Archive for June, 2016

Australia’s uneconomic uranium industry in decline

June 11, 2016

Fukushima five years on, and the lessons we failed to learn, Guardian, Dave Sweeney, 11 Mar 16 “…….As home to around 35% of the world’s uranium reserves, Australia has long been a significant player in the global nuclear trade.

Since the 1980s Australian uranium mining has been dominated by two major operations – Ranger in Kakadu and Olympic Dam in northern South Australia. Both operations and their heavyweight owners have been voting with their feet and their finances since 2011. Processing of stockpiled ore continues at Ranger but mining has ended and parent company Rio Tinto is now preparing to commence costly and complex rehabilitation work.

At Olympic Dam the world’s biggest mining company BHP Billiton stunned the South Australian government in 2012 when it shelved an approved and long planned multi-billion dollar mine expansion.

Smaller mines like Honeymoon in South Australia have been placed on extended care and maintenance, junior companies have abandoned the field and the sectors prevailing business model is to get the paperwork in order and wait in hope for better times.

Historically the sector has been constrained by political uncertainty, restrictions on the number of mines, a consistent lack of social license and strong Aboriginal and community resistance.

Recent years have seen fewer political constraints but a dramatic decline in the price of uranium and popularity of nuclear power following Fukushima.

Australia now accounts for approximately 11% of global uranium production, down from over 18% a decade earlier. Australia’s uranium production of 5,000 tonnes in 2014 was the lowest for 16 years.The industry generates less than 0.2% of national export revenue and accounts for less than 0.02% of jobs in Australia. Less than one thousand people are employed in Australia’s uranium industry.

In an attempt to jump start the flat-lining uranium trade, successive federal governments have preferred enthusiasm to evidence. They have failed to conduct the requested industry review and instead fast-tracked increasingly irresponsible uranium sales deals, most recently with India.

Approvals are fast-tracked, regulators are complacent, community concerns are air-brushed away and all for a sector that never really made sense and now doesn’t even make dollars.

In short, Australia’s uranium sector is high risk and low return. It leaves polluted mine sites and home and drives nuclear risk and insecurity abroad. And it fuelled Fukushima – a profound environmental, economic and human disaster that continues to negatively impact lives in Japan and far beyond.http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/11/fukushima-five-years-on-and-the-lessons-we-failed-to-learn

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Debunking the myths around medicine and a nuclear waste dump

June 11, 2016

A very comprehensive 2010 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report found reactor based isotope production requires significant taxpayer subsidies, as the cost of sale does not cover the cost of production.

The report concludes: “In many cases the full impact of Mo-99/Tc-99m provision was not transparent to or appreciated by governments… The full costs of waste management, reactor operations, fuel consumption, etc were not included in the price structure. This is a subsidisation by one country’s taxpayers of another country’s health care system. Many governments have indicated that they are no longer willing to provide such subsidisation.”

What is needed urgently is a debate about how much waste we make. We have a choice: whether we follow ANSTO’s expensive business model to ramp up reactor manufacture (and the long-lived radioactive waste that goes with it), or collaborate with Canada to develop cyclotron manufacture of isotopes that does not produce long-lived nuclear waste.

Debunking the myths around medicine and a nuclear waste dump

Nuclear Waste In Australia: A Few Home Truths https://newmatilda.com/2016/03/07/50511/   By  on March 7, 2016 Australia’s hunt for a central nuclear waste dump continues, but we already have more waste than we know what to do with, writes Margaret Beavis.

The Federal government is seeking a location for a nuclear waste facility. But the provision of information to communities has been problematic, with some major flaws.

Claims have been made that provision of nuclear medicine services is a key reason to build it, but existing medical waste makes up a very small proportion of the total waste requiring disposal.

In addition, little has been said about ANSTO’s business plan to greatly ramp up Australia’s reactor based production of isotopes from 1 per cent to over 25 per cent of the world’s market, which will massively increase the amount of long-lived radioactive waste produced in the future.

A new process may reduce the volume of the waste, but the actual quantity of radioactive material to store will be significantly greater, and will become most of the radioactive waste Australia produces.

In Australia nuclear medicine isotopes are indeed useful, but according to Medicare figures represent less than 3 per cent of medical imaging. They are most commonly used for bone scans and some specialised heart scans. They are not needed (as claimed by government) for normal X-rays, most heart scans and the vast majority of cancer treatments (surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy).

Government statements that one in two Australians at some point in their life need nuclear medicine stretch credibility.

It is interesting to hear government adviser Dr Geoff Currie’s contribution to this debate. But it does not reflect the position of the world leaders in isotope production.

The Canadians, who have been the leading exporters and best practice experts producing 30 per cent of the world’s isotopes for many decades, are in the process of phasing out nuclear reactor production.

Canada produced a “Report of the Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production 2009”. After this report the Canadian government stated, “Canadians have been left to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the nuclear waste burden associated with reactor-based isotope production. This includes the significant costs associated with long-term management of the waste. The Government favours a new paradigm in which Canadians benefit from Canadian-based isotope production, supplemented if necessary from the world market, and supply is sustainable because of reduced waste and improved economics.”

They gave a number of other reasons why Canada wished to phase out reactor use. These included reliability of supply (reactor breakdowns created worldwide isotope supply shortages); investment in reactor production of medical isotopes would crowd out investment in innovative alternative production technologies like cyclotrons; and reactor production was the most expensive option, at no stage commercially viable without major taxpayer subsidies.

The Canadian Triumf research team had a successful pilot project in January 2015. They demonstrated a process that enables the routine production of sufficient Tc-99m (which is 85 per cent of isotopes used) to satisfy the daily demand for a population the size of British Columbia – or 500 patients – from a six-hour run on a common brand of medical cyclotrons.

Clinical trials began in early 2015. There are plans to have 24 cyclotrons operating across Canada by 2018, when they are planning to close down their reactor.

A very comprehensive 2010 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report found reactor based isotope production requires significant taxpayer subsidies, as the cost of sale does not cover the cost of production.

The report concludes: “In many cases the full impact of Mo-99/Tc-99m provision was not transparent to or appreciated by governments… The full costs of waste management, reactor operations, fuel consumption, etc were not included in the price structure. This is a subsidisation by one country’s taxpayers of another country’s health care system. Many governments have indicated that they are no longer willing to provide such subsidisation.”

Clearly cyclotron production of nuclear medicine is not widely available right now, but planned in Canada in the next three to five years. How rapidly we adopt their technology will determine how long we need to use reactor produced isotopes.

What is needed urgently is a debate about how much waste we make. We have a choice: whether we follow ANSTO’s expensive business model to ramp up reactor manufacture (and the long-lived radioactive waste that goes with it), or collaborate with Canada to develop cyclotron manufacture of isotopes that does not produce long-lived nuclear waste.

It is a bit like Australia’s stance on coal for energy – with continued reliance on 19th century technology rather than a switch to 21st century renewables – do we continue with 20th century reactor technology and back the wrong horse?

ANSTO is a taxpayer-funded organisation. The decision to ramp up reactor waste production will leave many future generations with radioactive materials that last hundreds of thousands of years. So for the six communities proposed, Australia’s future nuclear waste burden is the elephant in the room.

When managing toxic materials, the first principle should be reducing their production at source. We urgently need an inquiry into nuclear waste production in Australia, given we already have more radioactive waste than we know what to do with.

Australia’s revolving door between mining executives and Members of Parliament

June 11, 2016

Larissa Waters: Ban donations from mining companies and stop ministers working for them,  Larissa Waters, Guardian, 1 Mar 16 “……….The revolving door

Former politicians:

  • Former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister John Anderson became chairman of Eastern Star Gas, the company behind the Narrabri Gas Project (which is now owned by Santos) about two years after leaving politics.
  • Former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Mark Vaile became a director and then chairman of Whitehaven coal.
  • Former Labor resources minister Martin Ferguson became chairman of the APPEA Advisory Board – in October 2013 – just six months after he stopped being the minister. (The lobbying code of conduct requires an 18-month cooling-off period for ex-ministers).
  • Craig Emerson, a former federal Labor trade minister went on to be a consultant for AGL Energy and Santos.
  • Former foreign minister Alexander Downer was at one point a registeredlobbyist with Bespoke Approach, which included the likes of Woodside Petroleum, Xstrata, Petrochina and Yancoal among its clients.
  • Greg Combet, the federal Labor climate change minister, went on to be a consultant to AGL Energy and Santos.

Political staffers:

  • Bill Shorten’s current chief of staff, former Queensland Labor state secretaryCameron Milnerhas also worked with Adani. He was director of Milner Strategic Services & Next Level Holdings, which is co-owned by former Liberal staffer David Moore and was reportedly providing advice to Adani on the controversial Adani Carmichael coal project.
  • Ben Myers worked for Queensland Gas Company, and went on be Queensland LNP premier Campbell Newman’s chief of staff.
  • Mitch Grayson worked as a staffer for Queensland LNP premier Campbell Newman in 2012 and, by early 2013, had joined Santos. Later, he re-joined Premier Newman’s office.
  • Stephen Galilee, who worked as chief of staff to Ian Macfarlane as Liberal federal resources minister for three years, and chief of staff to Mike Baird as NSW treasurer and shadow treasurer, went on to be CEO of the NSW Minerals Council.
  • Geoff Walsh, former adviser to Labor prime ministers Paul Keating and Bob Hawke, and a former national secretary of the Labor party, was made director of public affairs at BHP in 2007.
  • Claire Wilkinson, spent a year as a senior media adviser for Labor resources minister Martin Ferguson before getting a job as a senior external affairs adviser for Royal Dutch Shell. She is now at Total E&P.
  • Brad Williams, who spent four years as Mark Vaile’s chief of staff, went on to become the manager for government affairs at Inpex – an oil and gas company that has approval for a $34bn LNG project near Darwin. He is now working in government relations at another mining company, South32.
  • Shaughn Morgan worked as adviser to Jeff Shaw, NSW Labor’s attorney general, before becoming the manager of government and external relations at AGL.
  • Lisa Harrington was a senior adviser to Mike Baird before becoming the head of government relations at AGL Energy.
  • Sarah Macnamara worked at AGL before becoming chief of staff to federal Liberal resources minister Ian Macfarlane, and was resource policy adviser to Liberal PM Tony Abbott.
  • Robert Underdown was senior adviser to Liberal resources minister Ian Macfarlane before becoming the manager of the government and public policy group at Santos.
    • Caroline Hutcherson was senior media adviser to the then Liberal NSW resources minister Chris Hartcher before working as a senior adviser to Santos, and going on to work as a senior adviser to NSW Liberal premier Mike Baird.
    • Alexandra Gibson was an adviser to Christopher Pyne, before becoming a policy adviser to APPEA, the oil and gas lobby group.
    • Paul Fennelly was the director of the Queensland Department of State Development, Trade and Innovation before becoming the CEO of APPEA.
    • Chris Ward was an adviser to the Queensland treasurer and to the consumer affairs minister in the federal Labor government under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, before taking a job as media manager at APPEA.
    • Charles Perrottet was senior media adviser to the then Liberal NSW resources minister Chris Hartcher, then an executive of the NSW Liberal party before becoming a government affairs analyst at BP Australia.
    • Andrew Humpherson was chief of staff to the then Liberal NSW resources minister Chris Hartcher before working as a consultant to the NSW Minerals Council.
    • Emma Browning was a media adviser for the then Liberal NSW resources minister Chris Hartcher before becoming director of government relations at the NSW Minerals Council.
    • Brad Emery was a media adviser to federal Liberal minister Peter Dutton before working as director of media and public affairs at the NSW Minerals Council.
    • Chris Rath was media and public affairs manager at the NSW Minerals Council before working as an adviser to NSW Liberal resources minister Anthony Roberts.
    • Lindsay Hermes was media and communications manager at the NSW Minerals Council before working as an adviser to federal Liberal resources minister Ian Macfarlane. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/01/larissa-waters-ban-donations-from-mining-companies-and-stop-ministers-working-for-them

Australia’s nuclear radiation regulator is not really “independent”

June 11, 2016

Jim Green 21 Feb 16 Bruce Wilson (from the federal government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science) and other governments reps were keen to talk up the role of the ‘independent’ regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). But ARPANSA has a troubled history. Its troubles began immediately: the government allowed ANSTO a direct role in selecting the founding CEO of ARPANSA, so ARPANSA’s independence was undermined from the start.

Here’s a more recent example of problems with ARPANSA, summarised in a 2011 ABC article:

“A review of Australia’s nuclear industry regulator, ARPANSA, has found an improper relationship with the main agency it monitors [ANSTO]. The Health Department’s audit and fraud control branch has been investigating how ARPANSA handled allegations of safety breaches and bullying at the nation’s only nuclear reactor in Sydney. Whistleblowers had alleged ARPANSA was too close to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which runs the Lucas Heights research facility.”

ABC, 8 July 2011, Nuclear regulator ‘too close’ to ANSTO,www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/07/07/3264086.htm

An independent regulator could provide some confidence. But a not-so-independent regulator with a poor track record …

 

More information about ARPANSA:

Australian government’s plan for federal nuclear waste dump ignores relevant standards and codes

June 11, 2016

Jim Green 21 Feb 16 Some comments on the 18 Feb 2016 government ‘information session’ in Kimba regarding plans for a radioactive waste repository and above-ground ‘interim’ store for long-lived intermediate-level waste.

1. The government ignores and breaches relevant standards and codes when it suits.

As a Kimba resident noted at the meeting, the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NH&MRC) ‘Code of Practice for Near-Surface Disposal of Radioactive Waste in Australia (1992)’ states that “the site for the facility should be located in a region which has no known significant natural resources, including potentially valuable mineral deposits, and which has little or no potential for agriculture or outdoor recreational use”.

So the government has breached the NH&MRC Code of Practice by short-listing the Kimba sites.

Following the so-called clean-up of the Maralinga nuclear test site in the late 1990s, nuclear engineer Alan Parkinson wrote: “The Department has claimed that burial is a safe disposal method consistent with “the [NH&MRC] Code.” This was the first time that the Code had been mentioned in relation to the Maralinga project. When three of the five authors said that it was not applicable (the other two were Commonwealth public servants and would not comment), the Department claimed that it did not have to follow the Code but had chosen to do so. It made this statement despite the fact that not a single requirement of that Code was satisfied.”
(Alan Parkinson, “The Maralinga Rehabilitation Project: Final Report”,
http://www.ippnw.org/pdf/mgs/7-2-parkinson.pdf)

So the government ignores relevant standards and codes when it suits, and the government breaches relevant standards and codes when it suits. Why would anyone trust the government to safely operate a radioactive waste facility in the Kimba region in those circumstances?

Alan Parkinson summarises the problem (keep in mind that he is pro-nuclear and a nuclear engineer): “The disposal of radioactive waste in Australia is ill-considered and irresponsible. Whether it is short-lived waste from Commonwealth facilities, long-lived plutonium waste from an atomic bomb test site on Aboriginal land, or reactor waste from Lucas Heights. The government applies double standards to suit its own agenda; there is no consistency, and little evidence of logic.”
(Alan Parkinson, 2002, ‘Double standards with radioactive waste’, Australasian Science, www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/britbombs/clean-up)

Poor credibility of nuclear propagandist Barry Brook as an “outstanding scientist”

June 11, 2016

Jim Green, 19 Feb 16 Tas Uni academic Barry Brook’s university webpage says that in 2005 he was listed as one of the “2000 Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Century” by theInternational Biographical Centre (IBC). But the IBC is a zero-credibility money making operation.

The WA Government’s Dept of Commerce ‘ScamNet’ website states: “The material promoting the International Biographical Centre creates a false impression about the credentials of the organisation. It also wrongly implies that the receiver of the letter has been picked through a special research process considering their work and qualifications.”

If there was any doubt about the IBC’s illegitimacy, one of Brook’s academic colleagues nominated a squeaky toy lobster and Prof. Lobster was accepted for inclusion as one of the ‘2000 Outstanding Scientists of the 21st Century’. And the IBC has accepted a nomination for Clive Palmer to be listed as one of the ‘2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century’. A ‘Medal of Intellect’ will be sent to Palmer on payment of a $240 fee.

Feel free to test the IBC’s credibility yourself … you’ll have no trouble getting the Wiggles or the Bananas in Pyjamas or Thomas the Tank Engine accepted as Outstanding Scientists or Outstanding Intellectuals.

Given that the illegitimacy of the IBC is beyond doubt, why does the IBC accolade remain on Brook’s university webpage?

Sources:

Australian Senator’s truly impossible dream for free nuclear powered electricity

June 11, 2016

Given the wildly optimistic price for waste modelled by the mid-scenario, not to mention the 56,000 tonnes of waste left over with no costed solution, and with all the uncertainties in developing the new technologies required, the simple conclusion is that this plan is simply all risk with no reward.

No-one else will line up to take advantage of this “once in a lifetime opportunity”, because the opportunity does not exist. The plan simply cannot succeed.

The impossible dream Free electricity sounds too good to be true. It is. A plan to produce free electricity for South Australia by embracing nuclear waste sounds like a wonderful idea. But it won’t work.  THE AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE Dan Gilchrist February 2016

“……NO GOOD OUTCOME The free energy utopia depends on two new, as yet unproven technologies: PRISM reactors, and cheap borehole disposal. The Edwards plan appears to rely on these technologies not only being successfully developed, but remaining entirely in Australian hands. Competition is certainly not addressed in the plan.

   It would be more realistic to assume that other countries would act on the same opportunities, if indeed they arose.
To implement the Edwards plan, Australia would need to spend around $10 billion to set up temporary storage, a reprocessing plant, and a pair of PRISMs. We would also need to import and store spent fuel.
 Furthermore, the importation of spent fuel would likely require a dedicated port and a fleet of specialised ships, and this is not costed in the plan.
The plan calls for spent fuel to begin to be imported and loaded into the dry-cask facility six years after the commencement of construction. It plans for the first PRISMs to be completed four years later. We could reasonably expect to have good data on the costs and methods of borehole storage well within this ten-year timeframe – as would any potential customers.
Having spent $10 billion (not including the cost of shipping or a new port) and ten years, and with several thousand tonnes of spent fuel in storage,42 there are, broadly speaking, two foreseeable outcomes:
1. If borehole and PRISM technologies, having been piloted commercially by Australia, are found to be as cheap and effective as hoped, other countries will have the opportunity to either use them themselves, or undercut our vast profits. It is not realistic to believe that Australia would continue to be paid five to ten times the cost of permanent storage alone. 43 Even if the hoped-for customers were nations that couldn’t use borehole or PRISM technology, a number of other countries could.
 2. If either technology is found to be too expensive for commercial deployment, or to have unforeseen safety problems, Australia will have locked itself into an expensive method of electricity generation with perhaps no longterm solution for the acquired waste.
In short: either the technology works and we face stiff competition, both from other countries and the low costs of the technologies themselves – in which case the numbers in the plan are completely wrong; or the technology doesn’t work as expected – in which case the numbers in the plan are completely wrong.
And in either case, the plan has still failed to cost a permanent solution for 56,000 tons of high-level waste – over 90 percent of the material taken in. The profits from the scheme would be spent in the early decades to subsidise the reactors and lower taxes, leaving future generations with a massive problem, and no plan or money left to deal with it.
There is no good outcome here.
Even if the technology succeeds, the business plan is fatally flawed. It is, in effect, a self-defeating plan. If it works, our customer base and commodity price dries up, killed by the very technologies we would have piloted at our own risk and at great expense.
Given the wildly optimistic price for waste modelled by the mid-scenario, not to mention the 56,000 tonnes of waste left over with no costed solution, and with all the uncertainties in developing the new technologies required, the simple conclusion is that this plan is simply all risk with no reward. No-one else will line up to take advantage of this “once in a lifetime opportunity”, because the opportunity does not exist. The plan simply cannot succeed. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/conservationsa/pages/496/attachments/original/1455085726/P222_Nuclear_waste_impossible_dream_FINAL.pdf?1455085726

Senator Sean Edwards’ plan for nuclear waste importing – full of flaws

June 11, 2016
The impossible dream Free electricity sounds too good to be true. It is. A plan to produce free electricity for South Australia by embracing nuclear waste sounds like a wonderful idea. But it won’t work.  THE AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE Dan Gilchrist February 2016
 “……..Edward’s plan seems like an excellent deal for South Australia. Who would say no to jobs and free electricity and billions in reduced taxes? But the most cursory scrutiny exposes some serious flaws.
WASTE
The plan is to build a dry-cask storage facility, capable of securing spent fuel on the surface for 100 years. South Australia would be paid to take 60,000 tonnes over a 20 year period.
There would then be a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, designed to reprocess 100 tonnes of this waste per year. The economic value of this proposition is highly speculative as 100 tonnes per year is far in excess of Australia’s likely needs. However, if our pioneering development of PRISM reactors proved the technology and made it affordable, then other countries might also build PRISMs, which could use the output of the processing plant. 14
 However, even assuming Australia finds a use or a buyer for the entire output of the reprocessing plant, over the 40 year life span of the facility South Australia would process just 4,000 tonnes of the imported waste.
What happens to the other 56,000 tonnes of nuclear waste?
 It would remain in temporary storage. There is no long term solution costed or even mentioned in Edwards’ plan. It is never discussed again.
It must be kept in mind this would be waste another country paid Australia to take, specifically because paying us was better than developing a permanent solution of their own. As perhaps may be expected, if one country pays another to take on a massive problem, and the second country solves less than 10 percent of that problem, it could make a large short term profit. But in 100 years when the dry cask system reached the end of its rated lifespan, future generations of South Australians would be left to deal with 56,000 tonnes of high-level waste, with no money left, and no plan.
If the plan was funded only by taking the 4,000 tonnes of spent fuel it actually used, then the result would be a spectacular financial loss.15
The Edwards plan makes the point that Australia would not be taking waste, but only ‘spent fuel’. It says: “This submission is not … proposing the simple establishment of waste management or disposal services or the importation of radioactive wastes in any sense.”
This statement is justified in the plan by the definition of radioactive waste as “…waste materials which contain radioactive substances for which no further use is envisaged.”
As long as we intend to use that spent fuel, it is not, strictly speaking, waste. However, the plan provides no use for over 90 percent of the material to be accepted. It would be, in the truest sense of the word, waste. And the proposal simply ignores that waste. If there is a future use envisaged for it, it is not mentioned in the plan, nor has it been costed.
The plan earns all of its money in the first few decades, spending it all on free electricity, tax reductions and other projects over 50 years.16 The remaining 56,000 tonnes is left to future generations to worry about, with no money left to deal with it.
This is a plan unlikely to be embraced by the Australian public in general, or South Australians in particular………. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/conservationsa/pages/496/attachments/original/1455085726/P222_Nuclear_waste_impossible_dream_FINAL.pdf?1455085726

Busting Australian Senator Sean Edward’s deceptive spin about PRISM nuclear reactors

June 11, 2016

not a single PRISM [ (Power Reactor Innovative Small Module]  has actually been built…. the commercial viability of these technologies is unproven

Crucially, under the plan, Australia would have been taking spent fuel for 4 years before the first PRISM came online, assuming the reactors were built on time.

if borehole technology works as intended, and at the prices hoped for, why would any country pay another to take their waste for $1,370,000 a tonne, when a solution exists that only costs $216,000 a tonne, less than one sixth of the price?

The impossible dream Free electricity sounds too good to be true. It is. A plan to produce free electricity for South Australia by embracing nuclear waste sounds like a wonderful idea. But it won’t work.  THE AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE Dan Gilchrist February 2016

“……NEW TECHNOLOGY  This comprehensively researched submission asserts that a transformative opportunity is to be found in pairing established, mature practices with cuspof-commercialisation technologies to provide an innovative model of service to the global community. (emphasis added) Edwards’ submission to the Royal Commission

Two elements of the plan – transport of waste, and temporary storage in the dry cask facility – are indeed mature. There is a high degree of certainty that these technologies will perform as expected, for the prices expected.
 It should be noted, however, that the price estimates used in the Edwards plan for the dry cask storage facility draw on estimates for an internal US facility to be serviced by rail.17 No consideration has been given to the cost of shipping the material from overseas.
Around a dozen ship loads a year would be needed to import spent fuel at the rate called for in the plan.18 It is likely that a dedicated port would also need to be constructed. The 1999 Pangea plan, which proposed a similar construction of a commercial waste repository in Australia, made allowances for “…international transport in a fleet of special purpose ships to a dedicated port in Australia”. 19
 Needless to say, building and operating highly specialised ships, or paying others to do so, would not be free. Building and operating a dedicated port would not be free. Yet none of these activities are costed in the plan.
Furthermore, beyond the known elements of transport and temporary storage, the principle technologies depended on – PRISM reactors and borehole disposal – are precisely those which are glossed over as being on the “cusp of commercialisation”.
 To put it another way: the commercial viability of these technologies is unproven.
 PRISM  [Power Reactor Innovative Small Module]The PRISM reactor is based on technology piloted in the US, up until the program was cancelled in 1994. 20 It offers existing nuclear-power nations what appears to be a tremendous deal: turn those massive stockpiles of waste into fuel, and reduce the long-term waste problem from one of millennia to one of mere centuries. It promises to be cheap, too, with the small modular design allowing mass production.
 Despite this promise, not a single PRISM reactor has actually been built. Officials at the South Korean Ministry of Science have said that they hope to have advanced reactors – if not the PRISM then something very similar – up and running by 2040.21 The Generation IV International Forum expects the first fourth generation reactors – of which the PRISM is one example – to be commercially deployed in the 2030’s.2
 After decades spent developing the technology in the United States, a US Department of Energy report dismissed the use of Advanced Disposition Reactors (ADR), a class which includes the PRISM-type integral fast reactor concept, as a way of drawing down on excess plutonium stocks. It compares it unfavourably to the existing – and expensive – mixed oxide (MOX) method of recycling nuclear fuel.
The ADR option involves a capital investment similar in magnitude to the [MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility] but with all of the risks associated with first of-a kind new reactor construction (e.g., liquid metal fast reactor), and this complex nuclear facility construction has not even been proposed yet for a Critical Decision …. Choosing the ADR option would be akin to choosing to do the MOX approach all over again, but without a directly relevant and easily accessible reference facility/operation (such as exists for MOX in France) to provide a leg up on experience and design.23
 Nevertheless, the Edwards plan hopes to have a pair of PRISMs built in 10 years.
Crucially, under the plan, Australia would have been taking spent fuel for 4 years before the first PRISM came online, assuming the reactors were built on time.
 The risk is that these integral fast reactors might turn out to be more expensive than anticipated and prove to be uneconomical. This could leave South Australia with expensive electricity and no other plan to deal with any of the spent fuel acquired to fund the reactors in the first place.
 For countries that have no long-term solution for their existing waste stockpiles, the business case for constructing a PRISM reactor is much clearer: even if the facility turns out to be uneconomical, it will nevertheless be able to process some spent fuel, thus reducing waste stockpiles. This added benefit makes the financial risk more worthwhile for such countries
Australia, on the other hand, doesn’t have an existing stockpile of high-level nuclear waste. The Edwards plan would see Australia acquire that problem in the hopes of solving it with technology never before deployed on a commercial scale. We would be buying off the plan, with many billions of dollars at stake, in the hopes that we, with little experience and minimal nuclear infrastructure, could solve a problem which has vexed far more experienced nations for decades.
 By the time the first PRISM is due to come online it will be too late to turn back, no matter what unexpected problems may be encountered. Australia would have acquired thousands of tonnes of spent fuel with no other planned use.
Counting on the development of other PRISM reactors around the world is another gamble. The proposed reprocessing plant accounts for all of the 4,000 tonne reduction in waste over the life of the plan. Australia will have no use for most of this material – the rest must be used by other PRISMs. If PRISMs are not widely adopted, Australia will have no takers. This could leave Australia with even more than 56,000 tonnes of waste, with no planned or costed solution.
 Borehole disposal 
The second element of the plan is the long-term disposal of waste from the PRISM reactors in boreholes. However this technology is still being tested.
 According to an article in the journal Science, bore-hole technology has significant issues to overcome.
The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, an independent panel that advises [the United States Department of Energy] DOE, notes a litany of potential problems: No one has drilled holes this big 5 kilometers into solid rock. If a hole isn’t smooth and straight, a liner could be hard to install, and waste containers could get stuck. It’s tricky to see flaws like fractures in rock 5 kilometers down. Once waste is buried, it would be hard to get it back (an option federal regulations now require). And methods for plugging the holes haven’t been sufficiently tested.
However, if estimates used by the Edwards plan are correct, and boreholes can be made to work as hoped, it would allow high-level nuclear waste to be disposed of for only $216,000 per tonne. The Edwards plan reduces this further for Australia, quoting only $138,000 a tonne, on the understanding that our own waste would be comparatively low level output from a PRISM – disregarding, as discussed above, the 56,000 tonnes left over.
 Nevertheless, the figure of $216,000 per tonne is important, because that is the price at which any country with suitable geology could store high level waste. It should be noted that Australia will not have exclusive access to borehole technology. If it is proven to be as effective as hoped there is nothing stopping many other countries from using it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) notes that borehole siting activities have been initiated in Ghana, the Philippines, Malaysia and Iran.26 A pilot program is underway in the US.27 The range of geologies where boreholes may be effective is vast.
This may have serious implications for Australia’s waste disposal industry, given that other countries could build their own low-cost solution, or offer it to potential customers.
 However, if boreholes do not work as hoped, Australia will have no costed solution for the final disposal of high-level waste from its PRISM facilities. Australia would find itself in the very situation other countries had paid it to avoid.
PRICE What are countries willing to pay to have their spent fuel taken care of?
 This is an open question, as to date there is no international market in the permanent storage of high-level waste.
A figure of US$1,000,000 (A$1,370,000) per tonne is used by the Edwards plan, but this estimate does not appear to have any rigorous basis.
The Edwards plan gives only one real world example of a similar price: a recent plan by Taiwan to pay US$1,500,000 per tonne to send a small amount of its waste overseas for reprocessing. From this, the report concludes that an estimate of US$1,000,000 is entirely reasonable.
 However, the report neglects to mention several important facts about Taiwan’s proposal. First, this spent fuel was to be reprocessed, not disposed of, and most of the material was to be reclaimed as usable fuel. 29 This fuel would not be returned, but would continue to be owned by Taiwan, and be available for sale.30 If they could find a buyer, Taiwan might expect to recoup part or all of their costs by selling the reclaimed fuel to a third party.
 Second, the 20 percent of material to be converted into vitrified waste by the process was to be returned to Taiwan – no long-term storage would be part of the deal.
Third, and most importantly, the tender was suspended by the Taiwanese government pending parliamentary budget review.31 This occurred in March 2015, several months before the Edwards plan was submitted to the Royal Commission.
 Not only was the Taiwanese government proposing a completely different process to the one proposed by the Edwards plan, they weren’t willing to pay for it anyway. So the use of the Taiwanese case as a baseline example for the price Australia might hope to receive to store waste simply does not stand up to scrutiny.
The plan does briefly mention that the US nuclear power industry has set aside US$400,000 a tonne for waste disposal – to cover research, development and final disposal.32 This much lower figure is disregarded for no apparent reason, making the mid-scenario’s assumption of a price more than double this, at US$1,000,000, seem dubious. Even the pessimistic case considers a price of US$500,000 a tonne, higher than the US savings pool.
As will be discussed in the next section, the question remains: if borehole technology works as intended, and at the prices hoped for, why would any country pay another to take their waste for $1,370,000 a tonne, when a solution exists that only costs $216,000 a tonne, less than one sixth of the price?
 If South Australia led the way to prove the viability of the borehole disposal method and took on the risks associated with a first of its kind commercial operation, many other countries should be expected to use the technology for their own waste, or could offer those services to others. This alone makes the idea that other countries would pay $1,370,000 a tonne highly unlikely. ….https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/conservationsa/pages/496/attachments/original/1455085726/P222_Nuclear_waste_impossible_dream_FINAL.pdf?1455085726

USA Nuclear codes:what they are;how they work: the President’s awesome responsibility

June 11, 2016

Nuclear codes: A president’s awesome power By Mark Hertling June 10, 2016 CNN The military aides who carry it call it “the football.” The more accurate name is the “president’s emergency response satchel.” But no matter what it is called, the contents of this small metal briefcase contained within a black leather satchel is always within a few feet of the president of the United States.

The contents of the case allow the commander in chief to issue orders authorizing a nuclear attack anywhere in the world. So it’s no surprise that the issue of judgment keeps coming up — there have been a number of public comments and exchanges recently over who is best prepared to handle the enormous responsibility associated with the potential use of nuclear weapons against an enemy.
It’s a responsibility that has weighed on the shoulders of U.S. presidents since the Cold War, when, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy had the foresight to ask some very difficult questions regarding a nuclear response.
Kennedy wanted clarification on the things he could do, and was specifically concerned as to what his actions might be if he were away from the White House and received information that might require him to launch an immediate preemptory strike. What should he do if he received information that led him to conclude that he should launch an immediate strike? And would the Emergency Action System allow the president to do so from anywhere in the world, without first consulting the secretary of defense? If he called the War Room in the Pentagon to order such a strike, what would he say? And how would the person receiving the order verify the authenticity of the president so there would be no delay in launch?
As part of the answer to those questions, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had his team design the emergency response satchel.
The briefcase contains four items: a top secret book (unsurprisingly called a “black book,” due to its color) containing response options; a listing of classified site locations all over the United States where the president might go during or after a nuclear attack (President George W. Bush made use of this list during the 9/11 terrorist attacks); a booklet describing the elements of the Emergency Alert System; and a card with authentication codes.
That bag — carried by the military aide — has been within feet of the commander in chief ever since for any situation where the president believes the use of nuclear weapons is warranted. If that is the case, he is able to order the military aide to open the briefcase and issue an alert to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While that is occurring, the president reviews options from the nuclear triad — submarine launched missiles, aircraft with atomic weapons, or land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMS) — and then decides on a course of action.
The aide then connects the president with the National Military Command Center (NMCC) — in the Pentagon or an airborne command and control element — and positively identifies himself with a special code issued on a plastic card. Most presidents have kept that card — called the “biscuit” — in their possession at all times.
Should this happen, the code on the president’s card would be confirmed by either the secretary of defense, or the watch officer (a general or admiral on duty) at the NMCC, and the president could then order a strike. The president always has the authority to order an attack, with his options ranging from the launch of one missile to extensive, massive strikes from one or several elements of the triad: bombers, submarines, missiles.
The five military aides to the president, representing each of the services and alternating 24/7 shifts by his side or sleeping in the basement of the White House, are extensively trained on ensuring their commander in chief has the ability to immediately execute this function if required. They are required to always be within minutes of their boss, including riding in the same elevator as the president. They train with communication checks and practice drills, employing various scenarios, before and during every trip. In short, they are prepared to help him execute his