Australian news, and some related international items

A Ukrainian invasion could go nuclear: 15 reactors would be in a war zone

A Ukraine Invasion Could Go Nuclear: 15 Reactors Would Be In War Zone Craig HooperSenior Contributor
As Russia’s buildup on the Ukrainian border continues, few observers note that an invasion of Ukraine could put nuclear reactors on the front line of military conflict. The world is underestimating the risk that full-scale, no-holds-barred conventional warfare could spark a catastrophic reactor failure, causing an unprecedented regional nuclear emergency.

The threat is real. Ukraine is heavily dependent upon nuclear power, maintaining four nuclear power plants and stewardship of the shattered nuclear site at Chernobyl. In a major war, all 15 reactors at Ukraine’s nuclear power facilities would be at risk, but even a desultory Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine is likely to expose at least six active reactors to the uncertainty of a ground combat environment.

The world has little experience with reactors in a war zone. Since humanity first harnessed the atom, the world has only experienced two “major” accidents—Chernobyl and Japan’s Fukushima disaster. A Russian invasion, coupled with an extended conventional war throughout Ukraine, could generate multiple International Atomic Energy Agency “Level 7” accidents in a matter of days. Such a contingency would induce a massive refugee exodus and could render much of Ukraine uninhabitable for decades. 

Turning the Ukraine into a dystopian landscape, pockmarked by radioactive exclusion zones, would be an extreme method to obtain the defensive zone Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to want. Managing a massive Western-focused migratory crisis and environmental cleanup would absorb Europe for years. The work would distract European leaders and empower nativist governments that tend to be aligned with Russia’s baser interests, giving an overextended Russia breathing room as the country teeters on the brink of technological, demographic, and financial exhaustion. 

Put bluntly, the integrity of Ukrainian nuclear reactors is a strategic matter, critical for both NATO and non-NATO countries alike. Causing a severe radiological accident for strategic purposes is unacceptable. A deliberate aggravation of an emerging nuclear catastrophe—preventing mitigation measures or allowing reactors to deliberately melt down and potentially contaminate wide portions of Europe—would simply be nuclear warfare without bombs.  

Such a scenario can’t be ruled out. Russia has repeatedly used Ukraine to test out concepts for “Gray Zone” warfare, where an attacker dances just beyond the threshold of open conflict. Given Russia’s apparent interest in radiation-spewing nuclear-powered cruise missiles, robotic undersea bombs with a radiological fallout-oriented payload, destructive anti-satellite tests and other nihilistic, world-harming weapons, Russia’s ongoing dalliance with “Gray Zone” warfare in Ukraine may, for the rest of Europe, become a real matter of estimating radiological “grays,” or, in other words, estimating the amount of ionizing radiation absorbed by humans. 

When War Comes To Zaporizhzhia 

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is a particular risk. It is the second-largest nuclear power plant in Europe (essentially tied with a French reactor complex near Calais), and one of the 10 largest nuclear power plants in the world. The site has little protection, and the six VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors could easily be embroiled in any Russian invasion. 

If war comes, the fight will be close by. The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is located only 120 miles from the current “front line” in the Donbass region and is on the hard-to-defend east bank of the Dnieper River. Aside from the geographical hazards, the power plant provides about a quarter of Ukraine’s total electrical power. Given the importance of the electricity, plant managers will be reluctant to shut it down, securing the reactors only at the very last possible second. Ukraine’s desperate need for energy only compounds the opportunities for an accident. 

Outside of direct battle damage, cyber and other Russian-sourced “grey zone” mischief could make the plant unmanageable even before the battle arrives at the reactor gates. 

Though unlikely, direct bombardment could cause serious damage to reactor containment structures. While the reactor structures themselves are strong, warfare at the plant could kill key personnel and destroy command-and-control structures, monitoring sensors or critical reactor-cooling infrastructure. And, as an operating power plant, the reactors are not the only threat. Dangerous spent fuel rods are sitting in vulnerable cooling ponds, while older fuel sits in the site’s 167 dry spent fuel assemblies

If the reactors suffer any operational anomalies, crisis management is not going to happen. Support infrastructure needed for safe reactor management will collapse during conflict. Plant security forces will disappear, operators will flee, and, if an accident occurs, mitigating measures will be impossible. 

It seems unlikely that Russia has mobilized trained reactor operators and prepared reactor crisis-management teams to take over any “liberated” power plants. The heroic measures that kept the Chernobyl nuclear accident and Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster from becoming far more damaging events just will not happen in a war zone. 

Again, the risks are very high. The world has never dealt with an unmanaged meltdown at a large nuclear power plant. The very real prospect of an extended and unmitigated incident at a six-reactor powerplant in a war zone is worth urgent and immediate consultations throughout Europe and NATO.  

Gray Zone Nuclear Conflict Can Happen

The world has never experienced war that threatens active nuclear power infrastructure, and world leaders may be underestimating the peril conventional warfare presents to these powerful and perilous assets.

On the other hand, heedless purveyors of “gray zone” warfare may be underestimating the risk themselves, all too eager to determine just how degraded nuclear infrastructure might serve as a “less risky” surrogate for nuclear conflict.

To them, it’s not nuclear war, but just a series of unfortunate nuclear accidents.

December 28, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dave Sweeney – Australia needs a genuine discussion about nuclear waste

(This is an extract from a basically pro-nuclear article on AAP , 28 Dec 21, )”………..Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney accepts there is a need for final solution for all the radioactive waste the nation produces, but he has grave concerns about the current approach.

He says the federal government recently handed ANSTO tens of millions of dollars to expand storage options at Lucas Heights and there’s no imperative to relocate waste from there any time soon.

He particularly objects to what he calls the unnecessary double handling of the worst nuclear waste Australia has.

“The plan is that a future federal government, sometime in the next 100 years, would relocate this material for deep burial at another currently undecided location via an undisclosed and unfunded process,” he says.

He points to evidence given to a parliamentary committee last year by Carl-Magnus Larsson, CEO of Australia’s nuclear regulator.

When asked why the majority of Australia’s waste stored at Lucas Heights could not simply stay there, Dr Larsson replied: “There is no such thing as indefinite storage. That equals disposal.”

“Waste can be safely stored at Lucas Heights for decades to come, but we need to talk long-term and even beyond the existence of ANSTO and the current facilities at ANSTO.”

Mr Sweeney says there’s never been a discussion in Australia that starts by asking “what’s the best way to manage this material, or what is the full scope of ways that we could mange this material and which do we think is the least worst”.

“We’ve heard that it can stay at Lucas Heights for decades to come. How about we use one of those decades to do what we’ve never done.”

Earlier this week, traditional owners of the Napandee site launched Federal Court action to try to stop the waste facility from proceeding.

The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation has accused the government of excluding traditional owners from a community ballot that ultimately supported the facility.

December 28, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Abandonment of nuclear power in Germany has NOT meant an increased use of fossil fuels.

In Germany, has the abandonment of nuclear power been accompanied by an increased use of fossil fuels? German net energy production is increasingly less dependent on fossil fuels. While a new thermal power station was inaugurated in 2020, around twenty have already been closed in ten years.

Has the withdrawal from nuclear power really been accompanied by an increased use of other fossil fuels across the Rhine? Has there been an increase in energy production from lignite (coal rich in sulphide and lower in carbon than hard coal, and therefore both more polluting and less energetic)?

In short: it is wrong to assert that the deployment of renewable energy in Germany has been accompanied by an increase in the share of energy attributable to the coal-gas mix, or by an increase in the number of coal-fired power stations.

 Liberation 9th Nov 2021

December 28, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Joe Biden should end the US pretence over Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons

Joe Biden should end the US pretence over Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons, recent US administration has performed a perverse ritual as it has come into the office. All have agreed to undermine US law by signing secret letters stipulating they will not acknowledge something everyone knows: that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Part of the reason for this is to stop people from focusing on Israel’s capacity to turn dozens of cities to dust. This failure to face up to the threat posed by Israel’s horrific arsenal gives its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a sense of power and impunity, allowing Israel to dictate terms to others.

But one other effect of the US administration’s ostrich approach is that it avoids invoking the US’s own laws, which call for an end to taxpayer largesse for nuclear weapons proliferators.

Israel in fact is a multiple nuclear weapons proliferator. There is overwhelming evidence that it offered to sell the apartheid regime in South Africa nuclear weapons in the 1970s and even conducted a joint nuclear test. The US government tried to cover up these facts. Additionally, it has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Yet the US and Israeli governments pushed for the invasion of Iraq based on lies about coming mushroom clouds. As Israeli nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu said: the nuclear weapons were not in Iraq – they are in Israel.

Amendments by former Senators Stuart Symington and John Glenn to the Foreign Assistance Act ban US economic and military assistance to nuclear proliferators and countries that acquire nuclear weapons. While president, Jimmy Carter invoked such provisions against India and Pakistan. But no president has done so with regard to Israel. Quite the contrary. There has been an oral agreement since President Richard Nixon to accept Israel’s “nuclear ambiguity” – effectively to allow Israel the power that comes with nuclear weapons without the responsibility. And since President Bill Clinton, according to the New Yorker magazine, there have been these secret letters.US presidents and politicians have refused to acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons even though the law offers an exemption that would allow the funding to continue if the president certified to Congress that aid to a proliferator would be a vital US interest.

Israel’s per capita gross domestic product is comparable with that of Britain. Nevertheless, US taxpayer funds to Israel exceed that of any other country. Adjusted for inflation, the publicly known amount over the years is now approaching $300bn. This farce should end. The US government should uphold its laws and cut off funding to Israel because of its acquisition and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The incoming Biden administration should forthrightly acknowledge Israel as a leading state sponsor of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and properly implement US law. Other governments – in particular South Africa’s – should insist on the rule of law and for meaningful disarmament, and immediately urge the US government in the strongest possible terms to act.

Apartheid was horrible in South Africa and it’s horrible when Israel practises its own form of apartheid against the Palestinians, with checkpoints and a system of oppressive policies. Indeed another US statute, the Leahy law, prohibits US military aid to governments that systematically violate human rights.

t’s quite possible that one of the reasons that Israel’s version of apartheid has outlived South Africa’s is that Israel has managed to maintain its oppressive system using not just the guns of soldiers, but also by keeping this nuclear gun pointed at the heads of millions. The solution for this is not for Palestinians and other Arabs to try to attain such weapons. The solution is peace, justice, and disarmament. South Africa learned that it could only have real peace and justice by having the truth that would lead to reconciliation. But none of those will come unless the truth is faced squarely – and there are few truths more critical to face than a nuclear weapons arsenal in the hands of an apartheid government.

December 28, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UK: the year in climate change

 It was a year of fire and storms, of crumbling cliffs and falling trees, all of which put a huge strain on flora and fauna, according to an annual audit of the impact of the weather on nature in the UK. There were many losers, including rare birds and mammals displaced by blazes on uplands in the north of England and Northern Ireland, but also winners, from crickets heard singing for the first time in newly colonised places to the grey seals that enjoyed a good breeding season despite the turmoil.

The National Trust said this helter-skelter picture was the new normal because of the climate emergency, and age-old patterns of nature and the very shape of the UK were undergoing quick – and permanent – change.

 Guardian 27th Dec 2021

 Telegraph 27th Dec 2021

 Times 27th Dec 2021

December 28, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 27 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion:  ¶ “Canada’s First New Nuclear Reactor In Decades Is A US Design. Will It Prompt A Rethink Of Government Support?” • Ontario Power Generation’s selection of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to help build a small modular reactor at its Darlington station set in motion events that could shape Canada’s nuclear industry for decades. [The […]

December 27 Energy News — geoharvey

December 28, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment