Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Australia’s Labor Party must keep to its strong nuclear-free policy

November 3, 2018

Uranium

  1. The production of uranium and its use in the nuclear fuel cycle present unique and unprecedented hazards and risks, including:
  • Threats to human health and the local environment in the mining and milling of uranium and management of radioactive materials, which demand the enforcement of strict safety procedures;
  • The generation of products that are usable as the raw materials for nuclear weapons manufacture, which demands the enforcement of effective controls against diversion; and
  • The generation of highly toxic radioactive waste by-products that demand permanently safe disposal methods.
  1. Labor accordingly will allow the mining and export of uranium only under the most stringent conditions.
  1. In relation to mining and milling, Labor will:
  • Ensure the safety of workers in the uranium industry is given priority. Labor has established acompulsory register for workers in the uranium industry that includes regular health checks and ongoing monitoring. The register is held by an independent agency and will be subject to privacy provisions;
  • Ensure Australian uranium mining, milling and rehabilitation is based on world best practice standards, extensive continuing research on environmental impacts and the health and safety of employees and affected communities, particularly Indigenous communities;
  • Ensure the Australian public is informed about the quality of the environmental performance of uranium mines through public accountability mechanisms;
  • Foster a constructive relationship between mining companies and Indigenous communities affected by uranium mining; and
  • Prohibit the mining of uranium within national parks under International Union for Conservation of Nature protected area category 1A, category 1B, and category 2, and listed world heritage areas.
  1. In relation to exports other than to India, Labor will allow the export of uranium only to those countries that observe the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), are committed to nonproliferation policies, and have ratified international and bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements.

Labor will export uranium only to countries that maintain strict safeguards and security controls over their nuclear power industries.

CHAPTER 3: BUILDING AUSTRALIA’S FUTURE 57

  1. In relation to India, an important strategic partner for Australia, commitments and responsible actions in support of nuclear non-proliferation, consistent with international guidelines on nuclear supply, will provide an acceptable basis for peaceful nuclear cooperation, including the export of uranium, subject to the application of strong safeguards.
  1. In addition, Labor will work towards:
  • Strengthening export control regimes and the rights and authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
  • Appropriate international responses to violations of existing safeguard commitments;
  • Limiting the processing of weapon usable material (separation of plutonium and high

enriched uranium in civilian programs);

  • Tightening controls over the export of nuclear material and technology;
  • Universalising of the IAEA additional protocol making it mandatory for all states and

members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to adhere to the additional protocol as a condition

of supply to all their transfers;

  • Criminalising actions of individuals and companies that assist in nuclear proliferation;
  • The development of an international guarantee of nuclear fuel supply to states foregoing

sensitive nuclear technologies;

  • Revising the NPT to prevent countries from withdrawing from the NPT and passing a new resolution in the United Nations Security Council addressing the penalties for withdrawal from the NPT;
  • Encouraging all nuclear states to join the NPT;
  • Reserving the right to withhold supplies of uranium permanently, indefinitely or for a specified period from any country that ceases to observe the non-proliferation safeguards and security conditions applied to Australian uranium exports to that country, or which adopts nuclear practices or policies that do not further advance the cause of nuclear nonproliferation;
  • Supporting the maintenance and enhancement of international and Australian safeguards to ensure that uranium mined in Australia, and nuclear products derived from it, are used only for civil purposes by approved instrumentalities in approved countries that are signatories to the NPT (with the exception of India) and with whom Australia has safeguard arrangements; and
  • Seeking adequate international resourcing of the IAEA to ensure its effectiveness in undertaking its charter.
  1. Labor will progress these commitments through diplomatic means including the re-establishment of the Canberra Commission to re-invigorate Australia’s tradition of middle power, multilateral diplomacy. In doing so, Labor believes that as a non-nuclear armed nation and a good international citizen, Australia can make a significant contribution to promoting disarmament, the reduction of nuclear stockpiles, and the responsible use of nuclear technology.
  1. Labor will:
  • Vigorously and totally oppose the ocean dumping of radioactive waste;

CHAPTER 3: BUILDING AUSTRALIA’S FUTURE 58

  •  Prohibit the establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia;

  • Fully meet all Australia’s obligations as a party to the NPT; and
  • Remain strongly opposed to the importation and storage of nuclear waste that is sourced from overseas in Australia.
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Annabel Crabb outlines the demise of Australia’s climate policy in 7 killings

November 3, 2018

Australia’s recent climate change policy: A brief history of seven killings http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-23/climate-change-policy-a-brief-history-of-seven-killings/10152616, By Annabel Crabb  

The story starts in 1997, when the brand-new Howard government (sweating through a brief and cock-up-infested first term during which it lost a series of ministers and most of the margin with which it had wrested power from Paul Keating) sends its environment minister, Robert Hill, to Japan for the seminal Kyoto Climate Summit.

At the summit, Senator Hill negotiates generous terms for his country in the global deal; Australia emerged with large concessions for its agricultural activities and is one of only three countries permitted to increase its emissions under the deal.

Senator Hill is welcomed home as a conquering hero.

However, over the years enthusiasm for the compact is replaced within the government by scepticism.

First casualty (more…)

Civil and military nuclear industries locked in dependence on each other

October 9, 2018

questions arise over many well-documented military entanglements of nuclear power

the “reliable provision of Russia’s defense capability is the main priority of the nuclear industry” – Rosatom

a host of other defense policy discussions are very clear that the UK nuclear ‘submarine industrial base’ would not be sustainable, if a decision were taken to discontinue civil nuclear power…statements from UK submarine industry sources note incentives to “mask” the costs of this military programme behind the related civilian industrial infrastructure…. a programme of submarine-derived small modular reactors should be adopted in UK energy policy in order to “relieve the Ministry of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability” on the military side. – Rolls Royce

focused on facilitating ‘mobility’ between the civil and defense nuclear workforce – UK

In the USA, powerful imperatives have recently been openly declared in high level policy debate, to maintain support for otherwise-uncompetitive nuclear power in order to sustain a continuing nuclear navy.

How much of the costs of these shared underpinnings for military nuclear ambitions, are being concealed by otherwise uneconomic joint civil-military nuclear infrastructures?

A Global Picture of Industrial Interdependencies Between Civil and Military Nuclear Infrastructures  https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=2018-13-swps-stirling-and-johnstone.pdf&site=25  (this paper is richly supplied with comprehensive footnotes and references. Andy Stirling, Phil Johnstone, SPRU, August 2018 (This is an extended, updated and more fully referenced version of a chapter appearing in M. Schneider, A. Froggatt, J. Hazemann, T. Katsuta, M.V. Ramana, A. Stirling, P. Johnstone, C. von Hirschhausen, B. Wealer, The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2018, Mycle Schneider Consulting, Paris, 2018)

Abstract

Noting the increasingly unfavourable economic and operational position of nuclear power around the world, this paper reviews evidence for a hitherto neglected connection between international commitments to civil and military nuclear infrastructures.  (more…)

How the British government struck such a terrible deal as Hinkley Point C nuclear power project

October 9, 2018

Hinkley Point: the ‘dreadful deal’ behind the world’s most  expensive power plant Building Britain’s first new nuclear reactor since 1995 will cost twice as much as the 2012 Olympics – and by the time it is finished, nuclear power could be a thing of the past. How could the government strike such a bad deal? Guardian, By Holly Watt, 21 Dec 17, Hinkley Point, on the Somerset coast, is the biggest building site in Europe. ……

the irony of Hinkley Point C is that by the time it eventually starts working, it may have become obsolete. Nuclear power is facing existential problems around the world, as the cost of renewable energies fall and their popularity grows. “The maths doesn’t work,” says Tom Burke, former environmental policy adviser to BP and visiting professor at both Imperial and University Colleges. “Nuclear simply doesn’t make sense any more.”

The story of Hinkley Point C is that of a chain of decisions, taken by dozens of people over almost four decades, which might have made sense in isolation, but today result in an almost unfathomable scramble of policies and ambitions. Promises have been made and broken, policies have been adopted then dropped then adopted again. The one thing that has been consistent is the projected cost, which has rocketed ever upwards. But if so many people have come to believe that Hinkley Point C is fundamentally flawed, the question remains: how did we get to this point, where billions of pounds have been sunk into a project that seems less and less appealing with every year that passes?

……… By the end of 2003, all government policy indicated that Hinkley Point C would never be built, and there was no prospect of any other new nuclear power plants. It seemed certain that nuclear had no future in Britain – which is why, when the government performed a volte-face three years later, so many onlookers were astonished. “Without any obvious change in the world, by 2006, the position in government had been completely reversed,” MacKerron told me. “Nuclear power had become extremely beneficial, important and not uneconomic.”

One thing that had happened in the intervening years was a PR blitz by the nuclear industry, which had deployed scores of lobbyists, including former politicians such as the former energy minister Brian Wilson, to push the idea of a “nuclear renaissance” in the UK. Between 2003 and 2006, says Andrew Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at Sussex University, “Britain saw the beginnings of a massive pro-nuclear lobbying and PR campaign that continues to this day.”

Through the media and advertising campaigns, key messages were hammered home. Renewables were intermittent and unreliable. Overseas gas imports were politically vulnerable. “Green” nuclear was the only plausible way to hit carbon dioxide reduction targets. Keith Parker, who was then chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), told the New Statesman that the 2005 election became a particular focus for swaying opinions. “It gave us a good chance to raise the profile of nuclear power,” he said. In the months leading up to the election, a series of talks was organised at exclusive venues such as the Army & Navy Club on Pall Mall and St Stephen’s Club in Queen Anne’s Gate. Industry leaders and experts came together to explain the benefits of nuclear to politicians and energy journalists. The NIA (which is now chaired by John Hutton) took on the role of managing the influential all-party parliamentary group – an informal grouping of politicians – on nuclear energy.

In July 2006, the government U-turn arrived in the form of a new policy paper, The Energy Challenge, which declared that new nuclear power stations would be necessary to help Britain reduce its carbon emissions and to ensure an uninterrupted, affordable supply of energy well into the future.

Greenpeace launched a legal challenge, claiming that the consultation process behind the government’s recommendation had been totally inadequate. The judge presiding over the case agreed, and in February 2007 ruled that the process had been “misleading”, “very seriously flawed” and “procedurally unfair”. Blair accepted the ruling, but stated that “this won’t affect the policy at all”.

Andrew Stirling believes that there was a crucial, largely unspoken, reason for the government’s rediscovered passion for nuclear: without a civil nuclear industry, a nation cannot sustain military nuclear capabilities. In other words, no new nuclear power plants would spell the end of Trident. “The only countries in the world that are currently looking at large-scale civil power newbuild programmes are countries that have nuclear submarines, or have an expressed aim of acquiring them,” Stirling told me.

Building nuclear submarines is a ferociously complicated business. It requires the kind of institutional memory and technical expertise that can easily disappear without practice. This, in theory, is where the civil nuclear industry comes in. If new nuclear power plants are being built, then the skills and capacity required by the military will be maintained. “It looks to be the case that the government is knowingly engineering an environment in which electricity consumers cross-subsidise this branch of military security,” Stirling told me.

In May 2007, the government published a paper titled “Meeting the energy challenge: a White Paper on energy”, which reaffirmed its enthusiasm for nuclear and declared that there had been “significant changes in the economics of nuclear power”. In contrast to the late 1980s, the government claimed it was now being approached by “some energy companies expressing a strong interest in investing in new nuclear power stations”.

When Gordon Brown took over from Blair in June 2007, the shift to nuclear proceeded apace. As it happened, the new prime minister’s brother, Andrew, was then the communications director for EDF, though a spokesman for Gordon Brown told me that at no point while he was prime minister “did he ever discuss energy policy with Andrew Brown”.

In January 2008, the announcement came. A new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK was given formal backing by the government. “It was one of the most exciting days in my ministerial life,” says Hutton. “Ministers do lots of important things all the time, but there are probably those moments in your ministerial career when you sit back and think: ‘Actually, this is going to have an intergenerational effect. This is going to affect the country 50, 60, 70 years after I’ve gone.’”

The development at the top of the list was Hinkley Point C……….

With no real plan B after the private sector had lost interest in Hinkley Point, the government suddenly found itself in a weak negotiating position. “They perhaps didn’t foresee that only one developer, EDF, was prepared to go ahead,” said MacKerron. “So by definition, they were a bit over a barrel.”

In September 2008, British Energy was sold to EDF. After months of long and difficult negotiations between EDF and a team of civil servants representing the UK’s interests in British Energy, and an earlier failed bid, the French company paid £12.5bn to take over eight UK nuclear power plants. It also announced its plan to develop four new power stations.

These days, EDF looks like an unlikely white knight. The market value of the company has collapsed, from more than €150bn (£132bn) in 2008 to roughly €30bn (£26bn) today, and the French nuclear industry is facing an existential crisis.

…….. The financial deal that EDF struck with the British in October 2013 to fund the project – which, in Magnin’s words, amounts to the British taxpayer funding France’s energy needs – remains one of the most controversial elements of the Hinkley deal.

Given its commitment to building Hinkley Point C, the government had no choice but to make EDF an offer that was too good to resist. It offered to guarantee EDF a fixed price for each unit of energy produced at Hinkley for its first 35 years of operation. In 2012, the guaranteed price – known as the “strike price” – was set at £92.50 per megawatt hour (MWh), which would then rise with inflation. (One MWh is roughly equivalent to the electricity used by around 330 homes in one hour.)

This means that if the wholesale price of electricity across the country falls below £92.50, EDF will receive an extra payment from the consumer as a “top-up” to fill the gap. This will be added to electricity bills around the country – even if you aren’t receiving electricity from Hinkley Point C, you will still be making a payment to EDF. ……..

In short, instead of using taxpayers’ money to fund a state subsidy for EDF, the government negotiated a deal whereby the electricity consumer foots the bill. Given that almost every taxpayer in the UK is an electricity consumer, the distinction is largely academic. …….

The deal looks particularly bad when compared with the current cost of renewable energy. As Hinkley’s pricetag keeps rising, the cost of energy keeps falling. And, as a recent report from the public accounts committee pointed out, although energy costs are falling, this just drives up the top-up payment to EDF. “No one was protecting the interests of energy consumers in doing the deal,” the report noted.

In December 2013, the European commission decided that the payments to EDF were so big that they could distort the electricity price across the whole of Europe, and launched an investigation into the deal. The resulting document, published in 2014, can be read as a 33,000-word attempt by the EU to save the UK from its own poor negotiating.

The commission raised several issues………

In 2012, as it was preparing to negotiate the strike price with EDF, the government hired the consultancy firm LeighFisher to assess construction costs for Hinkley. The higher the cost estimated by LeighFisher, the higher the strike price for EDF.

However, as the National Audit Office pointed out in June 2017, LeighFisher is owned by Jacobs Engineering Group. And at the same time that LeighFisher was assessing Hinkley Point construction costs, Jacobs was working for EDF, with some of its staff seconded to the French company. The National Audit Office points out that Jacobs staff were having “input” into LeighFisher’s cost verification exercise.

In short, a division of a company employed by EDF was advising the UK government how much to pay EDF.

……. Hinkley Point C will be the third nuclear reactor to be built on this site. These days, its oldest brother, Hinkley Point A, which began operating in 1965 and was decommissioned in 2000, is dilapidated, with large holes gaping in its blue walls. Hinkley Point B, which began operating in 1976 and is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2023, stands 300 metres to its right – an anonymous grey hulk, disappearing against the sky, as steam from its huge chimneys floods into the clouds………

“My grandchildren will be paying for this,” Allan Jeffery from Stop Hinkley told me, as we walked around the outer boundary of the site earlier this year.

The government estimates that the Hinkley top-up payments will cost consumers around £30bn over the course of the 35-year contract. One of the few figures on a comparable scale is the Brexit divorce bill.

The story of Hinkley point contains another echo of – or perhaps a warning for – the Brexit negotiations. With Hinkley, even though the UK’s position got steadily worse, at no point did the government seriously try to force the terms of the deal. It simply couldn’t, because it had backed itself into a corner.

……. The stakes of the Hinkley deal were also high for both China and France, and neither country gave an inch. When it came to the crunch, the UK’s negotiators had to take the deal they were offered. “The issue now is that nobody has a good exit strategy,” says Prof Steve Thomas. “I think everyone wants out. But there are penalties to pay now, and there is the humiliation of 10 wasted years.”……..https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/21/hinkley-point-c-dreadful-deal-behind-worlds-most-expensive-power-plant

Groups Release Key DOE Documents on Expanded Plutonium Pit Production, DOE Nuclear Weapons Plan Not Supported by Recent Congressional Actions

October 9, 2018

https://nukewatch.org/pressreleases/PR-Pit-Production-Docs-5-31-18.pdf  May 31, 2018 Contact Tom Clements, SRS Watch, 803.240.7268, tomclements329@cs.com Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342, c. 505.470.3154, jay@nukewatch.org

  Santa Fe, NM & Columbia, SC – Two key U.S. Department of Energy documents on future production of plutonium “pits” for nuclear weapons, not previously released to the public, fail to justify new and upgraded production facilities at both the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.

The report reveals that the initial cost estimate for these new and upgraded facilities at both sites is $10 billion by 2030, and around $46 billion in total life cycle costs. Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons. Cost overruns are the rule for major projects undertaken by the National Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within DOE, so the costs are likely to rise yet more, according to Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Savannah River Site Watch.

NNSA’s Pu Pit Production Engineering Assessment, originally marked Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information, was finalized on April 20, 2018. The 293-page document was obtained by Nuclear Watch and is being released so that the public may be fully informed about the agency’s misguided pursuit of new plutonium pit production facilities for future new-design nuclear weapons. The new NNSA Administrator has called future plutonium pit production her highest priority. But the Engineering Assessment fails to answer the most crucial question: why are at least 80 plutonium pits per year needed to begin with?

As background, on May 10, 2018, NNSA announced in a one-page statement:

 To achieve DoD’s [Department of Defense] 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. This two-prong approach – with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking.

Nuclear Watch also obtained NNSA’s 14-page Plutonium Pit Production Engineering Assessment (EA) Results. That summary document, dated May 2018, relied on the Trump Administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review for claiming the need for expanded plutonium pit production. However, that high-level review failed to state any concrete justification for the alleged pit need. Moreover, Congress is balking at funding any new pit production facilities at SRS, primarily because Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) vociferously opposes repurposing the MOX facility, now undergoing termination, and the New Mexico congressional delegation opposes any pit production outside of the Los Alamos Lab.

The Engineering Assessment details that NNSA analyzed four pit production options, one in the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at SRS and three options at Los Alamos. NNSA chose the most expensive combination, repurposing the MOX facility and increasing pit production at LANL to 30 pits per year. Los Alamos is currently authorized to produce 20 pits per year, but has failed to achieve even that because of ongoing nuclear criticality safety issues (moreover, LANL proposed to produce all 80 pits per year, which NNSA rejected). SRS has never produced pits, raising new nuclear risks at that site and concern about new waste streams.

The Engineering Assessment makes clear that “moderate risks” in the option of repurposing the MOX plant at SRS includes any failure to quickly terminate the MOX project, due to subsequent delays in closing out the project and terminating contracts. Likewise, the report affirms a longheld concern that there is a “very high probability for incomplete construction records/as-built drawings” for the MOX project. On May 10, DOE began congressionally sanctioned termination of the bungled MOX project, but it is being opposed in last-ditch, desperate attempts by Senator Lindsey Graham and the State of South Carolina. The Engineering Assessment makes explicitly clear that terminating the MOX program is the crucial prerequisite for plutonium pit production at SRS and that “some work [on repurposing the MOX plant] can be completed during MOX closeout,” contrary to both the wishes of Congress and requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Expanded plutonium pit production is NOT needed to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile, according to Nuclear Watch. In fact, no pit production for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile has been scheduled since 2011, and none is scheduled for the future. Up to 15,000 “excess” pits and another 5,000 in “strategic reserve” are already stored at DOE’s Pantex Plant near Amarillo, TX. In 2006 independent experts found that pits last a least a century1 (they currently average 40 years old). A 2012 follow-on study by the Livermore Lab found that the “graceful aging of plutonium also reduces the immediate need for a modern highcapacity manufacturing facility to replace pits in the stockpile.” 2

 Future pit production is for speculative future new designs being pushed by the nuclear weapons labs, so-called Interoperable Warheads for both land- and sub-launched missiles that the Navy does not support. 3 Moreover, as the Engineering Assessment makes clear, future pits will NOT be exact replicas of existing pits. This could have serious potential consequences because heavily modified plutonium pits cannot be full-scale tested, or alternatively could prompt the U.S. to return to nuclear weapons testing, which would have severe international proliferation consequences.

The Engineering Assessment also explicitly links raising the administrative limit on plutonium at LANL’s “Rad Lab” to expanded pit production. This contradicts a recent draft environmental assessment in which NNSA claimed that re-categorizing the Rad Lab as a Hazard Category-3 nuclear facility was necessary only to maintain basic analytical chemistry capabilities, while omitting any reference whatsoever to expanded plutonium pit production.

The Engineering Assessment briefly outlines what could be a major vulnerability to NNSA’s pit production plans, that is the agency’s future compliance (or not) with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Assessment states that if “compliance is delayed, [this] extends the schedule, increases costs, and/or delays production.” Both Nuclear Watch and SRS Watch assert that the law requires that major federal proposals be subject to public review and comment before a formal decision is made. Arguably, a formal decision to raise production to 80 pits or more per year necessitates a new or supplemental nation-wide programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), which the new dual-site decision strongly buttresses. Follow-on site-specific NEPA documents will then be necessary, with full public participation and hearings. All of this could introduce substantial delays to NNSA’s plutonium pit production plans.

“While it’s clear that the bungled MOX project is unworkable from technical and cost perspectives and must rapidly be terminated, there is no justification to convert the abandoned facility to a nuclear bomb production plant,” said Tom Clements, director of SRS Watch. “We agree that money must now be spent closing and securing the MOX building, but not on the new, unauthorized pit mission. Spending taxpayer funds to now begin conversion of the MOX plant to pit production, as is indicated in the pit report, is premature and can’t even be considered until Congress approves the NNSA approach for new facilities and an environmental impact review with public participation takes place,” added Clements.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “NNSA has already tried four times to expand plutonium pit production, only to be defeated by citizen opposition and its own cost overruns and incompetence. We realize that this fifth attempt at a new pit plant is the most serious yet, but we remain confident it too will fall apart. The enormous financial and environmental costs of new nuclear bomb factories and the fact that expanded plutonium pit production is simply not needed for the existing nuclear weapons stockpile will doom this effort. We think the American public will reject new-design nuclear weapons, which is what this expanded pit production decision is really all about.”

Submission for the public good – to Australian Senate Inquiry on nuclear waste dump selection

April 2, 2018

Submission to Senate Standing Committees on Economics “Selection process for a national radioactive waste management facility in South Australia “

My name is Noel Wauchope. I am a former school teacher, having taught science in secondary schools. I have a long term interest in nuclear issues. I would say that I am a generalist, rather than a specialist in a scientific field. I believe that this generalist approach is an advantage in examining and communicating about a nuclear waste dump proposal. All too often, even very well educated people are intimidated by the technical jargon of experts on nuclear technology, and thus become reluctant to form their own opinion.

I note the specific terms of reference that we are encouraged to address, and I deplore the fact that they, and the title of this Inquiry, are already begging the question – by stating “in South Australia”.

Already we are all supposed to accept without question the proposition that South Australia is the location for the federal nuclear waste dump – done and dusted!

SUMMARY

My main concern is in addressing  b the concept of “broad community support”. The Inquiry ‘s brief for this appears to  be confined  to the Kimba and Hawker people. The establishment of a nuclear waste facility at Kimba or Hawker will involve transport of radioactive wastes through the region, and will have ramifications for its economy, agriculture and tourism. The local communities have not been properly informed, and pretty well brain-washed with the myth that the nuclear waste dump is a “medical necessity”.  The nature of the wastes, lumping together Intermediate Level Wastes (ILW) and Low Level Wastes (LLW) is a messy and confusing plan, and its real meaning has not been explained to them. The safety problems with waste canisters have not been discussed. These local communities are not aware of their future in hosting “stranded wastes” – as there is no existing plan for the permanent burial of the very long lasting ILW wastes.

The involvement of indigenous people by the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) has been inadequate, and the idea that they support the plan is simply not believable, in view of the poor survey practices carried out, and the clear opposition of leading Aboriginal organisations.

e Eyre Peninsular , state-wide and nation-wide community views should be considered.

Related matters include South Australia’s law prohibiting nuclear waste facilities,  best practice for managing nuclear wastes, publicity and media coverage, and a responsible approach to radioactive waste management, and  Australia- wide decision-making.   (more…)

David Noonan’s Submissions to Australian Senate regarding Reprocessing Nuclear Fuel and Safety of Intermediate Level Wastes

April 2, 2018

two David Noonan Submissions to current Federal Parliamentary Inquiry by Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCT) Reprocessing Nuclear fuel – France (to report by 19 June) have been made public,

An ARPANSA Submission (23 Feb, 2 pages) “regarding the safety of intermediate level waste” has also been made public, at: https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=0739bc51-9403-4490-b0ce-c8cc6ed074a2&subId=563939

See below url’s & extracts for DN sub’s & JSCT Inquiry homepage at: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/NuclearFuel-France

D Noonan Submission (14 Feb): “Public Interest Questions, Scenarios and Consequences of ‘Reprocessing Nuclear fuel – France’ treaty actions & associated nuclear actions”

https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=eab981b4-146d-4b66-aad9-59f64b275db0&subId=563627

ANSTO is without a Plan B to address key public interest scenarios which demand answers:

·         Reprocessing in France will not prove to be available throughout the OPAL reactor Operating License to 2057. At most, this treaty covers the first 2 of 5 decades of OPAL fuel wastes;

 ·         AND the proposed above ground Store in SA for ANSTO’s nuclear waste will damage and divide community and fall over and fail just as prior attempts have in SA and in NT.

If the OPAL reactor is to continue to operate ANSTO must address required contingencies:

·         Extended Storage of OPAL nuclear fuel waste on-site at Lucas Heights in secure cask storage. Lucas Height operates a Store for HIFAR nuclear fuel wastes with capacity to do so until availability of a final disposal option and can now set up to do so for OPAL fuel wastes;

 ·         AND to have to manage ANSTO nuclear fuel wastes entirely with-in Australia through to final disposal. Sending OPAL nuclear fuel waste overseas for reprocessing is used as an excuse to produce a burden of further nuclear waste without capacity or answers for its disposal. …

my Supplementary Submission (28 Feb) provides further evidence on three key aspects:

https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=f42dce88-9ecf-44f0-8195-5e9e552de078&subId=563627

1. Reprocessing is not International Best Practice, is in decline, and may leave ANSTO stranded

… A key Reprocessing review for consideration by JSCT is: ‘Plutonium Separation in Nuclear Power Programs. Status, Problems, and Prospects of Civilian Reprocessing around the World‘ (IPFM, July 2015), see: http://fissilematerials.org/library/2015/07/plutonium_separation_in_nuclea.html

France is currently the only country in the world that operates a commercial-scale spent fuel reprocessing plant.”  (IPFM Report, Country Studies Chapter 3 France p.30)

 … ANSTO should disclose the additional cost in Reprocessing compared to dry-cask storage

“The cost of spent-fuel reprocessing also is about ten times the cost of the alternative option for managing spent fuel, dry-cask spent-fuel storage.” (IPFM, Intro p.11)

 2. Extended Storage of ANSTO nuclear fuel waste at Lucas Heights is a viable option

& Contingency to return OPAL reactor Reprocessed fuel waste to Storage at LHs

3. ANSTO failure to provide a disposal strategy for OPAL nuclear fuel wastes flouts best practice

Australia. Mark Parnell on the final report of the Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission

April 2, 2018

What we saw with the royal commission is that they had a number of paid consultants—paid by you and I, the taxpayers—and they engaged these consultants who had clear, ongoing connections with the nuclear industry, often as lobbyists for the industry.

It became apparent very early on that the state was off on a frolic of its own. It was embarking on this major investigation about having a nuclear waste dump in South Australia when everyone knew that the bulk of the laws that regulate these things are at the commonwealth level.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission – Parliamentary Committee Report, Legislative Council, October 18th, 2017 http://www.markparnell.org.au/speech_prn.php?speech=1532

The final report of the Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on October 17 2017.  A copy of the report can be found here.

As a Member of the Parliamentary Committee, Mark spoke to the Report on October 18, and outlined his findings and recommendations in the Greens’ Minority Report.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The notion that South Australia could become fabulously wealthy if only we would agree to take the world’s high-level nuclear waste was ill-conceived from the very beginning. The committee heard evidence about previous attempts to establish nuclear waste dumps in other parts of the world and in Australia. Those attempts have mostly failed because the fundamentals just do not stack up. The liability lasts forever, the technology is unproven and risky, the economics are flawed and the public do not want it under any circumstances, according to the South Australian citizens’ jury. So, this current proposal for South Australia has predictably and properly gone the way of its predecessors and it has been comprehensively dumped.

Whilst the Greens welcome the inevitable abandonment of this project, it has come at a significant cost to the community. Millions of dollars of public funds have been wasted pursuing this folly, and the community is rightly angry that other worthwhile projects and other investigations have suffered through this unnecessary distraction from the real issues that are facing South Australia.

The committee only had one recommendation that received majority support. That is the recommendation that no further public money be spent on a nuclear waste dump in South Australia. (more…)

Evidence that Britain’s nuclear power industry subsidises nuclear weapons

March 31, 2018

channelling revenues ultimately funded by electricity consumers towards a joint civil-military national nuclear industry base

Evidence from Andy Stirling and Philip Johnstone: As the early part of the process of the BEIS Committee Brexit Inquiry has unfolded, the salience of this civil/military link is being further underscored in statements in which a number of relevant senior civil servants and ministers are confirming that the priority attached to UK military submarine capabilities is deeply entangled in strategic commitments to civil nuclear industry strategy 6 . Several possibly serious implications therefore arise in relation to the particular circumstances of Brexit.

Parliament 27th Oct 2017  http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/business-energy-and-industrial-strategy-committee/leaving-the-eu-implications-for-the-nuclear-industry/written/71514.pdf

Written evidence from the University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit (BRN0015)

  1. We submit this evidence to the inquiry on Brexit and the Implications for UK Business.s. The content draws on a detailed submission by the same authors to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), discussed at the PAC witness session on Monday 9 th October 2017, which informed illuminating exchanges with senior civil service witnesses to that Committee and was subsequently published by PAC 1 . A number of potentially important implications arise in relation to issues under discussion around Brexit.

2: This earlier evidence to PAC addressed the otherwise difficult-to-explain intensity of Government commitments to civil nuclear power in the face of growing recognition of the relative competitiveness of alternative UK low carbon energy investments. Multiple grounds were found for inferring that this persistent Government attachment is due, at least in part (and with no public discussion), to perceived needs to engineer a cross-subsidy from electricity consumers to help cover costs of a national nuclear industrial base that is deemed to be essential for maintaining UK military nuclear infrastructures 2 .

 

3: The issues that arise are central to the general remit of the BEIS Committee. For instance, this recent evidence to the PAC documents significant statements by the National Audit Office, which suggest that UK military nuclear infrastructures are being bolstered by revenue flows to UK industry strategy in other sectors 3 . Many statements in support of this interpretation are cited from defence policy discussions, acknowledging incentives to “mask” costs of military industrial strategy behind civil energy programmes 4 . As a result, it is evident that Government-negotiated, high-price, guaranteed long-term contracts for civil nuclear power, are channelling revenues ultimately funded by electricity consumers towards a joint civil-military national nuclear industry base, whose full costs probably could not otherwise feasibly be covered by defence budgets alone. Resulting implications for wider industry strategy and energy policy have received effectively zero Parliamentary or other policy scrutiny.

 

4: Much other evidence was presented in submission to PAC, concerning this evidently significant-buthidden influence on civil industry policy by military nuclear considerations 5 . As a result, it seems that undetermined but likely large cross-subsidies are being engineered from UK electricity consumers, in order to cover otherwise insupportable costs of military nuclear industry strategies. In the present evidence we outline key implications for the BEIS Committee inquiry on nuclear implications of Brexit

 

5: As the early part of the process of the BEIS Committee Brexit Inquiry has unfolded, the salience of this civil/military link is being further underscored in statements in which a number of relevant senior civil servants and ministers are confirming that the priority attached to UK military submarine capabilities is deeply entangled in strategic commitments to civil nuclear industry strategy 6 . Several possibly serious implications therefore arise in relation to the particular circumstances of Brexit.

 

6: First, there are well-documented general concerns that Brexit-related pressures on the UK industrial base are likely to have a particular impact on large infrastructure projects, specifically including new nuclear build. If these developments unfold, then pressures are likely to intensify around the interlinkages between UK civil and military nuclear infrastructures. With foregone opportunities for industry strategy in other sectors (like offshore wind), the these Brexit-related implications for UK industrial strategy are central issues for the BEIS Committee, which remain unexplored elsewhere 7 .

 

7: Second, there are concerns that the economic effects of Brexit may include current and possible continuing future depreciation of Sterling. If these effects transpire as variously predicted, then economic pressures will likely intensify to find ways to cross-subsidise growing military nuclear costs in some fashion that mitigates the impact on public spending. Brexit may thus exacerbate incentives to ‘mask’ otherwise-unbearable wider industrial costs of military nuclear submarine infrastructures behind strategic support for civil nuclear supply chains ultimately funded by electricity consumers 8 .

8: Third, there are prospects that demand for UK access to overseas specialist nuclear skills may be aggravated by Brexit-related constraints on labour movement. If this occurs, then competition can be expected to accentuate between recruitment needs for national civil and military nuclear industries. Since key military nuclear skills in particular must for obvious reasons be disproportionately UKbased, so Brexit may reinforce upward pressures on costs of military nuclear infrastructures and so help further increase the pressures for cross-subsidy documented in the earlier PAC evidence 9

9: Fourth, there is the likely effect of Brexit in reinforcing pressures towards Scottish independence. If this transpires, then strong opposition in Scotland to continued associations with the current UK nuclear weapons infrastructure, mean that Brexit will make it more probable that a move will be required of key military nuclear facilities away from Scotland. The result will be a very large Brexitrelated increase in military nuclear costs, further exacerbating pressures for cross-subsidies 10 . 10: We hope it is useful to draw these emerging issues to the attention of the BEIS Committee – both in relation to the above specific repercussions around Brexit and to their wider implications for UK energy strategies, industrial policy and more general qualities of national democratic accountability 11 . October 2017

Extensive references are given on the original document .

 

South Australia’s shonky Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission: stacked with nuclear lobbyists

October 30, 2017

What we saw with the royal commission is that they had a number of paid consultants—paid by you and I, the taxpayers—and they engaged these consultants who had clear, ongoing connections with the nuclear industry, often as lobbyists for the industry.

It became apparent very early on that the state was off on a frolic of its own. It was embarking on this major investigation about having a nuclear waste dump in South Australia when everyone knew that the bulk of the laws that regulate these things are at the commonwealth level.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission – Parliamentary Committee Report, Legislative Council, October 18th, 2017 http://www.markparnell.org.au/speech_prn.php?speech=1532

The final report of the Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on October 17 2017.  A copy of the report can be found here.

As a Member of the Parliamentary Committee, Mark spoke to the Report on October 18, and outlined his findings and recommendations in the Greens’ Minority Report.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The notion that South Australia could become fabulously wealthy if only we would agree to take the world’s high-level nuclear waste was ill-conceived from the very beginning. The committee heard evidence about previous attempts to establish nuclear waste dumps in other parts of the world and in Australia. Those attempts have mostly failed because the fundamentals just do not stack up. The liability lasts forever, the technology is unproven and risky, the economics are flawed and the public do not want it under any circumstances, according to the South Australian citizens’ jury. So, this current proposal for South Australia has predictably and properly gone the way of its predecessors and it has been comprehensively dumped.

Whilst the Greens welcome the inevitable abandonment of this project, it has come at a significant cost to the community. Millions of dollars of public funds have been wasted pursuing this folly, and the community is rightly angry that other worthwhile projects and other investigations have suffered through this unnecessary distraction from the real issues that are facing South Australia.

The committee only had one recommendation that received majority support. That is the recommendation that no further public money be spent on a nuclear waste dump in South Australia.Hear, hear! That is a good recommendation. I fully support that. It was a waste of money and let’s not waste any more. But there are a number of other lessons that we should learn from this process. When I say ‘this process’, I mean the royal commission into the nuclear industry, the government’s consultation program, the citizens’ jury, as well as the joint parliamentary inquiry that I was privileged to be part of.

Another recommendation I think the committee should have adopted refers to the fact that the law that currently prohibits nuclear waste dumps in South Australia was tinkered with last year in order to assuage the nervousness of the government that it might be breaking the law if it was to spend public money on consultation. So, we changed the law. We put in a special clause that says you are not allowed to use public money promoting a nuclear waste dump, but you are allowed to consult the community. We put that clause in. Now that the consultation has finished, now that the government has spoken, the opposition has spoken, and the people have spoken through the citizens’ jury and through other surveys, let’s put the act back to where it was before. Let’s put it back so that there is no doubt about the prohibition on nuclear waste dumps in South Australia.

A third recommendation I think the committee should have adopted is one that relates to the relationship between the federal and state government. It became apparent very early on that the state was off on a frolic of its own. It was embarking on this major investigation about having a nuclear waste dump in South Australia when everyone knew that the bulk of the laws that regulate these things are at the commonwealth level.

The question that was then asked of the state government was, ‘Have you been talking to the feds? Have you been talking to your colleagues in Canberra?’ ‘Oh, no, we haven’t done that.’ We got millions of dollars into the process, months into the process, and still we never had a single assurance from the commonwealth that they were on board with this project, that they were inclined or likely to give any of the authorities, permits or licences that would be needed to have a nuclear waste dump in Australia.

Another recommendation I think the committee should have adopted is one that relates to nuclear secrecy and improving scrutiny. It comes largely, I think, from the findings of the citizens’ jury where, as I said, two-thirds of them, 350 people, had a strong conviction that South Australia should not pursue the opportunity to store and dispose of nuclear waste from other countries under any circumstances. That is a pretty bold statement.

However, the jury also found that there was a lack of trust in the state government and that the state government had a track record of poor performance when it came to managing issues relating to the nuclear industry. The recommendation that should flow from that is that the government should now review all of its nuclear related legislation with a view to removing the secrecy provisions and the exemptions. The aim should be to open up the nuclear industry to greater public scrutiny. That is the only way to rebuild any public trust, if there ever was any, in the government’s competency as a regulator in this area.

Another recommendation I think the committee should have adopted—the Hon. Dennis Hood referred to it—relates to the Aboriginal communities. That was a big part of the discussion. Many parts of the Aboriginal community were very upset that they were not adequately consulted during the process. Ultimately, that fed through into the citizens’ jury finding that this project was really so half-baked that it should not be proceeded with.

So, my recommendation would be that any future proposals for major developments of any kind, industrial in particular, that are likely to impact on traditional lands and the cultures of Aboriginal people, should always be subject to a comprehensive community engagement program that allows all people to participate in the decision-making process in a manner that is inclusive, respectful and culturally appropriate: that is the least we can do, and it was not done in this nuclear waste dump proposal.

The next recommendation relates to the royal commission. I maintained from the outset that the royal commission was the wrong tool for the type of inquiry that the government wanted to undertake. Using a royal commission under the Royal Commissions Act 1917 was unnecessarily formalistic and legalistic and was inappropriate for the nature of this inquiry. For example, the requirement for all written submissions to have to be sworn before a justice of the peace or some other authority before it could be accepted was misguided and put an unnecessary barrier in the way of public participation.

For example, my submission to the royal commission was rejected. I am a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Courts of South Australia and Victoria, am admitted as a practitioner of the High Court of Australia and am a commissioner for signing affidavits, yet my submission was rejected because I did not go and see the clerk or one of the other JPs to validate the submission I was putting in. I told Commissioner Scarce that he did not need to do this, that he was putting unnecessary barriers in the way, but at the end of the day they did what they did—I think it was the wrong process.

Most importantly, though, the commission never once used the extensive coercive powers that royal commissions have in the conduct of this inquiry. Let’s think about it: the power to get reluctant witnesses from Rome (or wherever they might be), bring them back to Australia, quiz people who do not want to have questions asked of them—that is what royal commissions do best: coercive powers, reluctant witnesses, make them answer. This was effectively an inquiry where people were desperate to have their say—they wanted to have their say. They put in their submissions. There was no need to subpoena, if you like, anyone to come and give evidence.

I think that overly formal attitude of the royal commission fuelled concerns in the community that it was elitist and that it was not open to hearing a range of divergent views. So, my recommendation would be that any future proposals that involve complex economic, social or environmental issues should look for a tool more fit for purpose than is a royal commission, and we should limit royal commissions to those situations where the use of statutory powers clearly are necessary, such as compelling reluctant witnesses.

The next recommendation I would make is in relation to how inquiries, in this case a royal commission, choose the experts to advise them. What we saw with the royal commission is that they had a number of paid consultants—paid by you and I, the taxpayers—and they engaged these consultants who had clear, ongoing connections with the nuclear industry, often as lobbyists for the industry. We paid these people to advise the royal commission and, ultimately, advise the government and the parliament about the desirability of a nuclear waste dump.

The fact that the royal commission provided considerable weight to the findings of these consultants cast further doubt, in my view, on the independence and rigor of its analysis. In particular, the lack of any second opinion on the question of the financial viability of the proposed nuclear waste dump was a serious credibility problem for the royal commission.

I say that because I think that even the Hon. Dennis Hood in his contribution would agree that the only reason that was really advanced to do this was that it was a potential economic opportunity. Only one economic analysis was done. Sure, the committee I was part of got further opinions, we sought them, but the commission did not, and I think that was a flaw. So, we need to keep vested interests at arm’s length—we do not want them running the show.

I also believe that the royal commission failed in, I think, its elitist approach to this inquiry by not giving everyone who wanted an opportunity to be heard that chance. We had a number of national and state conservation groups that basically said, ‘The royal commission refused to hear from us.’ I have put this personally to the commissioner. His view was that he did not think many of these people had anything new to add, and so he did not hear from them. Imagine how that would work if we tried to do an inquiry like that in parliament. Inquiries 101, the stakeholders who want to be heard, give them a chance to be heard! It is not rocket science. Then people scratch their heads and say, ‘I wonder why the citizens’ jury thought that this was a bad idea?’ The royal commission was the architect, in many ways, of its own defeat.

I think the recommendation should be that in all future inquiries, of whatever type, make sure that all the divergent views are heard. Do not tell Friends of the Earth or the Australian Conservation Foundation or the Conservation Council that they are not required to give evidence because, for example, ‘We’ve seen your written evidence; we don’t need to bring you in in person.’ Whereas, the proponents were allowed in person to give evidence on multiple occasions. It was an own goal of catastrophic proportions.

I am delighted that this process is almost over. I have described it as not the nail in the coffin of the nuclear waste dump, but the penultimate nail, because we still in this parliament have to deal with the legislation. The legislation was tampered with last year to allow this process to go ahead. Now that the process has run its course, we need to put the legislation back where it was. That will be the final nail in, I think, a very sorry chapter in South Australian history: how to waste tens of millions of dollars on something that was never going to amount to anything, ever.

For more information see a copy of the Report