Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear news Australia, and more, week to 27 December

It would be so good to welcome in the New Year with really great news. But, at least there are some indications of better news on the way, both in the unfolding pandemic story, and in efforts to stall global heating.    As for nuclear, in a bizarre way, the pandemic has been helpful to the clean energy cause.  The pandemic has caused delays in the ”supply chains”. Among other effects, this has made the push for small nuclear reactors (SMRs)  even more likely to fail. For example, despite the hype, Rolls Royce’s plan for SMRs for Qatar resulted in a fall for their share price, as the transport of parts is problematic.

Pandemic.  Omicron: bleak new year or beginning of the end for the pandemic?.   Scientists are cautiously optimistic that the variant may be a sign the virus is losing its power, despite the high infection figures.

Climate.  Earth’s Climate: Rapid and Dramatic Changes.


Australian government and Labor opposition ignore the suffering of Julian Assange. Can they afford to, as election looms?   

Traditional owners lodge legal challenge to planned Kimba nuclear waste dump. The Australian government has breached the rights of both black and white people of Kimba in depriving them of access to independent information on nuclear wastes.  Growing opposition to radioactive waste dump    Massive cask of nuclear waste to arrive in Sydney.  

 We froze’: What was this 1.3-metre missile doing at an Aboriginal heritage site?

Australians, like other nationalities, need to put pressure on their government to join the  UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) . 

 Australia is racing towards 100 per cent renewables.


Julian Assange’s lawyers start process for UK Supreme Court appeal against his extradition to America.

The science-based case for excluding Nuclear Fission Technologies from the EU Taxonomy .

Spent FuelThe risky resurgence of nuclear power.

Nuclear power has no business case and could make climate change worse.

Is the thorium-fueled “Molten Salt reactor a proven technology?

Report:  “Moving Beyond Missile Defense and Space Weapons”

Nuclear liabilities – the tax-payer is the insurer of last resort.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s lawyers start process for UK Supreme Court appeal against his extradition to America

Julian Assange’s lawyers start process for Supreme Court appeal to stop WikiLeaks founder being extradited to US and tried on espionage charges

  • Fiancee Stella Moris said application to bring appeal filed after 11am Thursday
  • Judges must now decide whether to hear the case before any appeal takes place
  • He is wanted in the US over alleged conspiracy to disclose national defence information

Daily Mail. By TOM PYMAN FOR MAILONLINE, 24 December.   Julian Assange‘s lawyers have started the process for a Supreme Court appeal to stop the WikiLeaks founder being extradited to the US and tried on espionage charges, his fiancee has said.

Stella Moris said Assange filed an application to bring an appeal shortly after 11am on Thursday.

As his lawyers have applied to take his case to the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, judges must now decide whether to hear the case before any appeal takes place.  Ms Moris, a lawyer and the mother of his two children, said in a statement on Thursday the High Court must first ‘certify that at least one of the Supreme Court appeal grounds is a point of law of general public

importance’ before the application has a chance to be considered by the Supreme Court.

A decision is not expected before the third week of January, Ms Moris added.

Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, who are representing Assange, said in a statement: ‘We believe serious and important issues of law of wider public importance are being raised in this application.

They arise from the Court’s judgment and its receipt and reliance on US assurances regarding the prison regimes and treatment Mr Assange is likely to face if extradited.

‘Because this application is now the subject of judicial consideration, his lawyers do not propose to comment further at the moment.

‘We hope and trust the High Court will grant a certificate on the questions raised as well as giving permission to appeal in order that they can thereafter be fully argued before the Supreme Court.’………………..

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australians, like other nationalities, need to put pressure on their government to join the  UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) 

Nuclear weapons free future ByThe Echo Mick & Deborah Stacey, Ballina , December 26, 2021  Whilst the federal government is ‘rattling sabres’, and spending more on so-called defence, the movement to abolish nuclear weapons is gathering momentum.

There are now 58 countries who have ratified the UN Treaty. Boston, New York City and Minneapolis have joined the ICAN Cities Appeal, along with Ballina, Byron Bay and Lismore.

New York City have begun divesting public pension funds from nuclear weapons companies, as have a major Australian superannuation fund and the first Finnish pension fund. The Financial Times wrote a story about how weapons companies are starting to be impacted by this growing pressure from investors.

The first meeting of State Parties to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will take place at the United Nations in Vienna, 22–24 March, 2022.

Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Germany and Norway are not yet ready to join the TPNW, but they have already announced they will attend the meeting as observers. So, it is up to us to put pressure on our government (whoever they may be) to do likewise.

Check out: Here’s to a safe nuclear weapons free future.

December 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Australian government has breached the rights of both black and white people of Kimba in depriving them of access to independent information on nuclear wastes.

Nuclear waste is considered a highly toxic and dangerous material which it is acknowledged requires geological burial for long term storage and disposal which is not the case at Kimba

I wonder how our government so highly regarded overseas as a beacon for justice and democratic principles has not just allowed but actively participated in depriving the Barngarla as well as the general community of their rights to properly ventilate their concerns 

It is quite clear from the settled overseas requirements that the federal government as the proponent of the nuclear waste facility at Kimba must enable the Kimba community including the Barngarla to seek their own independent assessment and advice as to the government’s proposals with the government providing all the necessary funding and access to all information for that purpose 

It should be relatively straightforward for the community generally which includes the Barngarla to establish that the government has failed to assist them in getting the independent assessment and refusing the funds for that purpose when requested on several previous occasions 

In addition to obviously being a major ground for the judicial review the government’s conduct is tantamount to a seemingly serious deprivation of the human rights of the Barngarla and the Kimba community .

While this breach of human rights applies to the whole community the Barngarla can additionally claim that their human rights were breached and that the mandate created to overcome the discriminatory conduct towards them covering

  • implementing international standards concerning the rights of indigenous peoples;
  • making recommendations and proposals on appropriate measures to prevent and remedy violations of the rights of indigenous peoples;
  • reporting on the human rights situations of indigenous peoples around the world; and
  • addressing specific cases of alleged violations of indigenous peoples’ rights.

Francisco Cali Tzay is the current mandate holder as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples 

The mandate on hazardous substances and wastes 

relates to the exposure of people to a myriad of harmful substances without their prior informed consent which is a human right that can be satisfactorily solved if identified in its early stages

Dr Marcos A. Orellana is the current mandate holder as Special Rapporteur on toxics and wastes as human rights 

Nuclear waste is considered a highly toxic and dangerous material which it is acknowledged requires geological burial for long term storage and disposal which is not the case at Kimba

December 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The science-based case for excluding Nuclear Fission Technologies from the EU Taxonomy 

The question whether nuclear fission energy complies with the ‘do no significant harm’ (DNSH) criteria of the EU Taxonomy was the focus of the Technical Expert Group (TEG) DNSH assessment on nuclear fission technologies which recommended to the Commission that nuclear should not be included in the EU Taxonomy of environmentally sustainable activities.  

The independent scientific evidence which the TEG presented to the European Commission, shows evidence of adverse impacts to the natural environment arising from the many processes involved in the nuclear power lifecycle (from uranium mining to waste disposal) that are operational today. 

The Argument against Nuclear Power as Sustainable for, 26 Dec 21, Europe’s ‘science-based’ Sustainable Finance Taxonomy is politicised to include nuclear power. 

The Science-based case for excluding Nuclear Fission Technologies from the EU Taxonomy One of the most influential policy initiatives of the European Commission in the past years has been the “EU Taxonomy”, essentially a shopping list of investments that may be considered environmentally sustainable across six environmental objectives. 

To be deemed EU Taxonomy aligned, the activity must demonstrate a substantial contribution to one environmental objective, such as climate change mitigation, whilst causing no significant harm to the remaining five environmental objectives (climate change adaptation, sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, transition to a circular economy, pollution prevention and control, and protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems). 

All eligible activities are required to comply with technical screening criteria (TSC) for ‘substantial contribution’ and ‘do no significant harm’ and to demonstrate that social safeguards are in place. 

The EU Taxonomy provides a common language for sustainability reporting, a foundation for green bond reporting and much more. It is intended to be used by international financial markets participants whose products are sold within the EU in order to evaluate the sustainability of their underlying investments.  The use of the EU Taxonomy is furthermore compulsory for the EU and member states when introducing requirements and standards regarding environmental sustainability of financial products, such as an EU ecolabel for investment products or an EU Green Bond Standard. 

It will also apply to 37% of activities earmarked as ‘climate-friendly’ financed by the EU COVID-19 recovery funding. Its science-based approach is designed to give confidence to a wide range of international stakeholders that environmental claims are not greenwashing.

The question whether nuclear fission energy complies with the ‘do no significant harm’ (DNSH) criteria of the EU Taxonomy was the focus of the Technical Expert Group (TEG) DNSH assessment on nuclear fission technologies which recommended to the Commission that nuclear should not be included in the EU Taxonomy of environmentally sustainable activities.  

Taking into account the significant financial implications of adopting the TEG recommendations, it became the starting point of intense behind-door lobbying. France led a coalition of 10 EU Member States arguing that nuclear fission as well as gas-fired power plants should be included in the Taxonomy. Together with Finland (Olkiluoto-3), France is at present the only EU country constructing a new nuclear power plant (Flamanville-3). The Finnish and French construction sites were meant to be the industrial demonstration of an evolutionary nuclear technology (the “European Pressurised water Reactor” or EPR). Olkiluoto-3 was meant to start generating power in 2009, followed by Flamanville-3 in 2012. Instead, the projects turned out to have multiple engineering difficulties and financial constraints that resulted in significant delays culminating in missed deadlines for various production start dates and tripling unit cost……………………. the independent scientific evidence which the TEG presented to the European Commission, shows evidence of adverse impacts to the natural environment arising from the many processes involved in the nuclear power lifecycle (from uranium mining to waste disposal) that are operational today.  …………

Does the present generation of nuclear fission power plants ‘do no significant harm’? To answer this question, two specific issues for nuclear power stand out: the risk of a catastrophic accident and the management of high-level nuclear waste (HLW)………………………………

Especially relevant for nuclear fission power is the fact that the liability of the operator in the case of a severe accident is limited and the remaining costs are (largely) taken on by the state (privatization of profits, socialization of risks).

The Taxonomy architecture is not designed to cater for such risks that carry an intergenerational impact lasting for thousands of years, making it an unsuitable instrument to decide on the sustainable nature of nuclear power. The characteristics and nature of HLW generated by the nuclear fission process presents long-term intergenerational risks and thereby challenge the principle of  ‘do no significant harm’ to the extent that nuclear fission energy may not be considered eligible for the EU Taxonomy. 

This was made abundantly clear to the Commission in the TEG’s recommendations, which were not published in their entirety. Independent, scientific, peer-reviewed evidence compiled by TEG provided confirmation of the risk of significant harm arising from nuclear waste. The back end of the fuel cycle is currently dominated by the containment of spent fuel rods and waste from nuclear power facilities. Safe and secure long-term storage of nuclear waste remains unresolved and has to be demonstrated in its operational complexity. ……….

The fact that a ‘solution’ has to be found for the existing quantities of waste (as well spent fuel as conditioned high level waste forms), and that geological disposal is the least bad solution for this, does not imply that nuclear power can suddenly be classified as a ‘green’ energy source. 

Other concerns with regard to DNSH criteria Nuclear fission power plants require about three cubic metres of cooling water per megawatt hour (MWh) produced. A nuclear plants’ cooling water consumption is higher than that of fossil-fuel plants. Throughout the world, new nuclear plants and existing plants increasingly face cooling water scarcity induced by heat waves, a situation that is likely to be aggravated by climate change…..

For reasons of having access to enough cooling water, nuclear plants are mostly sited in coastal or estuarine locations, but this makes them vulnerable to flooding and extreme events that climate change may occasion. The siting of nuclear power plants along coastal zones presents adaptation risks associated with sea-level rise, water temperature rise, coastal erosion as well as natural catastrophes such as the Fukushima disaster demonstrates. ………………..

when major nuclear plant accidents occur significant land areas become unsuitable for human habitation (e.g. Chernobyl, Fukushima). …….

Surface or underground mining and the processing of uranium ore can substantially damage surrounding ecosystems and waterways. The huge volumes of associated mining waste in developing countries are normally not considered in life cycle waste inventories of nuclear energy producing countries. More critically, the adverse effects on local environmental conditions of routine discharging of nuclear isotopes to the air and water  at reprocessing plants have not been considered thoroughly enough. A number of adverse impacts (of radiation) on soil/sediment, benthic flora and fauna and marine mammals has been demonstrated.  

Should nuclear fission power be included in the taxonomy as a transition activity? According to Article 10 (2) of the Taxonomy Regulation, which is the law underpinning the EU Taxonomy, activities that are incompatible with climate neutrality but considered necessary in the transition to a climate-neutral economy can be labelled and supported as ‘transition activities’…………

 A key principle of the EU Taxonomy is to avoid environmentally harmful ‘lock-in’ effects of activities. Lock-in describes the phenomenon whereby it is difficult to set a technical and political system on a new path once it has developed a momentum of its own and once it is ‘locked-in’ on a certain path. ……

Nuclear fission plants require at least 10 years to be built (with recent experience even pointing in the direction of 20 years for the EPR), while they have to remain operational for 50-60 years. Decommissioning will then take another 20-50 years. This means that a decision to build new nuclear power plants will lock in societies for some 80-130 years, not counting the years needed to store spent fuel or dispose of high-level waste. …

 A decision to include nuclear fission into the energy mix of the EU Taxonomy sustainable activities will during this period therefore channel much needed capital away from renewable energy technologies, which do not present long-term and catastrophic risks to humans and the environment as nuclear fission does. ……………………………………..

Signed by EU Taxonomy subgroup DNSH TEG members and expert supporters:

Dawn Slevin, Dr. Erik Laes, Paolo Masoni, Jochen Krimphoff, Fabrizio Varriale, Andrea Di Turi, Dr. Ulrich Ofterdinger, Dr. Dolores Byrne, Dr. Petra Kuenkel, Ursula Hartenberger, Kosha Joubert  

Link to PDF Version of the Statement of Concern sent to the Commission on 21 Dec 21:

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thorium nuclear reactors pose the same weapons proliferation and safety problems, and mining pollution problems – as uranium nuclear reactors.

Is the thorium-fueled “Molten Salt reactor a proven technology?

The first thorium-fueled molten salt reactor ever built was intended to power an aircraft engine in a long-range strategic bomber armed with nuclear weapons. Despite massive expenditures, the project proved unviable as well as prohibitively costly and was ultimately cancelled by President Kennedy. However, the Oak Ridge team responsible for the aircraft engine reactor project, under the direction of Alvin Weinberg, was allowed to conduct a further thorium-fuelled molten salt reactor experiment for a period of four years, from 1965 to 1969. At the beginning, only U-235 was used; soon afterwards, a smaller amount of U-233 was used.

During its four years of operation under experimental conditions, the Oak Ridge molten salt reactor experienced over 250 shutdowns, most of them completely unplanned.  The molten-salt thorium fuelled experience of 52 years ago at Oak Ridge – the only such experience available to date – consumed about one quarter of the total budget of the entire Oak Ridge nuclear complex. It is difficult to understand how anyone could construe this experiment as demonstrating that such a technology would be viable in a commercial environment.

There are, at the present time, no thorium reactors operating anywhere in the world.

Summary (Thorium Reactors)

It appears that thorium-fuelled reactors pose the same kinds of problems, qualitatively speaking, that afflict existing nuclear reactors. Problems associated with the long-term management of nuclear waste, and the potential for proliferating nuclear weapons, are not fundamentally different even though the detailed considerations are by no means identical.

Since a nuclear reactor accident will have off-site consequences only due to the unintended release of high-level nuclear waste materials into the environment, there is no qualitative difference there either.  Thorium reactors pose the same risk of reactor accident risks as in the case of a comparable non-thorium reactor.

The “Front End” of the Nuclear Fuel Chain

So much for the “back end” of the fuel chain, but what about the “front end”? What about the dangers and environmental consequences associated with mining a radioactive ore body to obtain the uranium or thorium needed to sustain a uranium-based or thorium-based reactor system?

Thorium versus Uranium

Uranium and thorium are naturally occurring heavy metals, both discovered a couple of centuries ago. Uranium was identified in 1789. It was named after the planet Uranus, that was discovered just 8 years earlier. Thorium was identified in 1828. It was named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

In 1896, Henri Becquerel accidentally discovered radioactivity. He found that rocks containing either uranium or thorium give off a kind of invisible penetrating light (gamma radiation) that can expose photographic plates even if they are wrapped in thick black paper.

In 1898, Marie Curie discovered that when uranium ore is crushed and the uranium itself is extracted, it is indeed found to be a radioactive substance, but the crushed rock contains much more radioactivity (5 to 7 times more) than the uranium itself. She identified two new elements in the crushed rock, radium and polonium – both radioactive and highly dangerous – and won two Nobel Prizes, one in Physics and one in Chemistry. 

The radioactive properties of both radium and thorium were used in medical treatments prior to the discovery of fission in 1939. Because of the extraordinary damage done to living tissues by atomic radiation (a fact that was observed before the advent of the twentieth century) these radioactive materials derived from natural sources were used to shrink cancerous tumours and to destroy ringworm infections in the scalps of young children. It was later observed that while acute doses of atomic radiation can indeed kill malignant as well as benign growths, atomic radiation can also cause latent cancers that will not appear until decades later, even at chronic low dose radiation levels that cause no immediately perceptible biological damage.

Uranium Mining and Mill Tailings

It turns out that 85 percent of the radioactivity in uranium ore is found in the pulverized residues after uranium is extracted, as a result of many natural radioactive byproducts of uranium called “decay products” or “progeny” that are left behind. They include radioactive isotopes of lead, bismuth, polonium, radium, radon gas, and others. Uranium mining is dangerous mainly because of the harmful effects of these radioactive byproducts, which are invariably discarded in the voluminous sand-like tailings left over from milling the ore. All of these radioactive decay products are much more radioactive and much more biologically damaging than uranium itself.

Thorium Mining and Mill Tailings

Thorium is estimated to be about three to four times more plentiful than uranium. Like uranium, it also produces radioactive “decay products” or “progeny” – including additional radioactive isotopes of lead, bismuth, polonium, radium, radon gas, thallium, and others. These radioactive byproducts are discarded in the mill tailings when thorium ore is milled. See .

Most of the naturally-occurring radioactivity found in the soil and rocks of planet Earth are due to the two primordial radioactive elements, uranium and thorium, and their many decay products. There is one additional primordial radioactive element, potassium-40, but it has no radioactive decay products and so contributes much less to the natural radioactive inventory.

Gordon Edwards.

P.S. I have written about thorium as a nuclear fuel several times before, beginning in 1978.

See  ; ; ;  and

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canada to be the guinea pig for America’s probably unviable small nuclear reactor.

There’s lots of enthusiasm among nuclear reactor designers, developers and national laboratories, and academic nuclear engineering departments” about SMRs, said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who published a report on SMR reactor designs in early 2021. “

There’s a lot of supply but there’s not much demand, because utilities don’t want to be guinea pigs.”

cost escalation is practically inevitable.

Canada’s first new nuclear reactor in decades is an American design. Will it prompt a rethink of government support? The Globe and Mail,  MATTHEW MCCLEARN, 26 Dec 21
, Ontario Power Generation’s selection of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to help build a small modular reactor (SMR) at its Darlington station in Clarington, Ont., set in motion events that could shape Canada’s nuclear industry for decades to come.

OPG’s choice, announced in December, is the BWRX-300. It’s a light water reactor, the variety most popular in developed countries, and quite unlike Canada’s existing fleet of CANDU heavy water reactors. Though not exactly small – the BWRX’s 300-megawatt nameplate capacity is roughly equivalent to a large wind farm – it would produce only one-third as much electricity as traditional reactors. It would use different fuel, produce different wastes and possibly have different safety implications.
The Darlington SMR would be the first BWRX-300 ever constructed. By moving first, OPG hopes Ontario will become embedded in a global supply chain for these reactors.

“OPG ourselves, we don’t really get anything out of it – it’s a lot of work,” said Robin Manley, OPG’s vice-president of nuclear development. “Our goal is to have as many contracts signed with Canadian suppliers as we possibly can.” But that might not satisfy some critics, who’ve protested OPG’s selection of a U.S. design by GE Hitachi, which is based in North Carolina.

Ontario Power Generation chose GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to build a light water reactor .

It does seem to confirm the end of Canada’s tradition of homegrown reactors. The BWRX-300 would be Canada’s first new reactor since Darlington Unit 4 in Ontario, completed in 1993. According to Mycle Schneider Consulting, the average age of the country’s 19 operational reactors is 38 years. Attempts to update the CANDU design proved largely fruitless; OPG and Bruce Power opted to refurbish reactors at Darlington and Bruce stations to operate another few decades, while sizing up SMRs as a possible next act.

Time is running short. This decade is widely regarded as crucial for building emissions-free generation capacity. SMRs will be late to that party even if this BWRX-300 is built on time. Delays and cost overruns, ever-present risks with any reactor, could kill its prospects.

The partnership with OPG represents a major coup for GE Hitachi, a U.S.-Japanese alliance that set up its SMR subsidiary in Canada less than a year ago. There are at least 50 SMR designs worldwide, but most exist only on paper; vendors compete vigorously to sell to experienced nuclear operators such as OPG because they represent an opportunity to build a bona fide reactor that might entice other clients. For the same reason, OPG’s decision is a blow to the losing candidates, Oakville, Ont.-based Terrestrial Energy Inc. and X-energy, an American vendor

“There’s lots of enthusiasm among nuclear reactor designers, developers and national laboratories, and academic nuclear engineering departments” about SMRs, said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who published a report on SMR reactor designs in early 2021. “There’s a lot of supply but there’s not much demand, because utilities don’t want to be guinea pigs.”

Nuclear industry executives and government officials hope the Darlington SMR will be the first of many deployed in Ontario and beyond. SaskPower is also shopping; it has collaborated with OPG since 2017, and said the BWRX-300 is among its candidates. Canada has a small population, so observers doubt the country could support supply chains for multiple reactor designs.

But OPG’s selection of an American SMR has drawn some sharp criticism. Some observers assumed Terrestrial enjoyed a home turf advantage, particularly in light of the federal government’s decision to invest $20-million toward its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR). The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, a union representing engineers and others working on CANDU reactors, complained that “priority should have been given to Canadian design.”

“It is a slap in the face for Terrestrial,” said M.V. Ramana, professor at the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues. “It is not a good sign for Canada’s nuclear industry.”

Prof. Ramana added that OPG’s decision may prompt a rethinking of government support to SMR developers. In addition to Terrestrial’s funding, Moltex Energy received $50.5-million from the federal Strategic Innovation Fund and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to advance the Stable Salt Reactor-Wasteburner it is working on in New Brunswick. ARC Clean Energy received $20-million from New Brunswick’s government toward its ARC-100 reactor.

“If these companies are not able to persuade OPG, then maybe we should stop funding them,” he said…………………..

Unlike CANDUs, which consume unenriched uranium, light water reactors require fuel enriched to increase Uranium-235 content. Mr. Lyman said that by adopting any non-CANDU design, Canada will become dependent on enriched fuel imported from the U.S., Europe or elsewhere.

The industry would also need to learn how to dispose of unfamiliar wastes. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which is in the final stages of selecting an underground storage site for Canada’s radioactive spent fuel, said spent BWRX-300 fuel would generate more heat and radioactivity than CANDU fuel, but could be stored in fewer containers, placed further apart.

“We will learn from our international partners who already have plans to permanently store this type of waste in a deep geological repository,” the NWMO said in a statement.

All this assumes OPG’s reactor gets built. To begin with, the BWRX-300 actually isn’t licensed to be built anywhere. GE Hitachi is participating in the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Vendor Design Review, through which it receives early feedback from the regulator on its reactor. ………

critics say completing the reactor by 2028 is a tall order. According to Mycle Schneider Consulting, one in eight reactors that have begun construction since 1951 were never connected to the grid. Many survivors, meanwhile, arrived years later than promised.

Mr. Manley said 2028 is “an aspirational goal” rather than a hard deadline. The project schedule will firm up over the next two years.

OPG has yet to publish a cost estimate, but according to a report published by PwC, the SMR project “is expected to spend $2-billion over seven years.” That’s already higher than the US$1-billion price tag GE Hitachi promised for a BWRX-300 in 2019. (In public presentations, GE executives declared that keeping the price below US$1-billion was crucial to its plans to exponentially grow its customer base.)……

Prof. Ramana said cost escalation is practically inevitable……….

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thorium and nuclear weapons

The Hype About Thorium Reactors, by Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, December 26 2021.

There has recently been an upsurge of uninformed babble about thorium as if it were a new discovery with astounding potentiality. Some describe it as a nearly miraculous material that can provide unlimited amounts of problem-free energy. Such hype is grossly exaggerated.

Thorium and Nuclear Weapons

One of the most irresponsible statements is that thorium has no connection with nuclear weapons. On the contrary, the initial motivation for using thorium in nuclear reactors was precisely for the purposes of nuclear weaponry.

It was known from the earliest days of nuclear fission that naturally-occurring thorium can be converted into a powerful nuclear explosive – not found in nature – called uranium-233, in much the same way that naturally-occurring uranium can be converted into plutonium.

Working at a secret laboratory in Montreal during World War II, nuclear scientists from France and Britain collaborated with Canadians and others to study the best way to obtain human-made nuclear explosives for bombs. That objective can be met by converting natural uranium into human-made plutonium-239, or by converting natural thorium into human-made uranium-233. These conversions can only be made inside a nuclear reactor. 

The Montreal team designed the famous and very powerful NRX research reactor for that military purpose as well as other non-military objectives. The war-time decision to allow the building of the NRX reactor was made in Washington DC by a six-person committee (3 Americans, 2 Brits and 1 Canadian) in the spring of 1944.

The NRX reactor began operation in 1947 at Chalk River, Ontario, on the Ottawa River, 200 kilometres northwest of the nation’s capital. The American military insisted that thorium rods as well as uranium rods be inserted into the reactor core. Two chemical “reprocessing” plants were built and operated at Chalk River, one to extract plutonium-239 from irradiated uranium rods, and a second to extract uranium-233 from irradiated thorium rods. This dangerous operation required dissolving intensely radioactive rods in boiling nitric acid and chemically separating out the small quantity of nuclear explosive material contained in those rods. Both plants were shut down in the 1950s after three men were killed in an explosion.

The USA detonated a nuclear weapon made from a mix of uranium-233 and plutonium-239 in 1955. In that same year the Soviet Union detonated its first H-bomb (a thermonuclear weapon, using nuclear fusion as well as nuclear fission) with a fissile core of natural uranium-235 and human-made uranium-233.

In 1998, India tested a nuclear weapon using uranium-233 as part of its series of nuclear test explosions in that year. A few years earlier, In 1994, the US government declassified a 1966 memo that states that uranium-233 has been demonstrated to be highly satisfactory as a weapons material. 

Uranium Reactors are really U-235 reactors

Uranium is the only naturally-occurring material that can be used to make an atomic bomb or to fuel a nuclear reactor. In either case, the energy release is due to the fissioning of uranium-235 atoms in a self-sustaining “chain reaction”. But uranium-235 is rather scarce. When uranium is found in nature, usually as a metallic ore in a rocky formation, it is about 99.3 percent uranium-238 and only 0.7 percent uranium-235. That’s just seven atoms out of a thousand!

Uranium-238, the heavier and more abundant isotope of uranium, cannot be used to make an A-Bomb or to fuel a reactor. It is only the lighter isotope, uranium-235, that can sustain a nuclear chain reaction. If the chain reaction is uncontrolled, you have a nuclear explosion; if it is controlled, as it is in a nuclear reactor, you have a steady supply of energy. 

But you cannot make a nuclear explosion with uranium unless the concentration of uranium-238 is greatly reduced and the concentration of uranium-235 is drastically increased. This procedure is called “uranium enrichment”, and the enrichment must be to a high degree – preferably more than 90 percent U-235, or at the very least 20 percent U-235 – to get a nuclear explosion. For this reason, the ordinary uranium fuel used in commercial power reactors is not weapons-usable; the concentration of U-235 is typically less than five percent.

However, as these uranium-235 atoms are split inside a nuclear reactor, the broken fragments form new smaller atoms called “fission products”. There are hundreds of varieties of fission products, and they are collectively millions of times more radioactive than the uranium fuel itself. They are the main constituents of “high-level radioactive waste” (or “irradiated nuclear fuel”) that must be kept out of the environment of living things for millions of years.

In addition, stray neutrons from the fissioning U-235 atoms convert many of the uranium-238 atoms into atoms if plutonium-239. Reactor-produced plutonium is always weapons-usable, regardless of the mixture of different isotopes; no enrichment is needed! But that plutonium can only be extracted from the used nuclear fuel by “reprocessing” the used fuel. That requires separating the plutonium from the fiercely radioactive fission products that will otherwise give a lethal dose of radiation to workers in a short time.

Thorium Reactors are really U-233 reactors

Unlike uranium, thorium cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction under any circumstances. Thorium can therefore not be used to make an atomic bomb or to fuel a nuclear reactor. However, if thorium is inserted into an operating nuclear reactor (fuelled by uranium or plutonium), some of the thorium atoms are converted to uranium-233 atoms by absorbing stray neutrons. That newly created material, uranium-233, is even better than uranium-235 at sustaining a chain reaction.  That’s why uranium-233 can be used as a powerful nuclear explosive or as an exemplary reactor fuel.

But thorium cannot be used directly as a nuclear fuel.  It has to be converted into uranium-233 and then the human-made isotope uranium-233 becomes the reactor fuel. And to perform that conversion, some other nuclear fuel must be used – either enriched uranium or plutonium

Of course, when uranium-233 atoms are split, hundreds of fission products are created from the broken fragments, and they are collectively far more radioactive than the uranium-233 itself – or the thorium from which it was created.  So once again, we see that high-level radioactive waste is being produced even in a thorium reactor (as in a normal present-day uranium reactor). 

In summary, a so-called “thorium reactor” is in reality a uranium-233 reactor. 

Some other nuclear fuel (enriched uranium-235 or plutonium) must be used to convert thorium atoms into uranium-233 atoms. Some form of reprocessing must then be used to extract uranium-233 from the irradiated thorium. The fissioning of uranium-233, like the fissioning of uranium-235 or plutonium, creates hundreds of new fission products that make up the bulk of the high-level radioactive waste from any nuclear reactor. And, as previously remarked, uranium-233 is also a powerful nuclear explosive, posing serious weapons proliferation risks. Moreover, uranium-233 – unlike the uranium fuel that is currently used in commercial power reactors around the world – is immediately usable as a nuclear explosive. The moment uranium-233 is created it is very close to 100 percent enriched – perfect for use in any nuclear weapon of suitable design.

Uranium-232 — A Fly in the Ointment

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December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Environmental Ruin in Modern Iraq – largely due to depleted uranium.

In particular, she points to depleted uranium, or DU, used by the U.S. and U.K. in the manufacture of tank armor, ammunition, and other military purposes during the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that some 2,000 tons of depleted uranium may have been used in Iraq, and much of it has yet to be cleaned up.

‘Everything Living Is Dying’: Environmental Ruin in Modern Iraq, Decades of war, poverty, and fossil fuel extraction have devastated the country’s environment and its people. Undark, BY LYNZY BILLING, 12.22.2021 All photos by LYNZY BILLING for UNDARK  ”’,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,   Miscarriages, of course, are common everywhere, and while pollution writ large is known to be deadly in the aggregate, linking specific health outcomes to local ambient pollution is a notoriously difficult task. Even so, few places on earth beg such questions as desperately as modern Iraq, a country devastated from the northern refineries of Kurdistan to the Mesopotamian marshes of the south — and nearly everywhere in between — by decades of war, poverty, and fossil fuel extraction.

As far back as 2005, the United Nations had estimated that Iraq was already littered with several thousand contaminated sites. Five years later, an investigation by The Times, a London-based newspaper, suggested that the U.S. military had generated some 11 million pounds of toxic waste and abandoned it in Iraq. Today, it is easy to find soil and water polluted by depleted uranium, dioxin and other hazardous materials, and extractive industries like the KAR oil refinery often operate with minimal transparency. On top of all of this, Iraq is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, which has already contributed to grinding water shortages and prolonged drought. In short, Iraq presents a uniquely dystopian tableau — one where human activity contaminates virtually every ecosystem, and where terms like “ecocide” have special currency.

According to Iraqi physicians, the many overlapping environmental insults could account for the country’s high rates of cancer, birth defects, and other diseases. Preliminary research by local scientists supports these claims, but the country lacks the money and technology needed to investigate on its own. To get a better handle on the scale and severity of the contamination, as well as any health impacts, they say, international teams will need to assist in comprehensive investigations. With the recent close of the ISIS caliphate, experts say, a window has opened.

While the Iraqi government has publicly recognized widespread pollution stemming from conflict and other sources, and implemented some remediation programs, few critics believe these measures will be adequate to address a variegated environmental and public health problem that is both geographically expansive and attributable to generations of decision-makers — both foreign and domestic — who have never truly been held to account. The Iraqi Ministry of Health and the Kurdistan Ministry of Health did not respond to repeated requests for comment on these issues……………………….

experts who study Iraq’s complex mosaic of pollution and health challenges say. Despite overwhelming evidence of pollution and contamination from a variety of sources, it remains exceedingly difficult for Iraqi doctors and scientists to pinpoint the precise cause of any given person’s — or even any community’s — illness; depleted uranium, gas flaring, contaminated crops all might play a role in triggering disease……………………………

This is Eman’s sixth year at the hospital, and her 25th as a physician. Over that time span, she says, she has seen an array of congenital anomalies, most commonly cleft palates, but also spinal deformities, hydrocephaly, and tumors. At the same time, miscarriages and premature births have spiked among Iraqi women, she says, particularly in areas where heavy U.S. military operations occurred as part of the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 to 2011 Iraq War. 

Research supports many of these clinical observations. According to a 2010 paper published in the American Journal of Public Health, leukemia cases in children under 15 doubled from 1993 to 1999 at one hospital in southern Iraq, a region of the country that was particularly hard hit by war. According to other research, birth defects also surged there, from 37 in 1990 to 254 in 2001.

But few studies have been conducted lately, and now, more than 20 years on, it’s difficult to know precisely which factors are contributing to Iraq’s ongoing medical problems. Eman says she suspects contaminated water, lack of proper nutrition, and poverty are all factors, but war also has a role. In particular, she points to depleted uranium, or DU, used by the U.S. and U.K. in the manufacture of tank armor, ammunition, and other military purposes during the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that some 2,000 tons of depleted uranium may have been used in Iraq, and much of it has yet to be cleaned up. The remnants of DU ammunition are spread across 1,100 locations — “and that’s just from the 2003 invasion,” says Zwijnenburg, the Dutch war-and-environment analyst. “We are still missing all the information from the 1991 Gulf War that the U.S. said was not recorded and could not be shared.”

Souad Naji Al-Azzawi, an environmental engineer and a retired University of Baghdad professor, knows this problem well. In 1991, she was asked to review plans to reconstruct some of Baghdad’s water treatment plants, which had been destroyed at the start of the Gulf War, she says. A few years later, she led a team to measure the impact of radiation on soldiers and Iraqi civilians in the south of the country.

Around that same time, epidemiological studies found that from 1990 to 1997, cases of childhood leukemia increased 60 percent in the southern Iraqi town of Basra, which had been a focal point of the fighting. Over the same time span, the number of children born with severe birth defects tripled. Al-Azzawi’s work suggests that the illnesses are linked to depleted uranium. Other work supports this finding and suggests that depleted uranium is contributing to elevated rates of cancer and other health problems in adults, too.

Today, remnants of tanks and weapons line the main highway from Baghdad to Basra, where contaminated debris remains a part of residents’ everyday lives. In one family in Basra, Zwijnenburg noted, all members had some form of cancer, from leukemia to bone cancers.

To Al-Azzawi, the reasons for such anomalies seem plain. Much of the land in this area is contaminated with depleted uranium oxides and particles, she said. It is in the water, in the soil, in the vegetation. “The population of west Basra showed between 100 and 200 times the natural background radiation levels,” Al-Azzawi says.

Some remediation efforts have taken place. For example, says Al-Azzawi, two so-called tank graveyards in Basra were partially remediated in 2013 and 2014. But while hundreds of vehicles and pieces of artillery were removed, these graveyards remain a source of contamination. The depleted uranium has leached into the water and surrounding soils. And with each sandstorm —  a common event — the radioactive particles are swept into neighborhoods and cities.

Cancers in Iraq catapulted from 40 cases among 100,000 people in 1991 to at least 1,600 by 2005.

In Fallujah, a central Iraqi city that has experienced heavy warfare, doctors have also reported a sharp rise in birth defects among the city’s children. According to a 2012 article in Al Jazeera, Samira Alani, a pediatrician at Fallujah General Hospital, estimated that 14 percent of babies born in the city had birth defects — more than twice the global average.

Alani says that while her research clearly shows a connection between contamination and congenital anomalies, she still faces challenges to painting a full picture of the affected areas, in part because data was lacking from Iraq’s birth registry. It’s a common refrain among doctors and researchers in Iraq, many of whom say they simply don’t have the resources and capacity to properly quantify the compounding impacts of war and unchecked industry on Iraq’s environment and its people. “So far, there are no studies. Not on a national scale,” says Eman, who has also struggled to conduct studies because there is no nationwide record of birth defects or cancers. “There are only personal and individual efforts.”…………………..

After the Gulf War, many veterans suffered from a condition now known as Gulf War syndrome. Though the causes of the illness are to this day still subject to widespread speculation, possible causes include exposure to depleted uranium, chemical weapons, and smoke from burning oil wells. More than 200,000 veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East have reported major health issues to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which they believe are connected to burn pit exposure. Last month, the White House announced new actions to make it easier for such veterans to access care.

Numerous studies have shown that the pollution stemming from these burn pits has caused severe health complications for American veterans. Active duty personnel have reported respiratory difficulties, headaches, and rare cancers allegedly derived from the burn pits in Iraq and locals living nearby also claim similar health ailments, which they believe stem from pollutants emitted by the burn pits.

Keith Baverstock, head of the Radiation Protection Program at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe from 1991 to 2003, says the health of Iraqi residents is likely also at risk from proximity to the burn pits. “If surplus DU has been burned in open pits, there is a clear health risk” to people living within a couple of miles, he says.

Abdul Wahab Hamed lives near the former U.S. Falcon base in Baghdad. His nephew, he says, was born with severe birth defects. The boy cannot walk or talk, and he is smaller than other children his age. Hamed says his family took the boy to two separate hospitals and after extensive work-ups, both facilities blamed the same culprit: the burn pits. Residents living near Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad also report children born with spinal disfigurements and other congenital anomalies, but they say that their requests for investigation have yielded no results.  ………………………………………

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 26 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion:  ¶ “Can Cities Thrive In Turbulent Times? Three Questions For Cities In 2022” • There are at least three compounding crises facing cities today – the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the worsening impacts of a changing climate, and growing urban inequality. The World Resources Institute looks at questions to consider and what needs to […]

December 26 Energy News — geoharvey

December 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment