Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

There’s no market for new uranium mines or re-opening old ones – Cameco

Cameco: No market for new uranium mines, THE AUSTRALIAN,  NICK EVANS, RESOURCE WRITER, NOVEMBER 6, 2019    The world’s biggest uranium company says it cannot see any case for construction of new uranium mines, despite signs the sector is on the cusp of a long-awaited recovery.

Canada’s Cameco delivered the blunt assessment in its third-quarter financial results, released to the market late last week, saying there was still no case for reopening the mines it shut down in 2016 and 2017, stripping more than 20 million pounds of annual uranium oxide production from world supply.

Uranium prices remain in the doldrums, with spot prices averaging only $US25.68 a pound in the September quarter and long-term pricing sitting at an average $US31.50, , but chief exec­utive Tim Gitzel told analysts the company was now receiving more interest in new contracts from customers than at any time since the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

But, as Australia’s state governments face pressure to reverse laws banning uranium mining, and a federal parliamentary commission examines the economics of building a nuclear power plant in Australia, Mr Gitzel warned there would be no case for the construction of new uranium mines for some years to come.

Mr Gitzel said Cameco was seeing increased demand for the conversion of uranium oxide to enriched products, which he said was a precursor for a mining sector recovery. But he warned that nuclear utilities were still reluctant to commit to the long-term supply contracts needed to return mothballed mines back to production amid an excess of uranium oxide still in the market.

Cameco plans to fill more than 70 per cent of the 32 million pounds it needs to deliver to customers next year by buying on the spot market and produce only 9 million pounds from its mines.

“Today, the activity we’re seeing in the spot market is largely churn, the same material changing hands many times. There’s been a lack of fundamental demand (and) is more appropriately thought of as delayed purchasing decisions,” Mr Gitzel said.

“Utilities are delaying their purchasing decisions due to the uncertainty caused by changing market dynamics, including the ongoing market access and trade policy issues.”

Cameco has two Australian uranium projects in Western Australia — Kintyre and Yeelirrie — that have largely negotiated the necessary environmental permitting processes allowing constructions. But both are well out of the money, with Yeelirrie — bought from BHP for $US430m in 2012 — needing a long-term price of $US55-$60 a pound to be viable, and Kintyre, worth $US346m in 2008, closer to $US75 a pound.

While Mr Gitzel said he was concerned the lack of new mines could cause issues for the industry over the next decade if the number of nuclear power plants in the planning became a reality, he said there was no economic case for building new supply.

“Not only does it not make sense to invest in future primary supply, even the lowest-cost producers are deciding to preserve long-term value by leaving uranium in the ground,” Mr Gitzel said in Cameco’s financial report.

Signs of a recovery in the global market, partly spurred by the looming closure of ERA’s Ranger mine in the Northern Territory in 2021, have led to renewed activity from listed uranium plays.

Paladin Energy successfully raised $31.7m in October to fund feasibility studies on the restart of its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia, and in the September quarter Deep Yellow raised $11.3m for its Namibian uranium exploration.

Cameco chief financial officer Grant Isaac said he did not believe new mines could win financial backing without a far stronger recovery in demand for uranium than was currently on the horizon, given the amount of idled supply sitting on the sidelines.

“It’s pretty hard to say you’re going to take the risk on an asset … that isn’t licensed, isn’t permitted, probably doesn’t have a proven mining method, when you have idle tier 1 capacity that’s licensed, permitted, sitting there,” he said.

 

November 7, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian company Worley Parsons joins the international throng trying to sell nuclear power to Saudi Arabia

Australian company WorleyParsons will provide consultancy services including project governance, resource management, project services, training and compliance across the full scope of the large nuclear power plant (LNPP), small modular reactors and nuclear fuel cycle.

October 31, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics international | Leave a comment

The failure of nuclear reprocessing and the “Plutonium Economy”

October 26, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, technology, wastes | Leave a comment

Australia’s climate crisis: destruction of forests

Stripped bare: Australia’s hidden climate crisis, Guardian,  Anne DaviesMike BowersAndy Ball and Nick Evershed16 October 2019
An epidemic of land clearing is sabotaging efforts to address climate change. Farming communities are bitterly divided over the issue – but it also has global consequences

Roger Fitzgerald’s family has been farming near Moree since 1925. But these days he feels under siege on his own farm. His 1,700-hectare property, 50km north of the town, is now surrounded by the operations of the sprawling agribusiness Beefwood Farms, which has been steadily buying up land in New South Wales to expand its operations.

The old easement to Fitzgerald’s cottage across the sprawling Beefwood property has been planted over with crops. His letterbox has mysteriously disappeared on several occasions, making it hard for visitors to spot the entrance to his farm. But it is the extent of land clearing by his neighbour, Beefwood’s owner, Gerardus Kurstjens, that has upset him the most.

Fitzgerald says the microclimate of the nearby Welbon plains has moved a kilometre further on to his property since losing a tree line on Kurstjens’ property that once sheltered his land.

Pockets of remaining vegetation have been ripped from the grey soil to expand cultivation and square up paddocks – and the first Fitzgerald knows of it is when the bulldozers arrive.

“There is something seriously not right about the extent of land clearing in my little part of the world,” he says.

Think of land clearing like a rezoning in the city. Land cleared for cropping west of Moree sells for $2,500 a hectare whereas grazing land will sell for between $700 and $1000 a hectare. East of Moree most of the prime land has already been converted to crops and sells for $6,800 a hectare, three times the value of grazing land.

Clearing vegetation has the potential to add millions to a property’s value, as well as yielding high returns in a good year.

That alone is enough for farmers to risk up to $1m in fines for illegally clearing, according to one former NSW Office of Environment and Heritage compliance officer, who asked not to be named.

But while land clearing might benefit individual farmers in the short term, the loss of native vegetation comes with enormous costs for the rest of us.

“Land clearance and degradation is one of the greatest crises facing Australia and the world,” says Bill Hare, the chief executive and senior scientist with Berlin-based Climate Analytics. “It undermines the basis for food production, is causing species loss and ecological decline, destroys climate resilience, degrades water resources and reverses carbon storage on the land.”

Pollution from land clearing is projected by the federal government to remain at about 46m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year to 2030, roughly equivalent to emissions from three large coal-fired power plants. The rate at which we are clearing land in Australia is almost immediately wiping out gains being made under tax-payer funded schemes to address climate change.

Australia is among the 11 worst countries when it comes to deforestation, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Queensland, with its vast swathes of untouched land on Cape York, has the highest clearing rate, but NSW is rapidly becoming a hotspot – and there is less to lose, with only 9% of the state’s vegetation in its original state.

What is becoming clear is that successive NSW governments have failed to explain the science behind preserving native vegetation – both in relation to climate change and protecting the landscape and endangered species – to farmers and the public.

Instead, land clearing laws in the state have been successively weakened, first by Labor and then more comprehensively by the Coalition, with the introduction of amendments to the Local Land Services Act in August 2017.

“NSW’s native vegetation laws were [once] based on the principle that broad-scale land clearing would not be permitted and clearing could only proceed if it could be shown to maintain or improve environmental outcomes,” says Rachel Walmsley, a solicitor at the NSW Environmental Defenders Office.

“The new act brought in a new approach with the twin stated objectives of arresting the current decline in the state’s biodiversity while also facilitating sustainable agricultural development.”

But while farmers are mostly happy with the new rules, environmentalists say they have ushered in an environmental disaster because they allow farmers to self-assess whether clearing is permissible.

The old act also protected paddock trees; the amended act has made it much easier to get rid of them.

Critics say farmers have been given the green light to clear.

“I have sat in meetings where arguments have been put that driving a tractor around a tree is a significant cost in diesel for farmers,” Walmsley says.

“There’s no valuation of the ecosystem services these trees provide: clean water, clean air, healthy soils and hosting pollinators. There’s no dollar value put on vegetation.”………

The facts are unequivocal. NSW is losing vegetation at an alarming rate………………… https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/oct/17/stripped-bare-australias-hidden-climate-crisis

October 17, 2019 Posted by | business, climate change - global warming, environment, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Exposing misleading evidence to the federal nuclear inquiry

Big claims and corporate spin about small nuclear reactor costs, Jim Green, 19 September 2019, RenewEconomy https://reneweconomy.com.au/big-claims-and-corporate-spin-about-small-nuclear-reactor-costs-65726/

The ‘inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia’ being run by Federal Parliament’s Environment and Energy Committee has finished receiving submissions and is gradually making them publicly available.

The inquiry is particularly interested in ‘small modular reactors’ (SMRs) and thus one point of interest is how enthusiasts spin the economic debate given that previous history with small reactors has shown them to be expensive; the cost of the handful of SMRs under construction is exorbitant; and both the private sector and governments around the world have been unwilling to invest the billions of dollars required to get high-risk SMR demonstration reactors built.

To provide a reality-check before we get to the corporate spin, a submission to the inquiry by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis notes that SMRs have been as successful as cold fusion – i.e., not at all. The submission states:

“The construction of nuclear power plants globally has proven to be an ongoing financial disaster for private industry and governments alike, with extraordinary cost and construction time blow-outs, while being a massive waste of public monies due to the ongoing reliance on government financial subsidies. … Governments have repeatedly failed to comprehend that nuclear construction timelines and cost estimates put forward by many corporates (with vested interests) have proven disastrously flawed and wrong.”

The Institute is equally scathing about SMRs:

“For all the hype in certain quarters, commercial deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) have to-date been as successful as hypothesized cold fusion – that is, not at all. Even assuming massive ongoing taxpayer subsidies, SMR proponents do not expect to make a commercial deployment at scale any time soon, if at all, and more likely in a decade from now if historic delays to proposed timetables are acknowledged.”

Thus the Institute adds its voice to the chorus of informed scepticism about SMRs, such as the 2017 Lloyd’s Register survey of 600 industry professionals and experts who predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive“.

Corporate spin #1: Minerals Council of Australia

The Minerals Council of Australia claims in its submission to the federal inquiry that SMRs could generate electricity for as little as $60 per megawatt-hour (MWh). That claim is based on a report by the Economic and Finance Working Group (EFWG) of the Canadian government-industry ‘SMR Roadmap’ initiative.

The Canadian EFWG gives lots of possible SMR costs and the Minerals Council’s use of its lowest figure is nothing if not selective. The figure cited by the Minerals Council assumes near-term deployment from a standing start (with no-one offering to risk billions of dollars to build demonstration reactors), plus extraordinary learning rates in an industry notorious for its negative learning rates.

Dr. Ziggy Switkowski noted in his evidence to the federal inquiry that “nuclear power has got more expensive, rather than less expensive”. Yet the EFWG paper takes a made-up, ridiculously-high learning rate and subjects SMR cost estimates to eight ‘cumulative doublings’ based on the learning rate. That’s creative accounting and one can only wonder why the Minerals Council would present it as a credible estimate.

Here are the first-of-a-kind SMR cost estimates from the EFWG paper, all of them far higher than the figure cited by the Minerals Council:

  • 300-megawatt (MW) on-grid SMR:    C$162.67 (A$179) / MWh
  • 125-MW off-grid heavy industry:       C$178.01 (A$196) / MWh
  • 20-MW off-grid remote mining:         C$344.62 (A$380) / MWh
  • 3-MW off-grid remote community:    C$894.05 (A$986) / MWh

The government and industry members on the Canadian EFWG are in no doubt that SMRs won’t be built without public subsidies:

“The federal and provincial governments should, in partnership with industry, investigate ways to best risk-share through policy mechanisms to reduce the cost of capital. This is especially true for the first units deployed, which would likely have a substantially higher cost of capital than a commercially mature SMR.”

The EFWG paper used a range of estimates from the literature and vendors. It notes problems with its inputs, such as the fact that many of the vendor estimates have not been independently vetted, and “the wide variation in costs provided by expert analysts”. Thus, the EFWG qualifies its findings by noting that “actual costs could be higher or lower depending on a number of eventualities”.

Corporate spin #2: NuScale Power

US company NuScale Power has put in a submission to the federal nuclear inquiry, estimating a first-of-a-kind cost for its SMR design of US$4.35 billion / gigawatt (GW) and an nth-of-a-kind cost of US$3.6 billion / GW.

NuScale doesn’t provide a $/MWh estimate in its submission, but the company has previously said it is targeting a cost of US$65/MWh for its first SMR plant. That is 2.4 lower than the US$155/MWh (A$225/MWh) estimate based on the NuScale design in a report by WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff prepared for the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

NuScale’s cost estimates should be regarded as promotional and will continue to drop – unless and until the company actually builds an SMR. The estimated cost of power from NuScale’s non-existent SMRs fell from US$98-$108/MWh in 2015 to US$65/MWh by mid-2018. The company announced with some fanfare in 2018 that it had worked out how to make its SMRs almost 20% cheaper – by making them almost 20% bigger!

Lazard estimates costs of US$112-189/MWh for electricity from large nuclear plants. NuScale’s claim that its electricity will be 2-3 times cheaper than that from large nuclear plants is implausible. And even if NuScale achieved costs of US$65/MWh, that would still be higher than Lazard’s figures for wind power (US$29-56) and utility-scale solar (US$36-46).

Likewise, NuScale’s construction construction cost estimate of US$4.35 billion / GW is implausible. The latest cost estimate for the two AP1000 reactors under construction in the US state of Georgia (the only reactors under construction in the US) is US$12.3-13.6 billion / GW. NuScale’s target is just one-third of that cost – despite the unavoidable diseconomies of scale and despite the fact that every independent assessment concludes that SMRs will be more expensive to build (per GW) than large reactors.

Further, the modular factory-line production techniques now being championed by NuScale were trialled with the AP1000 reactor project in South Carolina – a project that was abandoned in 2017 after the expenditure of at least US$9 billion.

Corporate spin #3: Australian company SMR Nuclear Technology

In support of its claim that “it is likely that SMRs will be Australia’s lowest-cost generation source”, Australian company SMR Nuclear Technology Pty Ltd cites in its submission to the federal nuclear inquiry a 2017 report by the US Energy Innovation Reform Project (EIRP).

According to SMR Nuclear Technology, the EIRP study “found that the average levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) from advanced reactors was US$60/MWh.”

However the cost figures used in the EIRP report are nothing more than the optimistic estimates of companies hoping to get ‘advanced’ reactor designs off the ground. Therefore the EIRP authors heavily qualified the report’s findings:

“There is inherent and significant uncertainty in projecting NOAK [nth-of-a-kind] costs from a group of companies that have not yet built a single commercial-scale demonstration reactor, let alone a first commercial plant. Without a commercial-scale plant as a reference, it is difficult to reliably estimate the costs of building out the manufacturing capacity needed to achieve the NOAK costs being reported; many questions still remain unanswered – what scale of investments will be needed to launch the supply chain; what type of capacity building will be needed for the supply chain, and so forth.”

SMR Nuclear Technology’s conclusions – that “it is likely that SMRs will be Australia’s lowest-cost generation source” and that low costs are “likely to make them a game-changer in Australia” – have no more credibility than the company estimates used in the EIRP paper.

SMR Nuclear Technology’s submission does not note that the EIRP inputs were merely company estimates and that the EIRP authors heavily qualified the report’s findings.

The US$60/MWh figure cited by SMR Nuclear Technology is far lower than all independent estimates for SMRs:

  • The 2015/16 South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission estimated costs of A$180-184/MWh for large light-water reactors, compared to A$225 for an SMR based on the NuScale design (and a slightly lower figure for the ‘mPower’ SMR design that was abandoned in 2017 by Bechtel and Babcock & Wilcox).
  • A December 2018 report by CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator found that electricity from SMRs would be more than twice as expensive as that from wind or solar power with storage costs included (two hours of battery storage or six hours of pumped hydro storage).
  • report by the consultancy firm Atkins for the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy found that electricity from the first SMR in the UK would be 30% more expensive than that from large reactors, because of diseconomies of scale and the costs of deploying first-of-a-kind technology. Its optimistic SMR cost estimate is US$107-155 (A$157-226) / MWh.
  • A 2015 report by the International Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency predicted that electricity from SMRs will be 50−100% more expensive than that from large reactors, although it holds out some hope that large-volume factory production could reduce costs.
  • An article by four pro-nuclear researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy, published in 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, concluded than an SMR industry would only be viable in the US if it received “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies” over the next several decades.

SMR Nuclear Technology’s assertion that “nuclear costs are coming down due to simpler and standardised design; factory-based manufacturing; modularisation; shorter construction time and enhanced financing techniques” is at odds with all available evidence and it is at odds with Dr. Ziggy Switkowski’s observation in a public hearing of the federal inquiry that nuclear “costs per kilowatt hour appear to grow with each new generation of technology”.

SMR Nuclear Technology claims that failing to repeal federal legislative bans against nuclear power would come at “great cost to the economy”. However the introduction of nuclear power to Australia would most likely have resulted in the extraordinary cost overruns and delays that have crippled every reactor construction project in the US and western Europe over the past decade – blowouts amounting to A$10 billion or more per reactor.

Nor would the outcome have been positive if Australia had instead pursued non-existent SMR ‘vaporware‘.

Dr Jim Green is lead author of a Nuclear Monitor report on SMRs and national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics, reference, secrets and lies, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Zero-carbon Energy for Asia-Pacific project – a bold plan to make Australia a Pacific energy hub

Green energy plan to make Australia powerplant of Pacific  https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6393402/green-energy-plan-to-make-australia-powerplant-of-pacific/?cs=14230   Scott Hannaford  SEPTEMBER 19 2019 

A radical shift towards renewable energy has the potential to reshape the Australian economy and create exports worth hundreds of billions of dollars, according to the head of a major research project to be announced on Thursday.

 The project, led by director of the Energy Change Institute at the Australian National University professor Ken Baldwin, will seek to identify ways to turn the massive renewable energy potential of northern Australia into a booming export market while dramatically reducing global carbon emissions.

The $10m Zero-carbon Energy for Asia-Pacific project will investigate bold proposals including building massive solar and wind projects in the country’s sparsely populated north and selling that power via undersea cables, or shipping it as hydrogen created through green energy. In time these projects could replace current coal and gas shipments and help solve many of the energy needs of developing countries throughout the region. Singapore has already proposed a $20b project to build one of the largest solar power plants on the planet in the Australian desert and send the energy via an undersea cable from the Northern Territory. Continue reading

September 19, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, energy | Leave a comment

To add to its safety problems, ANSTO has had to increase prices for nuclear medicine from the Lucas Heights reactor

Troubled ANSTO raises nuclear medicine prices, THE AUSTRALIAN,   SEAN PARNELL, HEALTH EDITOR,JULY 26, 2019  Australia’s nuclear medicine sector has been hit with price hikes of up to 9 per cent from the government manufacturer despite months of supply problems, safety concerns and breakdowns.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation provides the domestic supply of nuclear medicine, likely to be needed by one in two Australians during their lifetime, and also wants to ramp up its exports.

But amid calls for Australia to also embrace nuclear energy, ANSTO’s reputation has been tarnished by problems at its Lucas Heights facilities that have even required it to rely on imports.

Most recently, after heaters for hydrogen converters failed, ANSTO was forced to bring its new $200 million plant into service before it had all the approvals. Two workers were then exposed to excess radiation, forcing its closure, and yet another investigation by the regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

An ANSTO spokesman yesterday confirmed the nuclear medicine sector had been asked to pay more than 3-9 per cent more for products…….

Some customers have been lobbying federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews to intervene. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/troubled-ansto-raises-nuclear-medicine-prices/news-story/208ee20abacac04f304e45960bd963b4

July 27, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, safety | Leave a comment

Union opposes nuclear power because it is uneconomic and dangerous

Wake up and smell the radiation. Nuclear is not the answer  https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/wake-up-and-smell-the-radiation-nuclear-is-not-the-answer/news-story/dc3ea481d9d6083a9c6b391268f6d078m Allen Hicks, 24 July 19

July 25, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, employment, safety | Leave a comment

For Australia – the prohibitive cost and time involved in constructing new nuclear reactors

The nuclear cycle of destruction , RedFlag, James Plested, 12 July 2019   ” ……..Another downside to nuclear power is the cost and time involved in constructing new reactors. As Peter Farley of Engineers Australia wrote in RenewEconomy earlier this year, “The 2,200 MW Plant Vogtle [a new nuclear plant in the US] is costing US$25 billion plus financing costs, insurance and long term waste storage … For the full cost of US$30 billion, we could build 7,000 MW of wind, 7,000 MW of tracking solar, 10,000 MW of rooftop solar, 5,000 MW of pumped hydro and 5,000 MW of batteries”.

International financial advisory firm Lazard’s 2018 Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis found that nuclear power was significantly more expensive than gas, coal, or renewable energy sources like solar and wind. For new nuclear, it estimated the cost at US$112-189 per megawatt hour. The cost of power generation from coal was US$60-143. Wind and utility-scale solar were significantly cheaper, at US$29-56 and US$36-46 respectively.

The world’s 450 or so operative nuclear reactors produce only around 11 percent of the electricity supply. Any significant increase in this proportion would require a massive program of construction – on the order of 1,000 new plants over the next decade.

According to the most generous estimates, the cost of constructing a single new nuclear reactor is between US$5 and $10 billion (and the necessary decommissioning of the average reactor now costs an estimated US$500 million). So for the construction of 1,000, we would be looking at up to US$10 trillion. In addition, there is related infrastructure such as new uranium mines, enrichment and transportation facilities, waste storage facilities and so on. But if there are trillions of dollars available for nuclear, why not use that money to fund a global shift to a combination of wind, solar, tidal and other renewable sources that could much more cheaply and sustainably provide for the world’s energy needs? ….” . http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20398

July 13, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Dr Jim Green analyses the Australian super funds’ views about nuclear power

Nuclear war between super funds Online Opinion,   Jim Green – , 11 July 2019 Industry Super Australia (ISA) – a research and advocacy body for Industry SuperFunds – has published a report promoting nuclear power, prompting a sceptical response from Industry Super Holdings, which is controlled by super funds including AustralianSuper, Cbus, Hostplus and HESTA. Most of those super funds are also involved in ISA, so the sector is at war with itself – or perhaps the sceptical response can be read as the sector’s response to the authors of the pro-nuclear report.

The context for this debate is welcome – super funds urging governments to speed up climate action, and considering using some part of their own vast wealth to make needed investments for climate change abatement.

But the ISA report – ‘Modernising Electricity Sectors: A guide to long-run investment decisions’, written by ISA Chief Economist Stephen Anthony and Emeritus Professor Alex Coram from the University of WA – misses the mark on nuclear power.

ISA gives itself some wriggle-room by noting that the views expressed in the report do not necessarily reflect those of ISA. And the authors give themselves some wriggle-room: for all their nuclear boosterism, they note that it ‘is unlikely that nuclear offers opportunities for investment in the short term’ and that it should be placed on a ‘watching brief’.

On the other hand, the authors argue that Australia’s lack of experience managing a nuclear power plant ‘pre-empts the ability to make decisions between all major options for emission reduction.’ So Australia should introduce nuclear power in order to make a decision as to whether or not to develop nuclear power? Insofar as there is any logic to that argument, it is dizzyingly circular.

The authors fret that Australia has no capacity to build or operate a nuclear facility and thus lags geographical neighbours such as Indonesia and Vietnam. That’s nonsense. All three countries are in the same position: operating research reactors, no capacity to build power reactors and no serious plans to acquire them from overseas vendors (Vietnam abandoned its quest for nuclear power in 2016, citing excessive costs).

The authors aim to ‘to provide the best analysis possible’ but there isn’t even passing mention of salient issues such as the proliferation and security issues associated with nuclear power, or the industry’s sickening record of mistreating indigenous peoples, or the nuclear waste legacy, or the occasional catastrophic accident costing hundreds of billions of dollars in addition to the human and environmental costs.

Nuclear economics

The authors state that levelised costs of energy are not a good basis for long-term investment or policy decisions, and they prefer grid-level cost estimates (which make allowance for such things as the cost of back-up power). Fine – but the inputs they choose undermine their work. Rubbish in, rubbish out……..

The report ignores the Hinkley Point construction project in the UK (two EPR reactors) as it ‘seems to be an outlier in terms of technology and financial arrangements’. So the authors use the ridiculous EIRP cost estimates for non-existent Generation IV reactors but ignore cost estimates for reactors that are actually under construction … go figure. Hinkley weighs in at a hefty US$10.5 billion per GW. And the ISA report ignores the Vogtle twin-AP1000 project in the US state of Georgia, which is even worse at US$12.3+ billion per GW.

There’s no mention of the V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (two AP1000 reactors), abandoned after the expenditure of at least A$12.9 billion, There’s no mention of the bankruptcy of industry giants Westinghouse and Areva.

The nuclear industry is in crisis – but you wouldn’t know it reading the ISA report. Nuclear lobbyists have themselves repeatedly acknowledged nuclear power’s ‘rapidly accelerating crisis‘, a ‘crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West‘, ‘the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries‘, while noting that ‘the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies‘ and engaging each other in heated argumentsabout what if anything can be salvaged from the ‘ashes of today’s dying industry’.

Generation IV concepts

If the ISA report authors are entranced by Generation IV nuclear concepts, as their uncritical use of the EIRP report suggests, why not consider the estimated cost of prototypes under construction rather than ridiculous guestimates offered by nuclear companies? Argentina claims to be a world leader in the development of small modular reactors, but the estimated cost of the one SMR under construction in Argentina has ballooned to an absurd US$21.9 billion / GW. Likewise, estimated construction costs for Russia’s floating nuclear power plant increased more than four-fold and now amount to over US$10 billion / GW.

ISA’s chief economist and report co-author Stephen Anthony told the ABC that nuclear power ‘looks awfully good’. But the only figures in the ISA report that make nuclear look good are the ridiculous guestimates provided by companies involved in Generation IV R&D. Nuclear doesn’t look awfully good to the growing number of countries phasing out nuclear power ‒ a list that now includes Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Taiwan and South Korea. And it doesn’t look awfully good to the nuclear lobbyists pondering what if anything can be salvaged from the ‘ashes of today’s dying industry’ … it looks awful, not awfully good.

A 2015 report by the International Energy Agency and the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency said that ‘generation IV technologies aim to be at least as competitive as generation III technologies … though the additional complexity of these designs, the need to develop a specific supply chain for these reactors and the development of the associated fuel cycles will make this a challenging task.’

The late Michael Mariotte commented on the IEA/OECD report: ‘So, at best the Generation IV reactors are aiming to be as competitive as the current − and economically failing − Generation III reactors. And even realizing that inadequate goal will be ‘challenging.’ The report might as well have recommended to Generation IV developers not to bother.’

Technological neutrality?

A single reactor would be a ‘relatively small investment’, the ISA report states. But cost estimates for all reactors under construction in north America and western Europe range from A$14-24 billion………..

The report discusses the plan for a twin-reactor nuclear plant at Wylfa in Wales, abandoned after the cost estimate increased from A$26.4 billion to A$39.7 billion. The project was abandoned by Hitachi, the ISA authors state, ‘because it was required to carry too much risk relative to the size of the company.’ But staggering British taxpayer subsidies were on offer for Hitachi to proceed with Wylfa. Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark saidthe UK government offered a ‘significant and generous package of potential support that goes beyond what any government has been willing to consider in the past’ … which is really saying something since taxpayer subsidies for Hinkley Point are estimated at A$5591 billion.

Evidently the ISA report authors believe that the subsidies on offer for Wylfa needed to be increased again and again until Hitachi finally agreed to go ahead with the project.

Sceptical responses

The New Daily, a publication of Industry Super Holdings, didn’t buy the ISA’s nuclear Kool-Aid. The New Daily article quotes Dr Ziggy Switkowski saying last year that ‘the window for gigawatt-scale nuclear has closed’ and that nuclear power is no longer cheaper than renewables, with costs rapidly shifting in favour of renewables.

The New Daily also quotes Andrew Richards, CEO of the Energy Users Association of Australia. Richards noted that it would take at least a decade to get a nuclear power plant up and running (20+ years according to economist Prof. John Quiggin) and that governments would need to support insurance, dismantling and disposal costs as the private sector won’t take on those risks.

The Electrical Trades Union condemned the ISA report. ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks said: ‘The ETU has very strong concerns about this ISA report that broadly spruiks nuclear power while using flawed assumptions and poor modelling to write down the capacity of renewables and battery technology.’

Hicks called on partners in the superannuation industry to join in the condemnation of the ISA report ‘that is not only full of holes but would put at risk the very people who industry super represents – union members.’

Hicks continued: ‘This report has been developed without consulting key industry stakeholders or actual members of Industry Super Australia that we have been in contact with. … With the Federal Liberal Government totally incapable of leading on energy policy, we think ISA should take a leading role in energy investment, but it must not try to put our members retirement savings into a deadly industry that does not exist in Australia and is fading around the globe and consistently leads to spiralling costs.’

ETU National Industry Coordinator Matthew Murphy accusedI SA of ‘fluffing up the benefits of nuclear power’ and said many of the report’s findings were based on assumptions or numbers with no basis in reality. ‘This report is biased toward nuclear power and against renewables and that clearly bares out in shoddy maths and assumptions like ‘a battery will only run for one hour’ or that the island nation of Australia is not suitable for off-shore wind and tidal power,’ Murphy said.   http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20399&page=1

July 13, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, Opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

The unaffordable and extreme cost – if Australia opted for nuclear power

The nuclear cycle of destruction, Red Flag, James Plested, 12 July 2019   “……..Another downside to nuclear power is the cost and time involved in constructing new reactors. As Peter Farley of Engineers Australia wrote in RenewEconomy earlier this year, “The 2,200 MW Plant Vogtle [a new nuclear plant in the US] is costing US$25 billion plus financing costs, insurance and long term waste storage … For the full cost of US$30 billion, we could build 7,000 MW of wind, 7,000 MW of tracking solar, 10,000 MW of rooftop solar, 5,000 MW of pumped hydro and 5,000 MW of batteries”.

International financial advisory firm Lazard’s 2018 Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis found that nuclear power was significantly more expensive than gas, coal, or renewable energy sources like solar and wind. For new nuclear, it estimated the cost at US$112-189 per megawatt hour. The cost of power generation from coal was US$60-143. Wind and utility-scale solar were significantly cheaper, at US$29-56 and US$36-46 respectively.

The world’s 450 or so operative nuclear reactors produce only around 11 percent of the electricity supply. Any significant increase in this proportion would require a massive program of construction – on the order of 1,000 new plants over the next decade.

According to the most generous estimates, the cost of constructing a single new nuclear reactor is between US$5 and $10 billion (and the necessary decommissioning of the average reactor now costs an estimated US$500 million). So for the construction of 1,000, we would be looking at up to US$10 trillion. In addition, there is related infrastructure such as new uranium mines, enrichment and transportation facilities, waste storage facilities and so on. But if there are trillions of dollars available for nuclear, why not use that money to fund a global shift to a combination of wind, solar, tidal and other renewable sources that could much more cheaply and sustainably provide for the world’s energy needs? ……  https://redflag.org.au/node/6835

July 13, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Union push to union trustees to formally exclude nuclear energy from industry super investments

ETU pushes union trustees to block nuclear AFR, 10 July 19 The Electrical Trades Union is leading a push for union trustees to formally commit to excluding nuclear energy from industry super investments in favour of bolstering renewables.  ETU national secretary Allen Hicks will propose an anti-nuclear investment motion at the Australian Council of Trade Union’s national executive later this year and use the ACTU’s Super Trustees Forum to “build and leverage support among my union director colleagues on this”.

“I want to pass a motion committing union directors in the industry super sector to focus on backing investment in renewable tech,” he will tell the union’s national conference on Wednesday afternoon.

“To focus on backing that investment instead of propping up the misguided imaginings of those who long for an Australian nuclear sector.”

The motion follows the ETU’s attack last week on an energy paper released by industry fund peak body Industry Super Australia (ISA), chaired by former ACTU secretary Greg Combet…….

Mr Hicks will attack the paper as a “disgrace” in his speech and question industry funds diverting money to ISA to produce it.

“It’s a disgrace that this body – this body that unions created – could be used as part of a push to expose workers and their communities to the catastrophic dangers that nuclear power plants present,” the speech says.

He will advocate industry super funds commit to a “war-like mobilisation” to battle climate change and “become the ultimate weapon in Australia’s fight for a clean, renewable energy sector”.

“The retirement savings of Australian workers could be deployed to invest in smart, new, renewable technology – including battery tech – that could set us on the path to zero carbon emissions.”

The ETU’s anti-nuclear position is supported by the $50 billion building industry super fund Cbus, which includes the CFMEU on its board of trustees………

Mr Hicks will argue the economics around nuclear power don’t stack up due to the costs and time taken for construction.

“But even if they did, our union would oppose it,” he will say, arguing nuclear puts workers in unsafe conditions.

“No responsible Australian trade union … no organisation that claims to represent the interests of Australian workers … could possibly endorse putting Australians into that line of potential fire.”…..

Energy Super, whose board includes ETU representatives, stressed it was “focused on maximising members’ hard-earned retirement savings”.

“We have a transparent investment process which considers many factors including environmental, social and governance criteria to ensure the sustainability of the fund over the longer term,” chief executive Robyn Petrou said.

“We are increasing our investments in renewables, such as wind farms and solar  energy.” https://www.afr.com/leadership/workplace/etu-pushes-union-trustees-to-block-nuclear-20190710-p525sj

July 11, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, employment, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Australian unions reject Industry Super’s backing of the nuclear industry

Unions revolt over Industry Super’s nuclear backing, Financial Review, David Marin-Guzman 3 July 19  The Electrical Trades Union has condemned a report from Industry Super Australia that backed nuclear energy as an option to confront the energy crisis, sparking a split between unions and industry funds’ own peak body.

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said industry fund participants were not consulted on the ISA energy paper released last week and called on unions to condemn the paper’s recommendations, which he said promoted a “highly risky investment with deadly consequences”.

While the paper titled Modernising Electricty Sectors stressed it was not “pro nuclear” it said nuclear must be considered as part of the energy investment mix and questioned the capabilities of battery and renewable options.

“The ETU has very strong concerns about this ISA report that broadly spruiks nuclear power while using flawed assumptions and poor modelling to write down the capacity of renewables and battery technology,” Mr Hicks said.

This report has been developed without consulting key industry stakeholders or actual members of ISA that we have been in contact with.”

The comments mark a significant push-back against the industry fund peak body, which is chaired by former Australian Council of Trade Unions chief Greg Combet.

The ETU has representatives on industry funds Cbus and Energy Super and its anti-nuclear position is shared by the maritime union, which opposes shipping nuclear material into ports.

Cbus, whose board members include building unions such as the CFMEU, joined the ETU in disagreeing with the ISA paper’s position.

“The ISA paper raises a number of interesting points for discussion. However, from an investment perspective Cbus doesn’t see nuclear as a part of Australia’s energy mix and we are actively pursuing other energy opportunities,” a spokesman for the fund said.

Mr Hicks said he supported ISA taking the lead on energy investment due to government inaction. But he argued it should focus on maximising returns, not promoting an industry that “would put at risk the very people who industry super represents – union members”.

The ETU has opposed nuclear power and uranium mining since the Second World War due to perceived risks to workers and the public.

Mr Hicks said members had “witnessed first-hand the death and destruction that comes with this form of power” and “more recent disasters in Fukushima and Chernobyl only reinforce this view”.

That’s why it’s so vexing that industry funds our members pay their retirement savings into would offer any support to a report giving the nod to nuclear.”

…….  ETU national industry co-ordinator Matthew Murphy claimed the ISA report “fluffed up” the benefits of nuclear power while including flawed assumptions on renewables “that had no basis in reality”.

This report is biased toward nuclear power and against renewables and that clearly bears out in shoddy maths and assumptions like ‘a battery will only run for one hour’ or that the island nation of Australia is not suitable for offshore wind and tidal power,” he said.

Mr Murphy said the “most glaring” statement in the paper was that 100 to 150 nuclear power plants was enough to power half the country.

Unlike the numbers in the report, we can’t pluck nuclear reactors out of thin air. And there is likely to be huge public opposition from the 150 towns where these deadly power plants would be built.” https://www.afr.com/leadership/workplace/unions-revolt-over-industry-super-s-nuclear-backing-20190702-p5239a

July 4, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, employment | Leave a comment

Industry Super Australia (ISA) hitches its wagon to the nuclear unicorn

Industry super urges Australia to consider the nuclear power option https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-26/industry-super-funds-consider-the-nuclear-option/11248202, The World Today By senior business correspondent Peter Ryan 26 June 19

Nuclear reactors should be considered as a realistic option to confront Australia’s deepening energy crisis, according to a study from industry superannuation’s chief lobby group.

Key points:

  • Industry Super says Australia should “build some capacity to operate a nuclear facility”
  • The report says nuclear is often dismissed as “even more immoral than burning coal”
  • It suggests a future energy mix including solar, wind, gas, coal and carbon capture

In a report that raises concerns about the ability of battery technology to maintain the baseload power, Industry Super Australia (ISA) argued that investment in nuclear energy should not be sidelined simply because of its controversial nature.

“If you look at the output of the nuclear industry, and if you consider its future relative to other technologies, it looks awfully good relative to some of the other potential technologies and therefore it shouldn’t be excluded from consideration,” ISA’s chief economist Stephen Anthony told The World Today.

Nuclear power the ‘ugly duckling’, batteries too costly

In addition to nuclear, the report argued technologies such as solar, wind, coal, gas generation and carbon capture and storage need to be considered.

The study also raised concerns about battery schemes, finding that using Tesla batteries to achieve 1.5 days power backup would cost $6.5 trillion, or the cost of building around 1,000 nuclear reactors.

It warned that generating power for a renewable energy system in the same period would require 100 Snowy Hyrdo 2.0 schemes at a cost of $700 billion.

In a discussion paper released today, Industry Super Australia acknowledged that investing in the nuclear option would raise concerns among environmental groups, particularly because of accidents in recent decades such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima.

The report refers to research saying “nuclear power is now the ugly duckling of the power generation industry. People somehow dismiss it as immoral, even more immoral than burning coal”.

‘Something has got to give’

ISA chief economist Stephen Anthony told The World Today there was a case for industry fund intervention given the energy policy stalemate from Canberra.

“While the climate debate rages on, Australia’s ageing infrastructure continues to fall further and further behind the rest of the world,” Mr Anthony said.

“If this policy inertia continues, regulatory uncertainty will continue to rise, allowing some investors to capitalise on price movements and maximise public subsidies to game the market.

“Something has to give and this is where industry super funds come in.”

The study found that cashed-up industry super funds are ready to invest in energy infrastructure but are waiting on policy direction from the Federal Government.

“The lack of a genuine, long-term, technology neutral energy policy is a major factor undermining fund investment,” the report concluded.

In the normal course, portfolio investors would be lining up to fund long-term solutions in this changing industry for Australia. But so far, the silence from investors is deafening.

“Right now, it seems the only politically acceptable investments appear to be relatively small scale, quickly deployed renewable wind or solar projects.”

The Australian Energy Market Operator estimates that about 60 per cent of current coal-fired generation capacity will be retired by 2040.

“The reality is that, even without climate change, the existing fleet of base load generators needs replacing,” the report noted.

The report excludes a range of technologies from the mix of energy options, including biomass because of its high emissions intensity, and it dismisses tidal and wave power as unrealistic because of the cost and scale required.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Australia’s escalatede defence spending, Christopher Pyne and his convenient advice to Ey defence consulting

Pay Day: Christopher Pyne’s Defence bonanza a fee fillip for EY  https://www.michaelwest.com.au/pay-day-christopher-pynes-defence-bonanza-a-fee-fillip-for-ey/, Jun 27, 2019  It dwarfs all other government spending. It is secretive. A huge chunk of it does not even go out to tender. The lion’s share goes to foreign multinationals who pay no tax in Australia. It is defence spending. Michael West reports on the explosion in defence spending which has tripled to more than $60 billion in one year since the Coalition took office, and since Christopher Pyne became Minister for Defence Industry on July 19, 2016.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics, secrets and lies | Leave a comment