Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

What to do with dead nuclear submarines? A cautionary tale for Australia.

12 dead nuclear submarines in UK, and don’t they have pretty names?

Legacy. It is unacceptable to leave waste for future generations to deal with……

End game

To some extent, the Ministry of Defence is stuck in a vicious circle whereby the cost of storing submarines eats into the budget for their disposal. ………but the glacial pace of work …. is more concerning. There are always more pressing priorities for defence expenditure and the dismantling project has been continually delayed. In the meantime the nuclear and health and safety regulatory requirements that must be met are getting stricter, adding further costs. There is almost complete reliance on Babcock for UK submarine support activity and there is a very finite number of SQEP with nuclear expertise available to recruit in the UK.

Project to dismantle ex-Royal Navy nuclear submarines inches forward, Navy Lookout, 7 Feb 22.

There are currently 21 former Royal Navy nuclear submarines awaiting disposal, 7 in Rosyth and 14 in Devonport. Here we look at the process and the modest progress in efforts to dismantle them.

Kicking the can down the road ……….  Unfortunately, successive governments failed to make arrangements for the timely disposal of these boats. In a less environmentally conscious era, filling the boats with concrete and sinking them in the deep ocean was the original plan but the disposal of nuclear waste at sea was banned by the London Dumping Convention in 1983. Planning for the dismantling of these submarines should have been started at that time, but only in the last 10 years has there been a serious effort to grip the issue.

Over time the nuclear regulatory frameworks have become ever-more demanding than when the submarines were conceived. Stricter rules have added more complexity and cost to the dismantling process, ironically adding delays and increasing the amount of nuclear waste awaiting appropriate disposal. HMS Dreadnought decommissioned in 1980, has now been tied up in Rosyth far longer than she was in active service. In the civil nuclear industry, operators are required by law to put aside funds and make plans during the life of the plant to pay for decommissioning. It would be prudent if a similar principle was applied by the MoD to all new nuclear submarine construction.

Besides the attraction of deferring costs in the short-term, a major cause of delays has been the selection of a land storage site for radioactive waste. Low-Level Waste (LLW) is stored at Sellafield in concrete-lined vaults and in 2017 URENCO Nuclear Stewardship Ltd at Capenhurst in Cheshire was selected as the interim site for storing the more dangerous Intermediate Level Waste (ILW). The Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPV) removed from the submarines are classed as ILW and will temporarily be stored in purpose-built buildings above ground. They will eventually be moved to a permanent underground Geological Disposal Facility (GDF)

Afloat storage

While awaiting dismantling, decommissioned submarines are stored afloat in a non-tidal basin in the dockyard.  The 7 submarines in Rosyth have all had their nuclear fuel rods removed but of the 14 in Devonport, 10 are still fuelled. This is because in 2003 the facilities for de-fuelling were deemed no longer safe enough to meet modern regulation standards and the process was halted. Submarines that have not had fuel removed have the reactor primary circuit chemically treated to guarantee it remains inert and additional radiation monitoring equipment is fitted.

Apart from regular monitoring, once every 15 years each boat has to be dry-docked for a Survey and Docking Period (SADP) which involves hull inspection and preservation work.

Reasons to accelerate disposal

Cost. The expense of afloat storage and maintenance of decommissioned boats is rising – currently costing approximately £30M per year. Every further delay adds to this and will have to be funded from a defence budget that is much smaller in real terms than when the boats were ordered and built during the Cold War. The total disposal cost will be at least £3bn over 25 years and continue into the 2040s. (This is for the 27 boats listed above – Astute-class dismantling is not yet being considered.) All this effort and expense is a drain on precious MoD resources for zero operational gain with each delay adding to the cost.

Legacy. It is unacceptable to leave waste for future generations to deal with and it is simply common sense to dispose of old equipment at around the same time their replacements come online. Responsible care of the hulks afloat means they pose minimal risk to the environment or local population, but a tiny risk does remain. This makes some people living nearby uneasy and provides another grievance for those ideologically opposed to nuclear submarines and Trident. The minimal environmental hazard they pose is sometimes exaggerated by media, politicians and campaigners to suit their own agenda. The old boats are also a rather uncomfortable reminder of the time when the RN had an SSN force approximately double the strength it is today.

Space. When HMS Trenchant is moved to 3 Basin at Devonport for storage, the basin will be at its licensed capacity. Currently, the MoD only has permission from the nuclear regulator to store 14 boats. Approval to hold 16 will be needed in order to accommodate HMS Talent and Triumph when they decommission. Storing more boats in Rosyth is not an option because of limited space in the basin which is also used for civilian vessels as well as by the aircraft carriers to access the dry dock. Once the purpose-built disposal facility at Devonport is up and running in the early 2030s, it will be more efficient (and likely deemed politically less sensitive than anything in Scotland).

Progress at Rosyth

The Submarine Dismantling Project (SDP) finally started at Rosyth in December 2016, around 15 years behind schedule. A team of around 150 people are working on the site pioneering the two-stage process to remove radioactive waste. Swiftsure was the ‘pilot’ submarine for the project and stage 1 – the removal of LLW. This work was completed and the boat was sealed up and returned to afloat storage in the basin during August 2018. So far, 129 tonnes of mainly metallic LLW have been removed from Swiftsure and Resolution. Many of the older boats have asbestos lagging around pipes, which also has to be removed with exceptional care and disposed of in sealed containers. Stage 1 work on Resolution was completed on time in March 2020 and on budget.

Stage 1 work on Revenge started in March 2020 but was suspended on the 24th due to COVID lockdown and (almost) normal working was not resumed until June 2020……………..

Disposal at Devonport

Progress at Devonport is considerably behind that of Rosyth. The unplanned refuelling of HMS Vanguard added a six-month delay as Babcock engineers were diverted from the SDP to work on the more urgent SSBN refit. ………………..

End game

To some extent, the MoD is stuck in a vicious circle whereby the cost of storing submarines eats into the budget for their disposal. The modest progress at Rosyth in the last 5 years is encouraging but the glacial pace of work in Devonport is more concerning. There are always more pressing priorities for defence expenditure and the dismantling project has been continually delayed. In the meantime the nuclear and health and safety regulatory requirements that must be met are getting stricter, adding further costs. There is almost complete reliance on Babcock for UK submarine support activity and there is a very finite number of SQEP with nuclear expertise available to recruit in the UK.

Like so many problems in defence, the failure to dispose of the boats cannot be blamed on one person, government or company, rather a series of decisions made by many individuals that seemed justifiable at the time. There must be some sympathy for those working to deal with this legacy today, although the thrust of 2019 HoC Public Accounts Committee report on submarine disposal efforts can be summarised as saying “this is simply not good enough”.   https://www.navylookout.com/project-to-dismantle-ex-royal-navy-nuclear-submarines-inches-forward/

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian demand for solar goes through the roof, smashing records


Australian demand for solar goes through the roof, smashing records
Border lockdowns and supply chain disruptions fail to slow the rampant uptake of rooftop solar in Australia where householders installed record amounts of new capacity last year.

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Labor rules out ‘fringe’ deal in rebuff to Greens on climate

Labor rules out ‘fringe’ deal in rebuff to Greens on climate

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has ruled out negotiating with “fringe” parties to form government in a hung parliament after the Greens called for a temporary halt to new coal, gas and oil projects as a condition on any deal after the election.

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Renewable energy records blown away in January as wind farms match coal output — RenewEconomy

One wind farm delivers capacity factor of 64 per cent in record-breaking January, meaning its output ranked higher than many coal generators. The post Renewable energy records blown away in January as wind farms match coal output appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Renewable energy records blown away in January as wind farms match coal output — RenewEconomy

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Greens to seek moratorium on new fossil fuel projects in any post-election negotiations — RenewEconomy

The Greens will use a potential ‘balance of power’ position after the next election to seek a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects. The post Greens to seek moratorium on new fossil fuel projects in any post-election negotiations appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Greens to seek moratorium on new fossil fuel projects in any post-election negotiations — RenewEconomy

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fully renewable grid by 2030, no new coal or gas: CEC lays down new roadmap — RenewEconomy

Clean Energy Council calls on Australia’s political leaders to commit to a 100% renewable electricity grid by 2030, and no new coal or gas plants. The post Fully renewable grid by 2030, no new coal or gas: CEC lays down new roadmap appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Fully renewable grid by 2030, no new coal or gas: CEC lays down new roadmap — RenewEconomy

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canadian First Nations do not want small nuclear reactors on their lands


Decolonizing energy and the nuclear narrative of small modular reactors   
https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/february-2022/decolonizing-energy-and-the-nuclear-narrative-of-small-modular-reactors/
Kebaowek First Nation is calling for an alternative to a planned SMR project, one that won’t undermine proper consultation and leave a toxic legacy.

by Lance Haymond, Tasha Carruthers, Kerrie Blaise, February 7, 2022  In early 2021, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission began reviewing the application from a company called Global First Power to build a nuclear reactor at the Chalk River Laboratories site about 200 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

This project, known as a micro modular reactor project, is an example of the nuclear industry’s latest offering – a small modular reactor (SMR).SMRs are based on the same fundamental physical processes as regular (large) nuclear reactors; they just produce less electricity per plant. They also produce the same dangerous byproducts: plutonium and radioactive fission products (materials that are created by the splitting of uranium nuclei). These are all dangerous to human health and have to be kept away from contact with people and communities for hundreds of thousands of years. No country has so far demonstrated a safe way to deal with these.

Despite these unsolved challenges, the nuclear industry promotes SMRs and nuclear energy as a carbon-free alternative to diesel for powering remote northern communities. The Canadian government has exempted small modular reactors from full federal environmental assessment under the Impact Assessment Act. Many civil society groups have condemned this decision because it allows SMRs to escape the public scrutiny of environmental, health and social impacts.

The proposed new SMR in Chalk River, like the existing facilities, would be located on Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation territory and the lands of Kebaowek First Nation – a First Nation that has never been consulted about the use of its unceded territory and that has been severely affected by past nuclear accidents at the site.

At this critical juncture of climate action and Indigenous reconciliation, Kebaowek First Nation is calling for the SMR project at Chalk River to be cancelled and the focus shifted to solutions that do not undermine the ability of First Nations communities to be properly consulted and that do not leave behind a toxic legacy.

While these reactors are dubbed “small,” it would be a mistake to assume their environmental impact is also “small.” The very first serious nuclear accident in the world involved a small reactor: In 1952, uranium fuel rods in the NRX reactor at Chalk River melted down and the accident led to the release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere and the soil. In 1958, the same reactor suffered another accident when a uranium rod caught fire; some workers exposed to radiation continue to battle for compensation.

What makes these accidents worse – and calls into question the justification for new nuclear development at Chalk River – is that this colonized land is the territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation territory (which consists of 11 First Nations whose territory stretches along the entire Ottawa River watershed straddling Quebec and Ontario). Kebaowek First Nation, part of the Algonquin Nation, was among those First Nations never consulted about the original nuclear facilities on their unceded territory, and is still struggling to be heard by the federal government and nuclear regulator. Its land has never been relinquished through treaty; its leaders and people were never consulted when Chalk River was chosen as the site for Canada’s first nuclear reactors; and no thought was given to how the nuclear complex might affect the Kitchi Sibi (the Ottawa River).

History is being repeated at Chalk River today as the government pushes ahead with the micro modular reactor project without consent from Kebaowek. Assessments of the project have been scoped so narrowly that they neglect the historical development and continued existence of nuclear facilities on Kebaowek’s traditional territory. The justification for an SMR at this location without full and thorough consideration of historically hosted nuclear plants – for which there was no consultation nor accommodation – is a tenuous starting point and one that threatens the protection of Indigenous rights.

The narrative of nuclear energy in Canada is one of selective storytelling and one that hides the reality of the Indigenous communities that remain deeply affected, first by land being taken away for nuclear reactor construction, and later by the radioactive pollution at the site. All too fitting is the term radioactive colonialism coined by scholars Ward Churchill and Winona LaDuke, to describe the disproportionate impact on Indigenous people and their land as a result of uranium mining and other nuclear developments. In country after country, the uranium that fuels nuclear plants has predominantly been mined from the traditional lands of Indigenous Peoples at the expense of the health of Indigenous Peoples and their self-determination.

Kebaowek First Nation has been vocal in its objection to the continuation of the nuclear industry on its lands without its free prior and informed consent, as is its right under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Despite requests for the suspension of the SMR project, pending adequate provisions for Indigenous co-operation and the Crown’s legal duty to initiate meaningful consultation, Kebaowek has yet to see its efforts reflected in government decisions and Crown-led processes.

Nuclear is a colonial energy form, but it is also bio-ignorant capitalism – a term coined by scholars Renata Avila and Andrés Arauz to describe the ways in which the current economic order ignores the planetary climate emergency, human and ecological tragedies, and the large-scale impact on nature. The narrative of nuclear as a “clean energy source” is a prime example of this bio-ignorance. Decision-makers have become fixated on carbon emissions as a metric for “clean and green,” ignoring the radioactive impacts and the risks of accidents with the technology.

It is more than 70 years since Chalk River became the site for the splitting of the nucleus. The continuation of nuclear energy production on unceded Indigenous territory without meaningful dialogue is a telling example of continued colonial practices, wherein companies extract value from Indigenous land while polluting it; offer little to no compensation to impacted communities; and abide by timelines driven by the project’s proponents, not the community affected. We need to move away from this colonial model of decision-making and decolonize our energy systems.

The challenge of climate change is urgent, but responses to the crisis must not perpetuate extractivist solutions, typical of colonial thinking, wherein the long-term impacts – from the production of toxic waste to radioactive releases – lead to highly unequal impacts.

The authors thank Justin Roy, councilor and economic development officer at Kebaowek First Nation, and M.V. Ramana, professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, for contributing to this article.

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

European dispute over the Taxonomy plan to class nuclear power as ”green”, qualifying it for billions of euros in subsidies.

EU Observer, 7. FEB, 07:22, Barely a month since France took over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, and France and Germany are already in dispute over the highly-controversial EU proposal to grant nuclear energy and natural gas a green investment label under the EU taxonomy on sustainable finance rules.

The EU proposal was published on Wednesday (2 February) with only minor edits – despite the internal row it had sparked amongst several member states.

The initial proposal itself had been quietly distributed to EU members on New Year’s Eve – the day Germany closed half of its six nuclear power plants.

If the proposal now passes the EU’s legislative procedures without getting blocked by the commission or the parliament (both unlikely scenarios), it will likely channel billions of euros into the construction of new nuclear power plants across the bloc…………………….

During the past weeks France has taken a strong stance in support of nuclear energy with president Emmanuel Macron labelling it as the “sovereign solution”, while Germany has expressly rejected the integration of nuclear power into the green taxonomy…………….

After their success in September’s federal elections, German Greens secured their position as the second-largest party in the current coalition government – making them crucial for the future of the German coalition.

No compromise

And nuclear energy is one of the topics the Greens are not willing to compromise on.

The Greens, born out of the 1980s anti-nuclear protests, were quick to call out the EU over the new energy proposal with the German vice-chancellor and climate minister, Robert Habeck, accusing the EU of “greenwashing”.

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Ukraine, USA to finance American companies to sell nuclear technology there and to other States


Where the Russians are coming, so is Westinghouse with its nuclear ambitions
, ANYA LITVAK, Post Gazette, 7 Feb 22, Over the past few months, Joel Eaker, Westinghouse Electric Co.’s vice president for new nuclear power plant projects, has been shaking hands and posing for pictures all over Eastern Europe.

He was in Poland last month, where he plans to move in the spring. A week before that, he was in the Czech Republic to announce agreements signed with local companies in Cranberry-based Westinghouse’s bid to sell its AP1000 reactors in the region.

The nuclear renaissance never happened in the United States. But Mr. Eaker thinks Europe is headed in that direction.

The long game

The nuclear business is a long game with fits and starts.

For more than two decades, Westinghouse has been seemingly on the cusp of selling new nuclear reactors to various Eastern European countries ………….

All along, Westinghouse was pursuing a parallel strategy: making fuel that could be used in existing Russian-made reactors that are scattered across Europe.

…… Westinghouse  could provide an alternate supply of fuel, which effectively delinks those countries from Russia.”

After some attempts loading the fuel in Russian-made reactors at Temelin in the Czech Republic, it was Ukraine that allowed Westinghouse to test and refine its fuel assemblies in Russian reactors.

Today, the U.S. company’s fuel is loaded into nearly half of Ukraine’s nuclear plants, and Westinghouse is trying to use those bona fides to sell fuel to existing Russian-style reactors in Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, Tarik Choho, president of Westinghouse’s Europe, the Middle East and Africa division, told Ukraine’s news service in August.

Mr. Eaker said Westinghouse’s pursuit of that market was both earnest and strategic.

The company’s bread-and-butter business is supplying fuel to and servicing existing reactors. It’s what made Westinghouse, then in bankruptcy, attractive to the Canadian asset management firm Brookfield Business Partners, which has owned it since 2018.

It’s difficult to predict if this recent burst of nuclear promise in Eastern Europe will yield actual new reactor projects, Ms. Harrington said.

…………  In 2014, when the continued existence of the U.S.’s Export-Import Bank became a topic of debate in Congress, Westinghouse’s then-CEO Danny Roderick said the first thing he was asked when pitching a new plant to clients in places like Central Europe is how much the U.S. government is willing to help financially.

………. Pierre Paul Oneid, the chief nuclear officer at Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company that specializes in decommissioning and nuclear fuel storage. Holtec, Mr. Oneid said, had been working for a decade to close a deal for a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Ukraine, which would not be possible without financing from the U.S. government.

……..  While Mr. Oneid said the deal was in the “eleventh hour,” in fact it took three more years to finalize. U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. announced in 2017 that it was providing $250 million in political risk insurance to the Ukrainian utility. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch would then sell that $250 million commitment in the form of fixed-rate bond securities.

It was the first such deal of its type, but probably not the last.

Show me the money

If there’s another major piece, other than climate change, that’s opening doors for Westinghouse in Eastern Europe, it’s the prospect of the U.S. government’s expanded role in financing nuclear projects, Mr. Eaker said.

In 2019, then-President Donald Trump created the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group………. Among its recommendations was for the U.S. Development Finance Corp., a newly-created vehicle to fund projects in low-income countries, to lift its ban on providing funds to nuclear projects. 

The development agency listened and, in the summer of 2020, it unshackled itself from the ban, which was a holdover from its predecessor and modeled on the language of the World Bank. The DFC can even provide financing to projects in higher-income countries in Eastern Europe as part of its charge under the The European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019.

This means the U.S. government can now offer equity financing for nuclear projects abroad, a first. It can also give larger loans and loan guarantees than what is typically handled by the Export-Import Bank, and it can offer political risk insurance.

This is the next step in Westinghouse’s advances in Eastern Europe. Once it finishes doing a $10 million front end engineering and design study for AP1000 reactors in Poland — the U.S. government funded 70% of that work as part of an intergovernmental agreement — then it hopes to submit a formal bid along with a U.S. government financing proposal this fall.

In Ukraine, Westinghouse has already signed contracts with the electric utility to start ordering long-lead equipment and doing other preparations, but the contracts won’t be fully implemented until the U.S. comes with the financing package.

Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com.   https://www.post-gazette.com/business/powersource/2022/02/07/Russia-Ukraine-Westinghouse-Electric-nuclear-AP1000-reactors-climate-change-energy-eastern-europe/stories/202201300126

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

February 7 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion:  ¶ “Is California Becoming Anti-Solar?” • Is California becoming an anti-solar state? It sure seems that way considering its recent desire to start charging homeowners with solar $8 per kW. The state’s utility commission also wants to cut its rooftop solar energy incentives after many years of success. There has been a tremendous backlash. […]

February 7 Energy News — geoharvey

February 8, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment