike Rosatom, Westinghouse does not take the spent fuel back for processing or storage.

Until December, Ukraine had two pretty problematic storage facilities – and an unfinished third one. One at the shut-down Chernobyl station is almost full. At the second one, an open-air yard outside the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, thousands of spent fuel rods are stored in ventilated concrete containers. In 2014, the plant was about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southwest of the front line of the separatist conflict.

The sight was horrifying to a visiting expert.

“I suddenly stood in front of the utterly unprotected interim storage,” Patricia Lorenz of Friends of the Earth, an environmentalist group that visited the plant on a fact-finding mission in 2014, told Al Jazeera. “It is basically unprotected against war and terrorism, while the front was close by back then.”

In May 2014, the station’s security and police turned away dozens of armed and masked far-right nationalists who tried to enter the plant to “protect” the station from the separatists.

Since then, the front line has moved eastward, and in December, Energoatom opened a third facility a mere 70 kilometres (43 miles) north of Kyiv, in the Chernobyl exclusion zone that is scheduled to receive the first batch of spent fuel in June.

But plans to transport spent fuel via Kyiv, the city of more than two million, drew sharp criticism.

“This will be happening in a country where everything turns upside-down, collides, explodes, and where lawlessness rules,” Kyiv-based environmentalist Vladimir Boreiko told reporters…………….

April 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Morrison to ignore massive big battery plans and greenlight new gas plant in Hunter — RenewEconomy

The Morrison government is expected to sign off on a new gas fired generator in the Hunter, ignoring critics who argue there’s no clear need for it. The post Morrison to ignore massive big battery plans and greenlight new gas plant in Hunter appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Morrison to ignore massive big battery plans and greenlight new gas plant in Hunter — RenewEconomy

April 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April 28 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Climate FUD Campaigns Change Tactics As More Accept Climate Science” • Despite climate denialists, Americans are beginning to accept the connection between human activity and global warming. In his book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, Michael E Mann’s shows fear, uncertainty, and doubt are still being spread. […]

April 28 Energy News — geoharvey

April 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For climate action, renewables clearly beat nuclear power

Heinrich Boll 26th April 2021, Mark Jacobson: New nuclear power costs about 5 times more than onshore wind
power per kWh. Nuclear takes 5 to 17 years longer between planning and operation and produces on average 23 times the emissions per unit electricity generated.

In addition, it creates risk and cost associated with weapons proliferation, meltdown, mining lung cancer, and waste risks. Clean, renewables avoid all such risks.

April 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The dangers of extending the operating lives of old nuclear reactors

INRAG 26th April 2021, Risks of lifetime extension of old nuclear power plants – A look at the age structure of existing nuclear power plants shows the importance of analysing risks of life-time extension and long-term operation.

Some of the world’s oldest plants are located in Europe. Of the 141 reactors in Europe, only one reactor came into operation in the last decade, and more than 80 percent of the reactors have been running for more than 30 years . Nuclear power plants were originally designed to operate for 30 to 40 years. Thus, the operating life-time of many plants are approaching this limit, or has already exceeded it.

April 29, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment