In Muller’s previous presentations on his YouTube show Veritasium, he has consistently confused the
naturally occurring radioactive potassium K, with the nuclear fission produced radioactive isotopes…..Muller seems to have no understanding of the way in which bananas are used in the body
What Muller and Thomas are doing is following the script from the tobacco and asbestos industries.
This documentary “Uranium – twisting the Dragon’s Tail” is just Series One. I would love to know who helped to fund Gene Pool Productions for PBS and SBS to produce this. I’m betting that Series Two will follow before long, with a glossy and positive story about Generation IV nuclear reactors.
The half lie of the Dragon’s Tail. Online opinion, By Noel Wauchope Thursday, 27 August 2015 The documentary “Uranium – Twisting the Dragon’s Tail” is the latest glossy and highly sophisticated soft sell for the nuclear industry. It’s also, if you look at it closely, rather confusing.
I will start from the end, because that’s where the main message of this film comes out clearly “Just imagine a world where reactors can produce immense amounts of clean, safe, energy. There is no such thing as a future without uranium.” These final words are said against a background of soaring celestial choirs.
This seems to be the formula now, in nuclear promotion. The 2013 propaganda film “Pandora’s Promise” carried the same positive message – an ever rocketing energy demand to be met by ever increasing, indeed limitless, electrical energy provided by new nuclear reactors.
But, like ‘Pandora’s Promise’, this new documentary devotes the first two thirds of its series to discussing the negative aspects of the nuclear industry. Episode One covers its history, ill effects of radiation, the atomic bomb and its use. Episode Two continues this, with a sympathetic attitude to Australian Aboriginal concerns.
Unlike “Pandora’s Promise” this film does not denigrate anti-nuclear activists, and there is no attempt to ridicule Dr Helen Caldicott, as “Pandora’s Promise” did.
Indeed, the first two episodes are beautifully clear and accurate, as well as entertaining. Really, I couldn’t criticise them.
With the final episode – that’s when the message kicks in, and also when it gets confusing…….
Muller consistently mixes up “natural” radiation with ionising radiation from nuclear fission. He talks about background radiation as “natural”. There’s no mention of the increased ionising radiation in the biosphere as a result of the atomic bomb testing in the 1950s and 60s.
In Muller’s previous presentations on his YouTube show Veritasium, he has consistently confused the naturally occurring radioactive potassium K, with the nuclear fission produced radioactive isotopes, such as caesium 137 and strontium 90. As part of this confusion he constantly uses bananas as a comparison https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRL7o2kPqw0.
Cesium-137 is 12 million times more radioactive than potassium-40. Another highly-radioactive fission product, strontium-90, releases almost 20 million times more radiation per unit mass than does potassium-40. Muller seems to have no understanding of the way in which bananas are used in the body. The human species has had thousands of years of experience with bananas and other foods containing potassium 40 (K40). We have a natural trace level of K40 in our bodies. When we eat bananas, our bodies excrete the extra cesium, so by the natural process of homeostasis, our K40 level remains the same. This is not the case with the very recently created radioactive isotopes from nuclear fission; they remain….., there is absolutely no mention of the effects of internal emitters of radiation – that is, the radioactive isotopes breathed in or ingested, that can sit in a body’s organs for years, decades, emitting high dose gamma radiation..
Moving on to the Fukushima nuclear accident, we are told that the psychological effects are the serious ones. What a great piece of spin this is! Of course the psychological effects are extremely serious. Wouldn’t you be worried, if you were a pregnant woman, or if you feared that your child might later get leukaemia, because you decided to return to a radioactive environment? It is the reality of increased risk of fatal illness that accentuates the other disastrous consequences of that accident.
Prof Thomas assures us “The most important studies will be those on the mental effects”. In the context of this documentary, that just makes me envisage more documentaries like this one – with more spin about how we mustn’t worry about ionising radiation…….
The documentary appeared in Australia at a very convenient time for the South Australian Royal Commission. Dr Muller often covers his back with remarks about nuclear weapons “the most savage thing that man has ever built” and like his “feeling that renewables are going so fast – perhaps we can use alternatives”. But ultimately, his is a message of confidence in nuclear power. He says “Every year uranium saves more lives than it has ever destroyed” Really? Where are the facts to back up these kinds of statements? And all is spoken with guru like solemnity, and the backing of soaring holy choral music……..
What Muller and Thomas are doing is following the script from the tobacco and asbestos industries. They know full well that the toll of cancers, heart conditions, birth defects, from persistent exposure to ionising radiation will not become apparent for decades. They would have us believe that it will be impossible to establish ionising radiation as the cause of this toll of suffering and death…….
We are living in a strange time, where science is valued if it brings a benefit to corporations. Dr Derek Muller and Professor Geraldine Thomas are comfortably ensconced in that world. But there must be some scientists out there who are like Sir Richard Doll, and whose work is motivated by the public good.
And we desperately need those scientists.
This documentary “Uranium – Twisting the Dragon’s Tail” is just Series One. I would love to know who helped to fund Gene Pool Productions for PBS and SBS to produce this. I’m betting that Series Two will follow before long, with a glossy and positive story about Generation IV nuclear reactors. http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=17624
Pricing carbon: the simpler, the better..….. If we are to reduce carbon-emitting activities, the prices of those activities must be increased. Appropriate prices are the key here, and one way to make people happier about paying them is to make them as simple and transparent as possible. That’s what a carbon tax does
Politics aside, a simple carbon tax makes more sense than a convoluted emissions trading scheme, The Conversation, David Hodgkinson Associate Professor at University of Western Australia Rebecca Johnston Adjunct Lecturer, Law School at University of Notre Dame Australia July 31, 2015 Writing recently on The Conversation, Clive Hamilton correctly pointed out that an emissions trading scheme (ETS) can in no sense be called a tax – the two are fundamentally different. Under an ETS, the amount of emissions is fixed by the government and the market then sets the price; under a carbon tax, the price of emissions is fixed and polluters decide how much to emit.
In this sense, Hamilton is right to opine that “emissions trading is the opposite of a carbon tax”. But during Australia’s fractious debate about climate policy in recent years, the two have often been conflated together, and we have generally been starved of sober analysis of the contrasting merits of different policy instruments.
To put it more succinctly, what are the actual merits of a carbon tax, specifically as opposed to an ETS?
A carbon tax could begin at a relatively low level, to avoid economic disruption, and then could increase steadily and predictably over time. This would encourage affected companies to cut their emissions and to use energy more efficiently, in turn encouraging a move to lower-emission technology. As a result, companies that made better progress in cutting their emissions would have fewer costs to pass on to their consumers, leading to more competitive prices.
A carbon tax would provide government revenue which could then be used to reduce or offset other taxes, such as corporate and personal income tax. A carbon tax could be “revenue-neutral”, either through offsetting other taxes or by using the proceeds to subsidise alternative fuel industries and projects.
Taxes are relatively easy to understand, having been around for centuries in one form or another. For Yale University economist William Nordhaus, the advantages are even clearer when compared to the operation of an international ETS. He recently proposed redesigning climate treaties to adopt a “club model” in which participating states enact carbon taxes in concert with one another, which Nordhaus describes as “the easiest way” to deliver costly emissions reductions.
Price-based taxes capture revenue more cheaply and easily than quantitative instruments such as an ETS, not least because tax-collection infrastructure is already in place. Taxation has lower administrative and compliance costs than carbon trading.
Taxation is arguably more direct and transparent than emissions trading, and affords less opportunity for gaming, speculation or corruption; money moves from polluters directly to the government.
A carbon tax provides price certainty and stability (as opposed to the volatility of prices for tradable carbon permits) and a fixed price for carbon emissions across all economic sectors and markets. This price certainty allows corporations more easily to determine the viability of new, clean technology investments.
Finally, the argument for carbon taxation is concisely made by Harvard economist Richard Cooper:
Decisions to consume goods and services made with fossil fuels are made by over a billion households and firms in the world. The best and indeed only way to reach all these decision makers is through the prices they must pay. If we are to reduce CO2-emitting activities, we must raise the prices of those activities. Levying a [tax] … does that directly.
Was carbon taxation ever given a fair go?……..
Pricing carbon: the simpler, the better..….. If we are to reduce carbon-emitting activities, the prices of those activities must be increased. Appropriate prices are the key here, and one way to make people happier about paying them is to make them as simple and transparent as possible. That’s what a carbon tax does. https://theconversation.com/politics-aside-a-simple-carbon-tax-makes-more-sense-than-a-convoluted-emissions-trading-scheme-45433
If the radiation leak lasts more than a few hours, there is no viable safe plan. If the radiation plume passes, the ground will probably still be contaminated
Wildfires also threaten Nuclear Waste and Nuclear Waste Shipments
Wildfires and Nuclear Don’t Mix: Lessons from San Onofre and Chernobyl to Australia https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/4410547/762849951 [good
photos] miningawareness 27 July 15 As the deadline looms (3 Aug.) for comments regarding the risks of the nuclear fuel chain for South Australia – whether uranium mining, which is already occurring, or any proposed additions (uranium enrichment, nuclear energy, nuclear waste), foremost in everyone’s minds should be the
risk of Bushfires (Wildfires), as well as endangerment to the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) aquifer, upon which so much of Australia is dependent for water, and which is being depleted, and most assuredly contaminated, by uranium and other mining:https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/07/25/nuclearcommissionsaust-have-your-say-for-the-future-of-south-australia-submissions-close-soon-july-theme/ (Australia’s uranium mining “generates less than 0.2 per cent of national export revenue and accounts for less than 0.02 per cent of jobs in Australia.”http://www.conservationsa.org.au/images/Nuclear_Royal_Commission_issues.pdfMeanwhile it is laying waste to the land and provided nuclear fuel for Fukushima)
“The Australian climate is generally hot, dry and prone to drought. At any time of the year, some parts of Australia are prone to bushfires with the widely varied fire seasons reflected in the continent’s different weather patterns. For most of southern Australia, the danger period is summer and autumn.” http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/hazards/bushfire/basics/where
2015 Wildfires Near Chernobyl http://www.mns.gov.ua/news/40286.html
In April of this year, and again from the end of June into mid July, hundreds of firefighters in the Ukraine bravely battled fires in the area of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Smoldering peat fires were the hardest to put out.
Machinations of the global nuclear lobby, and Australia’s Royal Commission on the Nuclear Fuel Chain
Labor veers towards the nuclear idea https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/labor-veers-towards-the-nuclear-option,7965 21 July 15 The SA Nuclear Royal Commission, the ALP’s postponement of its National Conference nuclear debate and the machinations of the Nuclear For Climate Declaration could herald Australia’s deeper involvement in the nuclear industry, writes Noel Wauchope. “……….
Admittedly, this happened over a month earlier. However, the nuclear lobby is right now working hard on lobbying the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), with this Declaration.
Australia’s hard-working and poorly funded anti-nuclear movement is currently concentrating on the South Australian
Royal Commission. The Commission is looking increasingly like an arm of the global nuclear lobby. Because of its inadequacies, especially on nuclear wastes (set out very thoroughly here by South Australian Dennis Matthews) and its all too strong connections with the nuclear industry, this is a Royal Commission that might well sink without trace……
Rob Parker talked about the Nuclear For Climate Declaration.
The most important aim of this campaign is to get the UNFCCC to
Here we see how this ties in with the South Australian Royal Commission…..the global nuclear industry is hanging on the hope that nuclear power will receive government funding when and if it is recognised by the UNFCCC as a clean energy source, apparently essential for combatting global warming……
At this stage, Labor appears to be holding firm to its [anti-nuclear] policy
I thought we had enough to worry about with our government leader Tony Abbott. Now our religious heavy is out to dceny climate change. I’m ashamed to be Australian!
Cardinal George Pell criticises Pope Francis over climate change stance , SMH, July 19, 2015 Kerrie Armstrong Cardinal George Pell has publicly criticised Pope Francis’ decision to place climate change at the top of the Catholic Church’s agenda.
Cardinal Pell, a well-known climate change skeptic, told the Financial Times the church had “no particular expertise in science”.
“The church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters,” he said,
“We believe in the autonomy of science.”
Ugly Australians, like Paladin Energy, linked to 100s of deaths in uranium mining in Malawi and Namibia
There is a very strong perception that when Australian mining companies come here they take every advantage of regulatory and compliance monitoring weaknesses, and of the huge disparity in power between themselves and affected communities, and aim to get away with things they wouldn’t even think of trying in Australia,”
Australian miners linked to hundreds of deaths, injuries in Africa, SMH, July 11, 2015 -Will FitzgibbonAustralian mining companies are linked to hundreds of deaths and injuries in Africa, which can go unreported at home. Some of the Australian Securities Exchange-listed companies include state governments as shareholders. One company recorded 38 worker deaths over an eleven-year period.
In Malawi, litigation continues against Paladin Africa Limited, a subsidiary of Perth-based Paladin Energy, and its subcontractor after an explosion disfigured one worker with such heat that his skin shattered when touched by rescuers. Two others died in the same incident.
Other allegations include employees in South Africa hacking a woman with a machete and Malian police killing two protesters after a mine worker reportedly asked authorities to dislodge a barricade on the road to the mine.
An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in collaboration with 13 African reporters, uncovered locally-filed lawsuits, violent protests and community petitions criticising some Australian companies. Continue reading
Australian miner accused of dodging tax in world’s poorest country, The Age, July 11, 2015 –Heath Aston Political reporter Tax avoidance tactics of multinational companies have angered Australians, but an Australian mining firm used such methods in Malawi. Tax avoidance tactics of multinational companies have angered the public and placed pressure on the Abbott government to prevent profits being exported offshore.
But an Australian uranium miner is defending the use of identical methods to reduce its tax bill in the world’s poorest country, Malawi.
Between 2009 and 2014, Paladin Energy moved $US183 million out of Malawi to a holding company in the Netherlands and then on to Australia.
A 15-page report by London-based ActionAid has found the Dutch transfers and a special royalties deal – in which Malawi’s mining minister agreed to drop the initial tax rate applied to the uranium mine from 5 per cent to 1.5 per cent – have cost the Malawi public $US43 million.
In Africa’s poorest nation, where per capita GDP is just $US226 a year and life expectancy 55, that money could provide the equivalent of 39,000 new teachers or 17,000 nurses, according to the aid group……..
Paladin’s tax-free transfers to the Netherlands were a combination of management fees and interest payments on loans initiated in Australia. The company loaded its African subsidiary up with huge debts, leaving the Kayelekera uranium mine in northern Malawi with an 80:20 debt to equity ratio – a financing structure known as “thin capitalisation”.
The Dutch structure allowed Paladin to avoid paying a 15 per cent withholding tax to the Malawi government due to a tax treaty between Malawi and the Netherlands which expired in 2014, saving the company $US7.3 million. Paladin closed the mine in February 2014, citing a “sustained low uranium price”.
ActionAid has accused the company of “treaty shopping” and shortchanging the Malawi people. The country’s nursing ranks have the equivalent of four nurses to every 100 in Australia, despite 10 per cent of Malawi’s population being infected with HIV/AIDS……..http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-miner-accused-of-dodging-tax-in-worlds-poorest-country-20150710-gi6uzv.html
As a proud non-subscriber to THE AUSTRALIAN, I haven’t been able to read this article. But on past performance of BHP, I reckon that I can have a pretty good guess on what BHP’s enthusiasm for climate action really means.
Last month, all the nuclear big-wigs met somewhere in Europe to plan a campaign about the Paris Climate Summit in December . The idea is to have nuclear power established as a solution to climate change.
BHP would love that – otherwise they couldn’t give a damn about climate change.
BHP embraces climate debate, THE AUSTRALIAN, ? 8 July 15
The private sector needs to play a part in this year’s Paris climate talks, says BHP Billiton’s Dean Dalla Valle…. (subscribers only)
A legal judgment in Australia has fatally damaged the ‘official’ ICRP model of health damage by nuclear radiation, writes Chris Busby – reflecting the fact that cancer originates through the mutation of individual cells, not whole organs or organisms. The ruling is good news for Britain’s bomb test veterans whose day in court is coming up; and for all who suffer radiation induced cancers.
At the end of last month the Veterans Appeals Tribunal Decision on the Case Jean Mahoney vs. Australian Repatriation Commission was published.
The result was a win for the appellant, setting aside of the earlier Australian government decision not to grant a pension to the widow of a veteran who worked among the ruins of Hiroshima and later died from metastatic colon cancer.
I was the expert witness in this case and persuaded the Australian Tribunal (in an expert report and with oral cross examination by telephone, Brisbane to Riga) that the radiation risk model of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) was not applicable to the kind of internal exposure to radioactive particles which her late husband, George Mahoney will have received. Continue reading
Shares in Rio Tinto’s Australian uranium unit halve, Ft.com , 12 June 15 Jamie Smyth in Sydney Rio Tinto has withdrawn its support for the expansion of one of the world’s biggest uranium mines, causing shares in its separately listed subsidiary Energy Resources of Australia to almost halve in value.
The decision by the Anglo-Australian miner underscores the difficulties in the nuclear industry following the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, which prompted Japan to mothball its 43 operable reactors.
Since soaring to a record high of US$137 per pound in 2007, uranium prices have fallen to US$35 per pound — a level at which many miners are losing money and new investment does not make economic sense.
“After careful consideration, Rio Tinto has determined that it does not support any further study or the future development” of ERA’s proposed underground uranium mine “due to the project’s economic challenges,” the miner said.
Shares in ERA were down 46 per cent at A$0.70 in mid-afternoon trading in Sydney on Friday.
Up until 2008, the Ranger mine in Australia’s Northern Territory was producing almost 10 per cent of the global supply of uranium. But the open cut mine is now exhausted and ERA was conducting feasibility studies on developing an underground mine, Ranger 3 Deeps.
This week, ERA, which is 68 per cent owned by Rio, said it was committed to revisiting the underground project once the uranium market has recovered. But the decision by Rio to rule out support for the future development of the mine casts serious doubt on whether the project will ever happen………..http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f24a6a9a-10b7-11e5-b4dc-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3csmrhS7I
I would like to think that Kevin Scarce’s Royal Commission was fully investigating nuclear industry issues — not just the geewhiz technology that they would be shown in France by AREVA, which is all too cosy with South Australian pro-nuclear politicians and businessmen.
SA’s Nuclear Royal Commission: All too cosy with failed French nuclear giant AREVA? Just how independent is the SA nuclear review and are opponents being side-lined? Independent Australia 12 June 15, Noel Wauchope looks at just who the Royal Commission met on its recent visit to France.
AT ITS South Australian community forums, South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission head, Kevin Scarce, made a point of the Commission’s independence. He stressed that the Commission would be meeting overseas proponents, and also opponents, of the nuclear industry.
On the Commission’s website, they list the destinations for the Commission’s overseas tour, now about to wind up. I was struck by the amount of time allocated to conferring with the French nuclear energy corporation, AREVA. I had to wonder — in their discussions with AREVA, it would hardly be necessary to talk with nuclear opponents. I wondered how much AREVA would be going to come clean about what really is going on, in France’s nuclear industry.
The AREVA connection with Australia is important. AREVA has an office in Wayville, in Adelaide, and has hosted South Australian parliamentary tours of their nuclear industrial facilities in France. AREVA acquired the Northern Territory Koongarra uranium deposit in 1995, but subsequently, in a David and Goliath battle with Aboriginal traditional owner, Jeffrey Lee, lost this opportunity, as Lee donated his land to Kakadu National Park.
AREVA is in a joint venture with Toro Energy, in uranium exploration in the Northern Territory. The corporation had been exploring for uranium in Queensland’s Karumba and Carpentaria basins since about 2012, but recently pulled out altogether. AREVA will probably be making a submission to the Royal Commission. However, the Commission, in publishing submissions, will not be publishing ones that are deemed “commercially sensitive“.
Without doubt, AREVA has a keen commercial interest in Australia. France’s nuclear industry is somewhat embattled, as its fleet of reactors near the end of their shelf life, and the government is pledged to cut down on nuclear power, and develop renewables. The French nuclear industry (like USA’s) depends for its survival, on selling nuclear technology overseas.
But what of the fortunes of AREVA itself? As the Royal Commission seeks to learn about the commercial viability of the nuclear industry, AREVA is hardly the most reliable authority on that question.
What is certain is that the electricity equation will look very different in a few short years, and it looks like, for the first time in many years, that ordinary consumers will hold a bit more of the power
How home energy storage is going to change the way we think about power, Adelaide Now, CAMERON ENGLAND SUNDAY MAIL (SA) MAY 31, 2015 WHEN Elon Musk launched the Tesla Power Wall earlier this month, it was done in true Silicon Valley style.
The charismatic chief executive enters stage right, sans tie, and makes a pronouncement that his new product will change the world — cue rapturous applause from the audience and because this is the United States, whooping.
The thing about Musk’s pronouncement is that it’s most likely true.
It might not necessarily be his company — critics are divided as to whether Tesla will be the market leader it’s portraying itself as — but home and business energy storage is soon to change the way energy utilities, homes and governments think about power……..
Batteries allow homes and especially businesses to employ “peak shaving” — if power prices spike, flick over to using your own solar power and save money, or if the grid power is cheap, suck it out and sell it back later at a higher price.
Or simply save up the solar power your rooftop panels produce during the day for use in the evening, when your demand might be higher……..
Tesla Power builds on the Tesla Motors technology — relatively standard lithium ion batteries with smart software to help them interact with the grid. The initial interest has been huge. The company recently reported early orders of 50,000 to 60,000 batteries, or as Musk put it, “It’s like crazy off-the-hook”.
Effectively the company is sold out until the middle of next year and its huge new factory will not be big enough to keep up with demand.
At $US3000 for the battery and $US7000 installed with solar panels (US prices) the system makes it economic for houses to become much less dependent on grid power.
UBS estimates that in Australia, the system would pay itself back in six years.
But Tesla is not the only game in town — although it almost certainly has the best PR machine. Continue reading
Anthony M Horton: Extreme heat – ‘Business as usual’ life to end in less than 30 years in the U.S.
A new study projects that the United States will have a four to six-fold increase in extreme heat exposure by 2070 — and even earlier in the South. Unfortunately, no similar study has been conducted in Australia…
As a scientist, I am concerned that research into a range of climate related issues are seemingly not on the agenda in Australia and stellar pillars such as the world renowned Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) are suffering increasingly deep staff cuts at a time when they are needed the most.
It also appears that the long held “without fear or favour” bastion of these pillars has also seemingly ended. If this is really the case, it is a truly sad day for Australia-especially given the many world leading breakthroughs achieved by the former and the proud record of the latter. …
I fear for the future of Australia if this trend becomes entrenched as, by the time the Government realises they have made a tactical error, there won’t be enough trained people left to pick up the slack, as they will have retired, retrained or will be employed elsewhere in the world. https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/business-as-usual-life-in-the-us-will-end-in-less-than-30-years,7750
Clearly this whole disastrous process is financially beyond the reach of little South Australia. However
Premier Jay Weatherill has been persuaded to establish a flawed royal commission to assess the viability of incorporating the entire nuclear fuel chain in the state.
South Australia has vast amounts of geothermal energy available in its northern reaches and it is perfectly suited for solar and wind power, which get cheaper by the day. With a little initiative and wise political leadership, the state could become a world leader in clean, green and sustainable energy, installing solar panels on every building and parking area, building electric solar-powered cars, constructing thousands of turbines and upgrading the grid, which would enormously increase the GDP and welfare of South Australia.
South Australia’s short-sighted view of uranium and nuclear options https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2015/05/30/sas-short-sighted-view-uranium-and-nuclear-options/14329080001942#.VWjSBtKqpHw Something quite extraordinary is happening in South Australia, the state that initiated the national movement against French atmospheric nuclear tests in 1971-72, and where the movement against uranium mining began in 1975, which ultimately led to a five-year ban by the ACTU on the mining, transport and export of uranium. Forty years later, it is the ultimate irony that the French nuclear industry is interested in becoming involved in South Australian uranium enrichment and nuclear reactors.
In 2010, the University College London (UCL) established its School of Energy and Resources, Australia, in Adelaide. The school partnered with pro-nuclear and pro-shale gas corporations, including BHP Billiton and Santos. On the surface this may seem harmless enough, but the school and its well-connected backers has had a profound impact on the nuclear debate in South Australia, particularly as the state begins a royal commission into “opportunities and risks” in the “nuclear fuel cycle”.
Professor Stefaan Simons, who is the director of the International Energy Policy Institute and UCL’s BHP Billiton chairman of energy policy, has been strongly promoting construction of nuclear powered submarines in South Australia, as well as a repository in the state for radioactive “waste streams”. Dr Tim Stone, a businessman and visiting professor to the UCL’s Adelaide campus, was expert chair of the British Office for Nuclear Development and sits on the board of British energy company Horizon Nuclear Power. James Voss, the former managing director of Pangea Resources, the company that originally proposed a nuclear waste dump in Australia in the late 1990s, is also part of the UCL fold, as honorary reader at the International Energy Policy Institute.
Outside of UCL, support has come from the likes of Professor Barry Brook, former professor of climate change at the University of Adelaide, and now professor and chair of environmental sustainability at the University of Tasmania. Brook has vigorously promoted the whole nuclear fuel chain, from uranium mining and enrichment to reactors and storage of radioactive waste in the desert of South Australia. He and Tim Stone have been appointed to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission’s Expert Advisory Committee.
The arguments put for nuclear power are many and specious. As South Australia continues to be seduced by them, it is worth pointing out the flaws that too often go uncorrected.
The first argument is environmental: that nuclear power is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and as such combat climate change. But this ignores the huge expulsion of greenhouse gas that goes into producing nuclear power.
The massive industrial process supporting a nuclear power plant is complex and energy intensive. It involves mining millions of tonnes of soil and ore. The uranium must then be separated, milled, enriched and converted into ceramic particles to be packed into zirconium fuel rods. Construction of the huge reactor complex adds substantially to global warming as it is largely made of concrete – a CO2-intensive product. One hundred tonnes of enriched uranium fuel rods are packed into the reactor core and submerged in water. The fission reaction boils the water, steam turns a turbine and generates electricity. Each 1000-megawatt reactor requires one million gallons of water a minute, for cooling.
In operation, the uranium becomes one billion times more radioactive, and more than 200 new man-made radioactive elements are created. Thirty tonnes of radioactive spent fuel rods – nuclear waste – removed from the reactor core annually must be continually cooled for decades. Decommissioning of the intensely radioactive reactor occurs decades hence and long-term storage of radioactive waste for one million years must follow.
This complex process produces massive amounts of global warming gases, including CO2 and chlorofluorocarbons. Enriching uranium also requires the enormous expense of energy, as in Paducah, Kentucky, where two huge coal-fired plants provided the requisite electricity for uranium enrichment for atomic power and weapons.
As far as mitigation of global warming is concerned, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research estimates that 2000 to 3000 reactors of 1000 megawatts each would need to be built over the next 50 years to have any impact – one a week – in order to replace half of our present oil and coal capacity as well as meeting globally escalating electricity needs.
Nonetheless, the South Australian Liberal senator Sean Edwards, a real estate agent and winemaker, has parroted the fallacious arguments about climate change mitigation in a recent interview for the Murdoch press. But he also went further.
He said that South Australia could create a special economic zone, thus eliminating $4.4 billion in taxes, including payroll tax, motor vehicle taxes and the emergency services levy, if it became the world’s radioactive waste dump. He said that because international partners would pay handsomely for this service, “free power could then be provided to SA households”.
Ben Heard, an occupational therapist and PhD candidate studying nuclear power, agreed with Edwards and said this proposal was “entirely credible” and that the global market for storing radioactive waste was worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Heard argued that “the used fuel rods … can be converted into a metal form and that can go into a fast reactor that recycles the metal over and over again until all of that material has produced energy, and in that process it converts into a much shorter lived waste form”.
Heard is advocating the reprocessing of radioactive fuel. This involves dissolving intensely radioactive fuel rods in nitric acid and chemically precipitating out plutonium, which would then fuel small, modular, fast-breeder reactors.
Here, another specious argument. Reprocessing is an extremely dangerous process, exposing workers to high levels of radiation and leaving a toxic corrosive brew of more than 100 deadly radioactive elements that must then be isolated from the ecosphere for one million years, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a scientific impossibility. The proponents argue that fissioning plutonium (the process of nuclear reaction) in a fast reactor converts it to shorter-lived radioactive elements, which reduces the amount of very long-lived waste. Plutonium’s radioactive life is 250,000 years, while that of converted elements such as cesium-137 and strontium-90 is 300 years. But they are wrong. Only 9 per cent of the plutonium successfully fissions, leaving 91 per cent of it with its extensive life, as well as producing deadly fission byproducts.
It is also argued that South Australia’s reserves of thorium could be used for electricity production, but this would require the use of enriched uranium or plutonium to make thorium fissionable. This is another vastly expensive and dangerous operation.
Next, there is the question of militarisation. Proliferation of nuclear power and weapons is intrinsically linked. Fast reactors make access to plutonium readily available to use as fuel for nuclear weapons for the next 250,000 years. Fast reactors also use liquid sodium as a coolant, which explodes or burns if exposed to air, should a cooling pipe crack or leak. Five kilograms of plutonium is critical mass – the amount necessary for a sustained chain reaction – and with tonnes of plutonium in the reactor core, a loss of coolant could induce a huge nuclear explosion scattering deadly plutonium. Moreover, fast reactors are hugely expensive and have never been produced on a commercial scale.
There are, as mentioned, supporters of the South Australian waste dump proposal. No doubt, countries with some of the 350,000 tonnes of spent fuel in the world would be thrilled with such a scheme. The dump would be constructed on Aboriginal land, near and likely above the Great Artesian Basin. The extremely dangerous elements in this waste include plutonium-239, existing for 250,000 years and so toxic that one-millionth of a gram is carcinogenic. There would also be americium-241, even more deadly than plutonium, as well as strontium-90 and cesium-137, lasting 300 years. Radioactive elements that concentrate in the food chain are odourless, invisible and tasteless. They induce varieties of cancer, including lung, liver, bone, testicular, breast, muscle and brain. They can cause severe congenital deformities and their presence increases the incidence of inherited genetic diseases, including cystic fibrosis, diabetes, haemochromatosis and dwarfism.
The South Australian population would be likely to experience epidemics of cancer, leukaemia, congenital anomalies and genetic diseases through future generations as the waste inevitably leaked.
The entire nuclear fuel chain in all countries with nuclear power, including its accident insurance, is heavily subsidised by government. Wall Street will not invest in nuclear power, so in essence it is a socialised industry paid for by the taxpayers. Construction of 1000-megawatt nuclear reactors in the US now costs upwards of $US12 billion. Many of the nuclear power plants in Britain, Europe, Japan, Canada and the US are reaching the end of their productive lives. But because the private utility companies that run the reactors make over 1 million dollars a day selling electricity, they are persuading governments to allow these dilapidated and dangerous reactors to operate for another 20 years. Continue reading
Australian solar company Pollinate Energy brings light to slums of India ABC Foreign Correspondent By South Asia correspondent Stephanie March 26 May 15 With indoor air pollution from kerosene lamps and stoves the second largest cause of death in India, one company, founded by Australians, has come up with a solution to the problem.
Every night in the sprawling shanty towns of the country of 1.2 billion people, the air fills with dense, black smoke.
“We used to get oil from the market and pour it into the lamp and light it; the house used to get full of soot and dirt,” said Abdul, a slum-dweller in Bangalore who lives in a hut made of wooden board and tarpaulin.
That was until Abdul bought a portable solar light from a company called Pollinate Energy, founded by five young Australians.
“After we got this solar lamp a lot of things improved,” Abdul said. “Now we don’t worry that there will be a fire.”
There are 400 million people in India who do not have access to electricity. Many of them live in the thousands of slums found in the country’s cities.
“They’re people who’ve come from rural places to the city to find work, usually in construction sites or as rag pickers, and to make a life for themselves,” Pollinate Energy co-founder Kat Kimmorley said.
“They are sort of like the modern day pharaoh slaves building this next new empire that we all … take for granted that is just coming up before our eyes and yet [is] completely ignored and sort of invisible to the state here.”
Pollinate Energy employs locals to go tent to tent to sell the solar lights.
The lights cost about $30 each — a lot of money for people who earn a few dollars a day. The company allows customers to pay in instalments.
“For most of the people we work with in these urban slums, when we provide a solar light, every time I sell it I think this is the same type of investment as for a plasma screen TV in Australia,” Ms Kimmorley said.
More mobile phones than toilets in India
The lights are popular — the company has sold more than 7,000, and is expanding to two more Indian cities. And that is partly because they double as a phone charger.
“We discovered that the customers would pay double what they would pay for a solar light for a solar-powered phone charger,” Ms Kimmorley said.
“So it is just testament to the fact that it is not just what we think would improve peoples’ lives but also what keeping up with the Joneses means in an urban slum. It’s having a mobile phone and being able to charge that mobile phone,” she said.
The uptake of mobile phones in India has been huge — there are more mobile phones than there are toilets.
The team at Pollinate believes solar lights can follow the same path………http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-26/solar-energy-brings-light-to-slums-of-india/6495912
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