Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

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

Small nuclear reactors for New South Wales ? – dirty, dangerous, and uneconomic

Expensive and dangerous: Nuclear doesn’t stack up https://www.miragenews.com/expensive-and-dangerous-nuclear-doesnt-stack-up-570069/m  Electrical Trades Union

Lifting the ban on nuclear power generation in NSW using unproven small-scale reactors will only push up power bills, damage the environment and compromise safety, according to the Electrical Trades Union.

ETU National and NSW Secretary, Allen Hicks, said nuclear power would be hugely expensive compared to renewable energy, and that small nuclear reactors were still a pipe dream.

The recommendation around small scale reactors is one of 60 contained in the NSW Productivity Commission’s White Paper, which is supposedly designed to reboot the state’s economy.

“The Productivity Commission has lost the plot if it thinks small modular reactors, a technology that has been ‘just around the corner’ since the 1970’s but still doesn’t exist, is the answer to NSW’s productivity growth,” Allen Hicks said.

“Even if someone finally manages to build one that works, the electricity price forecast for their output is six times more expensive than renewables.

“Why does the Productivity Commission want NSW residents paying six times more for their electricity?”

“There are massive offshore wind projects waiting for federal approval off the NSW coast near Newcastle, Wollongong and Eden. Rather than pie-in-the sky nuclear nonsense we should get on with approving this clean energy and getting it into out grid.

The commission says lifting the ban would provide another source of firming capacity in the grid. But its own report admits “a wide degree of uncertainty” about small-scale nuclear reactors, mainly due to cost.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the government “will consider everything” in the report.

But Mr Hicks said the State Government must hit the stop button on nuclear power, as the business model for a dirty and dangerous technology did not stack up.

“Even if they improve the technology, a small modular reactor would take far too long to build, and we don’t have time to waste in the fight against climate change,” Mr Hicks said.

“Globally, most countries are moving away from nuclear power. Few new reactors are being built and nuclear companies are going bankrupt or facing financial distress.

Mr Hicks said the government should instead continue to focus on renewable energy.

“With a bit of foresight, some investment and some big thinkers, Australia is uniquely positioned in the world to become a renewable energy leader.

“Boosting the economy, providing more jobs, and dealing with climate change are big problems, but nuclear power is not the answer.”

June 3, 2021 Posted by | business, New South Wales, technology | Leave a comment

Environmentalists and Aboriginal traditional owners object to rocket launching on South Australian protected heritage land, at Whaler’s Way.

Rocket launching proposals worry traditional owners, environmentalists, but company committed to holistic care of the land, ABC Eyre Peninsula / By Evelyn Leckie 28 May 21,  Popular South Australian tourist spot Whalers Way could become the site of three test rocket launches later this year, causing concern among some environmentalists and traditional owners.

Key points:

  • Traditional owners and conservationists have raised concerns about the proposed site for three rocket launches this year
  • Nature Conservation SA holds concerns over two threatened species
  • Southern Launch says it’s committed to a holistic approach to care for the area during its testing program.

SA space industry leader Southern Launch is looking to conduct test launches on privately owned land, with a view to making the area a permanent launching site in the future to send satellites into space. 

Nature Conservation Society of SA advocate Julia Peacock said the area, on the state’s rugged southern coast, wasn’t the right site to conduct test launches.

“It’s a really special conservation area,” she said.

“It’s actually specifically protected under environment legislation that’s called a heritage agreement, which means a private landholder agreement to protect that area so we would really like to see that agreement honoured.

We’re also really concerned that it is habitat for a number of species of conservation concern.”

Ms Peacock said the society was worried about threatened species in the area such as southern emu wrens and white-fronted whip birds.

“They’re very small and shy birds, so they’re quite hard to see,” she said. 

We’re concerned that we’re building an industrial facility that involves explosions that are noisy and causes vibrations —  that those species are going to be frightened.

“It’s going to change their behaviour and impact the way they want to move through this area.”

‘Let it be natural’

Nauo elder Jody Miller said there were a lot of cultural issues out at Whalers Way.

“It’s significant culturally, there are stories [out there] and we don’t want to destroy anything,” Mr Miller said. 

“If it’s just left alone, let it be natural, people can see this for the next generation — everybody’s children as well as my children.”

Holistic protection

Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said the testing program would provide the chance to specifically measure what the noise effect would have on local species.

“We’re working with one of the best universities in Australia to undertake the measurements and then provide that for the environmental impact statement assessment,” Mr Damp said………..   https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-28/rocket-launching-proposals-worry-environmentalists/100173472

May 29, 2021 Posted by | environment, South Australia, technology | Leave a comment

Australian company Greenland Minerals fails community test over controversial rare earths and uranium mine plan

Greenland Minerals fails community test over controversial rare earths and uranium mine plan,  https://www.acf.org.au/greenland-minerals-fails-community-test 27 May 21, It is a long way from Greenland to Western Australia, but concerns from the Narsaq community in Greenland about a controversial mining project will be raised at today’s annual meeting of Perth-based company Greenland Minerals, listed on the ASX as GGG, which is behind the Kvanefjeld rare earths and uranium mine.

Opposition to the planned mine dominated Greenland’s recent national elections. On 6 April Greenlanders elected the Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community for the People) party, which campaigned on an explicit platform opposing Kvanefjeld.

The new coalition government has committed to stop the mine going ahead.

“When a mine proposal triggers an election and the results show a clear rejection of the project, it is time for the company to accept the community’s will and end its mining plans,” said Mineral Policy Institute board member Dr Lian Sinclair, who will attend the GGG meeting.

Australian groups are calling on GGG to recognise that it has failed to secure social license for the Kvanefjeld project.

“We need a different approach to mining, one based on free, prior and informed consent,” said Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“Mining materials that are used in renewable energy does necessarily make a company ethical or responsible.

“There are dangerous radioactive elements within these deposits, including uranium, that pose long term environmental and health risks.

“These risks should not be imposed on an unwilling community.

“The Narsaq and wider Greenland community and the new Government have rejected this project. GGG should recognise and respect this clear and democratic decision”.

May 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

Senior Morrison government ministers support Iluka’s plan to reprocess rare earths (no mention of what they would do with the radioactive wastes)

Iluka finds favour in bid to build rare earths refinery, W.A. Today, By Nick Toscano, May 11, 2021

A proposal to build the country’s first full-scale rare earths refinery has secured the support of senior Morrison government ministers, as Australia works to position itself as a key supplier of raw ingredients in smartphones, electric cars and wind turbines.

The board of ASX-listed Iluka Resources, a $3.6 billion company, is assessing the feasibility of developing a refinery at Eneabba in Western Australia to process rare earths – a group of elements used in a range of high-tech products and military weapons systems……..    https://www.watoday.com.au/business/companies/iluka-finds-favour-in-bid-to-build-rare-earths-refinery-20210511-p57que.html

May 13, 2021 Posted by | rare earths, Western Australia | Leave a comment