Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The facts contradict the pro nuclear spin of the Minerals Council of Australia’s report, written by Ben Heard.

“a smaller reactor, at least the water-cooled reactors that are most likely to be built earliest, will produce more, not less, nuclear waste per unit of electricity they generate because of lower efficiencies.”

Due to the loss of economies of scale, the decommissioning and waste management unit costs of SMR will probably be higher than those of a large reactor (some analyses state that between two and three times higher).”

Small nuclear reactors, huge costs   Dr. Jim Green 11 October 2021  Even by the standards of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), the new report published by the country’s most influential coal lobby on the subject of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) is jiggery-pokery of the highest order.

Why would a mining industry body promote SMRs? After mining for some years — or at most decades — no company would want to take on the responsibility of decommissioning a nuclear reactor and managing high-level nuclear waste for millennia. No companies are cited in the report expressing interest in SMRs to power their mining operations.

Perhaps the MCA – which infamously provided the lump of coal for Scott Morrison to wave around in parliament – thinks that promoting nuclear power will slow the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and believes that it is in the interests of some of its member companies to slow the transition.

If so, the timing of the report isn’t great, coming in the same week as the Business Council of Australia’s report which argues for a rapid, renewables-led decarbonisation, and Fortescue’s announcement that it plans to build the world’s largest green energy hydrogen manufacturing facility in Queensland.

Perhaps the MCA is doing the bidding of the (mostly foreign-owned) uranium mining companies operating in Australia? The MCA’s CEO Tania Constable said: “Australia should take advantage of growing international interest in nuclear energy and look to expand its already significant uranium sector.”

Perhaps … but there’s no evidence that the two companies mining uranium in Australia — BHP (Olympic Dam) and Heathgate Resources (Beverley Four Mile) — are lobbying for nuclear power. And Australia’s “already significant” uranium industry could hardly be more insignificant — it accounts for about 0.2 percent of Australia’s export revenue and about 0.01 percent of all jobs in Australia.

Bob Carr’s atomic bombshell

The MCA report also came in the same week as Bob Carr’s striking about-face on nuclear power. Having previously supported nuclear power, Carr wrote in The Australian: “In 2010 one enthusiast predicted within 10 years fourth-generation reactors and small modular reactors would be commonplace, including in Australia. None exists, here or abroad.”

The MCA report says SMRs are an “ideal fit” for Australia, citing their enhanced safety, lower cost than large-scale nuclear reactors or equivalent energy production methods, and lower waste production than current reactors.

It’s all nonsense. The safety claims don’t stack up. Nor do the claims about waste. Academic M.V. Ramana notes that “a smaller reactor, at least the water-cooled reactors that are most likely to be built earliest, will produce more, not less, nuclear waste per unit of electricity they generate because of lower efficiencies.”

And a 2016 European Commission document states: “Due to the loss of economies of scale, the decommissioning and waste management unit costs of SMR will probably be higher than those of a large reactor (some analyses state that between two and three times higher).”

SMRs have a similar capacity to many existing coal and gas-fired power plants in Australia, the MCA report states, so would make an ideal replacement. Back to Bob Carr:

“Where is the shire council putting up its hand to host a nuclear power plant? Harder to find than a sponsor for a high-temperature toxic waste incinerator.

“Nobody in the Hunter Valley has urged nuclear for the Liddell site, even on the footprint of this coal-fired power plant scheduled to close. And not even invoking the prospect of a small modular reactor that 10 years back was the vanguard of the nuclear renaissance. About to be planted across the Indonesian archipelago and the rest of Asia, we were promised.  Today they exist only on the Rolls-Royce drawing boards they have adorned since the 1970s.”

Economics

The MCA said in June 2020 that SMRs won’t find a market unless they can produce power at a cost of A$60-$80 per megawatt hour (MWh). That’s a big problem for enthusiasts because there’s no chance whatsoever that SMRs will produce power in that cost range.

An analysis by WSP / Parsons Brinckerhoff, prepared for the 2015/16 South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, estimated a cost of A$225 / MWh for a reactor based on the NuScale design, about three times higher than the MCA’s target range.

CSIRO estimates SMR power costs at A$258-338 / MWh in 2020 and A$129-336 / MWh in 2030.

Russia’s floating nuclear plant is said to be the only operational SMR in the world, although it doesn’t fit the ‘modular’ definition of serial factory production.

A 2016 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report said that electricity produced by the Russian floating plant is expected to cost about US$200 (A$273) / MWh, about four times higher than the target range cited by the MCA and more expensive than power from large reactors (US$129-198 / MWh).

Completion of Russia’s floating plant was nine years behind schedule and construction costs increased six-fold.

Yet, despite a mountain of evidence that SMRs won’t come close to producing power in the A$60-80 / MWh range, the new MCA report asserts that “robust estimates” using “conservative assumptions” suggest that SMRs will produce power at a cost of A$64-77 MWh by 2030.

One wonders who the MCA think they’re kidding.

The MCA report was written by Ben Heard, who recently closed his ‘Bright New World’ nuclear lobby website, just before taking up a full time role with consultancy Frazer-Nash. Heard promotes Canadian SMR-wannabe Terrestrial Energy in the MCA report but does not disclose his role on the company’s advisory board.

Heard also contributed two chapters on nuclear power to a 2020 book titled ‘An Australian nuclear industry: Starting with submarines’.

Dr Jim Green is lead author of a 2019 Nuclear Monitor report on SMRs and national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.

October 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

The massive subsidy to nuclear submarines must not be used to justify subsidy to nuclear power

the massive public subsidy of this project must not be used to justify the much greater risks of nuclear power.

Australia is blessed with a bounty of sun and wind, and is well on the way to achieving 50% renewable energy by 2030, even without government help. No matter which way you look at it, nuclear power in Australia makes no sense at all.

Yes, Australia is buying a fleet of nuclear submarines. But nuclear-powered electricity must not come next  https://theconversation.com/yes-australia-is-buying-a-fleet-of-nuclear-submarines-but-nuclear-powered-electricity-must-not-come-next-168110
Ian Lowe
, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith UniversitySeptember 20, 2021   The federal government on Thursday announced a landmark defence pact with the United States and United Kingdom that involves this nation acquiring nuclear-powered submarines. The question of nuclear submarines in Australia has been bubbling along for some time – and with it, whether we should also develop a nuclear energy sector.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted the defence deal did not mean Australia would look to develop a civil nuclear capability.

But there is strong support within Coalition ranks for a homegrown nuclear power industry. And the Minerals Council of Australia on Thursday quickly pointed out the “opportunity” the submarine announcement created for expanding nuclear technology in Australia.

The submarine announcement is sure to trigger a new round of debate on whether nuclear energy is right for Australia. But let’s be clear: the technology makes no sense for Australia, economically or politically, and would not be a timely response to climate change.

A twin discussion

The topics of nuclear submarines and nuclear energy are often discussed in tandem.

The technology is similar: the energy source for a nuclear submarine is basically a miniature version of that for a power station. And a similar supply chain is needed for mining and processing uranium, fuelling the reactor and managing waste. That also means both technologies require similar skills and regulatory frameworks.

The Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable on Thursday responded to the submarine announcement, pointing out the apparent synergies with nuclear power:

This is an incredible opportunity for Australia’s economy – not only will we develop the skills and infrastructure to support this naval technology, but it connects us to the growing global nuclear power industry and its supply chains.

Now that Australia is acquiring nuclear submarines which use small reactors, there is no reason why Australia should not be considering [small modular reactors] for civilian use.

A former commander of Australia’s submarine force, Denis Mole, in April also questioned why Australia doesn’t have a larger and more diverse nuclear industry.

Mole argued that of the top 20 world economies, all have nuclear power except Australia, Italy and Saudi Arabia. And as nations commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 “it’s noteworthy that no major economy intends doing so without nuclear power in the mix”, he said.

And in February this year, Lindsay Hughes, a senior analyst in the Indo-Pacific program of research organisation Future Directions International, also suggested Australia should develop a nuclear power sector to support a nuclear submarine fleet.

Hughes argued a nuclear power sector would provide skills that could be transferred into the military domain, including nuclear-powered submarines, saying:

A nuclear power sector would demand university graduates with skills in engineering, physics and mathematics, the same skills and skill levels that the US Navy requires to operate its nuclear submarines. Australian graduates with similar skills could be employed on Australian nuclear-powered submarines.

Hughes concluded a nuclear power sector “could potentially provide much of the foundational skills required to maintain and operate a nuclear-power submarine fleet”.

 That really is the military tail wagging the electricity industry dog.

Nuclear power is not the logical next step

Even if there’s agreement Australia needs nuclear submarines patrolling the South China Sea, there is no logical jump for a nuclear power sector to support that activity.

In an opinion piece in March this year, former defence minister Christopher Pyne wrote that without nuclear energy, Australia could not support nuclear submarines – but establishing the former would be difficult. He went on:

Australia does not have a nuclear industry. One cannot be created overnight. Even if there was the political will to create one, which there isn’t, what political party is going to waste its political capital on creating a legislative framework for a nuclear industry that can sustain nuclear submarines, that has zero chance of passing any Upper House in any jurisdiction in Australia.

A nuclear industry in Australia would need a solution for the safe storage and disposal of high-level radioactive waste – this appears unlikely, given the public opposition to establishing a site to dispose of even low-level nuclear waste in Australia.

And research suggests there would be little community support for nuclear power – especially following the Fukushima disaster – let alone a community willing to host a reactor.

The decision to build nuclear submarines raises a new set of issues about uranium processing, fuel fabrication and waste management. The Morrison government needs to tell the community how these will be managed.

What’s more, while nuclear power may have once been cheaper than wind or solar, the economics have since changed dramatically.

Nuclear power plants are very expensive to build and the economics of nuclear power are getting steadily worse. By contrast, renewables continue to come down in price.

Over the past 20 years, new nuclear reactors have struggled to establish a business case in any OECD country, with the potential exception of South Korea. The world has obviously made its decision on nuclear: last year 192 gigawtts of renewables came on line, compared with a net 3 gigawatts of nuclear power.

The future is renewables

Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper noted the federal government had ruled out nuclear propulsion for submarines. Now the federal government will outlay huge amounts of money establishing the framework for the technology.

However, the massive public subsidy of this project must not be used to justify the much greater risks of nuclear power.

Australia is blessed with a bounty of sun and wind, and is well on the way to achieving 50% renewable energy by 2030, even without government help. No matter which way you look at it, nuclear power in Australia makes no sense at all.

September 25, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics, technology | Leave a comment

AUKUS, nuclear submarines, Highly Enriched Uranium and weapons proliferation

The AUKUS decision to equip Australia with SSNs not only is a fool’s errand but also could pose a grave threat to regional and international security.

Australia’s acquisition of SSNs under AUKUS could well open a Pandora’s box of proliferation with non-nuclear-weapon states such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea among others also going in for nuclear-powered submarines and keeping nuclear fuel (both low- and highly-enriched uranium) outside the scope of IAEA safeguards. This would weaken the IAEA safeguards (verification) system already facing challenges from new technologies and open up possibilities of diversion of nuclear material for nuclear weapons.

Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines will risk opening a Pandora’s box of proliferation,   https://johnmenadue.com/australias-nuclear-powered-submarines-will-risk-opening-a-pandoras-box-of-proliferation/ By Tariq Rauf, 22, 2021 The AUKUS decision to equip Australia with SSNs not only is a fool’s errand but also could pose a grave threat to regional and international security.

After first suffering a seeming “brain snap” to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) some years back, at long last Australia has been promised a fleet of eight SSNs by the Biden administration under the newly minted and awkwardly named AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and United States) alliance against China.

Fresh from an ignominious debacle in Afghanistan that led to that bedevilled country once again falling under the repression of the murderous Taliban, the Biden administration has capped off its recent Afghan escapade by driving a stake through the global nuclear non-proliferation regime through its ill-advised decision to supply SSNs and related technology to Australia.

The problem

Nuclear-powered submarines of the United States (and the United Kingdom) reportedly are fuelled with highly-enriched uranium (HEU) of 93 per cent to 97 per cent enrichment level that can last for up to 33 years — this is the same enrichment level as for use in nuclear weapons. In contrast, French nuclear-powered submarines run on low-enriched uranium 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent enrichment level and need to be refuelled on average after about 10 years but do not need weapon-grade enriched uranium.

Nuclear ship propulsion technology and reactor design for military vessels as well as the isotopic composition and quantity of their nuclear fuel remains highly classified. When Canada was considering acquiring a fleet of SSNs in 1987, the two potential suppliers were France (Rubis/Améthyste-class) and the United Kingdom (Trafalgar-class).

In the case of the United Kingdom, Canada was informed that US Congressional approval would be required for the UK to construct and supply SSNs (with US design reactors and nuclear fuel) to Canada. The nuclear ship propulsion reactor design and nuclear fuel information would be subject to a high level of classification. With this requirement for secrecy, Canada would not have been able to provide detailed information to the IAEA under its Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) safeguards agreement (INFCIRC/164) thereby creating a loophole or gap in IAEA safeguards coverage in Canada. A certain (likely unspecified) large quantity of HEU for naval nuclear fuel would be taken out of safeguards for use in the SSNs and the spent fuel coming out the boats after 30 years or more also would be subject to secrecy. Thus the IAEA would not be able to measure the quantity or isotopic composition or to verify the HEU in naval use.

The IAEA Additional Protocol, to safeguards agreements, provides for the “broader conclusion” regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activities. As such, to be clear and precise, were Australia to withhold from the IAEA information on and access to its naval nuclear fuel, then the IAEA would be unable to provide a broader conclusion for Australia under its additional protocol INFCIRC/217/Add.1.

Australia and the two other AUKUS states have communicated to the IAEA director general their intention for the Royal Australian Navy to acquire a fleet of SSNs and this means that at some future time Australia would be invoking paragraph 14 of its NPT safeguards agreement to exclude significant quantities of highly-enriched uranium for naval nuclear fuel. Thus, the claim by AUKUS states “that a critical objective of this cooperation will be to maintain “the strength of both the nuclear non-proliferation regime and Australia’s exemplary non-proliferation credentials” and that they will be “engaging with the IAEA throughout the coming months” is at best an oxymoron.

It should be matter of serious concern for the IAEA board of governors that the “IAEA will engage with them [AUKUS] on this matter in line with its statutory mandate, and in accordance with their respective safeguards agreements with the agency” — as this does not make much sense in that the paragraph 14 provisions on keeping HEU naval nuclear fuel out of safeguards apply only to Australia and not to the UK and the US (the latter two being nuclear-weapon states).

The only responsible course for the IAEA board of governors should be to warn Australia regarding the deleterious effects on safeguards should it implement paragraph 14 provisions and keep large quantities of HEU for its fleet of SSNs outside of IAEA safeguards. The IAEA board would be well advised to reject any request placed before it from Australia or from any other NPT non-nuclear-weapon state to implement paragraph 14 provisions. Rather, the board should take the responsible decision to revoke application of paragraph 14 of INFCIRC/153 (Corr.) and in all related safeguards agreements, much like the board rescinded the original provisions of the Small Quantities Protocol in 2005.

Australia’s acquisition of SSNs under AUKUS could well open a Pandora’s box of proliferation with non-nuclear-weapon states such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea among others also going in for nuclear-powered submarines and keeping nuclear fuel (both low- and highly-enriched uranium) outside the scope of IAEA safeguards. This would weaken the IAEA safeguards (verification) system already facing challenges from new technologies and open up possibilities of diversion of nuclear material for nuclear weapons. The AUKUS decision to equip Australia with SSNs not only is a fool’s errand but also could pose a grave threat to regional and international security.

This article was first published by the Toda Peace Institute and is reproduced with permission. Tariq Rauf was formerly head of verification and security policy coordination, office reporting to the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and previously advised Canada’s parliamentary committees on national defence and foreign affairs.

September 23, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear submarines and their disadvantages

The US Virginia-class submarines typically use highly enriched uranium (HEU) that does not need replacing during the lifecycle of each submarine. Across the world, the US, Britain, Russia and India are the only countries to use HEU in naval reactors. Other countries like France use high-density, low-enriched uranium that will occasionally require swapping out with a replacement source.

HEU is one of the most dangerous metals on earth and also one of the simplest nuclear materials to work with. These twin traits also make it a security risk over fears rogue states or terrorists might develop a nuclear weapon, or mishaps trigger a serious accident. It is also why it has been targeted under non-proliferation treaties to reduce its use.

What are nuclear-powered submarines, anyway? A guide to Australia’s looming military addition,Guardian, Royce Kurmelovs. @RoyceRk2T, hu 16 Sep 2021  

What are they and what design might Australia get?

It is not clear which submarine the Australian government will obtain, but the US navy’s latest design is the Virginia-class submarine. Manufactured by American aerospace and defence company General Dynamics, this submarine has gone through several iterations but is generally powered by a single nuclear reactor and can travel at more than 25 knots. Its crew includes 15 officers and 117 enlisted personnel, and the subs are used both in anti-submarine warfare and intelligence gathering operations.

The vessel is powered by a 210MW pressurised water nuclear reactor, inside of which the enriched uranium fuel is sealed. The reactor does not have to be refuelled over its 30-year lifespan ………….. 

What are the drawbacks of nuclear?

Because nuclear submarines tend to be larger, one downside is they can’t move into shallow waters, making them more easily detectable. During one war game in 2015, a Russian-built, Kilo-class diesel-powered submarine used by the Indian navy “sank” a US nuclear-powered sub – although the US navy has never acknowledged the sinking.

Traditionally Australia’s diesel-powered submarines are thought to have been complementary to US powered nuclear subs used by the US, making the recent announcement a surprise.

Nuclear submarines are also more complicated to maintain and service. Unlike the US and UK, Australia does not have a domestic nuclear power industry, which could provide a highly skilled workforce of engineers and nuclear physicists. Much of the work on the subs will probably have to be done overseas.

It is also not clear what plans are being made to handle the spent uranium. The Australian government has been working to build a controversial nuclear waste storage facility in Kimba in South Australia, but this proposal has so far been limited to low-level and intermediate waste from 100 sites around the country.

Are nuclear subs quieter?

It depends. Diesel-electric subs are quieter while running in electric mode, but must at some point surface or pop up a snorkel to run their diesel engines and recharge the batteries. When the diesel engines are running, these noisier than nuclear-powered subs. Nuclear subs also generate noise from the reactor, including the coolant pipes, turbines and steam generation.

What fuel do they use?

The US Virginia-class submarines typically use highly enriched uranium (HEU) that does not need replacing during the lifecycle of each submarine. Across the world, the US, Britain, Russia and India are the only countries to use HEU in naval reactors. Other countries like France use high-density, low-enriched uranium that will occasionally require swapping out with a replacement source.

HEU is one of the most dangerous metals on earth and also one of the simplest nuclear materials to work with. These twin traits also make it a security risk over fears rogue states or terrorists might develop a nuclear weapon, or mishaps trigger a serious accident. It is also why it has been targeted under non-proliferation treaties to reduce its use.

Will it be able to launch nukes?

If there is one thing the Australian government has been very clear about, it’s that the subs will not be armed with nuclear weapons and that Australia is not seeking to obtain nuclear weapons capability.

That’s not to say the submarine won’t be capable of doing so. Using the Virginia-class as an example, the build comes equipped with 12 vertical missile launch tubes and four 533mm torpedo tubes. It is capable of launching 16 Tomahawk cruise missiles in one salvo but can be modified to mount heavier weapons systems. While these missiles could potentially be built to carry a nuclear warhead, as of 2019 the only variations of the Tomahawk missile in operation were non-nuclear.

What happens when things go wrong?

Serving on a naval submarine has not always been a pleasant experience. For example, German U-boat crews in the second world war suffered devastating losses and many were killed not just in combat but from catastrophic mechanical failures, including asphyxiation from diesel exhaust or explosive decompression after flushing a toilet.When it comes to nuclear subs, radiation adds a new dimension, although there have been no known reactor meltdowns in the sinkings that have occurred to date.

The most recent nuclear sub disaster involved the Russian Kursk, which sank after a faulty weld on a torpedo caused an explosion that then detonated other torpedos. All of the 118 crew members died. Many were instantly killed in the initial blasts, although failsafes in the nuclear reactor shut it down without incident. The 23 sailors who survived the blasts spent six hours awaiting a rescue that did not come, and were killed in a desperate attempt to create oxygen. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/16/what-are-nuclear-powered-submarines-anyway-a-guide-to-australias-looming-military-addition

September 20, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, technology | Leave a comment

Australia’s new nuclear submarines will have dangerous Highly Enriched Uranium, not the Low Enriched Uranium of the French ones.

The United States and UK operate naval reactors in their submarines that are fueled with 93.5 percent enriched uranium (civilian power plants are typically fueled with three to five percent uranium-235) in quantities sufficient to last for the lifetime of their ships (33 years for attack submarines).Having resisted domestic efforts to minimize the use of HEU and convert their naval reactors to LEU fuel, the United States and UK have no alternative fuel to offer. France, on the other hand, now runs naval reactors fueled with LEU. The new Suffren-class submarine, from which the French conventional submarine offered to Australia was derived, even runs on fuel enriched below 6 percent.

Until now, it was the US commitment to nonproliferation that relentlessly crushed or greatly limited these aspirations toward nuclear-powered submarine technology. With the new AUKUS decision, we can now expect the proliferation of very sensitive military nuclear technology in the coming years, with literally tons of new nuclear materials under loose or no international safeguards.

It is difficult to understand the internal policy process that led the Democratic Biden administration to the AUKUS submarine announcement.  It seems that just like in the old Cold War, arms racing and the search for short-term strategic advantage is now bipartisan.

The new Australia, UK, and US nuclear submarine announcement: a terrible decision for the nonproliferation regime https://thebulletin.org/2021/09/the-new-australia-uk-and-us-nuclear-submarine-announcement-a-terrible-decision-for-the-nonproliferation-regime/

By Sébastien Philippe | September 17, 2021 On September 15, US President Joe Biden, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched a new major strategic partnership to meet the “imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term.” Named AUKUS, the partnership was announced together with a bombshell decision: The United States and UK will transfer naval nuclear-propulsion technology to Australia. Such a decision is a fundamental policy reversal for the United States, which has in the past spared no effort to thwart the transfer of naval reactor technology by other countries, except for its World War II partner, the United Kingdom.  Even France—whose “contract of the century” to sell 12 conventional submarines to Australia was shot down by PM Morrison during the AUKUS announcement—had been repeatedly refused US naval reactor technology during the Cold War. If not reversed one way or another, the AUKUS decision could have major implications for the nonproliferation regime.


In the 1980s, the United States prevented France and the UK from selling nuclear attack submarines to Canada. The main argument centered on the danger of nuclear proliferation associated with the naval nuclear fuel cycle. Indeed, the nonproliferation treaty has a well-known loophole: non-nuclear weapon states can remove fissile materials from international control for use in non-weapon military applications, specifically to fuel nuclear submarine reactors. These reactors require a significant amount of uranium to operate. Moreover, to make them as compact as possible, most countries operate their naval reactors with nuclear-weapon-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel.

With tons of weapons-grade uranium out of international safeguards, what could go wrong?

The United States, UK, and Australia are giving themselves 18 months to hammer out the details of the arrangement. This will include figuring out what type of submarine, reactors, and uranium fuel will be required. Similarly, questions about where to base the submarines, what new infrastructure will be needed, how maintenance will be conducted, how nuclear fuel will be handled, and how crews will be trained—among many others—will need to be answered.

Australia has no civilian nuclear power infrastructure beyond a 20 megawatt-thermal research reactor and faces a rough nuclear learning curve. It will need to strengthen its nuclear safety authority so it has the capability to conduct, review, and validate safety assessments for naval reactors that are complex and difficult to commission. 

How long this new nuclear endeavor will take and how much it will cost are anyone’s guesses. But the cancelled $90 billion (Australian) “contract of the century” with France for conventionally powered attack submarines will most likely feel like a cheap bargain in retrospect. Beyond these technical details, the AUKUS partnership will also have to bend over backwards to fulfill prior international nonproliferation commitments and prevent the new precedent created by the Australian deal from proliferating out of control around the world.

The United States and UK operate naval reactors in their submarines that are fueled with 93.5 percent enriched uranium (civilian power plants are typically fueled with three to five percent uranium-235) in quantities sufficient to last for the lifetime of their ships (33 years for attack submarines).Having resisted domestic efforts to minimize the use of HEU and convert their naval reactors to LEU fuel, the United States and UK have no alternative fuel to offer. France, on the other hand, now runs naval reactors fueled with LEU. The new Suffren-class submarine, from which the French conventional submarine offered to Australia was derived, even runs on fuel enriched below 6 percent.

So Australia is likely to receive HEU technology, unless an LEU crash program is launched that could take more than a decade to complete or in a dramatic reversal, France is pulled back into a deal—two scenarios that remain unlikely at this point and at any rate do not solve all proliferation concerns. Assuming the high-enrichment route is followed, if Canberra wants to operate six to 12 nuclear submarines for about 30 years, it will need some three to six tons of HEU. It has none on hand and no domestic capacity to enrich uranium. So unless it kickstarts an enrichment program for military purposes, the material would need to come from the United States or the UK.

One can only imagine the drops of sweat trickling down the neck of the International Atomic Energy Agency leadership in Vienna when an Australian delegation comes knocking at its door bringing the good news. The agency, which is currently battling to prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material to build a nuclear weapon—25 kilograms (0.025 ton) of HEU according to the internationally agreed standard—will have to figure out how to monitor and account for 100 to 200 times that amount without gaining access to secret naval reactor design information.  Managing that feat while keeping its credibility intact will be difficult to pull off.

What could happen if AUKUS moves forward? France clearly feels “backstabbed” by its Anglo-Saxon allies and angered to the unimaginable point of cancelling a gala celebrating the 240th anniversary of the Revolutionary War Battle of the Capes during America’s war of independence. In response, the French could relax their position on not transferring naval reactor technology to Brazil as part of helping the country build its first nuclear attack submarine. South Korea just successfully launched a ballistic missile from a conventional submarine and recently floated the idea of starting a nuclear submarine program in response to growing nuclear threats from North Korea. Seoul could now ask the United States or other nations for an arrangement similar to Australia’s.


Russia could begin new naval reactor cooperation with China to boost China’s submarine capabilities in response to the AUKUS announcement. India and Pakistan, which already have nuclear weapons, could benefit from international transfers as well, possibly from France and China respectively. Iran, of course, has already expressed interest in enriching uranium to HEU levels to pursue a submarine program.

Until now, it was the US commitment to nonproliferation that relentlessly crushed or greatly limited these aspirations toward nuclear-powered submarine technology. With the new AUKUS decision, we can now expect the proliferation of very sensitive military nuclear technology in the coming years, with literally tons of new nuclear materials under loose or no international safeguards.

Domestic political opposition to the nuclear submarine deal is already brewing in Australia. The Green Party has announced that it will fight the deal “tooth and nail.” Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Morrison is very much struggling in the polls and could lose next year’s election—before the end of the 18-month review process announced by AUKUS. The nuclear submarine project could then be buried before it takes off, saving the international community further headaches.

But if Morrison gets re-elected and the program continues, it will be for the United Stated to take up its responsibilities as the guardian of the nonproliferation regime. Poor nuclear arms control and nonproliferation decisions—such as leaving the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and approving the US-Indian nuclear deal—have so far been a trademark of the US Republican Party. It is difficult to understand the internal policy process that led the Democratic Biden administration to the AUKUS submarine announcement.  It seems that just like in the old Cold War, arms racing and the search for short-term strategic advantage is now bipartisan.


September 18, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, reference, technology, uranium | Leave a comment

Doubts about the nuclear submarines, do they make Australia less safe? Hugh White wonders.

What the submarine deal means for Morrison’s future, The Age, By David Crowe, SEPTEMBER 18, 2021  ”…………… Morrison has made sweeping decisions in the coronavirus pandemic, shutting borders and spending billions, but none is like the move to bolt Australia to the United States and the United Kingdom and build a new fleet of nuclear submarines……………

The toughest decisions are safely postponed until after the federal election due by May next year. Anxious about his prospects in the shipbuilding states of Western Australia and South Australia, Morrison promises more money for defence and more jobs for workers who lose from the cancellation of the French deal.

What he does not promise is that every submarine will be built in Australia. This is because the government’s immediate political objective is at odds with the country’s strategic imperative to replace today’s Collins-class submarines as soon as possible. Only after the election will voters know if the fastest way to deploy the new fleet is to have the first vessels built by the British or Americans.

So there is a tactical move embedded in the strategic shift.

…….. But there are real concerns the Prime Minister could lead the country into greater danger, or at least leave it exposed.

…… This will be a defining argument for the next 18 months. If this call is so fundamental to Australian security, why is Morrison so comfortable with such a long wait for delivery? The alternatives are to buy US submarines that are already in the water as the US deploys newer vessels over time, or place orders for new submarines built overseas.

…… Is this as significant as ANZUS, as Morrison claims? “It is not,” says John McCarthy, a senior adviser to Asialink at the University of Melbourne and a former ambassador to the US, Indonesia, Japan and India. “I simply cannot see that changing the type of submarine, albeit important, makes a hell of a lot of difference. I don’t buy the hype.”

McCarthy does not take issue with the shift to nuclear or the strengthening of the US and UK alliances, but he worries about the breach with France and the message to Asia. After decades of greater engagement in Asia, the government has chosen to tighten the knot with the Anglosphere, yet France is a greater power in the Pacific than Britain. Only months ago, Morrison sought support from French President Emmanuel Macron to counter China………..

“The easy thing is to assume that what’s worked for us in the past is going to work for us in the future,” says Hugh White, professor emeritus at the Australian National University.“The easy thing is not to recognise that Australia has to look after itself in the new order in Asia. It is to assume that we can rely on America and, God save us, the British to look after us and all we have to do is help them. That’s the way we’ve thought about our security for 150 years…….

White believes a bigger fleet of conventional submarines could be more effective and doubts the nuclear fleet can arrive before 2040, but he also questions whether this is significant for China. “If the Chinese go and push ahead anyway, and we end up in a war, I don’t think it is going to make a very big difference as to who is going to win or lose,……………….. https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/what-the-submarine-deal-means-for-morrison-s-future-20210917-p58sjo.html

September 18, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Morrison says sub deal won’t lead to nuclear power push in Australia. Don’t believe him — RenewEconomy

Morrison says he has no plans for nuclear power plants despite nuclear subs deal. But conservatives and the pro-nuclear lobby won’t stop trying. The post Morrison says sub deal won’t lead to nuclear power push in Australia. Don’t believe him appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Morrison says sub deal won’t lead to nuclear power push in Australia. Don’t believe him — RenewEconomy

Prime minister Scott Morrison insisted on Thursday morning that the landmark nuclear submarine deal struck with US president Joe Biden and UK prime minister Boris Johnson won’t translate into a push for nuclear power plants in Australia.

“Let me be clear: Australia is not seeking to establish nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability. And we will continue to meet all of our nuclear non-proliferation obligations,” Morrison said.

On the issue of nuclear power plants, don’t believe him. Morrison could hardly have said anything else. It’s one thing to announce a switch to nuclear powered submarines without any broad social discussion, but quite another to commit the country to nuclear power.

But the pro-nuclear lobby – both within and without the federal Coalition government – won’t be able to help themselves, even if the reality is that the sub construction won’t likely even start for the best part of a decade, such is the complexity of the technology.

The lobby will say it is bizarre that Australia could be the only country in the world planning to sustain a nuclear powered submarine fleet without a civil nuclear industry. And the argument is already being put that if Australia is happy to host nuclear power in a tin can under the sea, then why not in a land-based power plant.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian Greens blast nuclear submarine deal.


Floating Chernobyls: : Greens blast sub deal  
https://www.perthnow.com.au/politics/floating-chernobyls-greens-blast-sub-deal-c-3978289, Matt CoughlanAAP, September 16, 2021

The Greens have warned Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines will create “floating Chernobyls” in the heart of major cities.

The UK and US will give Australia access to top secret nuclear propulsion technology for a fleet of new submarines to be built in Adelaide through new security pact AUKUS.

Greens leader Adam Bandt believes the move increases the prospect of nuclear war in the region and puts Australia in the firing line.

“It’s a dangerous decision that will make Australia less safe by putting floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities,” he told the ABC on Thursday.

It’s a terrible decision. It’s one of the worst security decisions in decades.”

Mr Bandt said the Greens would fight the decision and urged Labor to do the same.

“The prime minister needs to explain what will happen if there’s an accident with a nuclear reactor now in the heart of one of our major cities?” he said.

“How many people in Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth, will die as a result of it? What is going to happen if there is a problem with one of the nuclear reactors?”

It is understood the submarines will not require a civilian nuclear capability but rather will have reactors and fuel which will last the life of the vessel.

Independent senator and former submariner Rex Patrick wants an urgent parliamentary inquiry to report before the next federal election.

Senator Patrick, who has been a vocal critic of the $90 billion French submarine deal that is now over, said scrutiny was crucial.

We have to be careful we don’t move from one massive procurement disaster into something else that hasn’t been thought through properly,” he said.

The government has sunk $2.4 billion on the French program and is negotiating on other compensation, which remains commercial in confidence.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and three senior frontbenchers received a briefing ahead of the announcement on Thursday morning.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, technology | Leave a comment

Small nuclear reactors – thin end of the nuclear wedge for Australia, as Australian Strategic Policy Institute pushes for submarines


olbloke75  comment on Independent Australia 10 Sept 21

This drive for Australia to embrace Small Nuclear Reactor technology, SMRs, has also been driven by interests within Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) for sometime.

SMRs are the thin end of the wedge for a nuclear industry which promotes zero emission power production but conveniently neglects the huge costs it generates during setup, storage & decommissioning of facilities. The electric car mobs are the same; don’t talk about the dead batteries!

Clearly there are interests who want to see us embrace nuclear power for these new submarines but the absence of any nuclear industry in Australia prevents that. So that started a push for use to embrace SMRs. That’s exactly what powers nuclear submarines & surface ships; SMRs.

I suspect the left field choice of the French Barracuda for our new subs is not isolated from this nuclear push. It is a new design, large French nuclear sub. Its selection over proven Swedish & German conventional designs doesn’t become clear until you think deeper about motive. To adapted the Barracuda’s yet unproven design, to accept conventional battery & diesel power, virtually the entire sub has to be redesigned. Part of the reason design is behind schedule is, I’d suggest, because of the push & an expectation it will become nuclear powered. What’s more, I suspect that was an undocumented, nod-nod, wink-wink agenda of both the current government, defense & French contractor, Naval.

Methinks there is method why this Sub was selected & the increasing push to embrace SMRs. They’re not talking advanced, slow breeding, large scale energy generators using Thorium technology. SMRs are ‘conventional’ dirty nuclear technology.

Beware of the words used by Morrison & his ministers when they talk about “Technology” being the solution to lowering emissions as part of adopting Net Zero Emissions by 2050. SMRs & nuclear technology fit the Morrison & Liberal definition of ‘technology‘. At the moment he says, nuclear energy has long been ruled out, but I wouldn’t count on it, IF, the win the next election. In the meantime, he emulates Basil Fawlty in more ways than one. ‘Don’t mention the war …… https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/the-nationals-and-murdoch-media-support-nuclear-power-ahead-of-cop26,15496#disqus_thread

September 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, technology | Leave a comment

Environmentalists want independent review on plans for rocket launch from Eyre Peninsula

SA rocket launch amid calls for conservation site review  Stephanie Richards, IN DAILY,

Environmentalists are calling on the State Government to order an independent review into alternate sites for a rocket launchpad facility, as a company today launches its first test rocket from the Eyre Peninsula conservation zone it hopes to make a permanent base.

Space industry company Southern Launch will today launch a 10-metre-high, three-tonne test rocket from its Whalers Way Oribital Launch Complex in a conservation zone about 25-kilomtres southwest of Port Lincoln.

The rocket, owned by Taiwan-based space company tiSPACE, will travel southwards over the Great Australian Bight, with Southern Launch using the launch to gather noise and vibration data to determine the impact of rocket launches on native wildlife.

Southern Launch was granted permission by the State Commission Assessment Panel to launch the test rockets in June, but it is still waiting on approval to build two permanent launchpads at the Whalers Way site to host regular satellite launches into orbit around the Earth’s poles.

The proposal has received significant backlash from conservationists and local residents, who argue a rocket launchpad complex should not be built in a conservation zone that is home to several state and federal-listed threatened bird species.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, South Australian conservation groups including the Nature Conservation Society, Wilderness Society, Conservation Council, the National Trust, Birds SA and Trees for Life expressed “major concerns” with the imminent launch and plans for a permanent launchpad facility at the site.

They called on the State Government to order an independent review of possible alternate locations for the launchpads, arguing “the only analysis that has been done on possible locations is by the company that stands to profit from this operation”.

“We have urged the Government to work with the company to find an alternative site for the proposed rocket launch facility, but so far, none have been put forward,” Trees for Life CEO Natasha Davis said.

According to Southern Launch’s Environmental Impact Statement, which is currently out for public consultation, the company considered several sites to build its permanent launchpad facility before settling on Whalers Way.

Alternate sites in South Australia included Kangaroo Island, Cape Jervis, Cape Douglas, Ceduna and the Mid Eyre Peninsula, while a RAAF base in regional Victoria and a national park in Western Australia were also considered.

The site was the subject of a Heritage Agreement; however, some areas of the site were specifically excluded from the agreement.”

Asked whether the Government supported an independent review into alternate locations for the launchpad facility, a state government spokesperson told InDaily that as Southern Launch’s proposal had been classed as a “major project”, the company would need to submit an analysis of why Whalers Way is a suitable site.

“The proponent’s Environmental Impact Statement is currently out for public consultation, and South Australians are urged to have their say,” the spokesperson said.

The public has until next Thursday to submit feedback via the Plan SA website.

The site was the subject of a Heritage Agreement; however, some areas of the site were specifically excluded from the agreement.”

Asked whether the Government supported an independent review into alternate locations for the launchpad facility, a state government spokesperson told InDaily that as Southern Launch’s proposal had been classed as a “major project”, the company would need to submit an analysis of why Whalers Way is a suitable site.

“The proponent’s Environmental Impact Statement is currently out for public consultation, and South Australians are urged to have their say,” the spokesperson said.

The public has until next Thursday to submit feedback via the Plan SA website.

According to Southern Launch’s Environmental Impact Statement, six threatened bird species were located during field surveys at the launch site, and another ten threatened species were known to live in the area………………..

In a Facebook post this morning, Premier Steven Marshall said the test launches “put South Australia in the box seat to tap in to the nation’s booming space industry”. https://indaily.com.au/news/2021/09/10/sa-rocket-launch-amid-calls-for-conservation-site-review/

September 11, 2021 Posted by | South Australia, technology | Leave a comment

Despite Australia’s laws prohibiting nuclear development, Angus Taylor signs up for development of small nuclear reactors with UK.

It is understood the co-operation will involve “leveraging” the expertise of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in waste processing and advanced materials to help advance development of small modular reactors

Top union leader backs Angus Taylor’s nuclear deal with UK  https://www.afr.com/policy/energy-and-climate/top-union-leader-backs-angus-taylor-s-nuclear-deal-with-uk-20210730-p58eiz Jacob Greber, 13 Aug 21,

One of Australia’s leading union leaders has lent support to Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s decision to enable Australian scientists to work with the UK on next-generation nuclear power development even as two Labor MPs slammed the idea of such power plants as “deeply moronic” and “toxic” to the environment and human health.

Daniel Walton, head of the Australian Workers Union called for “open and pragmatic energy solutions” to reduce carbon footprints at reliable and affordable rates…….

Mr Taylor signed a letter of intent this week with his British counterpart, Kwasi Kwarteng, for both countries to collaborate on low-emissions technology, including “advanced nuclear designs and enabling technologies”.

It is understood the co-operation will involve “leveraging” the expertise of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in waste processing and advanced materials to help advance development of small modular reactors, which are about the size of a standard shipping container. ( small? deceptive spin – see below for an example)

In Wyoming, a company owned by Bill Gates, TerraPower, is seeking approval for a nuclear power plant that proponents say would replace 200 local coal-related jobs within a year.

Reports of the UK-Australia nuclear tie-up triggered an immediate backlash from two West Australian Labor MPs.

“Nothing better demonstrates the Liberals’ deeply moronic approach to energy and economics,” Josh Wilson, federal MP for Fremantle, tweeted on Friday. “Nuclear power is not only ferociously expensive, but also slow, inflexible and toxic to the environment and human health.”

Perth MP Patrick Gorman accused the Coalition of failing to listen to West Australians…..   https://www.afr.com/policy/energy-and-climate/top-union-leader-backs-angus-taylor-s-nuclear-deal-with-uk-20210730-p58eiz

August 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, technology | Leave a comment

A reminder to gullible followers of Angus Taylor – small nuclear reactors are just not economically viable.

Paul Richards 31 July, 21, SMR is no more than a conventional nuclear reactor, broken down, isolating, the reactor component.

Branding one component, small.’mass produced’ Small reactors destroys the economies of scale of conventional reactors, and they are no longer economically viable.

As every reactor ever built, needs, the other components to function.Same $US trillion-dollar infrastructure, mining, milling, yellowcake, fuel rod manufacture, transport, construction, production, output for the earth’s highest-priced electricity.

Anyone claiming unspent nuclear fuel can be run through twice is lying.The nuclear state has not been able to run unspent fuel through once more, in over 60 years, speaking to economic viably. Let alone the countless times it needs to transmute to make this claim real.

Something to think about is uranium. Uranium is at historic low prices, and running fuel through once more is not even viable.The price will rise, as the resource is limited, making it even far less viable economically.

July 31, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, technology | Leave a comment

Kalbar’s exotic minerals mine a toxic risk to Victoria’s food bowl

Kalbar’s exotic minerals mine a toxic risk to Victoria’s food bowl, Michael West Media by Elizabeth Minter | Jun 18, 2021 | A hearing into the Environment Effects Statement for Kalbar’s mineral sands project on rich Victorian farmland has been told about competition for billions of litres of water, high levels of uranium, untested technologies and a strange backflip by the project’s “independent experts”. Elizabeth Minter investigates.

For exactly 100 years, Kane Busch’s family have farmed the fertile soils of the Lindenow Valley in East Gippsland, Victoria. After leaving Denmark in 1913, Kane’s great-grandfather Eiler Busch settled in the Valley, buying in 1921 the land that is now the home of Busch Organics.

Kane’s grandfather, also called Eiler, was behind the push for more environmentally friendly farming while experiencing the devastating droughts of the 1990s. The farm gained official organic certification in 2000. Grandson Kane is following in those footsteps, and was recently a finalist for a national award for “Young Grower of the Year”.

The Lindenow Valley produces the salad greens and vegetables – broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, celery, beetroot, cabbage and carrots – that help feed the nation. The Valley produces nearly one-third of the state’s vegetables; employs up to 2000 people at peak times; and is worth more than $150 million to the local economy.

The area also has huge environmental significance, with the heritage-listed Mitchell River, the Ramsar-protected Gippsland Lakes wetlands, and the Perry River’s unique Chain of Ponds, which is home to many threatened plant and animal species. Once ubiquitous across south-eastern Australia, “chain of ponds” systems are now rare.

But this is all now in jeopardy thanks to a mineral sands mining proposal from Kalbar Operations Pty Ltd (Kalbar), a company that was established as an investment vehicle and that has never operated a mine. It would be almost comical were it not for the potentially deadly consequences.

There’s monazite, which contains rare earth metals plus radioactive uranium and thorium and is thus potentially dangerous to residents, the waterways and the vegetables growing by the mine’s boundary; the competition for billions of litres of water; and the untried technology being proposed to tackle the mining waste. Nowhere in Australia is a mineral sands mine located so closely to, and upwind of, a major vegetable growing industry.

Kalbar is proposing a 1,675-hectare open-cut mine just 350 metres from the Mitchell River, which flows into the Gippsland Lakes wetlands. The mine will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for 15 years. A public hearing is under way as part of the inquiry into the Environment Effects Statement (EES). The following information has been revealed during the hearing.

Big miners walk away, lack of water the key risk

The multinational miner Rio Tinto originally owned the mining exploration licences. In 2011 Oresome, a subsidiary of Metallica Minerals, entered into a right to explore and option to purchase agreement with Rio for the licences.

A scoping study it commissioned showed a mine could be viable only if there was a dependable water supply. The risk of not finding a reliable source of up to 6.2 billion litres annually for an acceptable price received a Category F rating, defined as a problem with possibly “no viable solution” and a “fatal flaw”.

Water supplies

Kalbar’s proposed mine will sit on the plateau high above the Mitchell River with the vegetables growing just metresfrom the river.

The mine is 3.5 kilometres from the main source of the region’s drinking water (other than tank water). The mine and the horticultural industry will be in direct competition for water, with both relying on the Mitchell River and the same groundwater………….

Treatment of mine waste

Also controversial is access to how mine waste will be managed. The mine’s original design included a 90-hectare tailings dam.

But when government agencies and others highlighted the extreme danger such a dam posed to the Perry River and the Chain of Ponds, Kalbar changed its proposal.

The mine now plans to use giant centrifuge machines to remove water from the tailings waste, and then reuse that water.

The East Gippsland Shire Council, which unanimously opposes the mine, was not convinced of the viability of centrifuges, which are untested in mineral sands mining. The council commissioned a report from an independent mining industry consultancy, Ausenco.

Ausenco’s report raised concerns and advised that many more centrifuges would be required than Kalbar proposed. Then just weeks later, of its own volition, Ausenco issued a new report …………..

Radioactive dust a hazard

Kalbar plans to mine for and partially refine zircon, titanium-bearing rutile, ilmenite and rare earths minerals.

Airborne dust generated from mineral sands mines not only contains toxic heavy metals and radioactive monazite, thorium and uranium but also respirable crystalline silica, which leads to the deadly lung disease silicosis……………

Reputational damage to growers……     https://www.michaelwest.com.au/kalbars-exotic-minerals-mine-a-toxic-risk-to-victorias-food-bowl/

June 19, 2021 Posted by | rare earths, Victoria | Leave a comment

The unrealistic push for nuclear reactors helps the coal and gas industries to hang on

Nuclear power is a stalking horse for gas  https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/nuclear-power-is-a-stalking-horse-for-gas,15174

By John Quiggin | 9 June 2021, The recently appointed Chair of the Climate Change Authority, Origin Energy boss Grant King, has yet again raised the idea that nuclear energy is an important policy option for Australia.

This idea has been a staple of rightwing politics for years, in spite of (or rather because of) steadily accumulating evidence that solar PV and wind are the most efficient alternatives to carbon-based fuels.

Australia has had a long string of inquiries into nuclear power, going back to the Switkowski review in 2006. All have concluded that nuclear power is unlikely to be a feasible option for Australia any time soon.

The most recent comprehensive assessment was the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission which concluded, in 2016, that nuclear power was unlikely to be commercially viable in the foreseeable future.  

Meanwhile, the world has moved on from nuclear power. There are still around 50 nuclear plants under construction around the world, mostly way over time and over budget. But, outside China, there hasn’t been a new project committed since the UK Government committed to the Hinkley Point C reactor in 2013. 

Hinkley Point C will almost certainly be the last nuclear plant built using the European EPR design. Two more, in France and Finland, are many years behind schedule, but will presumably be finished, or left unfinished, in the next couple of years. China built a couple of EPR reactors but hasn’t commissioned any more.

Other designs which seemed promising have also been abandoned. The AP1000, which once seemed to be the leading contender, sent its designers (Westinghouse) broke. The rights to the CANDU reactor, produced by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, were sold for a pittance a decade ago. South Korea has stopped new nuclear construction, effectively killing off KEPCO’s APR-1400 design, though a few projects remain to be completed.

The result is that only two large-scale nuclear designs are available for new projects: Russia’s VVER-1200 and China’s Hualong One. Neither is approved for construction by Western authorities like the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In view of concerns about safety standards and broader geopolitical tensions, neither is likely to be.

These points have been implicitly accepted in recent discussions of nuclear power. Large-scale nuclear reactors like those constructed over the last 50 years or so have quietly disappeared from discussion.

Instead, attention has been focused on the new idea of “small modular reactors” (SMRs). There is nothing new about small reactors. They are used routinely in nuclear submarines, for example. The problem is because they cannot capture economies of scale, small reactors are uneconomic as sources of electricity for general use.

The “modular” idea is that, if plants can be constructed in batches in a factory, economies in manufacturing will outweigh the loss of economies of scale.

This idea remains untested.

The leading contender for the construction of small modular reactors is Nuscale, which plans to build a prototype plant, consisting of 12 60 MW reactors by 2030. That’s a big blowout from the target date of 2023 announced in 2014 and from an even earlier target date of 2018, proposed around 2008.

In fact, the announced deployment data has been eight to ten years in the future ever since the project began in the early 2000s.

As well as constant delays, the Nuscale project has experienced the same cost escalation as larger nuclear projects. Over the past two years, the cost of the pilot project has risen from $3 billion to $6 billion, partly offset by a $1.4 billion injection from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Even if there are no further delays and cost escalation, it will take at least until 2035 before the pilot plant can be properly evaluated. The establishment of large scale manufacturing and the first installations in the U.S. will take at least ten more years. Even in the most optimistic scenarios, there is no prospect of SMRs operating in Australia before 2050.

To be fair, King couched his discussion in terms of options for the next 30, 40 or 50 years. But even Scott Morrison concedes that we should be aiming to reach zero net emissions by 2050. That entails completely decarbonising electricity generation well before 2050.

Nuclear power ceased to be a realistic option at least a decade ago. The only reason it keeps being raised is to obscure the necessity of a rapid and comprehensive shift to solar and wind energy. Nuclear power is not a realistic energy source. Rather, it has been a stalking horse for coal and more recently, gas.

It’s not surprising, therefore, to see it being promoted by a leading figure in the gas industry.

John Quiggin is Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland. His new book, The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic, will be published by Yale University Press in late 2021.

June 10, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, technology | Leave a comment

New South Wales Productivity Commission slammed for recommending nuclear power while ignoring offshore wind,

NSW Productivity Commission slammed for recommending nuclear power while ignoring offshore wind,  https://www.miragenews.com/nsw-productivity-commission-slammed-for-571554/
Maritime Union of Australia

The NSW Productivity Commission is under fire for recommending the NSW Government lift the state’s ban on nuclear power while ignoring proven, lower-cost renewable energy sources such as offshore wind.

Among 60 recommendations aimed at driving productivity and economic growth, the NSW Productivity Commission White Paper released this week proposed the ban on nuclear generation be lifted for small modular reactors.The same report made no mention of offshore wind generation, despite the proven technology producing a growing share of electricity around the world and several major proposals awaiting approval off the NSW coast.

This is despite the CSIRO’s most recent report on electricity generation costs showing that SMR nuclear reactors cost approximately $16,000 per kilowatt, nearly three times offshore wind. Recent UK analysis has found the cost of developing offshore wind is even lower.

The Maritime Union of Australia said it was staggering that the NSW Productivity Commission would recommend resources be thrown into small modular nuclear reactors — a technology that doesn’t yet exist — instead of cheaper, cleaner, proven technologies like offshore wind.“It is unbelievable that the NSW Productivity Commission would propose a major regulatory overhaul for a theoretical technology that doesn’t operate anywhere on earth, yet not even mention one of the fastest growing forms of energy generation,” MUA Deputy National Secretary Warren Smith said.

Rather than waste years debating a theoretical technology, which will come with huge costs and substantial safety concerns, the NSW Government should be getting on with supporting the development of reliable, cheap, and plentiful offshore wind resources.“The NSW Productivity Commission’s focus on an industry that doesn’t even exist, while ignoring a proven technology that can deliver power and jobs for NSW right now, shows an ideological pro-nuclear agenda has been put ahead of the state’s economic interests.“Small nuclear reactors have been promised for half a century, but as yet not one exists. Most countries with nuclear power are moving away from the technology, with new reactors running hugely over budget, requiring massive taxpayer subsidies, and locking in higher power prices for consumers.“In contrast, offshore wind technology continues to mature, delivering massive growth at ever-lower prices.

“Australia has the advantage of long coastlines close to population centres, along with highly skilled seafarers and offshore oil and gas workers who could be utilised to construct local wind projects.“The development of an offshore wind industry would also provide an opportunity to transition highly-skilled workers from fossil fuel industries into a clean, green alternative.“With the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions to address global heating, it’s absurd that the NSW Productivity Commission would suggest sitting on our hands for a decade in the hope a theoretical technology will magically fix the problem when we already have solutions available.“NSW has an opportunity to become a major exporter of clean, renewable energy, securing our economy for the future, but only if the Berejiklian Government takes immediate steps to support proven technologies.”

June 5, 2021 Posted by | business, energy, New South Wales, technology | Leave a comment