Australian news, and some related international items

Marrickville Peace Group (MPG) calls for keeping Australia’s nuclear bans, and particularly emphasises the nuclear waste problem

In brief , the pro nuclear power lobby presents a trouble free new generation front which assumes
just as trouble free social licence. This presentation flies in the face of proven historical fact.

Submission No. 21. to Senate Inquiry This submission argues that the current climate crisis creates an urgent need forAustralia to source its energy from renewable and not nuclear technology. Nuclear energy supply is
deeply flawed when examined wholistically. The safe long term disposal of nuclear waste (HLW)
issue is one to which no country in the world has a satisfactory answer to. It is an issue that will not
go away. The lack of wholistic social licence for nuclear waste disposal renders Australia in an
untenable position both internally and externally/internationally.

I write as a member of Marrickville Peace Group (MPG), situated in the Inner West of Sydney,
Federal Electorate of Grayndler. MPG learns with alarm of the attempt by the LNP to repeat a
pattern, not unknown of the LNP , of setting aside good legislation in order to return Australia to less
enlightened times. MPG objects most strenuously to the move to expand the viability of its current
nuclear technology to cater to the nuclear power industry. . The Private Senators Bill: Environment
and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear Energy Prohibitions) Bill 2022) was put
forward by 9 Coalition Senators who have been incentivized by the government signing on to buy
nuclear-powered submarines (according to Senator Matt Canavan.). This promotion of things
nuclear to collateral expansion is arguably one of the more pernicious aspects of the AUKUS deal.

The world is in the grip of a climate crisis, the result of using carbon rich fossil fuels, once though to
be a great boon, as a source of energy. Gradually, since 1896 in fact, when scientist Svante Arrenius
first predicted the greenhouse effect, the world has come to know that climate change is real. Thus
the way we have sourced our energy has brought us to an environmental crisis. The irony is that
nuclear is proposed as counter to the environmental crisis brought about by fossil fuels, when the
disposal of High Level Waste (HLW) is itself a harbinger of deadly waste disposal issues. There is no
proven solution for managing high-level nuclear waste produced in power reactors. No operating
deep underground repository for high-level nuclear waste exists. MPG maintains that the
introduction of nuclear energy into its power mix is a case of replacing one environmental crisis with
another. (Don’t Nuke the Climate Submission Guide)………………………………………………………

The proposal to introduce nuclear power is a long term (and a very costly) project : the average time
to establish a nuclear power station, from planning to operational stage, is between fifteen and
twenty years.. It is not without good reasons that there is an increasing call for the power future to
be renewable and not nuclear.

There is more to the objection to nuclear power than simply the establishment timeframe. | Don’t
nuke the Climate! )

The Glasgow Statement (COP26 2021, signed by 479 international organisations , lists a cluster of
many defective factors associated with nuclear based on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) report. The primary summary statement “We need an urgent global shift to
clean and renewable energy and national governments need to actively facilitate and manage the
transition from reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear to renewable energy”.

A summary of criticisms of the nuclear power option include:

  • The nuclear industry has a history of displacing, disrupting and damaging the health and
    rights of workers and communities:
  • It diverts resources away from renewable energy technology;
  • Nuclear is slow, expensive and dangerous.
  • It is not carbon neutral-almost every stage of the nuclear chain requires additional nonnuclear
    energy inputs. And
  • It poses unique security and waste management risks.
  • Nuclear power is unsustainable . Nuclear power relies on uranium mining. Like coal mining
    this causes adverse environmental impacts and puts workers and communities at risk. It is a
    thirsty industry that consumes large volumes of precious water, from uranium mining and
    processing through to reactor cooling. Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to threats that
    are being exacerbated by climate impacts, including dwindling and warming water sources,
    sea-level rise, drought, jelly-fish swarms and increasing storm severity
  • It is expensive. Nuclear power is now one of the most capital intensive and expensive ways
    to produce electricity and costs continue to rise. (including establishment and decommission
  • Climate threats :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 engineer David Lochbaum states: “You
    need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive “
  • Nuclear is increasingly vulnerable security risks. – witness current events at the Zaporizhzhia
    power plant in Ukraine.

In Australia, the saga of nuclear waste disposal is long and unsatisfactory. It is characterized by a
high level of dysfunctionality……………………………………………….

THE REALITY OF EXTERNAL INTERESTS was dramatically revealed in the late 90’s when a closely
guarded secret in the form of a consortium Pangea Resources (80% owned by British Nuclear Fuels
Limited (BNFL) had been conducting research and discussions about establishing an international
high-level nuclear waste repository in Australia. A corporate video was leaked to Friends of the Earth
(UK) in the late 1990s. Until this video was leaked, Australians had no idea that we were being
targeted as the world’s nuclear dump. ……………………………………………..

The Friends of the Earth Australia site reveals also there is a list of very prominent politicians / expoliticians
supporting the development of a high level nuclear waste dump in Australia to take waste
from overseas include: Liberal Senator Judith Troeth called for Australia to build nuclear power
reactors and for the high-level waste to be dumped at Muckaty in the NT; former Prime Minister
Bob Hawke ;former foreign minister Alexander Downer; former foreign minister Gareth Evans .
Liberal/National Coalition Senators refused to support a Senate motion opposing an international
nuclear dump in May 2006. In 2005 Martin Ferguson responded to Bob Hawke’s call for Australia to
establish a high level waste dump by saying: “In scientific terms Bob Hawke is right. Australia
internationally could be regarded as a good place to actually bury it deep in the ground”.


The Minerals Council (TMC) is clearly supportive of the return to nuclear proposal : Removing the
Prohibition on Nuclear Power.

What is interesting is the selectivity of the MC’s arguments, which are summarised below :
Nuclear energy is zero emissions baseload energy. Fact check : nuclear reactors do not produce air
pollution or carbon dioxide while operating BUT : When it comes to nuclear, uranium extraction,
transport and processing produces emissions. The long and complex construction process of nuclear
power plants also releases CO2, as does the demolition of decommissioned sites.

Nuclear power is affordable ; Fact check The cost of wind and solar PV has decreased by 70-90 %
while nuclear costs have increased by 33%. (Don’t Nuke the Climate Submission guide. Op.cit.)

Nuclear power is safe, Fact check : For whom is it safe ? Of all the claims of the Nuclear lobby, this
surely is the hardest to sell .

Furthermore some aspects of this claim e.g. The risk of accidents in nuclear power plants is low and
declining. The consequences of an accident or terrorist attack are minimal. It is remarkable that the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says exactly the opposite: “Nuclear power plants
have been described as pre-deployed terrorist targets and pose a major security threat.”

Further, in referring to the “well publicized accidents” the Minerals Council deftly highlights “no
radiation fatalities” of two of the three. In the public mind it surely would loom large that there re
huge consequences to nuclear accidents, of which, as of 2014, there have been over 100 serious
nuclear accidents..the definition of which is : “an event that has led to significant consequences to
people, the environment or the facility. Examples include lethal effects to individuals, large
radioactivity release to the environment, reactor core melt.

TMC has a sales pitch which minimizes to the point of denial.
Nuclear power produces low waste : Fact check :This is a strangely deceptive claim. The “low” refers
merely to volume, NOT TO TOXICITY. The half Life of Plutonium is 24,000 years and of Uranium 238
is 4.5 billion years As argued above in some detail, Nuclear power produces High Level Waste (HLW)
which the world simply does not know, in real terms, how to deal with. Australia has no facility for
HLW. Reprocessing is in line to become a congested international waiting line. Given the possibility
of a wrong turn politically, Australia is a prime target for HLW dumping. The Removing Nuclear
Energy Prohibition Bill is an invitation to the world to focus on Australia as a nuclear waste dump…………

In brief , the pro nuclear power lobby presents a trouble free new generation front which assumes
just as trouble free social licence. This presentation flies in the face of proven historical fact.

February 25, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

The Independent Peaceful Australian Network (IPAN) rejects proposed changes to laws prohibiting nuclear power.

Recommendation 1
Reject the proposed amendments to bills
The Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications maintain the status quo in relation to
the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 and the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Recommendation 2
Threat priorities
The Australian Government should prioritise as a matter of urgency:
(a) The two existential threats of climate change and nuclear war, and we support joining the Treaty on
the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Prioritising climate change would necessitate a re-orientation of
the role of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Recommendation 3
Nuclear energy
The Australian Government should legislate the use of warships or submarines that only use a non-nuclear
energy source.

Submission No.17. The Independent Peaceful Australian Network (IPAN) Public Submission to the Inquiry into Environment andOther Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear Energy Prohibitions) Bill 2022

About IPAN
IPAN is a national umbrella organisation of community, peace, faith and environmental groups and trade
unions around Australia with an interest in peace and security. IPAN aims to build public dialogue and pressure
for change to a truly independent foreign policy for Australia – one in which our government plays a positive
role in solving international conflicts peacefully.

The announcement of the Inquiry into Environment and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear
Energy Prohibitions) Bill 2022 comes at a very critical time for our country.

IPAN feels very strongly about providing a contribution to this inquiry and seeks to make comments on the
proposal to both amend the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 to remove the
prohibition on the construction or operation of certain nuclear installations; and to amend the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to remove the prohibition on the Minister for Environment
and Water declaring, approving or considering actions relating to the construction or operation of certain
nuclear installations. These Acts currently expressly prohibit the approval, licensing, construction, or operation
of a nuclear fuel fabrication plant; a nuclear power plant; an enrichment plant; or a reprocessing facility.

Australia currently faces rapidly changing strategic circumstances, global instability and planetary threats to
human security. This set of interlinking challenges, among others, requires an urgent and holistic response
from the Australian government.

Recognising the circumstances outlined above, in 2020 IPAN initiated its own national public inquiry to ‘Explore
the Case for an Independent and Peaceful Australia’ (the People’s Inquiry) so as to determine a path that would
lead Australia towards a genuinely independent, peaceful and secure defence and foreign policy.
IPAN led ‘People’s Inquiry: Exploring the Case for an Independent and Peaceful Australia’

The People’s Inquiry comprehensively questioned the foundations and assumptions underpinning the
cornerstone of Australia’s security – the Australia-US Alliance – across several impact areas: military and
defence, foreign policy, First Nations peoples, politics, society, workers, economy, and the environment.

The People’s Inquiry received 283 submissions from individuals and organisations across the country. An
interim report was released in October 2021 and the full report was released on 22 November 2022.

IPAN’s submission to this current inquiry draws, in part, on the findings and recommendations of the People’s
Inquiry, specifically those related to the area of impact on First Nation’s people, military and defence, foreign
policy and the environment. In particular, some submissions focused directly on issues surrounding nuclear
energy including concerns around storage of nuclear waste and consultation around land use (IPAN 2022a.
For a full copy of the Inquiry Report go to

IPAN’S interest in matters related to nuclear energy, nuclear installations and nuclear weapons

IPAN has had a longstanding concern about nuclear issues, as a network of organisations and individuals
motivated by the desire to see peaceful resolutions to international conflicts and greatly concerned that our
world never sees a nuclear bomb dropped again – in particular such as the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki in 1945, leading to the immediate and subsequent deaths of over two hundred thousand people.

To this end, IPAN (and many member organisations and individual members) has been a very strong supporter
of the international Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) regarding the adoption of a UN treaty to
prohibit nuclear weapons – i.e. the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

IPAN has been heartened by the positive steps that have been taken by the new Federal government, in
attending the first Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in Vienna in June and ending Australia’s opposition tothe treaty by abstaining on a resolution at the UN First Committee after the previous government’s practice of voting ‘No’

Proposed Amendments to Federal Legislation
IPAN is concerned about the proposals in the bill to amend the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear
Safety Act 1998 to remove the prohibition on the construction or operation of certain nuclear installations;
and in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to remove the prohibition on the
Minister for Environment and Water declaring, approving or considering actions relating to the construction or
operation of certain nuclear installations.

IPAN’ broad concerns with the use of nuclear power
First and foremost, IPAN believes that radiation is dangerous to people and the environment and that it is
critical to reduce human exposure to it. In addition, IPAN believes that the adoption of nuclear power in
Australia would increase electricity costs, slow the transition to a low-carbon economy and introduce the
potential for catastrophic accidents.

IPAN is also concerned about the water resources required for the production of nuclear energy, with huge
volumes required for the production of nuclear energy. We are also concerned about the contentious issue of
where to store nuclear waste, given the associated long-term risks of storage.

This submission therefore makes a number of key points in relation to the proposed amendments to the two
acts – which if adopted would remove the blanket prohibition on the construction or operation of certain
nuclear facilities. IPAN believes that the current blanket prohibition acts as a very important safeguard against
the risks and dangers associated with the nuclear industry – and that to remove this blanket prohibition would
be to the detriment of the Australian community, the environment and the Australian ecosystem.

Factors for the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications to consider in its
decision regarding the proposed amendments

1 The dangers of radiation and risks of human exposure …………………………………………………….

2. Lack of compliance in the uranium mining industry.…………………………………………………….

3 The links between nuclear technology and military nuclear technology’

IPAN is in particular concerned with the links between civil nuclear technology and military nuclear technology.
The ACF have highlighted that uranium is a “dual use fuel and nuclear is a dual use technology – it can power a reactor or a weapon” and they have described how the current conflict in Ukraine has seen “the weaponization of nuclear facilities and the threat of an uncontrolled radiation release”, even if the Russian army does not use its nuclear weapons (ACF 2022a, p.1 cited in IPAN, 2022, p. 71).

The development of nuclear energy could be seen as a slippery slope to the eventual development of nuclearpowered weapons and even nuclear weapons themselves. It is important to recognise that nuclear power
programs have provided cover for numerous weapons programs over many years. An expansion of nuclear
power would simply worsen the situation……………………

Nuclear reactors are pre-deployed military or terrorist targets. The current situation in Ukraine illustrates the

The current ban on nuclear energy in Australia provides a very important safeguard to avoid any chance of the
eventual development of nuclear-powered weapons and even nuclear weapons themselves. We must continue
this ban…………………………………………………………

4 The Costs of Nuclear Power

As pointed out in the second reading speech (by Senator Matt Canavan) of the ‘Environment and Other
Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear Energy Prohibitions) Bill 2022 Wednesday, 28 September 2022, the building of a nuclear plant requires high capital costs and long construction times. While the Senator also
argues that nuclear plants have relatively low operating costs – other factors must be considered, such as the
cost of rehabilitation of mines and the cost of storage of nuclear waste, as well as the many risks involved………………………………………………

5. The Costs of nuclear energy vs renewable energy sources

IPAN believes that it is important to address a number of the claims made by Senator Canavan in the Second
reading Speech (Australian Parliament 2022), for example where he asserted that “The relative costs of nuclear
compare well to renewable energy. Between 1965 and 2018 the world spent $2 trillion on nuclear compared to $2.3 trillion for solar and wind, yet nuclear today produces around double the electricity than that of solar and
wind.” He also added that costs may reduce soon.

As figures from Lazard Asset Investment (2021) in their annual Levelized Cost of Energy, Levelized Cost of
Storage, and Levelized Cost of Hydrogen Report showed, the cost of nuclear energy is far greater than that of
renewables, as per the following table. [ on original]

The costs of renewable technologies continue to decline globally, albeit at a slowing pace, reflecting reductions
in capital costs, increased competition as the sector continues to mature and continued improvements in scale
and technology. “Since 2010, the cost of energy has dropped by 82% for photovoltaic solar, by 47% for
concentrated solar energy (CSP), by 39% for onshore wind and by 29% for wind offshore.”

Unlike the costs of wind and solar, the cost of nuclear power has actually risen over time, since 2008, the
“projected cost of new nuclear power has risen by fourfold…and it is still rising”.

These figures are backed up by recent research from CSIRO and the national energy market operator (the
Australia Energy Market Operator (AEMO), with the 2022 CSIRO-AEMO GenCost report also showing that
nuclear power is simply not competitive with renewables, with 2030 cost estimates for Australia as follows

  • A$136-326/MWh for Nuclear (small modular):
  • A$61-82/MWh for 90 percent wind and solar PV with integration costs (transmission, storage and
    synchronous condensers) necessary to allow these variable renewables to provide 90 percent of electricity in
    the National Electricity Market. (CSIOR/AEMO, 2022).

IPAN believes that there is simply no economic case for nuclear power in Australia.

Senator Canavan also referred to the trials of Small Modular Reactors that are happening in a range of
countries currently and that “if they become a commercial prospect, their modular nature may deliver
substantial cost savings through mass production”.

The ACF/ICAN have made the very clear point that SMRs however are unproven and do not actually make
electricity in the real world, and further to this, the US Academy of Science in 2018 stated that “several
hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies would be needed to support their development and
deployment over the next several decades” (cited in ACF/ICAN 2022)……………………………………………………

6 Environmental Impacts
Urgent and Effective Action required.

The chaotic climate events that have punished Australia in recent years demand urgent and effective action.That urgency disqualifies the most expensive and slowest response (as outlined immediately above). In thisway, expense is not simply a consideration for investors. In addition, the imperative to better manage climate change is a strong argument against nuclear power

Storage of Nuclear Waste
IPAN is concerned that despite years of debate and attempted negotiations around the storage of nuclear
waste, it is now 2023 and there is still no agreement on a proven solution to manage or isolate and dispose of
high-level radioactive waste that has been produced in power reactors. Currently there is not one single
operating deep underground repository for high-level nuclear waste across the world……………………………


Another very significant factor is the extreme reluctance on the part of communities earmarked as a site or
potential site for nuclear waste. There are clear issues of racism in the choice of nuclear waste dump sites.

A pertinent point is made by Native American activist, Winona LaDuke,
The greatest minds in the nuclear establishment have been searching for an answer to the radioactive
waste problem for fifty years, and they’ve finally got one: haul it down a dirt road and dump it on an
Indian reservation.

Three years of electricity in a reactor leaves a legacy of 100,000 years of waste – a massive inter-generational
burden, which represents a “Poor risk to return ratio” and damage to the environment for hundreds of
thousands of years……………………………………………….

Water resources required
There are also significant issues around the water resources required for the production of nuclear energy, with
a huge volume of precious and at times scarce water resources required on an ongoing basis for the production
of nuclear energy. As an example from Australia, the Mulga Rock uranium project (200 kms east of Kalgoorlie – near the Queen Victoria nature reserve in the Great Victoria Desert), one of four proposed uranium
mines given approval by WA’s former Liberal-National government Environmental approvals, would see the
“extraction of 15 million litres of water per day, would create 32 million tonnes of tailings, threatens vulnerable species including the Sandhill Dunnart” (ACF/ICAN 2022)…………………………………………………….

Australia’s current independent stance in banning nuclear energy

AS rightly pointed out, by Senator Canavan in the Second Reading Speech, Australia is “the only developed
country, only G20 country in the world that actually bans nuclear energy (which has been in effect since the 10
December 1999 decision of Federal Parliament Australia is also one of only three countries within the 20
richest nations in the world to not have nuclear energy………………….. this must be a cause of celebration, not derision. IPAN feels that it is disingenuous of Senator Canavan to refer to Australia’s “status as a nuclear outcast”. While Senator Canavan highlights the fact
that “Australia has the largest reserves of uranium in the world” – this is not a reason to develop nuclear
energy, for all of the reasons that IPAN is highlighting in this submission.

Decisions about investing in nuclear energy
IPAN has concerns about Senator Canavan’s assertion that “The potential for high costs is not a reason to ban
anyone building a power station” and that “Decisions about the relative profitability of different investments
should be left to the businesses making those decisions”. This is not how public policy works. There are a rangeof processes and provisions that must be worked through with any public policy decision, with environmental impact assessments being one such example. Decisions such as these cannot happen in a void or be left purelyto the market (usually subsidised, in the case of nuclear power).

It also seems rather bewildering that the Senator also makes the seemingly very obvious comment that
“Our environmental laws should focus on protecting Australia’s natural environment.”. The proposal to amend
the two Acts in question represents precisely the kind of scenario where environmental laws should come in to
play – to assess any negative impacts on the natural environment that would result from future use of nuclearenergy.

Previous Inquiries regarding nuclear energy in Australia
A number of recent and very recent inquiries are very relevant to the issues being examined in this current
inquiry. It is fair to say each of the three inquiries listed did not come out favourably for the nuclear industry.

The 2006 UMPNER was particularly comprehensive and very well resourced and contained a relatively high
proportion of people who were pro-nuclear – yet it concluded with a resounding, reluctant ‘no’.

10 Impact on First Nations peoples
First Nations’ peoples and their lands are especially impacted by the nuclear industry, both historically (sincethe UK nuclear bomb tests of the 1950s in outback South Australia) and presently.

11 Human rights issues

……………………………… There are clearly human rights implications whenever there is a proposal for the introduction or use of a substance or material that has the potential for catastrophic accidents and where there are inherent risks and challenges, such as those associated with the use of nuclear energy and high-level nuclear waste management. The exclusion of First Nations Peoples from their traditional lands used as the waste repository site represents a major denial of the human rights of those First Nations People.

12 Why Australia should sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)…………………………………………………………………………………..

IPAN submits the following recommendations to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Environment and Communications:

Recommendation 1
Reject the proposed amendments to bills
The Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications maintain the status quo in relation to
the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 and the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Recommendation 2
Threat priorities
The Australian Government should prioritise as a matter of urgency:
(a) The two existential threats of climate change and nuclear war, and we support joining the Treaty on
the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Prioritising climate change would necessitate a re-orientation of
the role of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Recommendation 3
Nuclear energy
The Australian Government should legislate the use of warships or submarines that only use a non-nuclear
energy source.

February 25, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Australian Defense Minister Attempts to Reassure Thailand Over Nuclear Subs

Defense Post 24 Feb 23, Australia’s defense minister aimed to reassure Thailand on Friday that plans to acquire a new fleet of nuclear submarines would enhance “collective security” in the region after neighboring countries voiced concerns.

The submarine issue came up during a visit to Manila earlier this week, Defense Minister Richard Marles told AFP in an interview, and was also on the agenda for Friday’s talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who is responsible for defense……………..

Malaysia and Indonesia have expressed concerns about the acquisition, warning against an arms race.

But Marles said Australia wanted to build a “sense of confidence” about the plan…………….

Marles said Friday that “acquiring a conventionally powered submarine is not going to form part of any solution.”

February 25, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Victoria sweetens deal on transmission build-out with promise of cash for landholders — RenewEconomy

Andrews government to pay additional yearly rate to landholders who host new transmission lines, in bid to smooth the race to renewables. The post Victoria sweetens deal on transmission build-out with promise of cash for landholders appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Victoria sweetens deal on transmission build-out with promise of cash for landholders — RenewEconomy

February 25, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Big win for wind, solar and storage as ministers reject ESB on grid congestion — RenewEconomy

Energy ministers dump another controversial ESB proposal in big win for wind, solar and storage projects over grid congestion issues. The post Big win for wind, solar and storage as ministers reject ESB on grid congestion appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Big win for wind, solar and storage as ministers reject ESB on grid congestion — RenewEconomy

February 25, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No miracles needed’: Prof. Mark Jacobson on how much wind, sun and water can power the world

by Damian Carrington, Environmental Editor, The Guardian, January 23 2023

“Combustion is the problem – when you’re continuing to burn something, that’s not solving the problem,” says Prof Mark Jacobson.

The Stanford University academic has a compelling pitch: the world can rapidly get 100% of its energy from renewable sources with, as the title of his new book says, “no miracles needed”.

Wind, water and solar can provide plentiful and cheap power, he argues, ending the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis, slashing deadly air pollution and ensuring energy security. Carbon capture and storage, biofuels, new nuclear and other technologies are expensive wastes of time, he argues.

“Bill Gates said we have to put a lot of money into miracle technologies,” Jacobson says. “But we don’t – we have the technologies that we need. We have wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, electric cars. We have batteries, heat pumps, energy efficiency. We have 95% of the technologies right now that we need to solve the problem.” The missing 5% is for long-distance aircraft and ships, he says, for which hydrogen-powered fuel cells can be developed.

Jacobson’s claim is a big one. He is not just talking about a shift to 100% renewable electricity, but all energy – and fossil fuels still provide about 80% of that today. Jacobson has scores of academic papers to his name and his work has been influential in policies passed by cities, states and countries around the world targeting 100% green power. He is also controversial, not least for pursuing a $10m lawsuit against researchers who claimed his work was flawed, which he later dropped.

The evidence that proves he is right is collected in the new book, Jacobson says. Not only is a 100% renewables-powered world possible, it also promises much lower energy bills, he says. The first reason for that is that electrified vehicles, heating and industrial processes are far more efficient than those powered by fossil fuels, where much of the energy is wasted as heat.

Add in better-insulated buildings and ending the drilling and mining for the fossil fuels that consume about 11% of all energy, and you get 56% less energy use on average from 2035 to 2050, Jacobson says. Wind and solar energy are cheaper too, so average bills will fall 63%, he says.

Jacobson divides approaches to the energy transition into two camps: “One says we should just try everything – they’re the ‘all-of-the-above camp’ – and keep investing huge amounts of money in technologies that may or may not be available to work in 10 years. But 10 years is too late.” Carbon emissions must fall by 45% by 2030, scientists agree, to keep on track for no more than 1.5C of global heating.

His camp takes a different approach, Jacobson says: “Let’s focus on what we have and deploy as fast as possible. And we will improve those technologies just by deploying, bringing better solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles and so on. Some people just don’t realise the speed that we need to solve these problems, especially air pollution – 7 million people die every year. We can’t wait.”

However, there are major barriers to a rapid rollout of a 100% renewable energy system, he says: “The No 1 barrier is that most people are not aware that it’s possible. My job is trying to educate the public about it. If people are actually comfortable that it’s possible to do, then they might actually do it.”

He adds: “The policy of all-of-the-above is also a big barrier to a transition. In the US, for example, in the recent [climate legislation], a lot of money was spent on carbon capture, small modular nuclear reactors, biofuels, blue hydrogen. These are all what I consider almost useless, or very low-use, technologies in terms of solving the problems. And yet, a lot of money is spent on them. Why? Because there are big lobby groups.” Another barrier is funding the upfront costs of renewable energy in poorer countries – rich countries need to help, he says.

Jacobson believes progress towards a 100% renewable energy system can be fast: “The goal is 80% by 2030, and 100% by 2050. But, ideally, if we can get 80% by 2030, we should get 100% by 2035 to 2040.”

Solving the stability problem

A big concern about a world overwhelmingly reliant on electricity is maintaining the stability of grids powered by renewables. Where there are large amounts of hydropower from dams this is relatively easy – at least 10 countries already have 100% renewable grids. But in other places reliance on intermittent wind and solar is more challenging. The answer, says Jacobson, is energy storage, managing the demand, and connecting up renewables over wider areas to enable greater continuity of supply.

Storage can be batteries, pumped hydro, flywheels, compressed air and lowering and raising heavy weights. Jacobson thinks batteries will win, but says others could contribute if they can compete on cost. New research indicates that electric vehicle batteries alone could provide the short-term storage needed by global grids as early as 2030.

Jacobson also advocates heat storage for some buildings: “Storing heat in boreholes, aquifers or water pits is dirt cheap, excuse the pun. It’s less than $1 a kilowatt hour of storage.” Managing demand, by varying electricity prices with demand, is already growing fast, he says. When the renewables supply exceeds the demand, the electricity should be used to produce green hydrogen, he says, to power the fuel cells needed by energy-intensive users.

“Managing the grid is just an optimisation problem, not a rocket science problem,” he says. “I don’t want to say there’s zero problems, but usually these challenges are ironed out over time just by experience.”

Another criticism of a major renewables rollout is the mining required for the metals used. But Jacobson says such a rollout would in fact hugely reduce extraction from the earth by ending fossil fuel exploitation: “The total amount of mining that’s going to be needed for wind, water, solar, compared to [the] fossil fuel system, is much less than 1% in terms of the mass of materials.”

Jacobson is scathing about many nascent technologies being promoted as climate solutions. “Carbon capture and storage is solely designed to keep the fossil fuel industry in business,” he says. Only some of the CO2 is captured and buried, he says, and deadly air pollution continues unabated. Blue hydrogen, produced from fossil gas with some CO2 then captured and buried, is far inferior to green hydrogen produced directly from renewable electricity, Jacobson says: “Blue hydrogen is just really convoluted.”

New nuclear plants are too slow to build and too expensive compared with wind and solar, in Jacobson’s view: “You end up waiting 15 to 20 years longer, for a seven to eight times higher electricity price – it just makes no sense. Even if they improve [build times], say to 12 years, that’s still way too long. We have cheaper, faster, safer technologies. Why waste time?”

Biofuels are also dismissed by Jacobson: “The biofuels push was really not helpful. They hold constant, or increase, air pollution and they use a huge amount of land.”

He is a little more measured when it comes to direct air capture (DAC): technologies that can suck CO2 from the air for burial. It has no role today, he says, with spending on renewables far more cost effective in cutting emissions. But even when fossil fuel burning ends, many scientists have concluded that CO2 will have to be drawn from the air to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis. At that point, Jacobson says, the costs of DAC should be compared with other ways to sequester carbon and limit global heating, such as reforestation and cutting emissions of other more powerful greenhouse gases, including methane from livestock and nitrous oxide from fertilisers.

Supporters and critics

Jacobson’s book has attracted support from some experts. Prof Michael Mann, at the University of Pennsylvania, says the book “presents a comprehensive and detailed blueprint for the options we have right now to address the climate crisis”. Mann has said those insisting we lack the tools to decarbonise the economy today are wrong.

Prof Claudia Kemfert, at the German Institute for Economic Research, who has advised the German government and European Commission, says: “[The book] shows impressively that numerous crises can be killed with one stone, without us having to wait for miracles.”

But others are critical of a focus on only wind, water and solar. Prof Ken Caldeira, at the Carnegie Institution for Science in the US, says: “Having a broader set [of technologies] in the toolbox only makes it easier to solve problems. We will only use the tools that it makes sense to use in any particular circumstance, but maintaining and expanding our options is a good thing.

“The key question is not what is physically possible in an ideal world, but what is practically possible in the world as we know it,” he says.

Prof Rob Gross, the director of the UK Energy Research Centre, is somewhere in the middle of the debate: “I broadly agree that we can largely use existing technologies, but we will need to put those to new applications, such as using bulk stores of hydrogen in order to provide interseasonal storage.”

“Moonshot efforts to invent entirely new things are almost certainly a distraction,” he adds. “Jacobson is right that the principal need is to deploy what we have. He is wrong to the extent he makes this sound easy.”

Asked about the controversy around his work, Jacobson says: “Usually, the people against us don’t like the fact that we don’t include their technologies.” On the lawsuit over a critical paper, he says: “That was not a question of a scientific disagreement.” He claims it was an attempt to protect his reputation. He dropped the case in 2018.

Jacobson remains optimistic: “There is a technical and economic solution to the climate, air pollution and energy security problems we face. But we do have major challenges in trying to implement that solution. The challenges are getting the political willpower to focus on a narrow set of solutions that we can implement quickly. The vested interests are very much a problem because they are pushing this ‘all of the above’ approach.”

  • No Miracles Needed: How Today’s Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air by Mark Z Jacobson is published by Cambridge University Press on 2 February 2023.

February 25, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

China calls for Russia to not go down the ‘nuclear weapons route’

DFAT Australia China Council Scholar Andrew Phelan says that China has called for Russia to ‘leave nuclear power plants’ and not pursue the ‘nuclear weapons route’ in a 12-point peace plan released this afternoon.

“There are a couple of good things about it,” Mr Phelan told Sky News host Caleb Bond.

February 25, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Biden team has ‘deeply rooted hatred for Russia’ – US congressman

I know that Donald Trump is awful. And so is his Republican support team. Nevertheless, sometimes they say something sensible – something that needs to be said

Senior State Department officials Victoria Nuland and Antony Blinken are “dangerous fools,” Paul Gosar declared

Senior officials at the US State Department are attempting to get the country “involved in another world war” with Russia, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar tweeted on Friday. Gosar, Twitter CEO Elon Musk, and former president Donald Trump, have all named Victoria Nuland as the most dangerous among this group in recent days.

Responding to an RT article on Musk accusing Nuland of “pushing this war” in Ukraine, Gosar declared that the billionaire “is correct.”

“Both Nuland and Blinken have a deeply rooted irrational hatred of Russia, and they seek to get the US involved in another world war,” he continued. “These are dangerous fools who can get us all killed.”

In a follow-up tweet, Gosar wrote that “as a non-soldier, Nuland is quite willing to endorse violence and war.” The Republican lawmaker then quoted the article, which stated that Nuland had “endorsed regime change in Russia, celebrated the US’ destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines, and called for the indefinite flow of arms into Ukraine.”

As assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs in 2014, Nuland helped to orchestrate the pro-Western coup that unseated democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovich. Nuland traveled to Kiev and promised military aid to the rioters, and was recorded plotting to install a successor to Yanukovich.

As Biden’s secretary of state, Blinken has promised to keep weapons flowing into Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” and advised Kiev in December not to seek the kind of negotiated settlement that would liken to a “phony peace.”

Gosar has been a persistent critic of the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy since Russia’s military operation began a year ago on Friday. However, although the Republican Party now controls the House of Representatives, there is little the Arizona congressman can do to change the administration’s course. A significant bipartisan majority supports continued military aid to Ukraine, with only 11 Republicans, Gosar included, sponsoring legislation that would cut funding for Kiev. 

These Republicans are all allies of former president Donald Trump. In a campaign video released on Tuesday, Trump blamed the situation in Ukraine on Nuland and “others like her” in the Biden administration. Nuland, he said, was “obsessed with pushing Ukraine towards NATO,” adding that the conflict would have “never happened if I was your president.”

February 25, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Courting disaster —Missiles have been passing too close to Ukraine’s reactors

Courting disaster — Beyond Nuclear International Embroiled in a year-long war, Ukraine’s reactors face new threats
By Linda Pentz Gunter
A year ago, we warned of the significant and unacceptable risks to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors, should they become caught up in a war zone as a consequence of an invasion by Russia. A year later, as we outlined in a Beyond Nuclear press release, those risks have become a reality. And in recent days, the scares and close calls have ramped up again.

Just last week, cruise missiles flew dangerously low over the South Ukraine nuclear power plant in the country’s western region. Then alarms were raised as observers noticed an alarming drop in the water level of the Kakhovka Reservoir, on which the six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant depends for its essential cooling water supply.

A missile strike or loss of cooling water are just two of the many scenarios that could lead to a nuclear power plant disaster in Ukraine. Others include loss of electricity supply, human error or sabotage. The conditions of war just make any and all of these outcomes far more likely.

Indeed, these latest close calls and others prompted a recent statement by the head of Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Inge Paulini, who warned that an incident at one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants would have, “far-reaching consequences as long as the war continues.” And yet, she pointed out, “this danger already seems to be receding into the background of public awareness.”

Indeed, it has been a consistent pattern in the press not to take nuclear power risks seriously. Instead, the media publishes story after story, planted there by a well-orchestrated worldwide nuclear industry campaign, about the benefits of expanding nuclear power.

The Ukrainian energy ministry would seem to agree. Even in the midst of this devastating war, it has just made a deal with the American company, Westinghouse, to purchase two new AP1000 reactors. It is of course unrealistic to envisage these actually being built during a war and, if ever operational, they would simply become additional lethal targets.

In Ukraine, we have seen Russia routinely attack the electric grid, leading to periodic loss of offsite power at all four of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant sites. Zaporizhzhia, in the contested southeastern part of the country, has experienced multiple disconnections from the grid. So far, the diesel generators have functioned until offsite power was restored. But they are reliant on a steady replenishment of fuel, which could be impeded were the plant to come under siege.

A ready supply of cooling water is also essential so the drain down of the Kakhovka Reservoir is a serious concern. Why this is happening is unclear, but it is thought to be a possible Russian military tactic to flood strategic areas, making them impassable to advancing Ukrainian troops.

The unimaginable stress that continues to be experienced by the depleted workforce at Zaporizhzhia adds to the possibility of a fatal human error. Human error was at the root of both the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident in the United States and the 1986 Chornobyl Unit 4 explosion in Ukraine, without the contributing stress factor of war conditions.

The proximity of cruise missiles to nuclear plants is a nightmarish disaster waiting to happen, even if they are on their way to other targets, for now. But whether deliberate or accidental, a serious assault would release potentially enormous amounts of dangerous radioactive isotopes into the environment.

The reason damage from a nuclear power plant disaster is so serious is in part due to the longevity of the radioactive isotopes released and also because the fallout deposits these into the food chain by contaminating water, soil, crops and livestock.

Some of the enduring health outcomes include thyroid cancer, birth defects, still births, neonatal deaths, leukemias — especially among children — cancers and cardiovascular disorders. However, it should be noted that studies have also found elevated rates of leukemia in children living close to routinely operating nuclear power plants.

The international response so far has come mainly from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has called for safe zones around Ukraine’s nuclear power plants but so far has been unsuccessful in instituting these. And safe zones, while an essential first step, only prevent disaster resulting from a direct hit but are ineffective against loss of grid access or human error. Indeed, the IAEA has been struggling for more than two weeks simply to get a shift change of its observers at Zaporizhzhia accomplished. So far, conditions have remained too dangerous to allow this. “The Agency is doing everything it can to conduct the safe rotation of our staff there as soon as possible,” IAEA director, Rafael Grossi said.

Apart from being pre-deployed radiological weapons, nuclear power plants must, for safety reasons, be shut down when embroiled in a war. In Ukraine, where 50% of the country’s electricity is supplied by nuclear power, this means plunging an already terrified population into greater misery in the midst of winter. The lesson learned is that nuclear power, due to its inherent dangers, cannot serve as a reliable energy source. We must reject it as we do nuclear weapons and turn to other, more benign and renewable ways of supplying electricity.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear and writes for and curates Beyond Nuclear International.

Headline photo of Rocket in Kupiansk city (Kharkiv region of Ukraine) after Russian shelling. February 2023 by Олексій Мазепа / АрміяInform/Wikimedia Commons.

February 25, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment