Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors included in Morrison govt’s energy plan?

New nuclear technologies to be examined in planning Australia’s energy mix, The government is looking at incorporating ‘emerging nuclear

Small modular reactors ‘have potential’, investment roadmap discussion paper says, Guardian, Katharine Murphy Political editor @murpharoo, Thu 21 May 2020 

The Morrison government has flagged examining “emerging nuclear technologies” as part of Australia’s energy mix in the future in a new discussion paper kicking off the process of developing its much-vaunted technology investment roadmap.

Facing sustained pressure to adopt a 2050 target of net zero emissions, pressure it is continuing to resist, the government plans instead to develop the roadmap as the cornerstone of the Coalition’s mid-century emissions reduction strategy.

The new framework will identify the government’s investment priorities in emissions-reducing technologies for 2022, 2030 and 2050, although the paper makes clear the government will only countenance “incentivising voluntary emissions reductions on a broad scale” – not schemes that penalise polluters.

The discussion paper to be released on Thursday floats a range of potential technologies for future deployment, including small modular nuclear reactors. It says emerging nuclear technologies “have potential but require R&D and identified deployment pathways”.

While clearly flagging that prospect, the paper also notes that engineering, cost and environmental challenges, “alongside social acceptability of nuclear power in Australia, will be key determinants of any future As well as championing the prospects for hydrogen, the paper also flags the importance of negative emission technologies, including carbon capture and storage, as well as soil carbon and tree planting.

This week the government has signalled its intention to use the existing $2.5bn emissions reduction fund to support CCS projects – a move championed by Australia’s oil and gas industries. The new paper says the geo-sequestration of carbon dioxide “represents a significant opportunity for abatement in export gas” – nominating the Gorgon project as a case in point. Growth in emissions in Australia is largely driven by fugitive emissions from the booming LNG export sector.

The paper does acknowledge that solar and wind – renewable technologies – are now “projected to be cheaper than new thermal generation over all time horizons to 2050”. But it adds a caveat, contending that “the cost of firming is still a major issue, and will require much more work”……. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/may/21/new-nuclear-technologies-to-be-examined-in-planning-australias-energy-mix

May 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, technology | Leave a comment

Outlandish claims made by Byron Shire Councillors, (Greens!!) promoting mobile Small Nuclear Reactors

What a strange article!   The claims made about these “mobile small nuclear reactors” are completely fanciful. These reactors do not exist, are just in the planning stage for use by U.S. military.  Even more fanciful , the article’s claim – “the pilot scheme, which will attract multi-million dollar grants.”.   Just where are these grants to come from?   The cash-strapped Australian government?  The Russians? The Americans? The Chinese?  This entire magical unicorn the Small Nuclear Reactor business is quite unable to attract investors. It’s only hope is to be funded by the tax-payer.  I note these unnamed Green proponents talk about “spreading the risk fairly among the population” – and still think it’s just fine.  So they understand that there’s a risk of dangerous radiation – a very strange attitude for a supposedly environmental group. 

What could go wrong?  https://www.echo.net.au/2020/04/what-could-go-wrong/    April 1, 2020 | by Echonetdaily, Mobile 100MW nuclear power plants have been proposed by the NSW National Party.

The latest miniaturisation technology that has seen electronic circuitry reduced from physical nodes to nanoscale impulses in quantum space has had astounding impacts on the relatively macroscale equipment needed to generate nuclear power. Such equipment has become so small it is now possible to build bus-sized nuclear reactors that can be deployed, as needed, to address gaps in the power grid.

Byron’s Greens councillors have indicated support for the proposal, and hope to involve the Shire in the early stages of the pilot scheme, which will attract multi-million dollar grants. A spokesperson for the local Greens said nuclear plants are not only less polluting than coal fired power stations, but being mobile means they spread the risk fairly among the population.

State and federal Greens later issued a statement disassociating themselves, ‘as always’, from Byron Shire councillors.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | New South Wales, politics, technology | Leave a comment

Small nuclear reactors, (just like large) can survive only with massive government subsidies

March 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

“NuclearHistory” exposes the unpleasant facts about liquid fluoride thorium nuclear reactors

Some people believe that liquid fluoride thorium reactors, which would use a high temperature liquid fuel made of molten salt, would be significantly safer than current generation reactors. However, such reactors have major flaws. There are serious safety issues associated with the retention of fission products in the fuel, and it is not clear these problems can be effectively resolved. Such reactors also present proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks because they involve the continuous separation, or “reprocessing,” of the fuel to remove fission products and to efficiently produce U-233, which is a nuclear weapon-usable material. Moreover, disposal of theused fuel has turned out to be a major challenge. Stabilization and disposal of the
remains of the very small “Molten Salt Reactor Experiment” that operated at Oak
Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s has turned into the most technically challenging cleanup problem that Oak Ridge has faced, and the site has still not been cleaned up. Last updated March 14, 2019″ Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, at https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/thorium-reactors-statement.pdf I wonder who is correct, The Union of Scientists or Mr. O’Brien and ScoMo?

The Industry Push to Force Nuclear Power in Australia, Part 1 of A Study of the “Report of the inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia” Australian Parliamentary Committee 2020.by nuclearhistory, February 29, 2020, “………Nuclear power enables the great powers to project power. It is a crucial geo-political influencer. If the committee has it’s way, we will be working with Russia and China and others on reactors they want to develop, that their own people have not had a say in, that are all based upon reactor designs first thought of in the 1950s, and where actual examples were built at that time, turned out to be unsafe failures which continue to present cost and risk at their sites to this day.

The committee’s first recommendation to government includes the following two sub parts:

“b. developing Australia’s own national sovereign capability in nuclear energy over time; and

c. procuring next-of-a-kind nuclear reactors only, not first-of-a- kind.” end quote.

If Australia becomes a nuclear powered nation, it will become subject to the directives of the IAEA in regard to the standards of those nuclear reactors and the procedures and actions which must take place in regard to them. Australia will also become subject to IAEA directives in regard to the standards and specifications of the Australian national energy grid. Further, the ICRP and other bodies will have an enhanced ability to direct and advise Australia and its people. Further international non proliferation requirements will dictate Australian actions regarding “special nuclear substances.” These requirements including control of information – security provisions – regarding the use of and production of “special nuclear substances”. As is true all over the world, nuclear industries are alone in that they do not, indeed cannot, fully disclose operational matters to share holders. This hardly renders Australia and Australians in control of its own sovereign nuclear technology.
Collaborator nations can be expected to demand certain requirements from Australia in return for their help. In the case of China, which wishes to produce small, light reactors of new types partially to provide a means by which it can quickly transform its navy into a nuclear one, in particular, there may well be special requirements placed upon Australia in return for Chinese collaboration. Who knows what Putin will demand in return for Russian collaboration . America might want many things in return. And so on. No nation which might help Australia would want Australia to benefit to the point where we might gain too much control and power over nuclear facilities located in this country.

“procuring next-of-a-kind nuclear reactors only, not first-of-a- kind” How refreshing that the Committee does not want the first gen iv type reactors – the Fermi 1 and Monju type for example. Those dangerous failures that sit like wounded Albatross in the US and Japan and continue to demand taxpayer funds. The failure of Monju, which has long been foreseen by many, renders the original basis for the Japanese nuclear industry subject to severe doubt. As result of vastly improved safety standards, fuel reprocessing in Japan is in doubt, its future course uncertain, and the nature of high level waste management has been an even more pressing issue.

In any event, it is my view that  the new  types of reactor China is experimenting with are dual use.  That is, they have both military and civilian uses in China. There is little overt opposition to either in China as protest in that nation is dangerous, costly and often lethal. I do not see it in Australia’s national interest to collaborate with Chinese nuclear reactor experimental development. Our contribution will probably speed the ascendancy of a Chinese nuclear navy, and the contribution to be made to Australia by a Chinese/Australian Gen IV is highly suspect, both in the short and long term, both in tactical and strategic terms. And if we are not to buy “first of a kind” reactors but “next of a kind” ones, does this mean we wont buy unproven experimental units but will buy unproven Mk1 production units which have not yet been used to supply power to a grid and which have proven that they fulfil the promises this Parliamentary Committee is making? No such reactors exist with a track record in service providing economic power to any nation grid. None have existed in such deployment and there is no service life span in commercial use for any of these “new” reactor types. 10 years would be the bare minimum to test such a unit over. Anything less is not satisfactory Continue reading

March 5, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, reference, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Busting the lies of the Australian Government about “new” nuclear reactors

The core propositions of non-traditional reactor proponents – improved economics, proliferation resistance, safety margins, and waste management – should be reevaluated.

Before construction of non-traditional reactors begins, the economic implications of the back end of these nontraditional fuel cycles must be analyzed in detail; disposal costs may be unpalatable………. reprocessing remains a security liability of dubious economic benefit

Non-traditional” is used to encompass both small modular light water reactors (Generation III+) and Generation IV reactors (including fast reactors, thermal-spectrum molten salt reactors, and high temperature gas reactors)

March 3, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Small Nuclear Reactors- the dying nuclear industry targets Australian tax-payers- theme for March 20

Desperate to survive, the global nuclear industry tries to sell uneconomic small nuclear reactors (SMRs) to the Australian government. They use media propaganda, buying politicians – whatever works.

Their first step is happening now. They are trying to remove Australia’s carefully planned State and Federal laws that prohibit the nuclear industry.

Cut through the spin:  SMRs are NOT cheap, NOT clean, NOT safe – and no use at all against global heating.

The several Parliamentary Inquiries are probably now hearing a complex collection of spin stories from NuScale  (NuScam) , and some of approximately 150 companies with their various individual designs (all still just on paper) – for SMRs.

For marketing reasons, even NuScam plans not to sell their product as individual reactors, but in a complex , becoming quite a large project. SMR now means Small and Medium reactors.

 

February 27, 2020 Posted by | Christina themes, technology | 1 Comment

Australian public unaware of the dangers of small nuclear reactors

Thorium advocates say that thorium reactors produce little radioactive waste, however, they simply produce a different spectrum of waste from traditional reactors, including many dangerous isotopes with extremely long half-lives. Technetium 99 has a half-life of 300,000 years and iodine 129 a half-life of 15.7 million years. 

 

February 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, reference, technology | Leave a comment

Australia must learn to mine rare earths responsibly

 We Australians can be so righteous about our environmental credentials, but we don’t seem to notice the problems with renewable energy.

We must jump on to the circular economy.  If the world could RECYCLE rare earths elements –   there’d be so much less need for mining and processing of rare earths, with its problematic creation of radioactive wastes.

What is needed is DESIGN – clever design of all devices that use rare earths, so that these elements can be easily retrieved, to use again in new devices.
While renewable energy technologies are used in the same old way –  dig it up, throw away the wastes, we are locked in the  20th Century thinking – that also includes the aim of endless energy use, endless growth. 

Critical minerals are vital for renewable energy. We must learn to mine them responsibly Bénédicte Cenki-Tok, Associate professor at Montpellier University, EU H2020 MSCA visiting researcher, University of Sydney
https://theconversation.com/critical-minerals-are-vital-for-renewable-energy-we-must-learn-to-mine-them-responsibly-131547,  February 17, 2020 .  As the world shifts away from fossil fuels, we will need to produce enormous numbers of wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles and batteries. Demand for the materials needed to build them will skyrocket.

This includes common industrial metals such as steel and copper, but also less familiar minerals such as the lithium used in rechargeable batteries and the rare earth elements used in the powerful magnets required by wind turbines and electric cars. Production of many of these critical minerals has grown enormously over the past decade with no sign of slowing down.

Australia is well placed to take advantage of this growth – some claim we are on the cusp of a rare earths boom – but unless we learn how to do it in a responsible manner, we will only create a new environmental crisis.

One consequence of a massive transition to renewables will be a drastic increase not only in the consumption of raw materials (including concrete, steel, aluminium, copper and glass) but also in the diversity of materials used.

Three centuries ago, the technologies used by humanity required half a dozen metals. Today we use more than 50, spanning almost the entire periodic table. However, like fossil fuels, minerals are finite.

Can we ‘unlearn’ renewables to make them sustainable?

If we take a traditional approach to mining critical minerals, in a few decades they will run out – and we will face a new environmental crisis. At the same time, it is still unclear how we will secure supply of these minerals as demand surges.

This is further complicated by geopolitics. China is a major producer, accounting for more than 60% of rare earth elements, and significant amounts of tungsten, bismuth and germanium.

This makes other countries, including Australia, dependent on China, and also means the environmental pollution due to mining occurs in China.

The opportunity for Australia is to produce its own minerals, and to do so in a way that minimises environmental harm and is sustainable.

Where to mine?

Australia has well established resources in base metals (such as gold, iron, copper, zinc and lead) and presents an outstanding potential in critical minerals. Australia already produces almost half of lithium worldwide, for example…….

Fuelling the transition

For most western economies, rare earth elements are the most vital. These have electromagnetic properties that make them essential for permanent magnets, rechargeable batteries, catalytic converters, LCD screens and more. Australia shows a great potential in various deposit types across all states.

The Northern Territory is leading with the Nolans Bore mine already in early-stage operations. But many other minerals are vital to economies like ours.

Cobalt and lithium are essential to ion batteries. Gallium is used in photodetectors and photovoltaics systems. Indium is used for its conductive properties in screens.

Critical minerals mining is seen now as an unprecedented economic opportunity for exploration, extraction and exportation.

Recent agreements to secure supply to the US opens new avenues for the Australian mining industry.

How can we make it sustainable?

Beyond the economic opportunity, this is also an environmental one. Australia has the chance to set an example to the world of how to make the supply of critical minerals sustainable. The question is: are we willing to?

Many of the techniques for creating sustainable minerals supply still need to be invented. We must invest in geosciences, create new tools for exploration, extraction, beneficiation and recovery, treat the leftover material from mining as a resource instead of waste, develop urban mining and find substitutes and effective recycling procedures.

In short, we must develop an integrated approach to the circular economy of critical minerals. One potential example to follow here is the European EURARE project initiated a decade ago to secure a future supply of rare earth elements.

More than ever, we need to bridge the gap between disciplines and create new synergies to make a sustainable future. It is essential to act now for a better planet.

 

February 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

Experienced physicist doubts the value of small modular nuclear reactors for Australia

Despite a good safety record, nuclear power is not straight forward, THE AUSTRALIAN, Leslie Cook 20 Jan 2020

As a physicist with the British Atomic Energy Authority in the 1960s, I remember the scale and complexity of the task and the breadth of expertise required in science, engineering and regulation, even if an existing design is used.

This simply does not exist in Australia. Nor does the necessary construction capacity — and the thought of the CFMEU controlling concrete pours of 18,000 cubic metres is daunting. Small modular reactors exist only on paper at present and will also require infrastructure. , https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/letters/despite-a-good-safety-record-nuclear-power-is-not-straight-forward/news-story/eb791793ea9751dc3a905a7869687e01

January 20, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, technology | Leave a comment

Australia as the salvation of the nuclear industry?

Australia is the great ‘white’ hope for the global nuclear industry, Independent Australia, By Noel Wauchope | 19 November 2019, The global nuclear industry is in crisis but that doesn’t stop the pro-nuclear lobby from peddling exorbitantly expensive nuclear as a “green alternative”. Noel Wauchope reports.

The global nuclear industry is in crisis. Well, in the Western world, anyway. It is hard to get a clear picture of  Russia and China, who appear to be happy putting developing nations into debt, as they market their nuclear reactors overseas with very generous loans — it helps to have stte-owned companies funding this effort.

But when it comes to Western democracies, where the industry is supposed to be commercially viable, there’s trouble. The latest news from S&P Global Ratings has made it plain: nuclear power can survive only with massive tax-payer support. Existing large nuclear  reactors need subsidies to continue, while the expense of building new ones has scared off investors.

So, for the nuclear lobby, ultimate survival seems to depend on developing and mass marketing “Generation IV” small and medium reactors (SMRs). …..

for the U.S. marketers, Australia, as a politically stable English-speaking ally, is a particularly desirable target. Australia’s geographic situation has advantages. One is the possibility of making Australia a hub for taking in radioactive wastes from South-East Asian countries. That’s a long-term goal of the global nuclear lobby.   …..

In particular, small nuclear reactors are marketed for submarines. That’s especially important now, as a new type of non-nuclear submarine – the Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarine, faster and much cheaper – could be making nuclear submarines obsolete. The Australian nuclear lobby is very keen on nuclear submarines: they are now promoting SMRs with propagandists such as Heiko Timmers, from Australian National University. This is an additional reason why Australia is the great white hope.

I use the word “white” advisedly here because Australia has a remarkable history of distrust and opposition to this industry form Indigenous Australians…..

The hunt for a national waste dump site is one problematic side of the nuclear lobby’s push for Australia. While accepted international policy on nuclear waste storage is that the site should be as near as possible to the point of production, the Australian Government’s plan is to set up a temporary site for nuclear waste, some 1700 km from its production at Lucas Heights. The other equally problematic issue is how to gain political and public support for the industry, which is currently banned by both Federal and state laws. SMR companies like NuScale are loath to spend money on winning hearts and minds in Australia while nuclear prohibition laws remain.

Ziggy Switkowski, a long-time promoter of the nuclear industry, has now renewed this campaign — although he covers himself well, in case it all goes bad, noting that nuclear energy for Australia could be a “catastrophic failure“. ……

his submission (No. 41) to the current Federal Inquiry into nuclear power sets out only one aim, that

‘… all obstacles … be removed to the consideration of nuclear power as part of the national energy strategy debate.’

So the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) should be changed, according to Switkowski. In an article in The Australian, NSW State Liberal MP Taylor Martin suggested that the Federal and state laws be changed to prohibit existing forms of nuclear power technology but to allow small modular reactors.

Switkowski makes it clear that the number one goal of the nuclear lobby is to remove Australia’s national and state laws that prohibit the nuclear industry. And, from reading many pro-nuclear submissions to the Federal Inquiry, this emerges as their most significant aim.

It does not appear that the Australian public is currently all agog about nuclear power. So, it does seem a great coincidence that so many of their representatives in parliaments – Federal, VictorianNew South WalesSouth Australia and members of a new party in Western Australia – are now advocating nuclear inquiries, leading to the repeal of nuclear prohibition laws.

We can only conclude that this new, seemingly coincidental push to overturn Australia’s nuclear prohibition laws, is in concert with the push for a national nuclear waste dump in rural South Australia — part of the campaign by the global nuclear industry, particularly the American industry, to kickstart another “nuclear renaissance”, before it’s too late.

Despite its relatively small population, Australia does “punch above its weight” in terms of its international reputation and as a commercial market. The repeal of Australia’s laws banning the nuclear industry would be a very significant symbol for much-needed new credibility for the pro-nuclear lobby. It would open the door for a clever publicity drive, no doubt using “action on climate change” as the rationale for developing nuclear power.

In the meantime, Australia has abundant natural resources for sun, wind and wave energy, and could become a leader in the South-East Asian region for developing and exporting renewable energy — a much quicker and more credible way to combat global warming. https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/australia-is-the-great-white-hope-for-the-global-nuclear-industry,13326

November 19, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, technology | Leave a comment

Enthusiastic (misplaced) call for tax-payer funded Mars colonisation research

When will these starry-eyed enthusiasts wake up to the intimate connection between space-Mars research, and Donald Trump’s nuclear-war-in-space project?
CALLS FOR A MARS RESEARCH STATION TO BE BUILT IN OUTBACK SOUTH AUSTRALIA, NZGeo, NOVEMBER 10, 2019,It’s unlikely that humans will call Mars home any time soon, but researchers think the arid Australian outback could help give us a clearer understanding of how to survive on the Red Planet.

Mars Society Australia has renewed its push for a Mars research station simulation to be built in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, in outback South Australia.

The site would replicate a future Mars community, complete with a fake rocket ship, laboratories, rovers and scientists in spacesuits doing field experiments in rocky outcrops.

“It will allow us to do a wide range of activities that support the vision of human presence on Mars,” the society’s president, Jonathan Clarke, said.

“We can train people in field science and space operations in the area, and we can do education and outreach programmes…….

It’s leveraging off the creation of Australia’s new space agency, as well as US president Donald Trump’s hasty plan for America to return to the Moon by 2024, and hopefully go on to Mars. ……

In September, the Australian government announced it would invest $A150 million ($NZ162m) for Australian businesses and researchers to join the US’s Mars exploration project……https://www.nzgeo.com/audio/calls-for-a-mars-research-station-to-be-built-in-outback-south-australia/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=FacebookPost&utm_campaign=Mars_research_station&fbclid=IwAR3lVBPG2YK12lphwTL83BDs1YHyc7M-o0Y1JwLNQTPRUfa3YCsWG457it8

November 14, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, technology | 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

Kalgoorlie Mayoral Candidate John Katahana wants a Small Nuclear Reactor for the town

Cannabis, nuclear power and Mardi Gras: General Hercules’ out-of-this-world pitch for Kalgoorlie mayoral tilt, The West Australian, 

Tegan Guthrie, Kalgoorlie Miner Saturday, 12 October 2019 A mini nuclear power station, cannabis cafe, a Mardi Gras parade, an observatory and a new nightlife precinct are among 303 steps in a Kalgoorlie-Boulder improvement plan floated by mayoral candidate John “General Hercules” Katahanas.
Mr Katahanas is gunning for the mayoral seat again, after receiving 277 votes in the 2015 election, and says he is “quietly confident” voters will get behind his campaign, promising he would be “more like a mother than a mayor” to the city…….. https://thewest.com.au/news/kalgoorlie-miner/cannabis-nuclear-power-and-mardi-gras-general-hercules-out-of-this-world-pitch-for-kalgoorlie-mayoral-tilt-ng-b881350580z

October 14, 2019 Posted by | technology, Western Australia | Leave a comment

As Morrison and Australia’s richest suck up to Trump, plan for rare earths business

Morrison and Trump open new front in China trade war with rare earth ‘action plan’, SMH, By Matthew Knott and David Crowe, September 21, 2019  Prime Minister Scott Morrison will throw Australian support behind US President Donald Trump in a bid to counter China’s dominance in vital raw materials as part of a historic state visit to the US capital.

The “action plan” will open a new front against China in a widening technology and trade war by exploiting Australian reserves of the rare earths and other materials that are essential for products ranging from iPhones to batteries and hybrid cars.

Mr Morrison arrived in Washington DC with a message for Mr Trump that positioned Australia as an ideal friend that would back its longstanding ally on Israel, Iran and wider defence policy……

Mr Morrison wants Mr Trump and his colleagues to see Australia as their strongest military ally over the past century and is using the visit to pledge the same close alliance for the century ahead.

Mr Trump’s officials believe the joint plan with Australia will improve the security of supply of materials in critical shortage, saying this will ensure economic security for both partners…….

US officials also praised Australia as a “tremendous partner” in opposing Iran’s nuclear program and interference in shipping, while Mr Morrison made it clear he backed the US in its support for Israel – a totemic issue for Mr Trump.

“Under my government we have taken an even stronger stand against the biased and unfair targeting of Israel in the UN General Assembly,” Mr Morrison says in the draft of his speech to the State Department………

The menu served to guests including golfer Greg Norman, businesswoman Gina Rinehart and media mogul Rupert Murdoch will include sunchoke ravioli, Dover sole and lady apple tart with ice cream for dessert.

Following his visit to Washington, Mr Morrison will travel to Chicago to meet the governor of Illinois, then Ohio to visit a new recycling plant owned by Australian billionaire Richard Pratt and on to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-and-trump-open-new-front-in-china-trade-war-with-rare-earth-action-plan-20190920-p52tco.html

September 21, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | 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