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Australians are more likely to be scared about the costs of nuclear power, than about the Chernobyl miniseries

What’s more chilling: watching Chernobyl or cogitating on the cost of going nuclear? Michael West Investigative Journalism Jun 20, 2019,  The sudden push by the Murdoch media and Coalition right-wingers to overturn Australia’s nuclear power ban ignores the chilling economic cost —  huge public subsidies, storing radioactive waste for thousands of years, the heavy costs of decommissioning and, potentially, radiation-related health costs. Veteran nuclear writer Noel Wauchope reports on the popular TV series, Chernobyl, and the economics of nuclear power.

THE frightening TV miniseries “Chernobyl” could put a few Australians off the idea of nuclear power but nuclear economics might turn out to be the bigger scare.

It is bad news for the Minerals Council of Australia and nuclear lobbyists, that Chernobyl has now arrived on some Australian TV screens, but pro-nuclear advocates are continuing to push their campaign anyway.

The miniseries “Chernobyl” has just finished in Europe and USA, outdoing “Game of Thrones” in popularity. HBO’s Chernobyl topped film and TV database IMDB’s list of the greatest 250 TV shows of all time.  The first episode was screened on 12 June, 2019 in Australia, on Foxtel.

The series has had a big impact. It was highly praised by numerous reviewers but criticised by pro-nuclear lobbyists, and infuriated some Russian politicians. ………

The Liberal Coalition’s renewed push for nuclear power……

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he is open to considering nuclear power if it can stand on its own two feet. Energy Minister Angus Taylor told The Guardianon 12 June 2019 he wouldn’t rule out revising Australia’s nuclear ban “when there is a very clear business case which shows the economics of this can work”. Two days later, Environment Minister Sussan Ley also told TheGuardian she was open to the review considering a removal of the ban.

But — are the economics of nuclear power viable for Australia?

When even Australia’s former top nuclear promoter has doubts, it doesn’t look promising……….

How viable is nuclear power elsewhere?

Nuclear economics in America is really a tale of woe. You hardly know where to start, in trying to assess how much this industry is costing communities and tax-payers. There are the attempts to save the nuclear industry via subsidies. There are the continuing and ever-increasing costs of radioactive wastes.  There are the compensation payments to workers with radiation-caused illnesses, $15.5 billion and counting, and the legal battles over where to put the wastes. Needless to say, really, America is not initiating any new nuclear “big build”. The much touted “Small Modular Nuclear Reactors” are turning out to have no market and little prospect of being economically viable……

The UK nuclear industry is in the doldrums with repeated postponement of new projects – Hinkley Point C, Wylfa Newydd, Moorside, Sizewell C, Oldbury B and Bradwell B……The 2018 forecast for future clean-up of Britain’s aging 17 nuclear power stations has blown out to £121 billion which has had to be spread across the next 120 years……

France’s Flamanville nuclear project is taking years, remains bogged down with costly problems. Electricite de France (EDF)  has financial woes but hopes to save itself by switching from nuclear to renewables. France’s former nuclear giant AREVA went bankrupt and has changed its name to Orano and Framatome — and French tax-payers are still caught up in Areva/Orano costly legal corruption scandals.

Canada is up for increasing costs for managing its nuclear wastes. Interestingly, Canada abandoned its nuclear project for producing medical radioisotopes and now leads in non nuclear production of these isotopes.

India had grand plans for nuclear power, but has cut these back, and recently cancelled 57 reactors. It continues to have problems and many outages, at its huge Kudankulam nuclear station. ….

Russia keeps offering “generous” funding to the buyer countries. But will those countries end up with big debts? Reuters reports that in China“No new approvals have been granted for the past three years, amid spiralling costs” ………. https://www.michaelwest.com.au/whats-more-chilling-watching-chernobyl-or-cogitating-the-cost-of-going-nuclear/

 

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June 20, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, business and costs | Leave a comment

Electricite de France (EDF) has financial woes, hopes to save itself by switching from nuclear to renewables?

June 17, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics, renewable | Leave a comment

Trump is more interested in helping nuclear companies to sell to Saudi Arabia, than in the well-being of Americans

WASHINGTON ,WATCH: IS TRUMP HELPING THE SAUDIS GO NUCLEAR?   https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Washington-Watch-Is-Trump-helping-the-Saudis-go-nuclear-592310,BY DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD, JUNE 12, 2019

US President Donald Trump recently took another step toward bringing Saudi Arabia into the nuclear club. While Israeli-Saudi ties have warmed in recent years, helping the desert kingdom go nuclear – with its ongoing support for the most extreme Islamic radicals in the world – can hardly be good for the Jewish state.

Secret negotiations with the US Energy Department over many months have led Washington to “transfer highly sensitive US nuclear technology, a potential violation of federal law,” to Saudi Arabia, according to House Oversight Committee sources cited by The Washington Post.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) revealed last week that at least two transfers were approved since the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudis say they want to begin building their own nuclear power plants with their own enriched uranium, even though it could be purchased elsewhere more cheaply. That raises suspicions that their real goal isn’t producing electricity. By enriching their own uranium, they could begin diverting it to highly enriched weapons grade, especially if they bar international inspectors, as they’ve insisted.
Given its record of obeisance to Saudi demands for top technology and weapons, it is unlikely the Trump administration would object, but instead continue helping to conceal the kingdom’s plans.   Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the de facto ruler, has said that the kingdom would build nuclear weapons if the Iranians did. He may have taken encouragement from a speech in the UAE last month by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton.

The Iranians are threatening to leave the nuclear pact with the major powers – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – in the wake of the Trump administration’s unilateral exit last year and imposition of sanctions to tighten the economic screws on Tehran.

There’s “no reason” for Iran to walk away from JCPOA, “unless it is to reduce the breakout time to nuclear weapons,” said Bolton, a decades-long advocate of regime change in Iran. Bolton offered no evidence to back his claim.

That should give MBS the rationale he seeks to develop his version of the bomb.

When he turns to Trump for help, he will remind the president that if America won’t sell it to him, there are others who will. Trump is a sucker for that pitch.

North Korea would be a good place to go shopping, since they tried helping Syria build nukes until the Israeli Air Force stopped the plan, something it had done earlier in Iraq. Then there’s Pakistan, which is believed to have built its own nuclear weapons stockpile with Saudi financial help.

THERE MIGHT BE some resistance on Capitol Hill, where Saudi support is low and sinking, but Trump has shown himself more responsive to the wishes of the Saudis than the US Congress.

Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina may moan and groan and make threatening sounds toward Riyadh, but he and majority leader Mitch McConnell are Trump’s poodles, and will make sure the president gets what he wants.

All US administrations – Republican and Democratic – have indulged the Saudi appetite for top technology and weapons. They’ve been driven by pressure from industry and its friends in the Pentagon to sell, sell, sell – and an inexplicable attitude that we need the Saudis far more than they need us. Trump has just raised this to a new level.

Trump’s latest selling spree includes 120,000 conversion kits to produce smart bombs. It is part of an $8.1 billion package that Trump labeled “emergency” to bypass Congressional review.

Most alarming is the Trump administration’s approval for the transfer of highly sensitive weapons technology and equipment to Saudi Arabia so the kingdom can produce electronic guidance systems for Paveway precision-guided bombs, according to congressional sources cited by The New York Times.

The administration assured Congress that it is confident in the Saudi ability to protect the technology, that the need is urgent and that it won’t alter the balance of power in the region – which is exactly what it is intended to do.
Look for Trump to justify massive sales to the Saudis and the UAE as also helping protect Israel from Iran. Historically, all administrations have justified arms sales around the Middle East as harmless to Israel’s qualitative military edge. But they aren’t. Especially when the US is selling the Arabs the same planes, missiles and technology it sells Israel. Trump values his oil-rich customer so much that he has rejected the findings of his own CIA that the crown prince was complicit in Khashoggi’s murder.

Saudi Arabia is the Pentagon’s favorite cash cow. Arms sales are a lucrative business for the US Defense Department, which charges commissions and other fees, and gets economies of scale for its own purchases while selling off old inventory to help pay for replacements. Military attachés around the world are top salesmen for defense contractors as they lay the groundwork for post-uniform careers. Then there are the former – and possibly future – defense industry executives at the highest levels of the Pentagon, starting with the Secretary of Defense.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) said the administration “has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis – turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and allowing their ballistic missile program to expand.”

The United States is not allowed to sell ballistic missiles, so the Saudis have turned to China. CNN reported last week that American intelligence believes Beijing is helping enhance the kingdom’s strategic missile program. In the 1980s, it secretly bought Chinese DF-3 missiles and based them within range of Israel. It bought more advanced missiles in 2007 with the approval of then-president George W. Bush. Unconfirmed published reports suggest they also bought other missiles from Pakistan, which produces a version of the North Korean Nodong missile.

If the Saudis decide to pursue nuclear weapons, they can turn to Trump’s dear friend Kim Jong Un, whose cash-strapped regime has developed its own and the missiles to deliver them.

With Trump looking for business that will create jobs he can claim credit for – and with John Bolton rattling sabers and B-52s, and calling for regime change in Iran – can Saudi Arabia be knocking on an open door to the nuclear club?

June 13, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

China wants to sell nuclear technology to Argentina – but big problems plague the industry

 Once again, the media here mindlessly regurgitates nuclear lobby propaganda that nuclear power is “zero carbon”.   It’s not. Even the reactor’s operation emits a timy amount of carbon 14. But, more importantly, the entire fuel chain, and all its transport, from uranium mining through to the disposal of wastes and of the dead reactor –  is highly carbon emitting.

Even if nuclear power were low carbon (which it’s not), it would require thousands of reactors to be built very very quickly, in order to have any effect on global warming.
Meanwhile, funds, and energy are being diverted from genuinely useful measures, in renewable energy, and above all, in energy conservation.

                                  *************************************************************************

China eyes Argentina in global nuclear roll out, China Dialogue, Lili Pike, Fermín Koop, 04.06.2019  “……. Costs, emissions and safety at stake as Argentina and China look set to seal a nuclear power ……… With China looking to increase its nuclear power exports and countries seeking low-carbon electricity, the project in Argentina could be the beginning of a China-led renaissance. However, concerns over the cost and safety of nuclear power continue to plague the technology…….

https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/11293-China-eyes-Argentina-in-global-nuclear-roll-out

June 10, 2019 Posted by | China, marketing, SOUTH AMERICA | 1 Comment

The nuclear toll on workers and communities – theme for June 19

McClatchy reports: 33,480 Americans dead after 70 years of atomic weaponry

“….. The number of deaths has never been disclosed by federal officials. It’s more than four times the number of American casualties in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it looms large as the nation prepares for its second nuclear age, with a $1 trillion plan to modernize its nuclear weapons over the next 30 years…..

A total of 107,394 workers have been diagnosed with cancers and other diseases after building the nation’s nuclear stockpile over the last seven decades. The project includes an interactive database that offers details on all 107,394 workers.

McClatchy’s yearlong investigation, set in 10 states, puts readers in the living rooms of sick workers in South Carolina, on a picket line in Texas and at a cemetery in Tennessee…..

— Federal officials greatly underestimated how sick the U.S. nuclear workforce would become. At first, the government predicted the compensation program would serve only 3,000 people at an annual cost of $120 million. Fourteen years later, taxpayers have spent sevenfold that estimate, $12 billion.

— Even though costs have ballooned, federal records show that fewer than half of those workers who sought help had their claims approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

— Despite the cancers and other illnesses among nuclear works, the government now wants to save money by cutting current employees’ health plans, retirement benefits and sick leave….. … https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article49216310.html (photo: Ralph and Jodi Stanton)

Disastrous health effects of uranium mining, on the people of Jharkhand, India

the financial benefits are meaningless when weighed against what his group says is an alarming rise in stillbirths, birth defects, and adults and children diagnosed with cancer, kidney disease, and tuberculosis.

report showed a far greater incidence of congenital abnormality, sterility, and cancer among people living within 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) of the mines than those living 35 kilometres away. Mothers in villages close to the mine sites were also twice as likely to have a child with congenital deformities, …. us”…http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i1G4YWJkajit3t0xD2ddl4UXwN7g?docId=CNG.5b3137d37ca033f82d1946db0c21911c.951

June 8, 2019 Posted by | Christina's themes, employment | 6 Comments

Top Uranium Producer Gloomy About the Prospects for Nuclear Power

Top Uranium Producer Is Gloomy About Nuclear Power, for Now, Bloomberg, By   June 7, 2019Don’t expect an upswing in the global uranium market anytime soon.

“In our models, we don’t get excited on the demand side,” said Galymzhan Pirmatov, chief executive officer of Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan’s state-owned mining company that’s the world’s biggest supplier.

With construction of nuclear power plants at a 10-year low, uranium demand remains weak. That’s holding prices so low that mining companies have been wary of increasing production. Kazatomprom’s output will increase about 5% this year, to as much as 22,800 tons, and then will be flat in 2020, Pirmatov said Wednesday in an interview in New York. While he hasn’t yet made a decision on 2021, he doesn’t see much to get excited about, at least in the short term.

“I do believe prices are too low,” he said. Uranium has slumped 15% this year to $24.35 a pound as of Wednesday. Kazakhstan controls about 40% of the world’s supply of the metal, and Kazatomprom accounts for half of that, making it the biggest producer………

U.S. Closings

In the U.S., flush with abundant and cheap natural gas, utilities are closing nuclear plants. The U.S. is also considering whether to impose tariffs on uranium, after two small domestic mining companies filed a trade case last year, arguing that imports are a threat to national security. The Commerce Department concluded its investigation in April, but the results haven’t been made public……..https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-05/top-uranium-producer-is-gloomy-about-nuclear-power-for-now

June 8, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

Germany’s energy plant operators as well as government are clear that nuclear station lifetimes will not be extended

June 6, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Germany, politics | Leave a comment

Plymouth nuclear station permanently shut down – into the arms of Holtec

June 6, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

USA Dept of Energy funding bankrupted French company AREVA – now resuscitated as Framatome

June 1, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics international, technology | Leave a comment

Continuing glum lookout for the uranium market

Uranium Week: Buyers’ Market.   https://www.fnarena.com/index.php/2019/05/28/uranium-week-buyers-market, By Greg Peel, May 28 2019

Sellers continue to chase down ever more empowered buyers in an ongoing weak uranium market.

-Uranium spot price continues to fall
-Rio Tinto may shut down Rossing
-US production falls dramatically

It was Groundhog Week last week in the uranium market. With utilities largely out of the market pending a section 232 decision, sellers continue to lower prices in order to flush out buying interest.

And the buyers are not making it easy. Having the upper hand, they are not simply insisting on lower prices, industry consultant TradeTech reports, but on specific origins, delivery locations and other restrictive terms and conditions.

Four transactions totalling 500,000lbs U3O8 equivalent were recorded in the spot market last week. TradeTech’s weekly spot price indicator has fallen -US20c to US$24.30/lb.

The spot price has now fallen -16% in 2019, whittling a 12-month gain down to 6%.

There were no transactions reported in uranium term markets. TradeTech’s term price indicators remain at US$28.50/lb (mid) and US$32.00/lb (long).

Supply Response

Australian-listed diversified miner Rio Tinto ((RIO)) has announced it will advance the closure of its 69% owned Rossing uranium mine in Namibia to June 2020 if the Namibian competition regulator blocks the US$104m sale of the mine to China National Uranium Corp.

Rio cannot continue to operate the loss-making business and would rather cease operations ahead of a forecast 2025 mine life if the sale is rejected.

The Namibian government owns a 3% stake in Rossing but 51% of the voting rights. The Iranian Foreign Investment Co holds 15% and the Industrial Development Corp of South Africa owns 10%.

Persistently low uranium prices continue to impact on global supply. Last week the US Energy Information Agency reported US uranium mines produced 700,000lbs U3O8 in 2018, down -37% from 2017.

Total shipment of uranium concentrate from US mills fell -35%. US producers sold 1.5mlbs of concentrate at an average price of US$32.51/lb.

May 30, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

Serious doubts about Holtec’s lucrative fast decommissioning of nuclear reactors

May 28, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, USA | 1 Comment

USA’s planned nuclear weapons spending at a cost of $1.2 trillion

May 25, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How the nuclear industry abuses tax-payers’ subsidies

May 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Companies like Holtec planning to make $billions by a quick fix for nuclear wastes

Companies are buying defunct nuclear reactors, planning to demolish them quickly https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-nuclear-reactors-fast-decommission-radioactive-20190522-story.html BOB SALSBERG, 22 May 19 Companies specializing in the handling of radioactive material are buying retired U.S. nuclear reactors from utilities and promising to clean them up and demolish them in dramatically less time than usual — eight years instead of 60, in some cases.

Turning nuclear plants over to outside companies and decommissioning them on such a fast track represents a completely new approach in the United States, never before carried to completion in this country, and involves new technology as well.

Supporters say the accelerated method can get rid of a hazard more quickly and return the land to productive use sooner. But regulators, activists and others question whether the rapid timetables are safe and whether the companies have the expertise and the financial means to do the job.

We were up in arms that it was 60 years,” Janet Tauro, head of the environmental group New Jersey Clean Water Action, said of the initial plans for decommissioning the Oyster Creek plant in Forked River, N.J. “And then we hear it’s going to be expedited to eight years. It’s great to get it over with, but are there corners that are going to be cut?”

Once a reactor is shut down, the radioactive mess must be cleaned up, spent nuclear fuel packed for long-term storage and the plant itself dismantled. The most common approach can last decades, with the plant placed in a long period of dormancy while radioactive elements slowly decay.

Spent fuel rods that can no longer sustain a nuclear reaction remain radioactive and still generate substantial heat. They are typically placed in pools of water to cool, staying there at least five years, with 10 years the industry norm, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. After that, they are removed and placed in giant cylindrical casks, typically made of steel and encased in concrete.

But Holtec International, which in the last year has been buying up several retired or soon-to-be-retired nuclear plants in the United States, has designed a cask it says can accept spent fuel after only two years of cooling.

Holtec, a corporation with more than 30 years of experience in handling radioactive waste, struck a deal last year to buy the Oyster Creek plant.

It also has deals in place to buy several plants owned by Entergy Corp., including Pilgrim, in historic Plymouth, Mass., closing May 31; Palisades, in Covert, Mich., set to shut down in 2022; and two reactors expected to close within two years in Buchanan, N.Y.

Our commitment to the nuclear industry includes taking ownership of shut-down nuclear plants so that we can safely and efficiently decommission the plants so that the land can be returned to productive use,” Holtec spokeswoman Joy Russell said in an email.

The proposed sales await NRC approval, with decisions expected in the coming weeks and months.

Similarly, in January, NorthStar Group Services, a specialist in nuclear demolition, completed the purchase of Vermont Yankee from Entergy with plans for its accelerated decommissioning.

The full financial details of the pending deals have not been disclosed. But if the agreements are approved, Holtec will inherit the multibillion-dollar decommissioning trust funds set up by the utilities for the plants’ eventual retirement.

The company could keep anything left over in each fund after the plant’s cleanup. Holtec and Northstar are also banking on the prospect of recouping money from the federal government for storing spent fuel during and after the decommissioning, because there is no national disposal site for high-level nuclear waste.

The companies jumping into the business believe they can make a profit. For the utilities, such deals free them from having to oversee long, complex projects involving decades of work and round-the-clock guarding of the dangerous waste.

While there are risks in transferring spent fuel too quickly, experts also note there are dangers while the fuel rods are sitting in the pools, including the chances of a catastrophic fire or leak resulting from a natural disaster, terrorist attack or other event.

There’s a natural tendency to say, ‘Oh, they’re doing it fast, they’re going to make mistakes, it’s not going to be safe,’” said Rod McCullum, senior director of decommissioning and used fuel at the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group for nuclear power. “You’re actually getting safer by getting faster.”

In legal briefs filed with the NRC, however, Massachusetts state officials have expressed skepticism about Holtec’s plan to decommission Pilgrim on an expedited schedule “never before achieved.” Holtec has never managed a decommissioning start to finish.

Holtec has come under scrutiny over its role in a mishap last August during the somewhat less aggressive decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the northwestern edge of San Diego County, where two reactors were retired in 2013 and the estimated completion date is 2030.

Holtec contractors were lowering a 45-ton spent fuel cask into an underground storage vault at San Onofre when it became misaligned and nearly plunged 18 feet, investigators said. No radiation was released.

Federal regulators fined Southern California Edison, the plant’s owner, $116,000, and an investigation found that some Holtec procedures had been inadequate or not properly followed.

Massachusetts officials have stopped short of asking the NRC to block Pilgrim’s sale but have cited the San Onofre incident while questioning whether the money in Pilgrim’s decommissioning trust fund is sufficient to cover unexpected delays or overruns.

By Holtec’s accounting, the Pilgrim decommissioning will cost an estimated $1.13 billion, leaving $3.6 million in the fund. State officials have described that cushion as “meager” and have warned of “significant health, safety, environmental, financial and economic risks.”

Holtec said its equipment has never been involved in a major accident and stands by its cost estimates.

Pilgrim, which is along scenic, environmentally sensitive Cape Cod Bay and is being retired after 47 years, has a history of unscheduled shutdowns and was only recently removed from an NRC list of the nation’s least safe reactors.

The citizen group Pilgrim Watch, which has long pushed for the closing of the plant, is leery of what lies ahead during the decommissioning.

The story isn’t over. There’s a sequel,” said Mary Lampert, the organization’s director. “And sometimes the sequel, like in the movies, is worse than the main show.”

May 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

New research into plutonium workers’ internal radiation exposure.

May 23, 2019 Posted by | - plutonium, employment, Reference, UK | 1 Comment