Australian news, and some related international items

February 24 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “How New York’s Utilities Are Spreading Disinformation About Renewable Energy” • Worried about the climate crisis? Live in Brooklyn, Long Island, or Upstate? If so, your gas bill is paying for anti-climate disinformation. Nearly all of New York’s gas utilities are working to defeat our state’s nation-leading climate law, the 2019 Climate Act. […]

February 24 Energy News — geoharvey

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s top 11 Environmental Organisations – Submission to Senate – Nuclear power has no role to play in Australia’s energy future.

Submission No. 14 Combined Environmental Organisations: Friends of the Earth Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Wilderness Society, Conservation Council of WA, Conservation SA, Nature Conservation Council (NSW), Environment Victoria, Queensland Conservation Council, Environment Centre NT and Environs Kimberley (PDF 1470 KB) 

Our groups maintain that federal and state legal prohibitions against the construction of nuclear power reactors have served Australia well. We strongly support the retention of these prudent, long-standing protections.

Proponents of the Environment and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear Energy Prohibitions) Bill 2022 (The Bill) are seeking to remove these prohibitions, claiming this is needed to address climate change. However nuclear power is – at best ‒ a distraction to effective climate action.

It is important to note that promoters of nuclear power in Australia are not suggesting we build the nuclear technology that currently exists in the commercial world. The reactors that exist today are increasingly seen as a high cost and high-risk way to make electricity. They are also directly linked to high-level radioactive waste and nuclear security, weapons and terrorism concerns.

Nuclear promoters are staking their hopes – and Australia’s energy future – on technology which is uncertain and unproven. At the time of the 2021 Glasgow COP26, the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Climate Change Selwin Hart stated that nations seeking to base their climate response on technologies that have not yet been developed are “reckless and irresponsible.”1
The good news about the renewed nuclear discussion is that it highlights that business as usual with fossil fuels is not an option. The bad news is the very real risk of delay, distraction and a failure to advance a just energy transition.

In response to the 2019 federal inquiry by the Standing Committee on Environment and Energy into the pre-requisites for nuclear power, over 60 Australian organisations representing millions of Australians, and including trade unions, Indigenous, environment, health, faith and peace groups, signed a joint statement opposing nuclear power:

“Our nation faces urgent energy challenges. Against a backdrop of increasing climate impacts and scientific evidence the need for a clean and renewable energy transition is clear and irrefutable. All levels of government need to actively facilitate and manage Australia’s accelerated transition from reliance on fossil fuels to low carbon electricity generation.
The transition to clean, safe, renewable energy should also re-power the national economy. The development and commercialisation of manufacturing, infrastructure and new energy thinking is already generating employment an
d opportunity. This should be grown to provide skilled and sustainable jobs and economic activity, particularly in regional Australia.
There should be no debate about the need for this energy transition, or that it is already occurring. However, choices and decisions are needed to make sure that the transition best meets the interests of workers, affected communities and the broader Australian society.

Against this context the federal government has initiated an Inquiry into whether domestic nuclear power has a role in this necessary energy transition. Our organisations, representing a diverse cross section of the Australian community, strongly maintain that nuclear power has no role to play in Australia’s energy future.
Nuclear power is a dangerous distraction from real movement on the pressing energy decisions and climate actions we need. We maintain this for a range of factors, including:

Waste: Nuclear reactors produce long-lived radioactive wastes that pose a direct human and environmental threat for many thousands of years and impose a profound inter-generational burden. Radioactive waste management is costly, complex, contested and unresolved, globally and in the current Australian context. Nuclear power cannot be considered a clean source of energy given its intractable legacy of nuclear waste.

Water: Nuclear power is a thirsty industry that consumes large volumes of water, from uranium mining and processing through to reactor cooling. Australia is a dry nation where water is an important resource and supply is often uncertain.

Time: Nuclear power is a slow response to a pressing problem. Nuclear reactors are slow to build and license. Globally, reactors routinely take ten years or more to construct and time over-runs are common. Construction and commercialisation of nuclear reactors in Australia would be further delayed by the lack of nuclear engineers, a specialised workforce, and a licensing, regulatory and insurance framework.

Cost: Nuclear power is highly capital intensive and a very expensive way to produce electricity. The 2016 South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission concluded nuclear power was not economically viable. The controversial Hinkley reactors being constructed in the UK will cost more than $35 billion and lock in high cost power for consumers for decades. Cost estimates of other reactors under construction in Europe and the US range from $17 billion upwards and all are many billions of dollars over-budget and many years behind schedule. Renewable energy is simply the cheapest form of new generation electricity as the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator concluded in their December 2018 report.

Security: Nuclear power plants have been described as pre-deployed terrorist targets and pose a major security threat. This in turn would likely see an increase in policing and security operations and costs and a commensurate impact on civil liberties and public access to information. Other nations in our region may view Australian nuclear aspirations with suspicion and concern given that many aspects of the technology and knowledge base are the same as those required for nuclear weapons. On many levels nuclear is a power source that undermines confidence.

Inflexible or unproven: Existing nuclear reactors are highly centralised and inflexible generators of electricity. They lack capacity to respond to changes in demand and usage, are slow to deploy and not well suited to modern energy grids or markets. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are not in commercial production or use and remain unproven and uncertain. This is no basis for a national energy policy.

Safety: All human made systems fail. When nuclear power fails it does so on a massive scale. The human, environmental and economic costs of nuclear accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima have been massive and continue. Decommissioning and cleaning up old reactors and nuclear sites, even in the absence of any accidents, is technically challenging and very costly.

Unlawful and unpopular: Nuclear power and nuclear reactors are prohibited under existing federal, state and territory laws. The nuclear sector is highly contested and does not enjoy broad political, stakeholder or community support. A 2015 IPSOS poll found that support among Australians for solar power (78‒87%) and wind power (72%) is far higher than support for coal (23%) and nuclear (26%).

Disproportionate impacts: The nuclear industry has a history of adverse impacts on Aboriginal communities, lands and waters. This began in the 1950s with British atomic testing and continues today with uranium mining and proposed nuclear waste dumps. These problems would be magnified if Australia ever advanced domestic nuclear power.

Better alternatives: If Australia’s energy future was solely a choice between coal and nuclear then a nuclear debate would be needed. But it is not. Our nation has extensive renewable energy options and resources and Australians have shown clear support for increased use of renewable and genuinely clean energy sources.

The path ahead: Australia can do better than fuel higher carbon emissions and unnecessary radioactive risk. We need to embrace the fastest growing global energy sector and become a driver of clean energy thinking and technology and a world leader in renewable energy technology.
We can grow the jobs of the future here today. This will provide a just transition for energy sector workers, their families and communities and the certainty to ensure vibrant regional economies and secure sustainable and skilled jobs into the future.
Renewable energy is affordable, low risk, clean and popular. Nuclear is simply not. Our shared energy future is renewable, not radioactive.”……………………………………………………………………

Australia cannot afford to lose more time on energy ‘culture-wars’ or on the false promise of unproven and non-commercial technology.

The former Chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Professor Allison Macfarlane, provided a further reality check in 2021 stating, “when it comes to averting the imminent effects of climate change, even the cutting edge of nuclear technology will prove to be too little, too late.”9

Wishful thinking is no substitute for real world evidence and action, or for effective climate action.

Renewable energy exists in the real world and this is the crucial decade when real climate action is urgently needed to make the required transition to a low carbon future.

It is our considered view that the pursuit of nuclear power would delay and undermine efforts to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions and address the challenges and opportunities of climate change.

Our shared energy future is renewable, not radioactive.

Our groups call on the Committee to support effective climate action by recommending against the proposed Bill and reaffirming support for the existing and prudent federal nuclear prohibitions.

{This lengthy submission goes on to provide more detail on the topics mentioned above, and on economics, small nuclear reactors and other “advanced nuclear technologies, waste problems, security and weapons prolifertaio risks. ] more

February 24, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Environment House – Submission to Senate – Nuclear power unwanted, will delay climate action, is expensive and dangerous

Submission No 12.Australia needs effective climate action. Any action to introduce nuclear power would slow
the transition to a low-carbon economy. It would increase electricity costs and unnecessarily
introduce the challenges and risks associated with high-level nuclear waste management
and the potential for catastrophic accidents, with profound intergenerational implications
for Australians.

Nuclear is also the most expensive energy option. Since 2010, the cost of wind and solar PV
has decreased by 70‒90% while nuclear costs have increased by 33%. Nuclear power is the
one energy source with a ‘negative learning curve’ ‒ it has become more expensive over
time, with profound intergenerational implications for Australians.

We have better options to generate energy. The increasing take up rate for the installation
of solar PV systems in Australia on homes and businesses already shows that renewable
energies have the capacity to contribute significantly to energy generation and these are
very popular with the Australian people.

Introducing nuclear power is a slow process. It can take decades to build. Also, nuclear is
dangerous. Either through human error, disaster, or as a military target the catastrophic
consequences of a nuclear disaster would permanently pollute.

Most importantly, there is no proven solution for managing high-level nuclear waste
produced in power reactors.

Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to threats which are being exacerbated by climate
change. These include dwindling and warming water sources, sea-level rise, storm damage,
drought, and jelly-fish swarms.

Nuclear is unwanted by the general public. There is long standing popular opposition to
nuclear power in Australia because of the issues above as well as the unsolved problem of
nuclear waste and the link to nuclear weapons.

Alternatives like renewables, storage and energy efficiency are faster, cheaper and easier to
deploy and enjoy much more public support.

Nuclear power could not in any way facilitate Australia’s energy transition ‒ it could only
delay the transition and make it more expensive and contentious. Nuclear power would
unnecessarily introduce risks of catastrophic nuclear accidents and military or terrorist
attacks. It would inevitably bequeath future generations with streams of high-,
intermediate- and low-level nuclear waste.

We urge all politicians and political parties to focus on the transition to a low-carbon
economy and to reject nuclear power because it is too slow, too expensive and too
dangerous. Instead, we need to hasten the transition to a low-carbon economy with a focus
on renewable energies.
Jo Bower

February 24, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Friends of the Earth Adelaide – Submission to Senate – nuclear power an unrealistic distraction

Submission no 9 to the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
We are responding to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee’s inquiry
into the “Environment and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear Energy
Prohibitions) Bill 2022”.

The purpose of the Bill is to remove Australia’s ban on nuclear power. Although superficially
such an amendment might seem innocuous, because it would not in itself lead automatically or
inevitably to the construction of nuclear power plants, in fact it would be pernicious for the
following reasons:

1) It would divert attention from the immediate need for an urgent response to climate change.
Even if a decision was made today to introduce nuclear energy to Australia, not a single kilowatthour
of electricity would be generated from nuclear reactors for over a decade. But the climate
cannot wait that long. Fortunately, there are proven and realistic alternatives that can be acquired
much sooner and much more cheaply, especially in a country as rich in renewable energy
potential as Australia.

2) It would mislead the public into thinking that nuclear energy might be a realistic alternative for
Australia. Viewed objectively, both the historical record and the current status of nuclear power
demonstrate that nuclear energy is neither reliable, cost effective, nor fit for purpose in the
Australian context. If there is any argument for the use of nuclear power, it only applies to
countries which already have nuclear power plants and which need to make a decision about
whether or not to continue operating existing plants. In that case, given that the upfront cost of
existing plants has already been sunk, there may be an argument for continuing their operation
while shifting to a 100% renewables-based zero emissions energy system. However, constructing
new plants just diverts investment from cleaner and more cost-effective alternatives.

Some people who promote nuclear power are sincere, but misinformed or deluded. Others are
quite cynical. There are those who recognise that by promoting nuclear power they can serve
their own interests by delaying the energy transformation and prolonging an energy system which
is based on large-scale centralised generation and the use of fossil fuels. Then there are those who
promote nuclear energy to give them a point of strategic difference with their political opponents.
They are looking for another angle on the climate wars that have blighted the energy policy
landscape for over a decade.

Australia cannot afford to give credence to naïve or cynical arguments in favour of nuclear
power. We must rapidly shift from an energy system based on fossil fuels to a system based on
renewable energy backed by various forms of storage (e.g. batteries and pumped hydro). This
requires governments, industry and the general public to be highly focused on real solutions. The
last thing we need is for vested interests and nuclear true believers to muddy the waters with
fanciful talk of nuclear power.
The best way to send a clear message to industry and the community that Australia’s future lies in
renewable not nuclear energy is to maintain the ban on nuclear power.
See the notes and references listed below for background and supporting argument.
Philip White
Friends of the Earth Adelaide

Notes and References

  1. Nuclear energy is too expensive and will come too late………………………….
  2. Nuclear energy is a barrier to renewable energy……………….
  3. There are realistic alternatives………………..
  4. A few persistent myths
    4.1 Baseload Power
    ‘Baseload power’ is an outdated notion promulgated by nuclear and fossil fuel apologists in order
    to mislead policy makers and the general public………….. 4.2 Lessons of the war in Ukraine………… 4.3 All the other problems with nuclear energy still apply..Nuclear energy generates waste that must be isolated for millennia………… more

February 24, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment