Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Dr Helen Caldicott on the unsafety of Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

HELEN CALDICOTT: Small modular reactors — same nuclear disasters  https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/helen-caldicott-small-modular-reactors–same-nuclear-disasters,13087

By Helen Caldicott | 9 September 2019  The Morrison Government has opened the door to the notion of nuclear power as peddled by the nuclear sociopaths.

Now that the “nuclear renaissance” seems dead and buried following the Fukushima catastrophe (one-sixth of the world’s nuclear reactors were closed after the accident), the corporations invested in making nuclear plants and radioactive waste –including Toshiba, Nu-Scale, Babcock and Wilcox, GE Hitachi, General Atomics and the Tennessee Valley Authority – are not to be defeated.

Their new strategy is to develop small modular reactors (SMR), which can be sold around the world without, they say, the dangers inherent in large reactors — safety, cost, proliferation risks and radioactive waste.

There are basically three types of SMRs which generate less than 300 megawatts of electricity compared to the current 1,000-megawatt reactors.


Light water reactor 
designs

These will be smaller versions of present-day pressurised water reactors using water as the moderator and coolant but with the same attendant problems as Fukushima and Three Mile Island. They are to be built underground, which obviously makes them dangerous to access in the event of an accident or malfunction.

They will be mass-produced (turnkey production) and large numbers must be sold yearly to make a profit. This is an unlikely prospect because major markets – China and India – will be uninterested in buying U.S. reactors when they can make their own.

If a safety problem arises, such as with the Dreamliner plane, all of them will have to be shut down — interfering substantially with electricity supply.

SMRs will be expensive because the cost of unit capacity increases with decrease in the size of the reactor. Billions of dollars of government subsidies will be required because Wall Street will not touch nuclear power. To alleviate costs, it is suggested that safety rules be relaxed — including reducing security requirements and a reduction in the ten-mile emergency planning zone to 1,000 feet.


Non-light water
 designs

These are high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) or pebble bed reactors. Five billion tiny fuel kernels of high-enriched uranium or plutonium will be encased in tennis-ball-sized graphite spheres which must be made without cracks or imperfections — or else they could lead to an accident. A total of 450,000 such spheres will slowly be released continuously from a fuel silo, passing through the reactor core, and then re-circulated ten times. These reactors will be cooled by helium gas operating at very high temperatures (900 C).

The plans are to construct a reactor complex consisting of four HTGR modules located underground to be run by only two operators in a central control room. It is claimed that HTGRs will be so safe that a containment building will be unnecessary and operators can even leave the site — “walk-away-safe” reactors.

However, should temperatures unexpectedly exceed 1600 degrees Celsius, the carbon coating will release dangerous radioactive isotopes into the helium gas and at 2000 C, the carbon would ignite creating a fierce graphite Chernobyl-type fire.

If a crack develops in the piping or building, radioactive helium would escape and air would rush in igniting the graphite.

Although HTGRs produce small amounts of low-level waste, they create larger volumes of high-level waste than conventional reactors.

Despite these obvious safety problems and despite the fact that South Africa has abandoned plans for HTGRs, the U.S. Department of Energy has unwisely chosen the HTGR as the “Next Generation Nuclear Plant”.


Liquid metal fast reactors 
(PRISM)

It is claimed by the proponents that fast reactors will be safe, economically competitive, proliferation-resistant and sustainable.

They are to be fueled by plutonium or highly enriched uranium, and cooled by either liquid sodium or a lead-bismuth molten coolant creating a potentially explosive situation. Liquid sodium burns or explodes when exposed to air or water and lead-bismuth is extremely corrosive producing very volatile radioactive elements when irradiated.

Should a crack occur in the reactor complex, liquid sodium would escape burning or exploding. Without coolant, the plutonium fuel would melt and reach critical mass, inciting a massive nuclear explosion. One-millionth of a gram of plutonium induces cancer and it lasts for 500,000 years. Yet it is claimed that fast reactors will be so safe that no emergency sirens will be required and emergency planning zones can be decreased from ten miles to 1,300 feet.

There are two types of fast reactors, a simple plutonium fueled reactor and a “breeder”. The plutonium reactor core can be surrounded by a blanket of uranium 238, the uranium captures neutrons and converts to plutonium creating ever more plutonium.

Some are keen about fast reactors because plutonium waste from other reactors can be fissioned converting it to shorter-lived isotopes like caesium and strontium which last “only” 600 years instead of 500,000. But this is fallacious thinking because only ten per cent is fissioned leaving 90 per cent of the plutonium for bomb-making and so on.

Construction

Three small plutonium fast reactors will be arranged together forming a module. Three of these modules will be buried underground and all nine reactors will connect to a fully automated central control room. Only three reactor operators situated in one control room will be in control of nine reactors. Potentially, one operator could simultaneously face a catastrophic situation triggered by the loss of off-site power to one unit at full power, in another shut down for refuelling and in one in start-up mode.

There are to be no emergency core cooling systems.

Fast reactors will require a massive infrastructure including a reprocessing plant to dissolve radioactive waste fuel rods in nitric acid, chemically removing the plutonium and a fuel fabrication facility to create new fuel rods. A total of 15,000 to 25,000 kilos of plutonium are required to operate a fuel cycle at a fast reactor and just 2.5 kilos is fuel for a nuclear weapon.

Thus, fast reactors and breeders will provide the perfect plan for nuclear weapons proliferation and despite this danger, the industry plans to sell them to many countries.

Advertisements

September 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, technology | Leave a comment

Scrutiny on proposal for thorium nuclear reactors for Australia

New nuclear power proposal needs public  debate   https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/new-nuclear-power-proposal-needs-public-discussion,13071

By Helen Caldicott | 4 September 2019  The prospect of thorium being introduced into Australia’s energy arrangements should be subjected to significant scrutiny, writes Helen Caldicott.

AS AUSTRALIA is grappling with the notion of introducing nuclear powerinto the country, it seems imperative the general public understand the intricacies of these technologies so they can make informed decisions. Thorium reactors are amongst those being suggested at this time.

The U.S. tried for 50 years to create thorium reactors, without success. Four commercial thorium reactors were constructed, all of which failed. And because of the complexity of problems listed below, thorium reactors are far more expensive than uranium fueled reactors.

The longstanding effort to produce these reactors cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, while billions more dollars are still required to dispose of the highly toxic waste emanating from these failed trials.

The truth is, thorium is not a naturally fissionable material. It is therefore necessary to mix thorium with either enriched uranium 235 (up to 20% enrichment) or with plutonium – both of which are innately fissionable – to get the process going.

While uranium enrichment is very expensive, the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from uranium powered reactors is enormously expensive and very dangerous to the workers who are exposed to toxic radioactive isotopes during the process. Reprocessing spent fuel requires chopping up radioactive fuel rods by remote control, dissolving them in concentrated nitric acid from which plutonium is precipitated out by complex chemical means.

Vast quantities of highly acidic, highly radioactive liquid waste then remain to be disposed of. (Only is 6 kilograms of plutonium 239 can fuel a nuclear weapon, while each reactor makes 250 kilos of plutonium per year. One millionth of a gram of plutonium if inhaled is carcinogenic.)

So there is an extraordinarily complex, dangerous and expensive preliminary process to kick-start a fission process in a thorium reactor.

When non-fissionable thorium is mixed with either fissionable plutonium or uranium 235, it captures a neutron and converts to uranium 233, which itself is fissionable. Naturally it takes some time for enough uranium 233 to accumulate to make this particular fission process spontaneously ongoing.

Later, the radioactive fuel would be removed from the reactor and reprocessed to separate out the uranium 233 from the contaminating fission products, and the uranium 233 then will then be mixed with more thorium to be placed in another thorium reactor.

But uranium 233 is also very efficient fuel for nuclear weapons. It takes about the same amount of uranium 233 as plutonium 239 – six kilos – to fuel a nuclear weapon. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has already, to its disgrace, ‘lost track’ of 96 kilograms of uranium 233.

A total of two tons of uranium 233 were manufactured in the United States. This material naturally requires similar stringent security measures used for plutonium storage for obvious reasons. It is estimated that it will take over one million dollars per kilogram to dispose of the seriously deadly material.

An Energy Department safety investigation recently found a national repository for uranium 233 in a building constructed in 1943 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

It was in poor condition. Investigators reported an environmental release from many of the 1,100 containers could

‘… be expected to occur within the next five years because some of the packages are approaching 30 years of age and have not been regularly inspected.’

The DOE determined that this building had:

Deteriorated beyond cost-effective repair and significant annual costs would be incurred to satisfy both current DOE storage standards, and to provide continued protection against potential nuclear criticality accidents or theft of the material.

The DOE Office of Environmental Management now considers the disposal of this uranium 233 to be ‘an unfunded mandate’.

Thorium reactors also produce uranium 232, which decays to an extremely potent high-energy gamma emitter that can penetrate through one metre of concrete, making the handling of this spent nuclear fuel extraordinarily dangerous.

Although thorium advocates say that thorium reactors produce little radioactive waste, they simply produce a different spectrum of waste to those from uranium-235. This still includes many dangerous alpha and beta emitters, and isotopes with extremely long half-lives, including iodine 129 (half-life of 15.7 million years).

No wonder the U.S. nuclear industry gave up on thorium reactors in the 1980s. It was an unmitigated disaster, as are many other nuclear enterprises undertaken by the nuclear priesthood and the U.S. government.

September 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, thorium | Leave a comment

Dr Jim Green explodes the Australian Financial Review ‘s propaganda promoting Small Modular Nuclear Reactorsll

August 29, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, reference, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Lynas’ radioactive waste – still a toxic issue in Malaysia

Australian mining company Lynas gets permission to dispose of radioactive waste in Malaysia, dividing locals ABC 

Key points:

  • Malaysia has renewed the rare earth plant licence of Australian company Lynas
  • Green groups say Lynas’ activities pose a threat to the local environment
  • Lynas says it will meet the licence obligations set by Malaysia’s Government

Outside of China, the Australian firm, Lynas, is the world’s only major producer of rare earth minerals, which are crucial in the production of high-tech gear including smartphones, laser-guided missiles and electric car batteries.

The ore is dug up at Mount Weld in Western Australia and then shipped to Malaysia, where the cost of processing is significantly lower.

The low-level radioactive waste is a by-product of the enrichment process and Malaysian activists are convinced it poses a threat to local communities.

At a recent protest in Kuantan, several hundred people rallied against the Australian firm and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to extend its licence to operate.

“[The radioactivity] will be passed through our children and our children’s children,” said Moses Lim, a chemical engineer turned activist.

“We may be gone, but our grandchildren will curse us.”

Mr Lim claimed the issue had the potential to “tarnish the good name of Australia” in the minds of millions of Malaysians. But the Prime Minister, 94-year-old Dr Mahathir, dismissed criticism of Lynas’ operations in Malaysia.

“It’s not Chernobyl. This isn’t going to be dangerous,” he said.

‘We just have to accept this fate’

The issue has split the local community, which relies on the hundreds of high-paying jobs that the processing facility provides.

At a local fish market in Kuantan, a mother who declined to offer her name told the ABC she feared radioactive contamination from the facility would make its way into her food.

“I am scared, but I have no choice but to buy the fresh fish from here. We just have to accept this fate,” she said.

“I think Lynas should be shut down for the sake of the surrounding environment.”

But other locals said there was nothing to worry about, blaming politicians for trying to capitalise on the issue by whipping up fear in the community.

Raja Harris bin Raja Salleh, the chief fisher in Balok village, said the residents are “not at all scared”.

“Lynas is the same as other agencies and factories that produce chemicals. The accusations against Lynas are political,” he said.

Toxic waste becomes a toxic issue

The issue of Lynas’ radioactive waste has become politically toxic for the Mahathir-led coalition, which promised in opposition to close the Australian plant.

Now in government after last year’s shock election result, there has been a major backing down.

Lynas is allowed to keep operating its plant and has been given six months to find a suitable site within Malaysia to permanently dispose of 580,000 tonnes of low-level radioactive waste currently stockpiled at the Kuantan facility.

The company has also been given four years to relocate its cracking and leaching processing operation — which creates the radioactive waste — to Western Australia.

Wong Tak, a Malaysian Government MP who attended the Kuantan protest, said the cabinet decision to extend the licence was a “great disappointment”.

The long time anti-Lynas campaigner claimed the issue was serious enough to fracture the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, Coalition.

“I know the majority of backbenchers are with us, and I will even say the majority of the cabinet are with the people.”

Dr Mahathir has taken a pragmatic approach to the issue, saying the decision to extend the licence was based on expert advice, not the “popular view”.

“Either we get rid of the industry and lose credibility in terms of foreign direct investment, or we can take care of the problem,” he said……

The fate of Lynas in Malaysia is being keenly watched around the world amid concerns rare earth materials could become a bargaining chip in the ongoing US-China trade war.

In 2010, the Chinese supply of rare earths to Japan suddenly stopped for two months following a territorial dispute over Japan’s claim to the Senkaku Islands, which angered China.

The construction of the Lynas plant in Malaysia was largely funded in 2011 by Japan, which needed a reliable supply of rare earths.

China currently holds a near-monopoly on the production of rare earth minerals, with Lynas producing about 13 per cent of global supply.https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-22/malaysians-divided-on-radioactive-waste-from-aussie-miner-lynas/11434122

August 22, 2019 Posted by | politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

NUCLEAR POWER ‒ NO SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE 

Friends of the Earth Australia Statement August 2019 http://www.nuclear.foe.org.au 

  1. Introduction 2. Nuclear Power Would Inhibit the Development of More Effective Solutions 3. The Nuclear Power Industry is in Crisis 4. Small Modular Reactors 5. Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Nuclear Winter 6. A Slow Response to an Urgent Problem 7. Climate Change & Nuclear Hazards: ‘You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.’ 8. Nuclear Racism 9. Nuclear Waste 10. More Information 
  2. Introduction 

Support for nuclear power in Australia has nothing to do with energy policy – it is instead an aspect of the ‘culture wars‘ driven by conservative ideologues (examples include current and former politicians Clive Palmer, Tony Abbott, Cory Bernardi, Barnaby Joyce, Mark Latham, Jim Molan, Craig Kelly, Eric Abetz, and David Leyonhjelm; and media shock-jocks such as Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin). With few exceptions, those promoting nuclear power in Australia also support coal, they oppose renewables, they attack environmentalists, they deny climate change science, and they have little knowledge of energy issues and options. The Minerals Council of Australia – which has close connections with the Coalition parties – is another prominent supporter of both coal and nuclear power. 

In January 2019, the Climate Council, comprising Australia’s leading climate scientists and other policy experts, issued a policy statement concluding that nuclear power plants “are not appropriate for Australia – and probably never will be”. The statement continued: “Nuclear power stations are highly controversial, can’t be built under existing law in any Australian state or territory, are a more expensive source of power than renewable energy, and present significant challenges in terms of the storage and transport of nuclear waste, and use of water”. 

Friends of the Earth Australia agrees with the Climate Council. Proposals to introduce nuclear power to Australia are misguided and should be rejected for the reasons discussed below (and others not discussed here, including the risk of catastrophic accidents). 

  1. Nuclear Power Would Inhibit the Development of More Effective Solutions 

Renewable power generation is far cheaper than nuclear power. Lazard’s November 2018 report on levelised costs of electricity found that wind power (US$29‒56 per megawatt-hour) and utility-scale solar (US$36‒46 / MWh) are approximately four times cheaper than nuclear power (US$112‒189 / MWh). 

A December 2018 report by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator concluded that “solar and wind generation technologies are currently the lowest-cost ways to generate electricity for Australia, compared to any other new-build technology.” 

Thus the pursuit of nuclear power would inhibit the necessary rapid development of solutions that are cheaper, safer, more environmentally benign, and enjoy far greater public support. A 2015 IPSOS poll found 

that support among Australians for solar power (78‒87%) and wind power (72%) is far higher than support for coal (23%) and nuclear (26%). 

Renewables and storage technology can provide a far greater contribution to power supply and to  climate change abatement compared to an equivalent investment in nuclear power. Peter Farley, a fellow of the Australian Institution of Engineers, wrote in January 2019: “As for nuclear the 2,200 MW Plant Vogtle [in the US] is costing US$25 billion plus financing costs, insurance and long term waste storage. For the full cost of US$30 billion, we could build 7,000 MW of wind, 7,000 MW of tracking solar, 10,000 MW of rooftop solar, 5,000MW of pumped hydro and 5,000 MW of batteries. That is why nuclear is irrelevant in Australia.” 

Dr. Ziggy Switkowski ‒ who led the Howard government’s review of nuclear power in 2006 ‒ noted in 2018 that “the window for gigawatt-scale nuclear has closed”, that nuclear power is no longer cheaper than renewables and that costs are continuing to shift in favour of renewables

Globally, renewable electricity generation has doubled over the past decade and costs have declined sharply. Renewables account for 26.5% of global electricity generation. Conversely, nuclear costs have increased four- fold since 2006 and nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation has fallen from its 1996 peak of 17.6% to its current share of 10%. 

As with renewables, energy efficiency and conservation measures are far cheaper and less problematic than nuclear power. A University of Cambridge study concluded that 73% of global energy use could be saved by energy efficiency and conservation measures. Yet Australia’s energy efficiency policies and performance are among the worst in the developed world. 

  1. The Nuclear Power Industry is in Crisis 

The nuclear industry is in crisis with lobbyists repeatedly acknowledging nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis”, a “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West” and “the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries”, while noting that “the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies” and engaging each other in heated arguments about what if anything can be salvaged from the “ashes of today’s dying industry”. 

It makes no sense for Australia to be introducing nuclear power at a time when the industry is in crisis and when a growing number of countries are phasing out nuclear power (including Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Taiwan and South Korea). 

The 2006 Switkowski report estimated the cost of electricity from new reactors at A$40–65 / MWh. Current estimates are four times greater at A$165‒278 / MWh. In 2009, Dr. Switkowski said that a 1,000 MW power reactor in Australia would cost A$4‒6 billion. Again, that is about one-quarter of all the real-world experience over the past decade in western Europe and north America, with cost estimates of reactors under construction ranging from A$17‒24 billion (while a reactor project in South Carolina  was abandoned after the expenditure of at least A$13.3 billion). 

Thanks to legislation banning nuclear power, Australia has avoided the catastrophic cost overruns and crises that have plagued every recent reactor project in western Europe and north America. Cheaper Chinese or Russian nuclear reactors would not be accepted in Australia for a multitude of reasons (cybersecurity, corruption, repression, safety, etc.). South Korea has been suggested as a potential supplier, but South Korea is slowly phasing out nuclear power, it has little experience with its APR1400 reactor design, and South Korea’s ‘nuclear mafia‘ is as corrupt and dangerous as the ‘nuclear village‘ in Japan which was responsible for the Fukushima disaster. 

  1. Small Modular Reactors 

The Minerals Council of Australia claims that small modular reactors (SMRs) are “leading the way in cost”. In fact, power from SMRs will almost certainly be more expensive than power from large reactors because of diseconomies of scale. The cost of the small number of SMRs under construction is exorbitant. Both the private sector and governments have been unwilling to invest in SMRs because of their poor prospects. The December 2018 report by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator found that even if the cost of power from SMRs halved, it would still be more expensive than wind or solar power with storage costs included (two hours of battery storage or six hours of pumped hydro storage). 

The prevailing scepticism is evident in a 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on the insights of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers. They predict that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”. 

No SMRs are operating and about half of the small number under construction have nothing to do with climate change abatement – on the contrary, they are designed to facilitate access to fossil fuel resources in the Arctic, the South China Sea and elsewhere. Worse still, there are disturbing connections between SMRs, nuclear weapons proliferation and militarism more generally. 

  1. Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Nuclear Winter 

“On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilisation in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other. Yet that is what nuclear power does.” ‒ Australian

Nuclear power programs have provided cover for numerous covert weapons programs and an expansion of nuclear power would exacerbate the problem. After decades of deceit and denial, a growing number of nuclear industry bodies and lobbyists now openly acknowledge and even celebrate the connections between nuclear power and weapons. They argue that troubled nuclear power programs should be further subsidised such that they can continue to underpin and support weapons programs. 

For example, US nuclear lobbyist Michael Shellenberger previously denied power–weapons connections but now argues that “having a weapons option is often the most important factor in a state pursuing peaceful nuclear energy”, that “at least 20 nations sought nuclear power at least in part to give themselves the option of creating a nuclear weapon”, and that “in seeking to deny the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, the nuclear community today finds itself in the increasingly untenable position of having to deny these real world connections.” 

Former US Vice President Al Gore has neatly summarised the problem: “For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program. And if we ever got to the point where we wanted to use nuclear reactors to back out a lot of coal … then we’d have to put them in so many places we’d run that proliferation risk right off the reasonability scale.” 

Running the proliferation risk off the reasonability scale brings the debate back to climate change. Nuclear warfare − even a limited, regional nuclear war involving a tiny fraction of the global arsenal − has the potential to cause catastrophic climate change. The problem is explained by Alan Robock in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “[W]e now understand that the atmospheric effects of a nuclear war would last for at least a decade − more than proving the nuclear winter theory of the 1980s correct. By our calculations, a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan using less than 0.3% of the current global arsenal would produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history and global ozone depletion equal in size to the current hole in the ozone, only spread out globally.” 

Nuclear plants are also vulnerable to security threats such as conventional military attacks (and cyber-attacks such as Israel’s Stuxnet attack on Iran’s enrichment plant), and the theft and smuggling of nuclear materials. Examples of military strikes on nuclear plants include the destruction of research reactors in Iraq by Israel and the US; Iran’s attempts to strike nuclear facilities in Iraq during the 1980−88 war (and vice versa); Iraq’s attempted strikes on Israel’s nuclear facilities; and Israel’s bombing of a suspected nuclear reactor site in Syria in 2007. 

6. A Slow Response to an Urgent Problem 

Expanding nuclear power is impractical as a short-term response to climate change. An analysis by Australian economist Prof. John Quiggin concludes that it would be “virtually impossible” to get a nuclear power reactor operating in Australia by 2040. 

More time would elapse before nuclear power has generated as much as energy as was expended in the construction of the reactor. A University of Sydney report states: “The energy payback time of nuclear energy is around 6.5 years for light water reactors, and 7 years for heavy water reactors, ranging within 5.6–14.1 years, and 6.4–12.4 years, respectively.” 

Taking into account planning and approvals, construction, and the energy payback time, it would be a quarter of a century or more before nuclear power could even begin to reduce greenhouse emissions in Australia … and then only assuming that nuclear power displaced fossil fuels.

  1. Climate Change & Nuclear Hazards: ‘You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.’ 

“I’ve heard many nuclear proponents say that nuclear power is part of the solution to global warming. It needs to be reversed: You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.” ‒ Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum

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

At the lower end of the risk spectrum, there are countless examples of nuclear plants operating at reduced power or being temporarily shut down due to water shortages or increased water temperature during heatwaves (which can adversely affect reactor cooling and/or cause fish deaths and other problems associated with the dumping of waste heat in water sources). In the US, for example, unusually hot temperatures in 2018 forced nuclear plant operators to reduce reactor power output more than 30 times

At the upper end of the risk spectrum, climate-related threats pose serious risks such as storms cutting off grid power, leaving nuclear plants reliant on generators for reactor cooling. 

‘Water wars’ will become increasingly common with climate change − disputes over the allocation of increasingly scarce water resources between power generation, agriculture and other uses. Nuclear power reactors consume massive amounts of cooling water − typically 36.3 to 65.4 million litres per reactor per day. The World Resources Institute noted last year that 47% of the world’s thermal power plant capacity ‒ mostly coal, natural gas and nuclear ‒ are located in highly water-stressed areas. 

By contrast, the REN21 Renewables 2015: Global Status Report states: “Although renewable energy systems are also vulnerable to climate change, they have unique qualities that make them suitable both for reinforcing the resilience of the wider energy infrastructure and for ensuring the provision of energy services under changing climatic conditions. System modularity, distributed deployment, and local availability and diversity of fuel sources − central components of energy system resilience − are key characteristics of most renewable energy systems.” 

  1. Nuclear RacismTo give one example (among many), the National Radioactive Waste Management Act dispossesses and disempowers Traditional Owners in every way imaginable: 
    • The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste dump is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent. 
    • The Act has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect archaeological or heritage values, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions. 

The nuclear industry has a shameful history of dispossessing and disempowering Aboriginal people and communities, and polluting their land and water, dating from the British bomb tests in the 1950s. The same attitudes prevail today in relation to the uranium industry and planned nuclear waste dumps and the problems would be magnified if Australia developed nuclear power. 

The Act curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage. 

  • The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste dump.

9. Nuclear Waste

Decades-long efforts to establish a repository and store for Australia’s low-and intermediate-level nuclear waste continue to flounder and are currently subject to legal and Human Rights Commission complaints and challenges, initiated by Traditional Owners of two targeted sites in South Australia. Establishing a repository for high-level nuclear waste from a nuclear power program would be far more challenging as Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has noted

Globally, countries operating nuclear power plants are struggling to manage nuclear waste and no country has a repository for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste. The United States has a deep underground repository for long-lived intermediate-level waste, called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). However the repository was closed from 2014‒17 following a chemical explosion in an underground waste barrel. Costs associated with the accident are estimated at over A$2.9 billion

Safety standards fell away sharply within the first decade of operation of the WIPP repository ‒ a sobering reminder of the challenge of safely managing nuclear waste for millennia.

  1. More Information 
  • Climate Council, 2019, ‘Nuclear Power Stations are Not Appropriate for Australia – and Probably Never Will Be‘ 
  • WISE Nuclear Monitor, 25 June 2016, ‘Nuclear power: No solution to climate change‘ 
  • Friends of the Earth Australia nuclear power online resources 

August 15, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, technology, wastes | Leave a comment

Spent nuclear fuel from small nuclear reactors would pose a real problem for Australia

August 12, 2019 Posted by | technology, wastes | Leave a comment

Australia’s strategy for ‘new nuclear’ – based on non-existent plant!

Are SMRs vaporware?  https://johnquiggin.com/2019/08/08/are-smrs-vaporware/  AUGUST 8, 2019It seems as if nuclear fans in Australia have given up on conventional Generation III/III+ reactors such as the Westinghouse AP1000 and Areva EPR: unsurprising in view of the massive cost overruns and delays experienced in attempts to construct them.

They’ve also gone quiet on the prospect of more advanced “Generation IV” reactors. Again that’s unsurprising. Most of the leading research projects in this field have been abandoned or deferred past 2030, even for prototypes.
The great hope now is for Small Modular Reactors, which will, it is hoped, be assembled on site from parts built in factories. The idea is that the savings in construction will offset the loss of the scale economies inherent in having a larger reactor (arising ultimately from the fact that the volume of a sphere grows faster than its surface area).
Lots of SMR ideas have been proposed, but the only one with any serious prospect of entering commercial use is that proposed by NuScale, with funding from the US Department of Energy. NuScale has recently claimed that it should have its first reactor (consisting of 12 modules) in operation by 2027.
A couple of observations on this. First, when the project was funded back in 2014 the proposed start date was 2023. So, in the course of five years, the target time to completion has been reduced from nine years to eight. That suggests the 2027 target is pretty optimistic.
Second, NuScale isn’t actually going to build the factory that is the key selling point of the SMR idea. The press release says that the parts will be made by BWX, formerly Babcock and Wilcox (who abandoned their own SMR proposal around the time NuScale got funded).

So, is BWX going to build a factory, or is this going to be a bespoke job using existing plants (presumably much more expensive). I went to their website to find out. But far from getting a clear answer, I could find no mention at all of a deal with NuScale, or of any recent activity around SMRs.

So, there you have it. Australia’s proposed nuclear strategy rests on a non-existent plant to be manufactured by a company that apparently knows nothing about it.

August 10, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Nuclear advocate Switkowski admits that Small Modular Reactors have big problems

August 8, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, technology | Leave a comment

Small modular nuclear reactors for Australia?

Parliament to look at small nuclear reactors as future energy source. A parliamentary inquiry into an Australian nuclear industry will look at the fast-changing technology of small modular reactors. InDaily,  Rebecca Gredley, 5 Aug 19, A parliamentary inquiry into an Australian nuclear industry will look at the fast-changing technology of small modular reactors.Energy Minister Angus Taylor says he’s requested the Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy to investigate nuclear as a power source for Australia.

“We have a moratorium on nuclear. There is absolutely no plan to change that moratorium,” the minister told ABC Radio on Monday…….

Small modular reactors are factory produced and installed on-site.

Director of the Australian National University’s Energy Change Institute Kenneth Baldwin says wind and solar paired with battery storage will continue to be the cheapest form of power.

“These costs will decrease and who knows, in 10-15 years, it may simply be uneconomic to look at nuclear power,” he told ABC News.

Baldwin says such reviews need to be done periodically to understand the current technologies and costs.  It would take at least a decade before nuclear is realistically part of the energy mix, he added.

“You need the social licence to operate such a system, and to gain public acceptance may take many years,” he said.

“Add to that the fact that you have to then build a regulatory system – let’s say that it takes five years to do that, five years to build a public acceptance – that’s ten years.”

A federal review into nuclear energy was last conducted under the Howard government, with a report finding 25 reactors would be needed across Australia to supply one-third of the nation’s electricity supply by 2050. https://indaily.com.au/news/2019/08/05/parliament-to-look-at-small-nuclear-reactors-as-future-energy-source/

August 6, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, technology | Leave a comment

Looks as if Malaysia will let Lynas keep its radioactive wastes there, after all

Malaysian minister capitulates on Lynas waste export condition, The Age,  By Colin Kruger, August 4, 2019   One of Lynas Corp’s fiercest critics in Malaysia has confirmed the country’s government will drop a requirement for the rare earths miner to export its radioactive waste from the country.

The confirmation, from Malaysian environment minister Yeo Bee Yin, all but secures Lynas licence to operate in the country beyond September 2 and could reignite a $1.5 billion bid for the business from Perth based conglomerate Wesfarmers.

Ms Yeo said the decision made by Cabinet to allow Lynas to setting up a permanent disposal facility (PDF) in Malaysia was a better outcome than earlier proposals, according to local press reports at the weekend.

A final decision from cabinet is expected later this month.

Ms Yeo had planned to visit Australia last month to discuss exporting the waste back to Australia, but the trip was cancelled after the West Australian and federal government rejected the proposal.

Lynas’ share price plunged in December when her ministry imposed a new condition on the extension of the company’s licence to operate in Malaysia beyond September this year. This included the removal of more than 450,000 of low level radioactive waste.

On Friday Lynas told the ASX it is scouting locations for a permanent disposal facility in Malaysia the day after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad suggested this is the compromise that will secure its licence.

In May, the company said it would spend $500 million by 2025 on value added processing in the US and Malaysia as well as setting up a processing plant in Western Australia, near its Mt Weld mine, to extract radioactive waste from its rare earths before it is shipped to Malaysia.

On Saturday, Lynas managing director, Datuk Mashal Ahmad, issued a statement to the local media that the company is looking at disused mines as potential sites.

“There are a number of disused mines in the state of Pahang that require rehabilitation and a PDF can be designed such that it assists in the rehabilitation of this land, providing environmental benefits in a sustainable way,” he said in a statement……https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/malaysian-minister-capitulates-on-lynas-waste-export-condition-20190804-p52dnl.html

August 5, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad may allow Lynas to dispose of rare earths radioactive wastes in Malaysia

August 3, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

No clear answer in sight, for Lynas’radioactive waste problem in rare earths project in Malaysia

July 22, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Ignorance of the Morrison Government on the scientific and medical aspects of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Fukushima, the ‘nuclear renaissance’ and the Morrison Government  https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/fukushima-the-nuclear-renaissance-and-the-morrison-government,12834

By Helen Caldicott | 25 June 2019 Now that the “nuclear renaissance” is dead following the Fukushima catastrophe, when one-sixth of the world’s nuclear reactors closed, the nuclear corporations – Toshiba, Nu-Scale, Babcock and Wilcox, GE Hitachi, Cameco, General Atomics and the Tennessee Valley Authority – will not accept defeat, nor will the ill-informed Morrison Government.

Fancy giving the go-ahead the day before the 2019 Federal Election was announced for the Yeelirrie Uranium Mine in Western Australia, with no time for rational and informed input or debate! The fact is that Canadian Cameco, the world’s largest uranium miner and processor, wants to mine this uranium. Our alliance with spurious organisations clearly leads us astray.

To be quite frank, almost all of our politicians are scientifically and medically ignorant and in an age where scientific evolution has become extraordinarily sophisticated, it behoves us – as legitimate members of democracy – to both educate ourselves and our naive and ignorant politicians for they are not our leaders, they are our representatives.

Many of these so-called representatives are now being cajoled into believing that electricity production in Australia could benefit from a new form of atomic power in the form of small modular reactors (SMRs), allegedly free of the dangers inherent in large reactors — safety issues, high cost, proliferation risks and radioactive waste.

But these claims are fallacious, for the reasons outlined below. Continue reading

June 25, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, technology | Leave a comment

New explorer for rare earths in W.A. – doesn’t mention processing, or radioactive wastes

Krakatoa Resources acquires WA rare earth project as China threatens export ban  https://smallcaps.com.au/krakatoa-resources-acquires-wa-rare-earth-project-china-threatens-export-ban/

Perth-based mineral explorer Krakatoa Resources (ASX: KTA) has acquired an exploration licence application over an area considered highly prospective for rare earth elements (REE) in Western Australia.

The company today announced its acquisition of a 100% interest in Mt Clere rare earth project, with the licence expected to be granted within five to nine months.

The project covers a 403sq km area about 200km northwest of Meekatharra in WA’s Gascoyne region.

It is considered prospective for three REE deposit styles: monazite sands in vast alluvial terraces; Chinese-type ion adsorption clays in extensive laterite areas; and carbonatite dyke swarms.

The primary exploration target is monazite, which is an important ore for thorium, lanthanum and cerium, though, most monazite also contains additional uranium, calcium, strontium, silica and lead, and sometimes sulphur. Continue reading

June 20, 2019 Posted by | rare earths, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Rare earths processing – a dirty business, as Lynas has found out

Ores containing these rare earths typically contain radioactive material like thorium. To be useful for industrial purposes, rare earths must be isolated from raw ore through a complex chemical process that leaves behind radioactive waste. “Other countries have been fairly happy to let China take on all that processing,” Rasser says. “It’s a dirty business.”

One of the few rare earth processing facilities outside of China is the Australian owned Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Malaysia. The facility has long been controversial, though the Malaysian government recently said it will renew Lynas’ license to operate. A prior processing facility shuttered in 1992 due to health and environmental concerns.

June 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment