Federal Governments spend against Barngarla Traditional Owners keep climbing in the lead up to a referendum for a Voice to Parliament

BARNGARLA DETERMINATION ABORIGINAL CORPORATION

MEDIA RELEASE 

TUESDAY JUNE 13, 2023 

Federal Governments spend against Barngarla Traditional Owners keep climbing in the lead up to a referendum for a Voice to Parliament.

Recent Senate estimates reveal a spend of $13,834,856 in legal costs by the Federal Government against the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) over the nuclear waste dump planned for Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia.

BDAC Chairperson Jason Bilney has responded to these figures: “How can the Labor Government champion a Voice to Parliament while spending close to $14 million fighting us in court? It’s disrespectful and hypocritical. We have always said no to having a nuclear dump on our lands.”

“If the Federal Government are serious about First Nations people having a voice then they should listen to ours, the Barngarla people.”

On June 01, 2023 Sam Usher, CEO of the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA) was asked by Senator Barbara Pocock what the overall legal spend for both the trials against the Barngarla had been. Mr Usher’s answer provided the figures of $13,083,132 on related external legal costs and $751,724 on internal department legal staff.

This question from the can be viewed from the Senate Estimates Committee at 21:59:38:06 https://www.aph.gov.au/News_and_Events/Watch_Read_Listen/ParlView/video/1221342

“We worked for over 20 years to have our Barngarla Native Title Rights recognised, and then before we knew it, we were hit with plans for a unwanted nuclear waste dump and have been given no voice to say no – in fact we were excluded from the right to vote in a community ballot on the issue in 2019 .” 

In March 6, 2023 the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) took action in the  Federal Court in Adelaide to overturn the federal Ministerial declaration to select Napandee near Kimba as the proposed site for a national nuclear waste facility. The court is expected to hand down a finding before the end of the year.  

Please see issue briefing paper below. 

——————-

BARNGARLA PEOPLE AND THE NATIONAL RADIOACTIVE WASTE FACILITY 2023 BRIEFING 

Background 

The federal government plans to build a facility to store intermediate level nuclear waste (ILW) and dispose of low-level radioactive waste (LLW) and after a highly controversial process the Coalition Government declared Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula as the proposed site in November 2021. This facility is  

The proposal for a facility at Kimba – known as the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility 

(“NRWMF”) – follows previous abandoned attempts including near Woomera in SA (2004), Muckaty Station in the NT (2014) and Wallerberdina Station in the Flinders Ranges (2019). Like Kimba, all failed to secure a social and community licence. Successive federal governments have been seeking a solution for Australia’s long-lived radioactive waste for decades. South Australia has long standing legislation that makes the building of a national nuclear waste facility illegal. In 2022 SA Premier Peter Malinauskas and the Labor party support a Barngarla veto right over the nuclear waste plan.   

Barngarla Position 

The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) represent the Barngarla Native Title holders. The Barngarla have a determined Native Title area of 34,481 km2 covering parts of the Eyre Peninsula, including Kimba. Barngarla people have fought against the proposal in the courts and expressed their position through rallies, protests, public meetings, and the media.  

A community ballot was conducted by the Kimba District Council in November 2019. Of 734 formal votes, 452 were Yes (61.6%) and 282 No (38.4%). After being excluded from the Kimba Council ballot, the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (“BDAC”) engaged the Australian Election Company, an independent ballot agent, to conduct a confidential postal ballot of BDAC members regarding the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility. The ballot paper asked members: “Do you support the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility being located at one of the nominated sites in the community of Kimba?” Of 209 eligible voters (all of whom are Barngarla native title holders), 83 cast valid “No” votes. Zero “Yes” votes were returned. This unanimous “No” vote demonstrates that there is absolutely no support at all within the Barngarla community for the NRWMF. 

The Barngarla people stand side by side with many in the Kimba and EP farming community opposing the waste dump and have support from many national and state civil society groups including Conservation SA and Unions SA.  

Weatherill has turned his back on Traditional Owners over waste dump

No Dump Alliance, “Weatherill has turned his back on Traditional Owners over waste dump”, Media Release, 14 Nov. 2016.

No Dump Alliance spokesperson and Narungga man Tauto Sansbury has come out swinging against Jay Weatherill’s announcement that he is continuing his push to turn SA into the world’s high-level nuclear waste dump.

“The high level nuclear waste dump is overwhelmingly opposed by Traditional Owners and the wider community and the Premier’s announcement is a divisive move to get his own way. It is deeply disappointing that Aboriginal communities must continue to fight this issue when we have so many other issues to deal with.”

The Community Views Report released on Sunday states: “Many [Aboriginal] participants expressed concern about the potential negative impacts on their culture and the long-term, generational consequences of increasing the state’s participation in the nuclear fuel cycle. There was a significant lack of support for the government to continue pursuing any form of nuclear storage and disposal facilities. Some Aboriginal people indicated that they are interested in learning more and continuing the conversation, but these were few in number.”“Our people will continue to fight this nuclear waste dump proposal to the end,” said Mr Sansbury.

Ms. Karina Lester, Chairperson Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (YNTAC) and daughter of Atomic test survivor Yami Lester said “We will stand our ground and maintain what we have said all along: “No waste dump in our Ngura (Country)”.  I will take this to our YNTAC AGM and discuss with our members what the Premier is now saying, to run a Statewide Referendum, and rally my community to use our rights to veto and say no to this unjust and insane idea of storing and disposing of nuclear waste from other countries.  South Australians have been engaged in his process and have strongly spoken up about South Australia, that it is too good to waste.  This is not only South Australia’s issue and decision to make this is Australia’s issue. No means no.”

No Dump Alliance spokesperson and MUA Branch Secretary Jamie Newlyn was surprised by the Premier’s lack of political judgment by announcing a referendum into SA becoming the world’s Nuclear Waste Dump.

“Premier Jay Weatherill has proven politically adept at picking up on whether a policy will fly with the community, but on the issue of nuclear waste he has totally missed the mark.

The Citizen’s jury, Aboriginal community and tens of thousands of South Australians have made it clear that South Australia and Australia should not be the world’s Nuclear Waste Dump.The economics don’t stack up, Safety of Workers and Community doesn’t stack up, Environmental concerns don’t stack up and ignoring Aboriginal concerns don’t stack up.

The MUA call on the Premier to abandon the case for Nuclear Waste and look for bold sustainable job creating ideas for our great state that we can all be proud of and support.

The No Dump Alliance is a broad cross-section of South Australian civil society, including Indigenous, public health, trade union, faith and environment groups and academics who have opposed any move to open South Australia up to international high-level nuclear waste importation and dumping. Since the state has been pursuing waste dump plans the Alliance has been actively advocating against the waste dump and represented the views of its members.

www.nodumpalliance.org.au

info@nodumpalliance.org

Vale Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, fierce advocate for his people and a nuclear free Australia

Arabunna Elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott passed away in Alice Springs on November 29, 2023. A fierce advocate for his people and for a nuclear-free Australia, Kevin will be sorely missed.

Kevin Buzzacott on Arabunna country in front of a water pumping station for the Olympic Dam mine.

Kevin was born in 1946 at Finniss Springs, on Arabunna country in South Australia. As a youngster, he learnt culture, language, how to live off the land, and he learnt to work with cattle and horses. Over the years, Kevin and his family lived in many places including Alice Springs, Tarcoola and Gawler. He worked on the railways for many years.

In 1984, Kevin moved to Port Augusta, where he worked as alcohol and drug worker. In 1985 he moved to Alice Springs where he worked on the successful campaign to stop the damming of the Todd River. He helped establish the Arrernte Council in Alice Springs and served as an ATSIC regional Councillor.

In the mid-1990s Kevin returned to South Australia to protect Arabunna country. One of his major campaigns was to try to stop the rapacious water take from the Great Artesian Basin by mining company WMC (and later BHP) to supply the Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine at Roxby Downs. The daily extraction of around 40 million litres of water has adversely affected the precious Mound Springs on Arabunna country ‒ desert oases supported by the underlying Great Artesian Basin. Kevin’s campaign might eventually succeed: there are plans to build a desalination plant on Spencer Gulf which could lead to a reduction and possible cessation of the water take from the Great Artesian Basin.

Kevin explained:

“I’ve been at this game of calling for justice and peace for 30, maybe 40 years, but what really got me going was when Western Mining Corporation (WMC) set up the Olympic Dam mine. They started doing deals with the government on pastoral leases. So they did deals with S. Kidman & Co. and took up one of their cattle stations, Stuart’s Creek Station, which is on Arabunna land. Because of our native title and ongoing land rights campaigning, we’ve been fighting for these places for a long time. Stuart’s Creek is a very special, sacred place for us, and we’ve been trying to get it back for a long time.

“I thought that just before they bought that place I’d go and protest and camp on it. Also, it is on that station, on the shores of the Lake Eyre, where WMC started taking the sacred water out of the Lake Eyre Basin. That was where they started sucking the life blood out of us. That is where they put their big bore down, right on the shores of the lake. That was a real kick in the guts for me and really got me going.”

Protest camp

Kevin set up a protest camp on Arabunna country:

“I weighed it all up and I said to the mob, ‘I need some help out here. We’ll set up camp and contest WMC.’ There were a lot of levels involved with fighting the mine, but making the camp was like reclaiming the land or making a statement.

“We had a lot of tourists that came to visit, and were interested in finding out what was going on. Thousands of people came through the camp. We had flyers at an information tent, and free tea and coffee; we set up a lot of things. People who came across us on a trip to the desert and Lake Eyre learnt about the issues and were concerned about what was going on. When they talked with us they were upset about what was going on. Nobody knew about it, and that was one of the reasons in my mind why that was happening out in the desert.”

The protest camp was established in March 1999. WMC was among the most viciously racist mining companies in Australia and true to form, the company tried to have Arabunna Elder Kevin Buzzacott evicted from Arabunna country. The protest camp lasted until it was busted up by WMC goons and local police in December 1999.

Kevin initiated court actions against WMC and the federal government. These actions weren’t successful in the courts but helped draw attention to the issues Kevin was fighting for:

“I did a court action against Hugh Morgan, who was the head of WMC. I charged Hugh Morgan with genocide, trying to flush him out and some of the shareholders. Hugh Morgan is based in Victoria. People in Melbourne deserve to live in a good place, they don’t need to live with these criminals and warmongers. Another court action I did was one I brought against Alexander Downer and Senator Robert Hill for stopping Lake Eyre from becoming a World Heritage site.”

After the protest camp on Arabunna country was busted up, Kevin set up a protest camp at Genocide Corner ‒ outside the SA Governor’s residence in the centre of Adelaide:

“I had to go to Adelaide for the court case against Hugh Morgan, and when I was there the charges against Hugh Morgan were dismissed. The judge was a pastor in the Lutheran Church, and I asked him to stand down because I believed he had a conflict of interest as his church was a shareholder in the WMC. When he refused to do so I told him to get stuffed, walked out and went straight down to Government House to start a protest. I took banners, and whatever things I had.

“While I was talking to the media I was confronted by the cops. I looked over the road and saw a patch of grass and thought, “Bugger it, I’ll make camp and a fire here.” I ended up calling it genocide Corner, and renamed Adelaide the City of Genocide. It was on the intersection of King William Street and North Terrace [one of the main intersections in the city] so loads of people were passing by. Four ceremonial fires for peace were lit, and after 21 days the Adelaide City Council and 50 police came down and arrested me for failing to cease to loiter. It was one of those laws they hadn’t used in a long time, but they used it to clear away all my stuff and my supporters. One of the court conditions was that I was not able to walk within the vicinity of Genocide Corner. I was of a mind just to walk straight back there, but I had the Peace Walk from Lake Eyre to Sydney coming up so I had to let that one go.”

Peace Walk

The Peace Walk was timed to reach Sydney for the Olympics in September 2000:

“We walked for months, for 3,000 kilometres, and all sorts of people from all walks of life joined us. We were carrying the fire for peace and justice. I made sure that we went through lots of different Aboriginal communities. I got a lot of support, but the government also pressured a lot of people not to support me by threatening their jobs and funding. Each place we went to, people took us through their land and we respected each mob.

“There were all types of pressure put on people along the way. The cops were nasty and threatened some of the walkers with guns and everything. I visited all the jails along the way from Broken Hill to Dubbo and Bathurst. It was sad to see so many young brothers confined and locked up.

“We went to Canberra and met up with the Tent Embassy mob. A couple of politicians came to meet us and then we all went to Government House to present the Governor-General with a document of peace and justice.

“When we arrived in Sydney for the Olympic Games the Tent Embassy mob had already set up a camp [in Victoria Park], so we joined up with them. We did all sorts of things. We did a re-enactment at the beach where Captain Cook came in. We re-enacted the bad way in which he came with guns and all that and then the next day we did how they should have come.”

In 2002, Kevin reclaimed the Emu and Kangaroo totems from the Australian Coat of Arms hanging outside Parliament House, Canberra:

“I had watched the Federal Police arresting our people at the Tent Embassy and other places. They all wore these caps with the Emu and Kangaroo emblem on them. I knew how sacred these animals were to us and I had talked with old people about how the government was misusing them while they locked us up and treated us like dirt. On the 30th anniversary of the embassy I told everyone that I had a plan and that they should join me with their cameras. We went up to Parliament and I climbed up one of the pillars and grabbed the Coat Of Arms and walked off with it. It was in broad daylight and I said: “I’m not stealing this, I’m reclaiming it and taking back the use of our sacred animals.”

“Years later [in 2005] when I was visiting Canberra the cops came down to the Tent Embassy with a summons for theft and defacing government property and so on. During the court case I questioned their authority and jurisdiction over me and over this land. I talked to the jury about the imposition of foreign laws upon our people and the theft of our lands and got a 12-month suspended sentence with good behaviour.”

Peace Pilgrimage to Japan

In 2004, Kevin participated in the Peace Pilgrimage from the Olympic Dam uranium mine to Hiroshima, Japan:

“During the first walk and then in Sydney we met people from all over and that got everything going. Aboriginal nations from Queensland were saying there should be a walk up the coast to show the world the things they were suffering. Then some people made contact with people in Hiroshima to have a walk from the uranium mine in Roxby to where the bomb was dropped in order to show how all these things are linked. Aboriginal people, Japanese monks, all sorts of people were involved. It started at Roxby and then went to Canberra and then an aeroplane took us to Japan where we walked all over the country. We visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima and met a lot of people who were kids when the bombs were falling. We did talks and took part in a huge ceremony on the anniversary of the bomb being dropped. There were people everywhere and lanterns lit and people crying, it was full on.”

In 2006, Kevin went to Melbourne for the Stolenwealth Games:

“After the court case I came down to Melbourne where Robbie Thorpe and others were setting up a camp in Kings Domain during the Commonwealth, or Stolenwealth, Games. We had hundreds of people camping and visiting. We also had all sorts of hassles from the cops and council and everyone else, but we stayed put and proved our point.

“When the games came we had rallies and big marches and ceremonies and I talked about the need for justice and the need for white Australia to respect our cultural values and to stop the destruction of our sacred sites and our country.”

And Kevin was back in Melbourne in 2008 for BHP’s Annual General Meeting:

“BHP have taken over WMC. They now own Olympic Dam and want to make it bigger. Myself and others who want to stop the mine got to be proxies for shareholders, they gave us tickets and we got to go inside on their behalf. I got to speak and I told the people there about the damage they are doing and that they need to stop it immediately.

“Aboriginal people have lived here for more than 40,000 years and cared for this country, but now its being turned into a sick and evil place. Myself, and others around this country, were born to be peacemakers.

“We mustn’t be frightened to educate others and fight, but not in a warlike way, to protect the earth and let everything run free. I don’t want to shoot or bomb the people from BHP and the others who are destroying this country because two wrongs don’t make a right. I think if I can help them to wake up to what they are doing then that will be punishment enough.”

Kevin was at the first meeting of the Alliance Against Uranium (later renamed the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance) in 1997, and for many years he served as the Alliance’s President. He actively supported countless campaigns against uranium mining and plans to dump nuclear waste on Aboriginal land. He was at the Beverley uranium mine supporting Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in May 2000 when SA police viciously and illegally attacked protesters, children and journalists. Kevin was at the Lizard’s Revenge protest at Olympic Dam in 2012.

Awards

In 2001, Kevin was awarded Nuclear-Free Future Resistance Award by the Nuclear-Free Future Foundation and travelled to Ireland to accept the award.

In 2006, Kevin was awarded the SA Conservation Council’s Jill Hudson Award.

In 2007, Kevin was awarded the Australian Conservation Foundation’s 2007 Peter Rawlinson Award for two decades of work highlighting the impacts of uranium mining and promoting a nuclear free Australia. ACF Executive Director Don Henry said:

“Kevin is a cultural practitioner, an activist, an advocate and an educator.  He has travelled tirelessly, talking to groups large and small about the impacts of uranium mining and the threats posed by the nuclear industry.  Kevin has had a profound impact on the lives of many people – especially young people – with his many tours and ‘on-country’ events.  For many young activists ‘Uncle Kev’ is truly an unsung hero and, against the current pro-nuclear tide, his is a very important struggle and story.”

Kevin participated in many of the Radioactive Exposure Tours run by Friends of the Earth. We camped at the ‘Old Lake’ (Lake Eyre) and generations of young activists learnt first-hand about the impacts of the Olympic Dam mine on country and culture.

Kevin’s partner Margret Gilchrist passed on Kevin’s final message when he returned to Alice Springs with his health failing: “Keep that old fire burning, don’t stop til we’ve won, Lake Eyre for World Heritage.”

Kevin’s funeral service can be viewed online and many videos featuring Kevin can be found at Cinemata and YouTube.

[Written by Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.]

Samphire uranium

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH AUSTRALIA SUBMISSION IN RESPONSE TO ALLIGATOR ENERGY’S APPLICATION FOR A RETENTION LEASE OVER THE BLACKBUSH DEPOSIT (SAMPHIRE URANIUM PROJECT)

To: Mining Regulation Branch

SA Department for Energy and Mining

September 2023

LIST OF RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The SA Department for Energy and Mining should reject Alligator Energy’s application to conduct a Field Recovery Trial at the Samphire lease due to inadequate provisions for solid and liquid waste management.
  2. Alligator Energy should be required to lodge a financial bond with the SA government to ensure that adequate financing is available for rehabilitation if the Field Recovery Trial proceeds.
  3. The Field Recovery Trial should not be approved because Alligator Energy has no credible plan for disposal of solid low-level radioactive waste.
  4. The Department for Energy and Mining should consider promises vs. delivery at the Beverley and Honeymoon mines. Undoubtedly spills were far more frequent and voluminous than envisaged. At a minimum, Alligator Energy should be required to have a credible plan to manage radioactive liquid spills far in excess of one cubic metre.
  5. There may be technical or logistical reasons why Heathgate may reject the offer of eluate and Alligator should be required to come up with credible contingency plans for eluate disposal before a Field Recovery Trial is allowed to proceed.
  6. The Department for Energy and Mining should investigate issues raised by the Heathgate whistleblower and its implications for other mining projects including the proposed Field Recovery Trial at the Samphire lease.
  7. The Department for Energy and Mining should conduct or commission a thorough comparative assessment of the options for managing liquid waste rather than assuming that dumping contaminated liquid waste in groundwater is an adequate solution.

INTRODUCTION

Friends of the Earth Australia opposes uranium mining for various reasons including the weapons proliferation risks associated with the industry, and the intractable problem of high-level nuclear waste management. Those issues are beyond the scope of the SA Department for Energy and Mining’s consideration of the Samphire project application. Nevertheless we call on the Department to reject Alligator Energy’s application to conduct a Field Recovery Trial at the Samphire lease due to inadequate provisions for solid and liquid waste management.

It is more than likely that the Samphire mine will not proceed to commercial production due to:

  • The modest size of the uranium deposit (18.1Mlbs U3O8 at a 250ppm cut-off grade (combined Inferred and Indicated) from 11.4Mt @ 720ppm U3O8).[1]
  • Stubbornly low uranium prices over the past decade, notwithstanding a price increase in 2023 which may or may not be sustained.[2]
  • Near-zero prospects for significant worldwide uranium demand increase.[3]
  • The largest worldwide producers ‒ Cameco and Kazatomprom ‒ have put large uranium mine projects into care-and-maintenance in recent years and the re-entry of those large projects will put downward pressure on prices and severely limit the prospects for small start-ups such as Alligator Energy.
  • Alligator Energy notes that the company plans “to undertake a Feasibility Study in 2024, with all activity requiring further State and Federal Government approvals, and the securing of project financing amongst other key matters, before a mine could be developed.”

The Samphire project was abandoned a decade ago and will likely be abandoned again. This highlights the need for full rehabilitation of the site if approval is granted for a Field Recovery Trial.

Recommendation: Alligator Energy should be required to lodge a financial bond with the SA government to ensure that adequate financing is available for rehabilitation if the Field Recovery Trial proceeds.

SOLID WASTE

A 2003 SA government audit of radioactive wastes stated that the Radium Hill waste repository contains some contaminated equipment from test work conducted at the Honeymoon site in the early 1980s.[4] The same audit noted that the Radium Hill waste repository “is not engineered to a standard consistent with current internationally accepted practice.”

Dumping contaminated solid waste at the sub-standard repository at Radium Hill is not an option for Alligator Energy. What plans does Alligator Energy have for the disposal of solid wastes contaminated with radionuclides and other toxins?

Alligator Energy’s Retention Lease Proposal states that low-level radioactive waste generated during the Field Recovery Trial will include:

“Soil wastes generated within operational areas that have been in contact with process fluids or material from the mineralised zone, are waste streams derived from processing, and/or are waste materials that do not meet specified radiological clearance limits.”

The Retention Lease Proposal also provides the following information on solid low-level radioactive wastes:

The Retention Lease Proposal goes on to state:

“Low level radioactive wastes will be securely stored on site during the leach trials in compliance with the Radiation Protection and Control Act 2021 and associated regulations the specific requirements that will be detailed in the site Radiation Management Plan and Radioactive Waste Management Plan (RMP/RWMP).”

The Retention Lease Proposal envisages disposal in a “licensed disposal facility”. To the best of our knowledge, SA does not have a “licensed disposal facility” for low-level radioactive waste, in which case Alligator Energy has no credible plan for disposal of low-level radioactive waste.

Recommendation: The Field Recovery Trial should not be approved because Alligator Energy has no credible plan for disposal of solid low-level radioactive waste.

RADIOACTIVE LIQUID SPILLS

A feature of ISL mining is surface contamination from spills and leaks of radioactive solutions. The SA Department of Primary Industry and Resources listed 59 spills at Beverley from 1998-2007 and presumably there have been many more since 2007.

Alligator Energy’s Retention Lease Proposal states that spills of low-level radioactive liquid waste are anticipated to amount to no more than one cubic metre. It further states: “All low-level radioactive waste streams will be transferred to the liquid waste storage vessel, then directed to the liquid disposal zone where disposal will occur.”

Recommendation: The Department for Energy and Mining should consider promises vs. delivery at Beverley and Honeymoon. Undoubtedly spills were far more frequent and voluminous than envisaged. At a minimum, Alligator Energy should be required to have a credible plan to manage radioactive liquid spills far in excess of one cubic metre.

LIQUID WASTE AND ATTENUATION

Alligator Energy’s Retention Lease Proposal states that eluate (containing ~6000lbs of dissolved uranium) from the ion exchange stripping process will be the end product and will be stored in tanks onsite. Alligator proposes retaining the stored eluate for approximately one year post the end of the Field Recovery Trial to allow sufficient time for a formal decision on whether or not to proceed to a full-scale mining operation with the two options cited being: eluate retained onsite for future Alligator Energy production or donated for precipitation at one of SA’s producing ISR mines.

Recommendation: There may be technical or logistical reasons why Heathgate may reject the offer of eluate and Alligator should be required to come up with credible contingency plans before a Field Recovery Trial is allowed to proceed. Alligator talks about plural in-situ recovery (ISR) mines although it surely knows that only Beverley is operating.

Alligator Energy’s Retention Lease Proposal states:

“If field natural attenuation monitoring cannot be verified within 5 years, a reassessment of the model against field parameters will be undertaken and model rerun (if required). Natural attenuation monitoring for model verification will be undertaken until model validation is accepted by relevant regulatory agencies. In the event, model validation cannot be achieved, Alligator will undertake active groundwater restoration methods such as groundwater flush or sweep.”

Further detail is required on groundwater restoration options. The Retention Lease Proposal is unacceptably vague.

Alligator Energy will have precious little interest in groundwater restoration if a decision is made not to proceed to commercial mining. The company may not have the resources for groundwater restoration. The company may not even exist in five years’ time. All this points to the need for a financial bond to be lodged with the SA government to ensure that adequate resources are available for full site rehabilitation including groundwater restoration.

BEVERLEY/HEATHGATE WHISTLEBLOWER

A former Heathgate worker contacted Friends of the Earth in 2022 and provided the following information:

* Heathgate breaks every rule in the book and Beverley may be the worst-run mine in SA.

* Regulation is deficient in many respects within and between the SA EPA, Safe Work SA and SA Water.

* Heathgate should have been hit with one or more $30,000 fines by Safe Work SA but Safe Work SA has been negligent.

* Gross mismanagement by Heathgate has led to high staff turn-over ‒ in particular with respect to staff responsible for worker safety.

* Lids have come off uranium drums at the Beverley plant and also on one or more ships transporting uranium to the USA. The handling of uranium spillages at Beverley has grossly violated safety protocols.

* Problems arising from a revolving door between regulators and Heathgate.

* Heathgate isn’t prepared to spend the money required to fix problems at Beverley, and there is little or no pressure from regulators.

* Problems with radioactive monitoring badges, e.g. not replaced if lost.

* Culture of acceptance of safety lapses, anyone speaking up may be fired. NDAs are part of the problem.

Clearly the concerns raised by the former Heathgate employee raise concerns regarding other mines including the Samphire proposal, in particular whether regulatory deficiencies will have adverse consequences.

Have there been ICAC and/or Office of Public Integrity investigations into aspects of Heathgate’s operations at Beverley? If so, what lessons if any were learned and how is that knowledge impacting assessment of other projects including Alligator Energy’s Samphire project?

Recommendation: The Department for Energy and Mining should investigate issues raised by the Heathgate whistleblower and its implications for other mining projects including the proposed Field Recovery Trial at the Samphire lease.

HISTORY OF IN-SITU LEACH URANIUM MINING

In-situ leach (ISL) uranium mining involves pumping an acid solution (or an alkaline solution in some cases) into an aquifer. This dissolves the uranium ore and other heavy metals and the solution is then pumped back to the surface. The small amount of uranium is separated at the surface. The liquid radioactive waste – containing radioactive particles, heavy metals and acid – is simply dumped in groundwater.

A 2004 CSIRO report states:[5]

“As stated in the Beverley Assessment Report, the bleed solutions, waste solutions from uranium recovery, plant washdown waters and bleed streams from the reverse osmosis plants are collected prior to disposal into the Namba aquifer via disposal wells. These liquid wastes are combined and concentrated in holding/evaporation ponds, with excess injected into selected locations within the mined aquifer. The injected liquid is acidic (pH 1.8 to 2.8) and contains heavy metals and radionuclides originating from the orebody.

From being inert and immobile in the ore body, the radionuclides and heavy metals are now mobile in the aquifer.

The 2004 CSIRO report endorsed the dumping of liquid waste in ground-water yet the information and arguments it used in support of that conclusion were tenuous. The CSIRO report notes that attenuation is “not yet proven” and the timeframe of “several years to decades” could hardly be more vague. The 2004 CSIRO report states in its Executive Summary:

“The use of acid rather than alkaline leaching and disposal of liquid wastes by re-injection into the aquifer is contentious. Available data indicate that both the leach solution and liquid waste have greater concentrations of soluble ions than does the pre-mining groundwater. However as this groundwater has no apparent beneficial use other than by the mining industry, this method of disposal is preferable to surface disposal. Although not yet proven, it is widely believed and accepted that natural attenuation will result in the contaminated water chemistry returning to pre-mining conditions within a timeframe of over several years to decades.”

Elsewhere the 2004 CSIRO report notes uncertainties associated with attenuation:

“The EIA for Beverley and Honeymoon suggest that natural attenuation will occur, however, exact timeframes are not given. The issue of predicting attenuation is made more complex by not fully understanding the microbiological or the mineralogy of the surrounding ore bodies, before and after mining, and how these natural conditions will react with the altered water quality introduced by the injection of leachate, and re-injection of wastewaters. Following general practice, geochemical modelling was undertaken with a series of assumptions where data were not available. Although these assumptions are considered reasonable by the review team, some technical experts have a differing opinion. In any case the results must be considered approximate.

The monitoring results from Beverley are limited by the short duration of mining and operation, and there are currently no completely mined-out areas for which the water chemistry can be followed after mining to verify the extent of the expected natural attenuation. However, pH results for an area that was trial-mined in 1998 and then left until full-scale mining of the same area was due are shown in Figure 13.

Note that whilst other data are available for these wells there are not consistent trends in other analytes. There has been little recovery of groundwater chemistry towards background in the test-production wells other than a favourable change for pH. There are presently no equivalent monitoring data for the northern area, which is presently being mined.”

Even if full attenuation does occur over time, it is unlikely to occur in the timeframe of post-mine-closure monitoring proposed by the mining proponent. The 7/1/09 Beverley Four Mile Project Public Environment – Report and Mining Lease Proposal document states:

“Heathgate proposes an initial period of five years from the conclusion of commercial operations to complete the decommissioning of facilities. A monitoring and maintenance program is proposed to run for a further two years, for a total of seven years from the final conclusion of mining activities. The total monitoring period will be reviewed with the regulatory authorities and may be extended.

“Facilities will therefore be fully decommissioned within seven years from the conclusion of the commercial operation. This period includes a post-completion monitoring period for vegetation maintenance, groundwater sampling, drainage repairs and other activities to ensure the long-term permanent rehabilitation of the site.

The 2004 CSIRO report states:

“Natural attenuation is preferred to adjusting the chemistry of the wastewater prior to re-injection as the latter would result in the need for additional chemicals on-site, generation of contaminated neutralisation sludges which would have to be disposed of, risk of potential clogging of pore spaces in the aquifer and associated higher costs.

Those are not insurmountable problems. Moreover there are alternatives to adjusting the chemistry of waste-water then reinjecting it into the aquifer, such as evaporation followed by management of solid wastes. As the CSIRO report notes:

“10.6 Alternatives to Liquid Waste Re-Injection

“Suggestions made during the community consultation process included not re-injecting the liquid wastes into the aquifer, and neutralisation of waste before re-injection.

“Not re-injecting the waste into the aquifer would require either sophisticated water treatment and/or the installation of much larger evaporation ponds. Both would generate solid wastes to be disposed of in a solid waste repository. When the wastes dried out they would become a possible dust source, which could increase the potential radiation exposure of workers, in particular in relation to dust inhalation, but also from radon inhalation and gamma exposure. Environmental radiation levels at the surface would also increase. These are presently negligible issues associated with the existing ISL practices.

“Neutralisation of the waste liquid prior to re-injection would precipitate out some metal salts, which would need to be filtered before re-injection, and be disposed of in a solid waste repository.

“Also following re-injection it is likely that the re-injection bores would rapidly clog owing to precipitation around the bores, as the injected water and existing acidic water in the aquifer interact. Clogging of re-injection wellfields and associated problems with pipelines and pumps may increase the risk of spills due to operational problems with equipment and increased maintenance.”

None of the issues raised by the CSIRO amount to compelling reasons to support dumping liquid waste in groundwater. Some of the reasons cited are absurd and cast serious doubt over the credibility of the CSIRO review ‒ for example dust suppression is simple and inexpensive.

Recommendation: The SA Department for Energy and Mining should conduct or commission a thorough comparative assessment of the options for managing liquid waste rather than assuming that dumping contaminated liquid waste in groundwater is an adequate solution.

The 2003 Senate References and Legislation Committee report into the regulation of uranium mining in Australia reported “a pattern of under-performance and non-compliance”, it identified “many gaps in knowledge and found an absence of reliable data on which to measure the extent of contamination or its impact on the environment”, and it concluded that changes were necessary “in order to protect the environment and its inhabitants from serious or irreversible damage”. On ISL mining, the 2003 Senate report stated:

“The Committee is concerned that the ISL process, which is still in its experimental state and introduced in the face of considerable public opposition, was permitted prior to conclusive evidence being available on its safety and environmental impacts.”

“The Committee recommends that, owing to the experimental nature and the level of public opposition, the ISL mining technique should not be permitted until more conclusive evidence can be presented on its safety and environmental impacts.”

“Failing that, the Committee recommends that at the very least, mines utilising the ISL technique should be subject to strict regulation, including prohibition of discharge of radioactive liquid mine waste to groundwater, and ongoing, regular independent monitoring to ensure environmental impacts are minimised.”

 In relation to the Beverley mine, Assoc. Prof. Gavin Mudd notes: “The critical data which could answer scientific questions concerning contaminant mobility in groundwater has never been released by General Atomics. This is especially important since GA no longer maintain the mine is ‘isolated’ from surrounding groundwater, with desires to expand the mine raising legitimate concerns over the groundwater contamination legacy left at Beverley.”

Assoc. Prof. Mudd states:

The mining technique of in situ leaching (ISL), often referred to as solution mining, is becoming an increasingly favoured method for the extraction of uranium across the world. This is primarily due to its low capital and operating costs compared to conventional mining. Little is known about the environmental impact of this method, and mining companies have been able to exploit this to promote the method as “environmentally benign”.

The ISL process involves drilling ground water bores or wells into a uranium deposit, injecting corrosive chemicals to dissolve the uranium within the ore zone, then pumping back the uranium-laden solution.

The method can be applied only to uranium deposits located within a ground water system or confined aquifer, commonly in palaeochannel deposits (old buried river beds).

Although ISL is presented in simplified diagrams by the nuclear industry, the reality is that geological systems are inherently complex and not predictable.

There are a range of options for the chemistry of the mining solutions. Either acidic or alkaline chemical agents can be used in conjunction with an oxidising agent to dissolve the uranium.

Typical oxidising agents include oxygen or hydrogen peroxide, while alkaline agents include ammonia or sodium-bicarbonate or carbon dioxide. The most common acidic chemical used is sulphuric acid, although nitric acid has been tried at select sites and in laboratory tests.

The chemicals can have potentially serious environmental impacts and cause long-term changes to ground water quality.

The use of acidic solutions mobilises high levels of heavy metals, such as cadmium, strontium, lead and chromium. Alkaline solutions tend to mobilise only a few heavy metals such as selenium and molybdenum. The ability to restore the ground water to its pre-mining quality is, arguably, easier at sites that have used alkaline solution chemistry.

A review of the available literature on ISL mines across the world can easily counter the myths promulgated about ISL uranium mining. Whether one examines the USA, Germany, Russia and associated states, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Australia or new ISL projects across Asia, the truth remains the same – the ISL technique merely treats ground water as a sacrifice zone and the problem remains “out of sight, out of mind”.

ISL uranium mining is not controllable, is inherently unsafe and is unlikely to meet “strict environmental controls”. It is not an environmentally benign method of uranium mining.

The use of sulphuric acid solutions at ISL mines across Eastern Europe, as well as a callous disregard for sensible environmental management, has led to many seriously contaminated sites.

Perhaps the most severe example is Straz pod Ralskem in the Czech Republic, where up to 200 billion litres of ground water is contaminated. Restoration of the site is expected to take several decades or even centuries.

Solution escapes and difficult restorations have been documented at ISL sites in Texas and Wyoming.

Australia has encountered the same difficulties, especially at the controversial Honeymoon deposit in South Australia during pilot studies in the early 1980s and at Manyingee in Western Australia until 1985.

The Honeymoon pilot project used sulphuric acid in conjunction with ferric sulphate as the oxidising agent. The wells and aquifer experienced significant blockages due to the minerals jarosite and gypsum precipitating, lowering the efficiency of the leaching process and leading to increased excursions. The aquifers in the vicinity of Honeymoon are known to be connected to aquifers used by local pastoralists to water stock.

Journal articles, conferences papers etc. on ISL mining (and other issues) by Assoc. Prof. Mudd are available online.[6]

A 2007 Friends of the Earth Adelaide report noted:[7]

Field trials” of acid in-situ leach (acid ISL) uranium mining have already occurred at the Beverley uranium mine and the proposed Honeymoon site in north-eastern South Australia. Given the history of leaks and spills that occurred at Honeymoon and Beverley during their “trial” phases, there is significant cause for concern around further such “trials”. Six spills were recorded at the Honeymoon trial mine in 1999, including one “excursion” of 9,600 litres of “process fluid”, which had a significant uranium and toxic radon gas content, and another in which sulphuric acid injected into the groundwater as part of the mine process unexpectedly traveled upwards, contaminating a higher aquifer. None of these spills were revealed to the public until after the project had been granted state and federal approvals.

During the trial at Beverley through 1998, 500 litres of extraction fluid were spilt, the accident not revealed until 5 months after it occurred. Beverley also experienced a major underground leak of radioactive mining solution to groundwater in 1999, also not confirmed until after state government approvals in 2001.

While one purpose of conducting a “trial” may be to determine the extent and nature of a groundwater system, the injection of acid and radioactive mine waste into aquifers is not an acceptable way of doing this. The South Australian community has a democratic right to participate in decision-making regarding activities with significant environmental impact such as mining. The history of leaks, spills and accidents that characterise ISL mining emphasise the urgent need for full environmental assessment to be conducted before the commencement of any mining, “trial” or otherwise.

The 2007 Friends of the Earth Adelaide report also pointed to severe problems with ISL mining overseas:[8]

Both acid and alkaline ISL mines across the world have left a track record of contamination of surrounding groundwater systems, some of which are the main water supply for communities, with attempts to rehabilitate the groundwater often unsuccessful. Some of the European cases include:

  • Königstein (Germany): as of 2005, there was still 1,900 million m3 of radioactive and heavy metals contaminated water within the mining zone. This pollution lies within an aquifer that supplies Dresden with drinking water;
  • Devladovo (Ukraine): the surface of the site was heavily contaminated from spills, and groundwater contamination is spreading downstream from the site at a speed of 53m per year. By 1995 it had already traveled a distance of 1.7km, and will reach the village of Devladovo in the next 12 years;
  • Bolyarovo, Tenevo/Okop, Haskovo(Bulgaria): very high concentrations of sulfate ions are found in surface water and in the wells of private owners as a result of accidental spilling of solution. All uranium mining and milling in Bulgaria was closed down by government decree in 1992, after over 20km2 of the country was contaminated by uranium industry activity.

The contamination at these and many other sites, including the high concentrations of major ions, heavy metals and radionuclides, has not attenuated significantly over time (as uranium mining companies claim), and instead often migrates through groundwater to pollute other areas.

US geochemist and environmental scientist Richard Abitz comments on his own experience attempting to rehabilitate groundwater at ISL uranium mines in Ohio, Texas and Wyoming. When the mining chemicals are injected into groundwater, he observes, uranium contamination “goes through the roof”. “Once it is in there, the damage has been done”, he says. “It takes hundreds, perhaps thousands of years to transform aquifer water back into a drinkable condition”, and “regardless of the millions of dollars and years of efforts, the water has never been restored.”

Australia’s own problematic experience with ISL uranium mining (limited to the Beverley mine, and the Honeymoon and Manyingee, WA, “trials”), combined with the experience of ISL overseas emphasise the serious risks and impacts of this mining method. That such mining should be permitted in South Australia on a “trial” basis, without environmental impact or public consultation is a grave concern that demands legislative amendment.

[1] Alligator Energy, 2023 Retention Lease Proposal, Executive Summary

[2] https://www.cameco.com/invest/markets/uranium-price

[3] https://reneweconomy.com.au/is-nuclear-power-in-a-global-death-spiral/

[4] Radiation Protection Division, SA Environment Protection Authority, September 2003, ‘Audit of Radioactive Material in South Australia’

[5] Taylor, G.; Farrington, V.; Woods, P.; Ring, R.; Molloy, R. (2004): Review of Environmental Impacts of the Acid In-Situ Leach Uranium Mining Process.- CSIRO Land and Water Client Report.

[6] http://web.archive.org/web/20100228164521/http://civil.eng.monash.edu.au/about/staff/muddpersonal More recent ISL papers can be obtained directly from Assoc. Prof. Mudd: https://www.rmit.edu.au/contact/staff-contacts/academic-staff/m/mudd-dr-gavin

[7] Friends of the Earth Adelaide, November 2007, Driving without a license: uranium mining ‘trials’ in SA, http://archive.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/TrialBriefNov2007.pdf

[8] Friends of the Earth Adelaide, November 2007, Driving without a license: uranium mining ‘trials’ in SA, http://archive.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/TrialBriefNov2007.pdf

Stop the nuclear dump on Barngarla Country

Please write to senior SA Labor Government politicians and ask them to contact their federal Labor colleagues calling on them to respect the rights of Barngarla Traditional Owners, respect the Federal Court’s July 18 decision, and to abandon the plan to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Barngarla country in SA.

  1. Send individual emails (not a group email).
  2. The politicians’ names and details ‒ including email addresses ‒ are reproduced below.
  3. Sample text is copied below. You can use this text but feel free to edit and to add your own thoughts.
  4. Make sure to add your name, address and email address at the bottom of your emails.
  5. If you have time, please also send some emails to federal Labor politicians: relevant info is posted at https://nuclear.foe.org.au/kimba/

Thanks!

Friends of the Earth Nuclear-Free Campaign

https://nuclear.foe.org.au/waste

————

premier@sa.gov.au

Peter Malinauskas

Premier of South Australia

————

officeofthedeputypremier@sa.gov.au

Susan Close

Deputy Premier of South Australia

————

attorneygeneral@sa.gov.au 

Kyam Maher 

Attorney General of South Australia

————

badcoe@parliament.sa.gov.au

Jayne Stinson

Chair of the Environment, Resources and Development Committee

=====================================================

Politician’s name / position / email address

Date

Dear

The Federal Court on July 18 quashed the declaration of a proposed national nuclear waste dump site near Kimba in SA, citing ‘pre-judgement’ and ‘apprehended bias’. The court case was initiated by Barngarla Traditional Owners, who are unanimous in their opposition to the proposed nuclear dump.

I’m writing to ask you to contact your federal Labor colleagues ‒ in particular Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and resources minister Madeleine King ‒ asking them to respect the human rights of the Barngarla Traditional Owners and to abandon the plan to impose a nuclear dump on Barngarla country.

These are some of the reasons why it would be unfair and unwise to continue to attempt to impose a nuclear dump on Barngarla country:

  1. It is an unacceptable that the Albanese government has been attempting to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Barngarla country despite the unanimous opposition of the Traditional Owners.
  2. It is deeply hypocritical that the Albanese government has been championing a Voice to Parliament at the same time as it ignores and overrides the unanimous voice of the Barngarla Traditional Owners. Jayne Stinson, Labor Chair of the SA Parliament’s Environment, Resources and Development Committee, said: “In this day and age, when we’re talking about Voice, Treaty and Truth, we can’t just turn around and say, ‘Oh, well, those are our values but in this particular instance, we’re going to ignore the voice of Aboriginal people’. I think that’s just preposterous.”
  3. It is unacceptable that the Albanese government has been willing to violate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ‒ which states that “no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent”. It would be worse still for the Albanese Government to continue to violate the UN Declaration by continuing with its efforts to impose a nuclear dump on Barngarla country.
  4. Barngarla Traditional Owners were excluded from a so-called ‘community ballot’ by the Coalition government. An independent, professional ballot of Barngarla Traditional Owners found no support whatsoever for the proposed dump. Jason Bilney, Chair of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, said: “It is a simple truth that had we, as the First People for the area, been included in the Kimba community ballot rather than unfairly denied the right to vote, then the community ballot would never have returned a yes vote.”
  5. Federal parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights unanimously concluded in an April 2020 report that the Coalition government was violating the human rights of Barngarla people. Even the Coalition members of the committee endorsed the report. It is unacceptable that the Albanese Government has continued the previous government’s violation of the human rights of Barngarla Traditional Owners, and it would be worse still if the Albanese Government continues to violate their rights by continuing with the Kimba nuclear dump proposal.
  6. Dr. Susan Close, now Deputy Premier of South Australia, said in 2019 that it was a “dreadful process” from start to finish that led to the nomination of the Kimba dump site and that SA Labor is “utterly opposed” to the “appalling process” which led to Kimba being targeted.
  7. Dr. Close noted in 2020 statement, titled ‘Kimba site selection process flawed, waste dump plans must be scrapped’, that SA Labor “has committed to traditional owners having a right of veto over any nuclear waste sites, yet the federal government has shown no respect to the local Aboriginal people.”
  8. After the July 18 Federal Court decision, Dr. Close called for the Albanese Government to abandon the Kimba dump proposal once and for all and to find a site with which has community acceptance. Dr Close noted that the previous Coalition government had botched the process, exaggerating the urgency for the facility and excluding the Indigenous community.
  9. At its state Convention in October 2022, SA Labor adopted a position that: “SA Labor Caucus supports a veto right for the Barngarla community on this facility. This aligns with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stating that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous Peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. More recently Premier Peter Malinauskas reaffirmed that the South Australian Labor party strongly opposes this facility and still supports the right of the Barngarla people to have veto powers.”

Please call on the federal Albanese Government to:

  1. Immediately announce that the plan to impose a nuclear waste dump on Barngarla country will not proceed.
  2. Adopt SA Labor’s policy giving traditional owners a right of veto over proposed nuclear waste dump sites. That would give traditional owners across the country some confidence that their voices will be heard as the Government progresses plans to store and dispose of waste arising from nuclear-powered submarines.
  3. Review and amend the undemocratic, racist National Radioactive Waste Management Act, an earlier and similar version of which was described by Labor MPs as “extreme”, “arrogant”, “draconian”, “sorry”, “sordid”, and “profoundly shameful”.
  4. Hold the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency accountable for its racist, incompetent mismanagement of this issue.
  5. Establish a national Independent Commission of Inquiry to map out a path forward for the responsible management of radioactive waste in Australia.

Yours sincerely,

NAME:

ADDRESS:

EMAIL ADDRESS:

Stop the nuclear dump on Barngarla Country

Please write to federal Labor politicians calling on them to respect the rights of Barngarla Traditional Owners, to respect the Federal Court’s July 18 decision and to abandon the plan to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Barngarla country in SA.

  1. Send individual emails (not a group email).
  2. The politicians’ names and details ‒ including email addresses ‒ are reproduced below.
  3. Sample text is copied below. You can use this text but feel free to edit and to add your own thoughts.
  4. Make sure to add your name, address and email address at the bottom of your emails.
  5. If you have time, please also send some emails to SA Labor politicians: relevant info is posted at https://nuclear.foe.org.au/kimba-sa/

Thanks!

Friends of the Earth Nuclear-Free Campaign

https://nuclear.foe.org.au/waste

————

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

Please use the online contact form at:

https://www.pm.gov.au/contact-your-pm

————

Linda.Burney.MP@aph.gov.au

Linda Burney MP

Minister for Indigenous Australians

————

senator.wong@aph.gov.au

Senator Penny Wong

Senator for South Australia

Leader of the Government in the Senate

Minister for Foreign Affairs

————

senator.grogan@aph.gov.au

Senator Karen Grogan

Chair of Environment and Communications Legislation Committee

Deputy Chair of Environment and Communications References Committee

————

Mark.Butler.MP@aph.gov.au, minister.butler@health.gov.au

Mark Butler MP

Minister for Health and Aged Care

Deputy Leader of the House

————

trade.minister@dfat.gov.au, senator.farrell@aph.gov.au

Senator Don Farrell

Special Minister of State

Minister for Trade and Tourism

Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

————

Madeleine.King.MP@aph.gov.au

Madeleine King MP

Minister for Resources

Minister for Northern Australia

————

Minister.husic@industry.gov.au

Ed Husic MP

Minister for Industry and Science

===========================================

Politician’s name / position / email address

Date

Dear

The Federal Court on July 18 quashed the declaration of a proposed national nuclear waste dump site near Kimba in SA, citing ‘pre-judgement’ and ‘apprehended bias’. The court case was initiated by Barngarla Traditional Owners, who are unanimous in their opposition to the proposed nuclear dump.

Please reassure me that the federal Labor Albanese Government will respect the rights of Barngarla Traditional Owners, respect the Federal Court’s decision, and abandon the plan to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Barngarla country in SA.

The Albanese Government could appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court. These are some of the reasons why that would be unfair and unwise:

  1. It is an unacceptable that the Albanese government has been attempting to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Barngarla country despite the unanimous opposition of the Traditional Owners.
  2. It is deeply hypocritical that the Albanese government has been championing a Voice to Parliament at the same time as it ignores and overrides the unanimous voice of the Barngarla Traditional Owners. Jayne Stinson, Labor Chair of the SA Parliament’s Environment, Resources and Development Committee, said: “In this day and age, when we’re talking about Voice, Treaty and Truth, we can’t just turn around and say, ‘Oh, well, those are our values but in this particular instance, we’re going to ignore the voice of Aboriginal people’. I think that’s just preposterous.”
  3. It is unacceptable that the Albanese government has been willing to violate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ‒ which states that “no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent”. It would be worse still for the Albanese Government to continue to violate the UN Declaration by continuing with its efforts to impose a nuclear dump on Barngarla country.
  4. Barngarla Traditional Owners were excluded from a so-called ‘community ballot’ by the Coalition government. An independent, professional ballot of Barngarla Traditional Owners found no support whatsoever for the proposed dump. Jason Bilney, Chair of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation, said: “It is a simple truth that had we, as the First People for the area, been included in the Kimba community ballot rather than unfairly denied the right to vote, then the community ballot would never have returned a yes vote.”
  5. Federal parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights unanimously concluded in an April 2020 report that the Coalition government was violating the human rights of Barngarla people. Even the Coalition members of the committee endorsed the report. It is unacceptable that the Albanese Government has continued the previous government’s violation of the human rights of Barngarla Traditional Owners, and it would be worse still if the Albanese Government continues to violate their rights by continuing with the Kimba nuclear dump proposal.
  6. Dr. Susan Close, now Deputy Premier of South Australia, said in 2019 that it was a “dreadful process” from start to finish that led to the nomination of the Kimba dump site and that SA Labor is “utterly opposed” to the “appalling process” which led to Kimba being targeted.
  7. Dr. Close noted in 2020 statement, titled ‘Kimba site selection process flawed, waste dump plans must be scrapped’, that SA Labor “has committed to traditional owners having a right of veto over any nuclear waste sites, yet the federal government has shown no respect to the local Aboriginal people.”
  8. After the July 18 Federal Court decision, Dr. Close called for the Albanese Government to abandon the Kimba dump proposal once and for all and to find a site with which has community acceptance. Dr Close noted that the previous Coalition government had botched the process, exaggerating the urgency for the facility and excluding the Indigenous community.
  9. At its state Convention in October 2022, SA Labor adopted a position that: “SA Labor Caucus supports a veto right for the Barngarla community on this facility. This aligns with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stating that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous Peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. More recently Premier Peter Malinauskas reaffirmed that the South Australian Labor party strongly opposes this facility and still supports the right of the Barngarla people to have veto powers.”

I call on the Albanese Government to:

  1. Immediately announce that the plan to impose a nuclear waste dump on Barngarla country will not proceed.
  2. Adopt SA Labor’s policy giving traditional owners a right of veto over proposed nuclear waste dump sites. That would give traditional owners across the country some confidence that their voices will be heard as the Government progresses plans to store and dispose of waste arising from nuclear-powered submarines.
  3. Review and amend the undemocratic, racist National Radioactive Waste Management Act, an earlier and similar version of which was described by Labor MPs as “extreme”, “arrogant”, “draconian”, “sorry”, “sordid”, and “profoundly shameful”.
  4. Hold the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency accountable for its racist, incompetent mismanagement of this issue.
  5. Establish a national Independent Commission of Inquiry to map out a path forward for the responsible management of radioactive waste in Australia.

Yours sincerely,

NAME:

ADDRESS:

EMAIL ADDRESS:

Zion Lights’ nuclear nonsense

(Last updated 27 January 2024.)

Zion Lights is a British nuclear power advocate. She describes herself (immodestly) as follows: “Zion Lights is a Science Communicator who is known for her environmental advocacy work. She is founder of the climate activist group Emergency Reactor. Zion has become a world-leading speaker on clean energy and evidence-based climate action.”

Lights was sucked into pro-nuclear advocacy by narcissistic MAGA liar and climate denier Michael Shellenberger and even worked for his lunatic organisation before starting a new organisation called ‘Emergency Reactor’.

A statement by Extinction Rebellion (copied below) concludes as follows: “Zion Lights, Michael Shellenberger, the Breakthrough Institute and their associated deniers and delayers are intentionally spreading doubt about the severity of the [climate] crisis and the action needed to respond to it.”

Lights is effectively campaigning to slow the transition to low-carbon energy by promoting nuclear power, the slowest and most expensive low-carbon energy option (not to mention other problems e.g. nuclear power is the only energy source directly connected to WMD proliferation). All that can be said in Lights defence is that she may be campaigning to slow the energy transition inadvertently.

Lights has called for this Friends of the Earth (FoE) webpage to be deleted and for FoE Australia to apologise and to sack the author (Jim Green). No response from Lights to any of the substantive issues raised below. She prefers confected outrage, legal threats, and blocking people on social media and her substack such that we no longer have the option to hold her directly accountable for promulgating misinformation. For example Lights responded to one factual critique (see below) with this bullying and legal intimidation on X/Twitter: “I’m hoping that they (FoE Australia) apologise, take down the hit piece, and remove Jim from the organisation, to avoid further escalation.”

Hardly the approach of a ‘Science Communicator’!

An earlier version of the ‘scientific consensus’ section (below) was sent to Lights’ organisation ‘Emergency Reactor’ as a courtesy and the response comprised nothing other than ad hominem abuse and legal threats. Obviously FoE won’t be sending them any more courtesy emails!

If Lights or her organisation wants to respond to anything on this webpage, email the response and it will be published on this webpage, unedited. Lights has been made aware of that open-ended offer, by email and on social media.

Sections below:

  1. South Korea’s nuclear mafia
  2. Bulls, bears and ignorant nuclear propagandists
  3. Fact-checker Lights on the British nuclear power program
  4. Lights’ misinformation about the ‘scientific consensus’ in support of nuclear power
  5. A ‘Science Communicator’ tries to explain ionising radiation … and fails
  6. Response to a July 2023 article by Zion Lights
  7. Extinction Rebellion Statement on Zion Lights, Michael Shellenberger and the Breakthrough Institute

South Korea’s nuclear mafia

Zion Lights’ latest substack post is a vacuous puff-piece about South Korea’s nuclear power industry. Therefore I’ve copied below links to a few Nuclear Monitor articles about South Korea’s corrupt and dangerous nuclear industry.

Literally everything in Lights’ post could have been lifted from a nuclear industry promotional piece. Just one thing caught my eye: the three countries with the best record for building reactors relatively quickly are Japan, South Korea and China according to a table included in Lights’ post. Those three countries all have seriously corrupt nuclear industries. Correlation, causation, coincidence?

South Korea’s nuclear export ambitions

Nuclear corruption and the partial reform of South Korea’s nuclear mafia

South Korea’s corrupt and dangerous nuclear industry

Is South Korea’s nuclear industry a model for others to follow?


Bulls, bears and ignorant nuclear propagandists

This is a response to Zion Lights’ January 2024 article ‘Bulls and bears: a nuclear update’. Lights is a British nuclear power advocate who previously worked for self-confessed liar, climate denier and MAGA lunatic Michael Shellenberger. You can read more about Shellenberger here.

Lights’ comments below are prefaced with her initials and placed in quote marks and in bold, and my responses are prefaced with my initials (JG ‒ Jim Green). I haven’t responded to everything in Lights’ article, which you can read in full here.

ZL: “In a world-first, 22 nations signed up to triple nuclear energy generation by 2050 at COP28 in Dubai this year, which illustrates how strongly the tide has turned in favour of the technology. Should they follow through on these commitments, the world could enter a new era of energy abundance and growth.”

JG response:

* 22 countries signed up to the nuclear pledge, 170 chose not to.

* The goal of tripling nuclear power by 2050 is laughable. David Appleyard, editor of Nuclear Engineering International, did the math: “Now 2050 still sounds like a long way off, but to triple nuclear capacity in this time frame would require nuclear deployment to average 40 GW [gigawatts] a year over the next two and half decades. The cruel reality is that’s more than six times the rate that has been seen over the last decade.”

* The nuclear renaissance of the late-2000s was a bust due to the Fukushima disaster, catastrophic cost overruns with reactor projects, and nuclear power’s inability to compete economically with renewables. The latest renaissance is heading the same way, i.e. nowhere. Nuclear power went backwards last year. There was a net loss of 1.7 GW of capacity.

* There were just six reactor construction starts in 2023. Only one outside China. One!

* The number of operable power reactors is 407 to 413 depending on the definition of operability, well down from the 2002 peak of 438.

*Nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation has fallen to 9.2%, its lowest share in four decades and little more than half of its peak of 17.5% in 1996.

* Over the two decades 2004-2023, there were 102 power reactor startups and 104 closures worldwide: 49 startups in China with no closures; and a net decline of 51 reactors in the rest of the world.

* Despite the drop in the number of operable reactors, and the sharp drop in nuclear power’s share of electricity generation, nuclear capacity (GW) and generation (TWh) have remained stagnant for the past 20 years due to increased capacity factors and reactor uprates (360 GW capacity in 2003, 374 GW in 2022; 2505 TWh in 2003, 2487 TWh in 2022). Thus it is possible, as Lights states (citing the International Energy Agency ‒ IEA), that nuclear power generation will reach an all-time high globally by 2025. If that happens, and it may not, it will be a pyrrhic victory for the industry, and it will be increasingly difficult to sustain, because of the ageing of the global reactor fleet. In 1990, the mean age of the global power reactor fleet was 11.3 years. Now, it is nearly three times higher at 31.4 years. The mean age of reactors closed from 2018‒2022 was 43.5 years. The problem of ageing reactors is particularly acute in two of the three largest nuclear power generating countries: the US reactor fleet has a mean age of 42.1 years, and in France the mean age is 37.6 years.

* Due to the ageing of the reactor fleet, the IAEA anticipates the closure of 10 reactors (10 GW) per year from 2018 to 2050. Thus the industry needs an annual average of 10 reactor construction starts, and 10 reactor startups (grid connections), just to maintain its current output. Over the past decade (2014-23), construction starts have averaged 6.1 and reactor startups have averaged 6.7. Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd noted in 2016 that “the industry is essentially running to stand still.” In the coming years and decades, the industry will have to run faster just to stand still ‒ it will have to build more reactors than it has been just to replace ageing reactors facing permanent closure. Growth ‒ even marginal, incremental growth ‒ becomes increasingly difficult and Lights’ nonsense about tripling nuclear power is thus seen as the nonsense that it is.

* The International Energy Agency (IEA) has just released its ‘Renewables 2023’ report and it makes for a striking contrast with the nuclear industry’s malaise. Nuclear power suffered a net loss of 1.7 GW capacity in 2023, whereas renewable capacity additions amounted to a record 507 GW, almost 50% higher than 2022.

* Nuclear power accounts for a declining share of global electricity generation (currently 9.2%) whereas renewables have grown to 30.2%. The IEA expects renewables to reach 42% by 2028 thanks to a projected 3,700 GW of new capacity over the next five years in the IEA’s ‘main case’ (while the IEA’s ‘accelerated case’ envisages growth of 4,500 GW). To put those numbers in context, global nuclear power capacity is 372 GW. There is little to no chance of nuclear power regaining a 10% share of global electricity generation.

* Solar and wind combined have already surpassed nuclear power generation and the IEA notes that over the next five years, several other milestones will likely be achieved: in 2025, renewables surpass coal; also in 2025, wind surpasses nuclear; and in 2026, solar PV surpasses nuclear.

* An estimated 96% of newly installed, utility-scale solar PV and onshore wind capacity had lower generation costs than new coal and natural gas plants in 2023, the IEA states. (Wind and solar became cheaper than nuclear power about a decade ago and the gap continues to widen.)

ZL: “South Korea’s industrial growth is largely thanks to nuclear power. The country is the world’s fifth-largest producer of nuclear energy and is now undertaking a major export drive. After its success working with the UAE, South Korea has eyes on other nuclear-ready nations.”

JG response:

* Lights’ first comment is too idiotic to warrant a response.

* South Korea’s nuclear industry has been rocked by industry-wide corruption scandals (see here and here).

* Other than the 2009 contract to supply four reactors to the UAE (also mired in scandal), South Korea’s efforts to establish a nuclear export business have been entirely unsuccessful. The UAE project was years behind schedule and billions of dollars over-budget despite Lights’ claim to the contrary.

* South Korean utilities opted out of the Wylfa and Moorside projects in the UK (as did Japanese companies Hitachi and Toshiba) despite offers of billions of dollars of British taxpayer subsidies.

* The South Korean nuclear industry’s business model is to sacrifice safety in order to reduce costs. The CEO of French nuclear utility Areva likened Korea’s AP1400 reactor design to “a car without airbags and safety belts ” (Nucleonics Week, 22 April 2010). Ironically, French utilities are likely to skimp on safety features with the envisaged EPR2 design following the catastrophic cost blowouts with EPR reactors.

* Another aspect of the corrupt South Korean nuclear industry’s business model is to offer nuclear technology to countries like Saudi Arabia ‒ authoritarian states with an openly-professed interest in developing nuclear weapons and an openly-professed interest in linking the development of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

ZL: “China is building nuclear reactors faster than any other country. Over the past decade, China has added 37 nuclear reactors, reaching a total of 55. During that same period, America – which leads the world with 93 reactors – has added two reactors. China has plans to build at least 100 more reactors and currently has 19 under construction.”

JG response:

* Yes, China is building nuclear reactors faster than any other country, which just proves how sickly the global industry is. In China, there were five reactor construction starts in 2023 and just one reactor startup.

* China’s nuclear program added only 1.2 GW capacity in 2023 while wind and solar combined added 278 GW. Michael Barnard noted in CleanTechnica that allowing for capacity factors, the nuclear additions amount to about 7 terawatt-hours (TWh) of new low-carbon generation per year, while wind and solar between them will contribute about 427 TWh annually, over 60 times more than nuclear.

* Barnard commented:

“One of the things that western nuclear proponents claim is that governments have over-regulated nuclear compared to wind and solar, and China’s regulatory regime for nuclear is clearly not the USA’s or the UK’s. They claim that fears of radiation have created massive and unfair headwinds, and China has a very different balancing act on public health and public health perceptions than the west.

“They claim that environmentalists have stopped nuclear development in the west, and while there are vastly more protests in China than most westerners realize, governmental strategic programs are much less susceptible to public hostility.

“And finally, western nuclear proponents complain that NIMBYs block nuclear expansion, and public sentiment and NIMBYism is much less powerful in China with its Confucian, much more top down governance system.

“China’s central government has a 30 year track record of building massive infrastructure programs, so it’s not like it is missing any skills there. China has a nuclear weapons program, so the alignment of commercial nuclear generation with military strategic aims is in hand too. China has a strong willingness to finance strategic infrastructure with long-running state debt, so there are no headwinds there either.

“Yet China can’t scale its nuclear program at all. It peaked in 2018 with 7 reactors with a capacity of 8.2 GW. For the five years since then then it’s been averaging 2.3 GW of new nuclear capacity, and last year only added 1.2 GW …”

ZL: “Last year India brought its indigenous reactor design online at Kakrapar Atomic Power Project. India currently has 22 operable nuclear reactors, which produce around 3% of its electricity. India has ambitious plans to build more reactors – aiming to commission a new reactor every year.”

JG response:

* India has always had “ambitious plans” to build more reactors but it has never realised those ambitious plans and probably never will. Nuff said.

ZL: “Japan has changed its mind about nuclear power. After shutting down nuclear power plants following the 2011 tsunami (which caused a power plant meltdown, which didn’t harm anybody but did turn people against the form of electricity generation), in December 2023 Japan’s nuclear power regulator lifted an operational ban imposed on Tokyo Electric Power’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, and announced that other power plants would be reopened.”

JG response:

* Of the pre-Fukushima fleet of 54 power reactors in Japan, 12 are now operable, more than 20 have been permanently closed, and the fate of the rest remains in limbo. Takeo Kikkawa, president of International University of Japan, believes that a maximum of about 20 reactors will be operable by 2030.

* The claim that the Fukushima disaster “didn’t harm anybody” is a disgusting lie for which Lights should apologise. The World Health Organization estimates that for people in the most contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated increased risk for all solid cancers will be around 4% in females exposed as infants; a 6% increased risk of breast cancer for females exposed as infants; a 7% increased risk of leukaemia for males exposed as infants; and for thyroid cancer among females exposed as infants, an increased risk of up to 70% (from a 0.75% lifetime risk up to 1.25%).

* Lights’ claim that the Fukushima disaster “didn’t harm anybody” also ignores the 2000 (or more) indirect deaths.

* Lights’ claim that the Fukushima disaster “didn’t harm anybody” also assumes that no harm was inflicted on the 191,000 evacuees from the disaster. Needless to say that is a disgusting lie ‒ the suffering of Fukushima evacuees has been immense and it is ongoing.

* Lights’ claim that the Fukushima disaster “didn’t harm anybody” also ignores the harm resulting from Fukushima’s trillion-dollar hit on the Japanese economy. In a 2019 report, the Japan Center for Economic Research estimated that the total cost of the Fukushima accident, including compensation, decontamination and decommissioning, could reach ¥81 trillion (A$831 billion). Indirect costs ‒ such as replacement power for shuttered reactors, and lost tourism revenue ‒ also amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. Direct and indirect costs combined far exceed A$1 trillion (and Chernobyl was also a trillion-dollar disaster). See also Michael Barnard’s analysis, ‘Fukushima’s Final Costs Will Approach A Trillion Dollars Just For Nuclear Disaster’.

ZL: “France has long been a nuclear behemoth. In 1974, due to the oil crisis, French PM Pierre Messmer instigated a plan to build nuclear power plants en masse. There was a saying at the time: “In France, we do not have oil, but we do have ideas.” The idea was to build 52 new reactors between 1975 and 1990, with which France decarbonised its electricity grid and massively expanded their engineering and construction expertise. Now, with many of its ageing reactors in need of replacement, President Macron has announced six new reactors and begun a recruiting drive for workers to get them built – but there is currently a debate taking place regarding whether the aim should be 14 new reactors instead of six.”

JG response:

* The only current reactor construction project in France is one EPR reactor under construction at Flamanville. The current cost estimate of €19.1 billion (A$31.6 billion) is nearly six times greater than the original estimate of €3.3 billion (A$5.5 billion). (Lower cost estimates cited by EDF and others typically exclude finance costs.)

* Construction of the Flamanville EPR reactor began in Dec. 2007 and it remains incomplete over 16 years later.

* The last reactor startup in France was in the last millennium (1999).

* French President Emmanuel Macron said in a 2020 speech that without nuclear power there would be no nuclear weapons, and vice versa.

* France’s nuclear industry was in its “worst situation ever“, a former EDF director said in 2016 ‒ and the situation has worsened since then.

* Areva went technically bankrupt and was bailed out and restructured by the French government in 2017.

* EDF was lurching towards bankruptcy, with debts of €64.5 billion (A$107 billion) as of early 2023, before it was fully nationalised. In addition to its massive debts, EDF has a “colossal maintenance and investment programme to fund” as the Financial Times noted in October 2021.

* And EDF is on the hook for the dramatically escalating costs of the twin-reactor EPR plant it is building in the UK.

ZL: “The UK has announced plans to build a new large-scale nuclear power plant, which could quadruple energy supplies by 2050.  The UK generates about 15% of its electricity from nuclear energy, but most of this existing capacity will be retired by the end of the decade. Électricité de France (EDF) recently announced that they are planning to expand the lifetimes of some of these reactors. As well as going big, the UK is investing in small modular reactors (SMRs) funding six companies to advance SMR technology. These are GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy International LLC, Holtec Britain Limited, EDF, NuScale Power, Rolls Royce SMR and Westinghouse Electric Company UK Limited.”

JG response:

* The first sentence doesn’t make any sense.

* Yes, a number of ageing reactors have already been closed and others will follow in the coming years. Nuclear power accounted for over 20% of electricity production in the UK in the early 2000s and now it has fallen to below 15%.

* The last reactor startup in the UK was in the last millennium (Sizewell B in 1995).

* The only reactor construction project is the twin-reactor EPR plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. In the late 2000s, the estimated construction cost for one EPR reactor in the UK was £2 billion. The current cost estimate for two EPR reactors under construction at Hinkley Point is as much as £46 billion (A$89 billion) or £23 billion (A$44.5 billion) per reactor. That’s 11.5 times higher than the estimate in the late 2000s! This is an example of the Golden Rule of Nuclear Economics: Add a Zero to Nuclear Industry Estimates.

* EDF said Hinkley Point would be complete by 2017 but construction didn’t begin until 2018. If the reactors are ever completed, it won’t be until the 2030s.

* The UK National Audit Office estimates that taxpayer subsidies for Hinkley Point ‒ primarily in the form of a guaranteed payment of £92.50 / MWh (2012 prices), indexed for inflation, for 35 years ‒ could amount to £30 billion (A$58 billion).

* The UK has no SMRs and it is doubtful if any will ever be built despite the hype.

ZL: “The US has also changed its mind. Recent federal and state policies have recently provided support for nuclear power. In 2022, President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) created a tax credit for all existing reactors, designed to top off power plant revenues without overpaying. On a regional level, several states have chosen to keep their nuclear plants online. Congress also passed two pieces of legislation to help keep power plants running. Together, these policies have saved several reactors from closing and will keep America’s existing nuclear fleet online for another decade. The federal policies also include funding to build the next generation of SMRs. These include Bill Gates’s TerraPower, which received $80 million in federal funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) in 2020 to support the development of its Natrium nuclear reactor, and NuScale Power Corporation, an American company that is developing SMRs, with HQ in Oregon.”

JG response:

* In the US, the only current reactor construction project is the Vogtle project in Georgia (two AP1000 reactors, of which one is complete). The latest cost estimate of $34 billion is more than double the estimate when construction began – $14-15.5 billion.

* The V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (two AP1000 reactors) was abandoned in 2017 after the expenditure of around $9 billion. US nuclear giant Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy shortly after the abandonment of the South Carolina project, and its parent company Toshiba only survived by selling off its most profitable assets.

* In 2006, Westinghouse said it could build an AP1000 reactor for as little as $1.4 billion, 12 times lower than the current estimate for Vogtle. Another example of the Golden Rule of Nuclear Economics: Add a Zero to Nuclear Industry Estimates.

* The US nuclear industry is riddled with corruption.

* No SMRs have been built in the US (unless you count small reactors built decades ago ‒ and shut down decades ago). The biggest SMR news in 2023 was NuScale Power’s decision to abandon its flagship project in Idaho despite securing astronomical subsidies amounting to around US$4 billion (A$6.1 billion) from the US government. NuScale has recently sacked 154 employees and will likely go bankrupt. NuScale executives sold stock while the stock price was still high, and a class action is likely to hasten NuScale’s bankruptcy. The stock price is now less than one-fifth of its Aug. 2022 peak.

* NuScale’s most recent cost estimates were through the roof: US$9.3 billion (A$14.1 billion) for a 462 MW plant comprising six 77 MW reactors. That equates to US$20,100 (A$30,600) per kilowatt and a levelised cost of US$89 (A$135) per MWh. Without the Inflation Reduction Act subsidy of $30/MWh, the figure would be US$129 (A$196) per MWh. To put that in perspective, the Minerals Council of Australia states that SMRs won’t find a market in Australia unless they can produce power at a cost of A$60-80 / MWh.

* Lights mentions NuScale and helpfully informs us that it is headquartered in Oregon … but doesn’t think any of the above information worth noting!

* The pro-nuclear Breakthrough Institute noted in a November 2023 article that efforts to commercialise a new generation of ‘advanced’ nuclear reactors “are simply not on track” and it warned nuclear advocates not to “whistle past this graveyard”. It wrote:

“The NuScale announcement follows several other setbacks for advanced reactors. Last month, X-Energy, another promising SMR company, announced that it was canceling plans to go public. This week, it was forced to lay off about 100 staff.

“In early 2022, Oklo’s first license application was summarily rejected by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before the agency had even commenced a technical review of Oklo’s Aurora reactor.

“Meanwhile, forthcoming new cost estimates from TerraPower and XEnergy as part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Deployment Program are likely to reveal substantially higher cost estimates for the deployment of those new reactor technologies as well.”

ZL: “Sweden has jumped on the nuclear bandwagon. In 1980, Sweden voted to get rid of nuclear power, but now the country aims to build two new nuclear reactors by 2035. The plan is to have 10 new reactors by 2045, some of which may be SMRs.”

JG response:

* There is no nuclear bandwagon outside of Lights’ imagination.

* It is unlikely that any new reactors will be built in Sweden. Estimates from the state-owned Swedish energy company Vattenfall show that levelised costs will be twice as expensive as previously assumed and about three times more expensive than wind power. The estimates apply both to conventional reactors and SMRs.

ZL: “Canada has made major announcements for new large nuclear builds, SMRs and medical isotopes.”

JG response:

* Announcements are cheap, reactor construction projects are not. Talk of new reactors in Canada has been going on for many, many years without a single reactor construction start.

* No reactors are under construction in Canada and none have come online since the last millennium (Darlington-4 in 1993 ‒ five years behind schedule and billions over-budget).

* Reactor lifespan extension projects have been subject to delays and cost blowouts.

* In May 2000, Canada’s AECL completed construction of two MAPLE reactors for medical isotope production, but they never operated due to technical problems with safety significance. (As discussed elsewhere, Lights doesn’t know what nuclear medicine is.)

* Canada has no SMRs and it is doubtful if any will ever be built despite the hype.


Fact-checker Lights on the British nuclear power program

This is a response to Zion Lights’ July 2023 article titled:

Fact check: A brief history of energy politics in the UK: Who is really to blame for stalling the nuclear revival?

Lights states: “Due to years of political inaction, effective protests, over-regulation, and a lack of skilled workers, nuclear builds in the UK are slow and unambitious. … Who’s to blame? Activist groups, short-term thinking, and weak leadership. Anyone who has had the power to build a strong clean energy program, and has failed to do so.”

Political inaction? Successive governments have thrown billions at the nuclear industry, but industry has rejected those offers of taxpayer funds with the exception of EDF / Hinkley Point. (Lights only mentions Hinkley Point in passing, in a list of proposed nuclear power projects.)

Effective protests? Community groups and environment groups have only had a marginal impact ‒ they are up against a large, established industry with bipartisan political support.

A lack of skilled workers? Well, yes, that is an issue, or at least it would be an issue if nuclear companies and utilities were actually building nuclear power plants in the UK, which they aren’t with the sole exception of the 2xEPR Hinkley Point C project.

Here are some key facts and issues that Lights completely ignores.

In the late 2000s, the estimated construction cost for one EPR reactor in the UK was £2 billion. The current cost estimate for two EPR reactors under construction at Hinkley Point ‒ the only reactor construction project in the UK ‒ is £32.7 billion (A$63.5 billion). Thus the current cost estimate is over eight times greater than the initial estimate of £2 billion per reactor.

The UK National Audit Office estimates that taxpayer subsidies for Hinkley Point ‒ primarily in the form of a guaranteed payment of £92.50 / MWh (2012 prices), indexed for inflation, for 35 years ‒ could amount to £30 billion.

Those spectacular costs and cost escalations explain much more about the new build program than political inaction, protests, or the purported lack of skilled workers. In a nutshell, nuclear new build is incredibly expensive and incredibly risky … just ask Westinghouse, which declared bankruptcy as a result of its disastrous new build projects in the USA and almost bankrupted its parent company Toshiba in the process.

The delays associated with Hinkley Point have been as shocking as the cost overruns. In 2007, EDF boasted that Britons would be using electricity from an EPR reactor at Hinkley Point to cook their Christmas turkeys in 2017 – but construction of the two reactors didn’t even begin until December 2018 and December 2019, respectively.  Again, that had little or nothing to do with political inaction, protests, or the purported lack of skilled workers.

Nuclear industry lobbyist Tim Yeo said in 2017 that the UK’s nuclear power program faces “something of a crisis”. The following year, Toshiba abandoned the planned Moorside nuclear power project near Sellafield despite generous offers of government support ‒ a “crushing blow” according to Yeo. A crushing blow that had little or nothing to do with political inaction, protests, or the purported lack of skilled workers.

Then in 2019, Hitachi abandoned the planned Wylfa reactor project in Wales after the estimated cost of the twin-reactor project had risen from ¥2 trillion to ¥3 trillion (£16.5 billion). Hitachi abandoned the project despite an offer from the UK government to take a one-third equity stake in the project; to consider providing all of the required debt financing; and to consider providing a guarantee of a generous minimum payment per unit of electricity.

The UK Nuclear Free Local Authorities noted that Hitachi joined a growing list of companies and utilities backing out of the UK nuclear new-build program:

“Let’s not forget that Hitachi are not the first energy utility to come to the conclusion that new nuclear build in the UK is not a particularly viable prospect. The German utilities RWE Npower and E-on previously tried to develop the site before they sold it on Hitachi in order to protect their own vulnerable energy market share in the UK and Germany. British Gas owner Centrica pulled out of supporting Hinkley Point C, as did GDF Suez and Iberdrola at Moorside, before Toshiba almost collapsed after unwise new nuclear investments in the United States forced it to pull out of the Sellafield Moorside development just a couple of months ago.”

The UK government hopes to progress the Sizewell C project and is once again offering very generous support including taking an equity stake in the project and using a ‘regulated asset base’ model which foists financial risks onto taxpayers and could result in taxpayers paying billions for failed projects ‒ as it has in the US.

If recent experience is any guide, the government will struggle to find corporations or utilities willing to invest in Sizewell regardless of generous government support.

The same could be said for plans for SMRs (or mid-sized reactors envisaged by Rolls-Royce) ‒ it is doubtful whether private finance can be secured despite generous taxpayer subsidies.

Nuclear power is incredibly expensive, incredibly risky, and investors won’t touch it with a barge-pole.

Meanwhile, the UK government reports that renewable electricity generation reached a record share of 47.8 per cent of total generation in the first quarter of 2023, up from 5.8 per cent in the same quarter of 2010, while nuclear fell to a record low (12.5 percent) due to outages in all plants and reduced capacity (i.e. the gradual closure of the ageing reactor fleet).


Lights’ misinformation about the ‘scientific consensus’ in support of nuclear power

One of Lights’ oft-repeated claims is that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ in support of nuclear power. In the Australian context:

  • Physicist Dr Ziggy Switkowski ‒ who led the Australian government’s review of nuclear power in 2006 ‒ now says that “the window for gigawatt-scale nuclear has closed” and he says that nuclear power is no longer cheaper than renewables and the levelised cost of electricity is rapidly diverging in favour of renewables.
  • The Climate Council, comprising Australia’s leading climate scientists, states that nuclear power reactors “are not appropriate for Australia and probably never will be”.
  • Former Australian Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, a former proponent of nuclear power, now says that nuclear power is “too slow and too expensive”.
  • Robin Batterham, another former Chief Scientist, and another former proponent of nuclear power, now says that: “To reduce renewable targets in the belief that nuclear will be deployed later at scale would create a material risk of not achieving net zero, or doing so at an excessive cost.”

There are many other scientific opponents of nuclear power in Australia. And there are 190 countries in the world so the Australian experience of disparate scientific views regarding nuclear power could be multiplied by 190.

None of that is likely to stop Lights claiming that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ in support of nuclear power.

Lights refers to a 2018 IPCC report to conclude that “the scientific consensus is that we need nuclear energy to decarbonise.” In fact, the IPCC report maps out many emissions reduction scenarios (including scenarios with nuclear reducing to zero) and its ‘analysis’ of pros and cons doesn’t go any further than scattergun dot-point arguments (including referring to studies finding an increased incidence of childhood leukaemia in populations living within five kilometres of nuclear power plants, and noting that the “continued use of nuclear power poses a constant risk of [weapons] proliferation.”) In short, Lights misrepresents the IPCC report. There are strong indications that Lights — a self-styled ‘Science Communicator’ — hasn’t even read the report: she doesn’t name it, or provide a link/reference, and she misrepresents the living daylights out of the IPCC report and doesn’t seem to have the faintest idea what the report actually says.

Update: An earlier version of the above comments was sent to Lights’ organisation ‘Emergency Reactor’ as a courtesy and the following response was received: “This enail [sic] has been reported as spam and further harassment and defamation relating to Ms Lights will be escalated with the relevant authorities.” No response to the substantive issues.


A ‘Science Communicator’ tries to explain ionising radiation … and fails

Zion Lights calls herself a ‘Science Communicator’ (capitalised). However her article on the health effects of ionising radiation is laughable.

Nuclear medicine

Discussing nuclear medicine, Science Communicator Lights states: “Medical sources are the most significant human-made source of radiation, through diagnostic X-rays.” She evidently doesn’t know what nuclear medicine is (the use of radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosis, therapy or palliation) … so shouldn’t be writing about it … and shouldn’t be calling herself a ‘Science Communicator’.

Worse still, Science Communicator Lights seems to think that the beneficial uses of ionising radiation in medicine prove that low-dose radiation exposure is beneficial in general ‒ “a little radiation is good”, she states. Hopelessly and dangerously confused.

Fukushima

Science Communicator Lights states: “Radiation levels of 0.06 millisieverts a day were recorded in Fukushima city, 65km northwest of the plant, which was about 60 times higher than normal, but this amount of exposure is not harmful to human health. Sadly, due to fear of radiation, hundreds of people did die after the meltdown when they panicked during the evacuation process.”

It’s hard to believe that anyone ‒ let alone a self-styled ‘Science Communicator’ ‒ could pack so much misinformation into a few sentences. Fukushima city was well beyond the evacuation zone. Radiation doses in the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear plant were far higher than 0.06 mSv per day. The internationally-accepted limit for public doses from anthropogenic sources is 1 mSv/yr, well below the 22 mSv/yr level at Fukushima city. Most of the 160,000 evacuees were required to evacuate. The evacuation was a deadly shambles because of the lack of emergency preparedness by TEPCO and the government. The widespread panic was a rational response to the meltdowns, fires and explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Science Communicator Lights blames residents for panicking … which is a grotesque, deeply offensive sleight for which she will never apologise.

Low-level radiation exposure

Lights repeatedly claims that low-level ionising radiation exposure is harmless and suggests that doses below 100 mSv are harmless. She states that radiation levels of 0.06 millisieverts a day (22 mSv/yr) are “not harmful to human health” and that very small doses from eating bananas or brazil nuts “don’t harm anyone”. (For more on bananas, see ‘The Banana Equivalent Dose of catastrophic nuclear accidents’.) Speaking about naturally-occurring radiation from the earth or cosmic radiation, Lights states: “None of this radiation exposure harms people in any of these places.” She states that doses from 0.08‒0.18 mSv “do not pose harm to human health”.

So Science Communicator Lights believes that low-level ionising radiation exposure is harmless. But what do actual scientists have to say about the matter?

Actually, before we get to the scientists, you might want to replicate this experiment. See if you can come up with a more accurate summary than Science Communicator Lights with a simple web-search, and see if you can do so in 60 seconds or less. This is what I came up with (and it is indeed more accurate than Science Communicator Lights). From the US EPA: “Exposure to low levels of radiation encountered in the environment does not cause immediate health effects, but is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk. … Risks that are low for an individual could still result in unacceptable numbers of additional cancers in a large population over time. For example, in a population of one million people, an average one-percent increase in lifetime cancer risk for individuals could result in 10,000 additional cancers. The EPA sets regulatory limits and recommends emergency response guidelines well below 100 millisieverts (10 rem) to protect the U.S. population, including sensitive groups such as children, from increased cancer risks from accumulated radiation dose over a lifetime.”

A 2010 report by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation states that “the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates.” In other words, there is no dose below which there is no risk of radiation-induced cancer.

See here for similar statements from the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation of the US National Academy of Sciences, the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, peer-reviewed scientific journals, and others.

A recent testing of anti-science gibberish from the nuclear lobby involved their efforts to get the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to weaken radiation protection standards. The NRC sought wide-ranging scientific advice and said in its 2021 report:

“Convincing evidence has not yet demonstrated the existence of a threshold below which there would be no stochastic effects from exposure to low radiation doses. As such, the NRC’s view is that the LNT [linear no-threshold] model continues to provide a sound basis for a conservative radiation protection regulatory framework that protects both the public and occupational workers.”

The NRC further notes that “authoritative scientific advisory bodies” such as the National Academy of Sciences, National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, International Commission on Radiological Protection and the International Atomic Energy Agency “support the continued use of the LNT model.”

The 2021 NRC report further states:

“In addition to the findings of the national and international authoritative scientific advisory bodies, three Federal agencies provided comments on the petitions and supported the continued use of the LNT model as the basis for the NRC’s radiation protection program. The three agencies are the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services; and the Radiation Protection Division, Office of Air and Radiation, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Furthermore, the NRC’s Advisory Committee on the Medical Uses of Isotopes (ACMUI) recommends that the NRC continue to rely upon the LNT model.”

Conclusion

We should get our information about the health effects of ionising radiation from scientists, not from a self-styled ‘Science Communicator’ who wouldn’t know science if she fell over it and earns money from nuclear lobbying.

“For many years, I feared radiation more than cancer,” Lights says. Since she acknowledges holding irrational, incoherent views for many years, perhaps we’d best assume she may hold irrational, incoherent views now and for many years into the future.


Response to a July 2023 article by Zion Lights

In Australia, for the same investment, we can get three times more firmed renewable power (generation, not capacity) in one-third of the time compared to nuclear. The cost difference between nuclear and renewables is so vast that renewables are still cheaper even when transmission and storage are costed in.

Perhaps the comparison is more nuclear-friendly in the UK, but I strongly suspect renewables+storage+transmission is still cheaper given the obscene costs of Hinkley Point (over A$62 billion for two partially-built reactors).

So Lights is definitely campaigning to slow the transition to low-carbon energy in Australia, and very likely campaigning to slow the transition to low-carbon energy in the UK. All that can be said in her defence is that she may be doing so inadvertently.

Specifically in Light’s latest article:

* Lights’ claims about the IPCC supporting nuclear power are ignorant or dishonest, the IPCC maps out countless scenarios (including scenarios with nuclear reducing to zero) and its ‘analysis’ of pros and cons is generally reduced to dot-points.

* Lights’ claims about a “scientific consensus” in support of nuclear power are ignorant or dishonest, e.g. the Climate Council, comprising Australia’s leading climate scientists, states that nuclear power reactors “are not appropriate for Australia and probably never will be“.

* Ignores profound impacts of catastrophic accidents.

* Ignores the repeatedly-demonstrated connections between nuclear power and weapons (in the UK and elsewhere).

* Light’s ‘millions of lives saved’ meme is nonsense because it assumes nuclear displaces nothing other than coal. Lights fails to note that crucial assumption which is either a gross oversight or dishonest.

* Nonsense about warm water around nuclear plants providing a haven for sea-life is ignorant or dishonest, she surely knows that water intake pipes kill fish by the thousands. (And she should know something about Irish opposition to radioactive discharges from Sellafield.)

Case Study: Close to one million fish and 62 million fish eggs and larvae died each year when sucked into the water intake channel in Lake Ontario, which the Pickering nuclear plant uses to cool steam condensers. Fish are killed when trapped on intake screens or suffer cold water shock after leaving warmer water that is discharged into the lake. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission told Ontario Power Generation to reduce fish mortality by 80% and asked for annual public reports on fish mortality.

* Ridiculous claims about high-level nuclear waste: “spent fuel can be easily transported to another location, and even recycled”. The UK has given up on reprocessing (a polluting, multi-billion-dollar disaster) and has made near-zero progress on a deep underground repository and has wasted billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in the process. The only operating deep underground repository in the world – WIPP in the US ‒ was disastrously mismanaged and under-regulated resulting in a chemical explosion in 2014.

* The UAE project came in under budget? Either Lights is ignorant or lying. The UAE project was years behind schedule and many billions of dollars over-budget. Needless to say, Lights has nothing to say about UAE repression, proliferation and security concerns, South Korean nuclear corruption and how that effected the UAE project, or the secret and possibly illegal military side-agreement to the Korean-UAE reactor contract.

Update: Lights deleted a version of the above comments from the comments thread below her article, and failed to address any of the substantive issues.

Instead of responding to substantive issues, Lights resorted to bullying and legal intimidation, stating on X/Twitter: “I’m hoping that they (FoE Australia) apologise, take down the hit piece, and remove Jim from the organisation, to avoid further escalation.”


Extinction Rebellion Statement

Lights was sucked in to pro-nuclear advocacy by lunatic MAGA liar and climate denier Michael Shellenberger and even worked for his lunatic organisation before starting a new organisation called ‘Emergency Reactor’. Presumably she did at least some research beforehand but still thought it a good idea to work for a serial liar and climate denier. Her claims to be concerned about climate change should be treated with utmost caution. Her claims to be a ‘Science Communicator’ sit uncomfortably with her decision to work for a self-confessed liar.

Copied below is a long statement from Extinction Rebellion which concludes as follows: “Zion Lights, Michael Shellenberger, the Breakthrough Institute and their associated deniers and delayers are intentionally spreading doubt about the severity of the [climate] crisis and the action needed to respond to it.”

Extinction Rebellion Statement on Zion Lights, Michael Shellenberger and the Breakthrough Institute

September 16, 2020

extinctionrebellion.uk/2020/09/16/statement-on-zion-lights-michael-shellenberger-and-the-breakthrough-institute/

There have been a number of stories in the press in the last few weeks with criticisms about Extinction Rebellion by Zion Lights, UK director of the pro-nuclear lobby group Environmental Progress. It appears that Lights is engaged in a deliberate PR campaign to discredit Extinction Rebellion. 

For any editors who might be considering platforming Lights, we would like to make you aware of some information about the organisation she works for and her employer, Michael Shellenberger

ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS & MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER

Environmental Progress is a pro-nuclear energy lobby group. While the group itself was only established in 2016, its backers and affiliates have a long and well-documented history of denying human-caused climate change and/or attempting to delay action on the climate crisis. A quick look at groups currently promoting Zion Lights through their social media channels include climate deniers and industry lobbyists such as The Global Warming Policy Foundation and the Genetic Literacy Project (formally funded by Monsanto).* 

The founder of Environmental Progress, Michael Shellenberger, has a record of spreading misinformation around climate change and using marketing techniques to distort the narrative around climate science. He has a reputation for downplaying the severity of the climate crisis and promoting aggressive economic growth and green technocapitalist solutions.

Shellenberger appeared on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News just last week to say that the forest fires currently raging in California are due to “more people and more electrical wires that they’ve failed to maintain because we’ve focused on other things like building renewables” and we’ve been “so focused on renewables, so focused on climate change.”

In his recent book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts us All, Shellenberger argues that there are no limits to growth and that environmental problems can be solved by everyone getting richer. The book has been widely criticised by many respected scientists both for its central premise and its misunderstanding, misinterpretation and misuse of the facts. (See here and here.)

His stance on fundamental and vitally important points of scientific consensus around the climate crisis is flat out wrong. In his essay promoting his book published in June of this year on the Environmental Progress website and The Australian – ‘On behalf of environmentalists, I apologise for the climate scare’ – he claims that “climate change is not making natural disasters worse” and that “Humans are not causing a ‘sixth mass extinction”. He also argues that “fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003,” and, “The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California.” These claims contradict reports from the IPCC and misrepresent the discussion taking place in the scientific community

One science advisor with Environmental Progress, respected MIT climate expert Professor Kerry Emanuel, spoke publicly about being “very concerned” about the essay, and felt unsure whether he would remain involved with the organisation. 

The article was published in Forbes, before being pulled offline the same day for violating its code of ethics around self-promotion. 

A key tactic from the climate delayer playbook used in the essay is that of the repentant environmentalist, according to investigative journalist, Paul Thacker. After gaining credibility by aligning themselves with a section of the environmental movement, the repentant environmentalist then performs a volte face and attacks their former position. 

This tactic has also been used by Zion Lights, who first overstated her role within Extinction Rebellion (she was a member of the media team, not ‘co-lead’ as stated on the Environmental Progress website) and then denounced the movement following an apparent change of heart.

BREAKTHROUGH INSTITUTE

Shellenberger is co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute, a lobbying group masquerading as a “think tank”. The Breakthrough Institute has “a clear history as a contrarian outlet for information on climate change [which] regularly criticises environmental groups”, according to Paul Thacker. Breakthrough has also been described as a “program for hippie-punching your way to fame and fortune.” 

Shellenberger co-founded the Breakthrough Institute with Ted Nordhaus, nephew of economist, William Nordhuas. William Nordhaus features in Merchants of Doubt – Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s examination of the PR strategies used both by the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. His interventions in the 1990s helped set back essential action on climate change by decades. 

Other figures associated with Shellenberger and the Breakthrough Institute include:

  • Owen Paterson, one of the UK’s most prominent climate deniers who helped with the UK launch of the group’s Ecomodernist manifesto in 2015.
  • Matt Ridley, coal mine owner, once hereditary Conservative Peer and famous climate delayer / ‘lukewarmist’ who spoke at the UK launch event.

6 BILLION DEATHS?

In an interview for BBC’s Hard Talk last year, one of Extinction Rebellion’s co-founders, Roger Hallam, said that “6 billion people will die” from climate breakdown. The figure was understandably questioned at the time and Zion Lights and others have used this repeatedly to try to undermine Extinction Rebellion’s credibility. 

However, during his Hard Talk appearance, Roger was referring to an interview that Professor Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, printed in the Guardian. Rockström was quoted as saying that in a 4°C-warmer world, “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that… There will be a rich minority of people who survive with modern lifestyles, no doubt, but it will be a turbulent, conflict-ridden world.” Rockström is one of the world’s leading researchers on climate “tipping points” and “safe boundaries” for humanity.

After Hard Talk was broadcast, Rockström approached the Guardian for a correction. The journalist had misheard ‘8’ for ‘a’, he said and the quote was changed to, “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate eight billion people or maybe even half of that.” Even by Rockström’s own amendment, he still finds it hard to believe even half of the current population would be able to survive 4 degrees of warming. Whether the loss of life is in the order of one billion or six billion, the prospect is nonetheless horrifying.

You can find a note on the amendment at the bottom of the article.

Our agriculture and our civilisation developed in a stable world. As we move into an increasingly unstable one – with temperatures on track to rise hundreds of times faster than at any period in the last 65 million years – we are entering uncharted territory.

Our climate and our human systems – the flow of people, goods, money, and information, as well as our ability to grow food and water, and generate energy – are all interdependent. How this complex human web will respond to climate and ecological breakdown is impossible to model precisely, but we know that even minor changes in similarly complex systems can cause nonlinear – I.e. major/disproportionate – change. There is a real risk that should multiple climate/ecological shocks hit at once, entire systems could fail or be heavily disrupted, causing ‘synchronous failure’ whose devastating effects would be felt across the world. 

Our lack of scientific understanding about how and when this ‘synchronous failure’ could play out is profound and terrifying, given how rapidly we’re entering the unknown.

Nonetheless, leading scientists (including Sir David King, Kevin Anderson, Will Steffen and Aled Jones) are also warning of catastrophic consequences if we continue on our current path.

Extinction Rebellion is highlighting this risk, not to scaremonger but because leading scientists are doing so in peer-reviewed academic journals and media outlets. A group of scientists in Extinction Rebellion have now published an extensive document which has been vigorously peer reviewed. You can read it here.

Zion Lights, Michael Shellenberger, the Breakthrough Institute and their associated deniers and delayers are intentionally spreading doubt about the severity of the crisis and the action needed to respond to it. 

We hope that any editors considering offering a platform to Lights, Shellenberger or others associated with the Breakthrough Institute, will first perform journalistic due diligence and interrogate their motivations and credibility.

If you have insider knowledge about efforts to cover-up the true scale of the climate and ecological crisis, visit Truthteller.life.

*This statement has been amended to remove a line which categorised Mark Lynas under the term “climate denier/delayer” because of his association with the Breakthrough Institute, co-authoring of the Ecomodernist manifesto, and criticism of misrepresentation of the science around GMOs.

ANSTO’s never ending accidents, lies, cover-ups, bullying and intimidation

2023 Senate nuclear inquiry:

Senator Canavan asked at the May 15 hearing of the Senate nuclear inquiry: “Has there ever been a safety incident or an issue of radioactive waste at ANSTO?”

That question was taken on notice and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources responded as follows:

“ANSTO advises that it has safely managed its radioactive waste since its establishment 70 years ago. ANSTO publishes comprehensive information on its safety performance in its annual reports. Detailed information related to ANSTO’s safety record is also available on the ARPANSA website.”

Here are a couple of waste-related safety incidents that the Department chose not to inform the Committee about:

1. In early 1998, it was revealed that “airtight” spent fuel storage canisters had been infiltrated by water ‒ 90 litres in one case ‒ and a number of rods had corroded as a result. When canisters were retrieved for closer inspection, three accidents took place (2/3/98, 13/8/98, 1/2/99), all of them involving the dropping of canisters containing spent fuel. The public may never have learnt about those accidents if not for the fact that an ANSTO whistleblower told the local press. One of those accidents (1/2/99) subjected four ANSTO staff members to radiation doses of up to 500 microsieverts (half the public dose limit).

2. On March 15, 2002, an accident occurred during the cropping (cutting) of a spent fuel rod, releasing radioactivity to the spent fuel pond.

 We have no doubt that there have been other relevant incidents and accidents that should have been reported to the Senate inquiry by the Department and/or ANSTO.

A string of incidents and accidents at ANSTO in the 2010s resulted in ARPANSA requiring ANSTO to select and appoint an expert independent review team to recommend how to improve safety in Building 23 and related matters. The final report by the independent expert review team contained 85 recommendations to improve safety performance IN JUST ONE AREA OF ANSTO’S OPERATIONS. We shudder to think how many recommendations might arise from a site-wide evaluation. The independent review detailed inadequate safety standards and other alarming findings including that 20% of ANSTO Health staff had experienced bullying over a six-month period.

The accidents in the mid- to late-2010s followed a string of accidents from 2007‒2012. Indeed we doubt if there has been any length of time this century without recurring incidents, accidents and a raft of safety-related problems at ANSTO. 

Information on accidents and incidents at ANSTO from 2007 to 2012:

 

 

mike

Hi Mike, section 5 our submission to a current Senate inquiry has details on costs and cost escalations for planned overseas waste dumps, and info on the 2014 explosion in the US intermediate-level dump, etc. The submission is online at the Senate inquiry site.

Also a mountain of info on failed plans for a national dump in Australia at https://nuclear.foe.org.au/waste/

Some of the highlights / lowlights (as discussed):

– plans for a dump on defence department land in the NT were abandoned — putting it on defence department land doesn’t automatically solve community opposition, Traditional Owner opposition, opposition along transport corridors, etc

– under the Howard government, Defence Department publicly opposed plans for a dump near Woomera because of the risk of a missile strike (see articles below)

– appalling mismanagement of waste secretly trucked to Woomera Prohibited Area many years ago: https://nuclear.foe.org.au/woomera/

– no current efforts to find a disposal site for Australia’s long-lived intermediate-level waste (also destined for deep underground disposal), last half-hearted effort was the National Store project from 2001-2004, abandoned at the same time as Howard govt abandoned efforts to impose a dump for lower-level wastes near Woomera

Let me know if you want any more info

cheers, Jim

Nuclear power myth-busting Q&A

Last updated April 2022.

  1. What do scientists say about nuclear power in relation to other energy sources?
  2. Isn’t nuclear power better than coal in the short term because of immediate danger of fuelling climate change?
  3. How does nuclear power stack up against other energy sources by cost of production?
  4. Thorium reactors … aren’t they a good option?
  5. Isn’t nuclear fusion power just around the corner?
  6. Aren’t there new reactors that are fuelled by nuclear waste ‒ wouldn’t this solve the problem of radioactive waste?
  7. Isn’t it true that Finland and Sweden are about to start operating high-level nuclear waste dumps?
  8. Won’t Small Modular Reactors be safer and cheaper?
  9. Doesn’t nuclear power have zero emissions?
  10. Nuclear accidents are rare, aren’t they?
  11. Isn’t it true that Chernobyl only killed 31 people and Fukushima hasn’t killed anyone?
  12. How much water does a nuclear power plant consume?
  13. Are there vested interests in the current resurgence of arguments for nuclear power?

  1. What do scientists say about nuclear power in relation to other energy sources?

  • In January 2019, the Climate Council, comprising Australia’s leading climate scientists, issued a policy statement concluding that nuclear power plants “are not appropriate for Australia – and probably never will be”. The Climate Council statement continued: “Nuclear power stations are highly controversial, can’t be built under existing law in any Australian state or territory, are a more expensive source of power than renewable energy, and present significant challenges in terms of the storage and transport of nuclear waste, and use of water”.
  • Nuclear supporters often claim scientific support even where none exists. For example the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is said to support nuclear power on the basis of a 2018 report, but in fact the report simply maps out multiple energy/climate scenarios without endorsing any particular energy sources. In the IPCC’s low-carbon scenarios, nuclear power accounts for only a small fraction of electricity supply (even if nuclear output increases) whereas renewables do the heavy lifting. For example, in one 1.5°C scenario, nuclear power more than doubles by 2050 but only accounts for 4.2% of primary energy whereas renewables account for 60.8%. Moreover, the IPCC reports discusses serious problems with nuclear power, including its contribution to nuclear weapons proliferation, the connection between nuclear power and childhood leukemia, and nuclear power’s high costs.
  1. Isn’t nuclear power better than coal in the short term because of immediate danger of fuelling climate change?

  • Nuclear power and fossil fuels aren’t the only choices. Renewable power has doubled over the past decade and now accounts for 29% of global electricity generation while nuclear’s contribution is 10% and continues to fall.
  • The federal Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources expects 69% renewable supply to the Australian National Electricity Market by 2030. South Australia has already reached 67% renewable supply and will comfortably meet the target of 100% net renewable supply by 2030.
  • Taking into account planning and approvals, construction, and the energy payback time, it would be a quarter of a century or more before nuclear power could even begin to reduce greenhouse emissions in Australia … and then only assuming that nuclear power replaced fossil fuels. So nuclear power clearly isn’t a short-term option or a ‘bridging’ technology to ease the shift from fossil fuels to renewables.
  • On the contrary, nuclear power would slow the shift away from fossil fuels, which is why fossil-fuel funded political parties and politicians support nuclear power (e.g. the Nationals) and why organisations such as the Minerals Council of Australia support nuclear power. As Australian economist Prof. John Quiggin notes, support for nuclear power in Australia is, in practice, support for coal.
  • Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to threats which are being exacerbated by climate change. These include dwindling and warming water sources, sea-level rise, storm damage, drought, and jelly-fish swarms. Retired nuclear engineer David Lochbaum states: “You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.”
  • Nuclear power programs have provided cover for numerous covert weapons programs and an expansion of nuclear power would exacerbate the problems. Australian energy expert Dr. Mark Diesendorf states: “On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilisation in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other. Yet that is what nuclear power does.”
  • Nuclear warfare is the quickest path to climate catastrophe. Earth and paleoclimate scientist Andrew Glikson writes: “When Turco et al. (1983) and Carl Sagan(1983) warned the world about the climatic effects of a nuclear war, they pointed out that the amount of carbon stored in a large city was sufficient to release enough aerosols, smoke, soot and dust to block sunlight over large regions, leading to a widespread failure of crops and extensive starvation. The current nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia could potentially inject 150 teragrams of soot from fires ignited by nuclear explosions into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, lasting for a period of 10 years or longer, followed by a period of intense radioactive radiation over large areas.”
  1. How does nuclear power stack up against other energy sources by cost of production?

  • Nuclear power is far more expensive than other energy sources. Since 2010, the cost of wind and solar PV has decreased by 70‒90% while nuclear costs have increased 33%.
  • Lazard investment firm provides these figures in its October 2021 report on ‘levelised costs of electricity’:

            Nuclear                                   US$131‒204 (A$186‒289)

            Wind ‒ onshore                       US$26‒50

            Solar PV ‒ utility scale             US$28‒41

  • In its 2021 GenCost report, CSIRO provides these 2030 cost estimates:

            Nuclear (small modular): A$128‒322 / MWh

            90% wind and solar PV with storage and transmission costs: A$55‒80 / MWh

  • The latest estimates for all reactors under construction in western Europe and the U.S. range from A$17.6 billion to A$30.6 billion per reactor and have been subject to spectacular cost overruns amounting to A$10 billion or more. A twin-reactor project in South Carolina was abandoned after the expenditure of A$12 billion.
  1. Thorium reactors … aren’t they a good option?

  • There are no fundamental differences between thorium and uranium: thorium reactors produce nuclear waste, and they are vulnerable to catastrophic accidents, and they can be (and have been) used to produce explosive material for nuclear weapons.
  • Thorium reactor technology is not commercially available or viable. Dr Peter Karamaskos states: “Without exception, [thorium reactors] have never been commercially viable, nor do any of the intended new designs even remotely seem to be viable. Like all nuclear power production they rely on extensive taxpayer subsidies; the only difference is that with thorium and other breeder reactors these are of an order of magnitude greater, which is why no government has ever continued their funding.”
  1. Isn’t nuclear fusion power just around the corner?

  • At best, fusion is decades away and most likely it will forever remain decades away. Two articles in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Dr. Daniel Jassby ‒ a fusion scientist ‒ comprehensively debunk all of the false claims made by fusion enthusiasts.
  1. Aren’t there new reactors that are fuelled by nuclear waste ‒ wouldn’t this solve the problem of radioactive waste?

  • “Advanced” reactors are not advanced: they are not safer and in many cases are more dangerous and with even greater weapons potential.
  • Theoretically, these reactors would reduce nuclear waste streams but in practice, fancy concepts such as molten salt reactors and sodium-cooled fast reactors “will actually exacerbate spent fuel storage and disposal issues” according to Dr. Allison Macfarlane, a former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • Likewise, ‘integral fast reactors’ coupled with ‘pyroprocessing’ could reduce waste streams in theory … but in practice the opposite has occurred. Commenting on a R&D program in the U.S., Dr. Edwin Lyman notes that “Pyroprocessing has taken one potentially difficult form of nuclear waste and converted it into multiple challenging forms of nuclear waste. DOE [Department of Energy] has spent hundreds of millions of dollars only to magnify, rather than simplify, the waste problem.” See also Dr. Lyman’s important 2021 report, ‘Advanced” Isn’t Always Better: Assessing the Safety, Security, and Environmental Impacts of Non-Light-Water Nuclear Reactors’.
  1. Isn’t it true that Finland and Sweden are about to start operating high-level nuclear waste dumps?

  • Finland and Sweden have been working on repositories for high-level nuclear waste for decades ‒ their plans are many years behind schedule and operation has yet to begin. They haven’t demonstrated safe disposal of high-level nuclear waste for a single year let alone the 300,000 years that it takes for high-level nuclear waste to decay to the level of radioactivity of the original uranium ore.
  • Other countries operating nuclear power plants ‒ including the US, the UK, Japan, South Korea, Germany, etc. ‒ have not even established a site for a high-level nuclear waste repository, let alone commenced construction or operation. To give one example of a protracted, expensive and failed attempt to establish a high-level nuclear waste repository, plans for a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada were abandoned in 2009. Over 20 years of work was put into the repository plan and A$12 billion was wasted on the failed project.
  • A January 2019 report details the difficulties with high-level nuclear waste management in seven countries (Belgium, France, Japan, Sweden, Finland, the UK and the US) and serves as a useful overview of the serious problems that Australia has avoided.
  • No operating deep underground repository for high-level nuclear waste exists, but there is one deep underground repository for long lived intermediate-level nuclear waste − the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in the US state of New Mexico. In 2014, a chemical explosion ruptured one of the barrels stored underground at WIPP. This was followed by a failure of the filtration system meant to ensure that radiation did not reach the outside environment. Twenty-two workers were exposed to low-level radiation. WIPP was closed for three years. A deeply troubling aspect of the WIPP problems is that complacency and cost-cutting set in within the first decade of operation of the repository.
  1. Won’t Small Modular Reactors be safer and cheaper?

  • Small modular reactors (SMRs), if they existed, would be just as accident-prone as large reactors. Proposals to situate SMRs underground pose unique safety threats from flooding and accessibility. They would still produce long-lived radioactive waste and be useful for weapons production.
  • Only two SMRs are said to exist ‒ one in Russia and one in China ‒ but neither meets the ‘modular’ part of the definition: serial factor production of reactor components (or ‘modules’).
  • Electricity from SMRs is expected to be more expensive than that from large, conventional nuclear reactors. There is no current market for SMRs and companies are refusing to make the huge investments required because of the high risks.
  • Most of the handful of SMRs under construction are over-budget and behind schedule; there are disturbing connections between SMRs, weapons proliferation and militarism more generally; and about half of the SMRs under construction are intended to be used to facilitate the exploitation of fossil fuel reserves (in the Arctic, the South China Sea and elsewhere).
  1. Doesn’t nuclear power have zero emissions?

  • A 2009 paper prepared for the Australian Uranium Association estimated that the nuclear power life cycle generates between 10‒103 grams of CO2 equivalent per kWh, which is far lower than fossil fuels ‒ but as uranium ore grades decline emissions would increase to as much as 248 gCO2e/kWh. As well as emissions from mining and milling uranium ore there are emissions associated with the transport and processing of fuel.
  1. Nuclear accidents are rare, aren’t they?

  • There have been over 200 nuclear power accidents.
  • Nuclear theft and smuggling are serious, unresolved problems. As of 31 December 2018, an International Atomic Energy Agency database contained a total of 3,497 confirmed incidents reported by participating States since 1993, of which 285 incidents involved a confirmed or likely act of trafficking or malicious use, and for an additional 965 incidents there was insufficient information to determine if it was related to trafficking or malicious use.
  • There have been an alarming number of deliberate attacks on nuclear plants. Examples include Israel’s destruction of a research reactor in Iraq in 1981; the United States’ destruction of two smaller research reactors in Iraq in 1991; attempted military strikes by Iraq and Iran on each other’s nuclear facilities during the 1980‒88 war; Iraq’s attempted missile strikes on Israel’s nuclear facilities in 1991; and Israel’s bombing of a suspected nuclear plant in Syria in 2007.
  1. Isn’t it true that Chernobyl only killed 31 people and Fukushima hasn’t killed anyone?

  • United Nations’ reports in 2005/06 estimated around 9,000 deaths among those people most heavily exposed to radioactive fallout from Chernobyl and populations exposed to lower doses in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The estimated death toll rises further when populations beyond those three countries are included. For example, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer estimates 16,000 deaths across Europe. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that there will be 27,000‒108,000 excess cancers and 12,000‒57,000 excess cancer deaths due to exposure of radiation from Chernobyl.
  • In a study of the health impacts of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan (multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns, fires and explosions), the World Health Organisation stated that for people in the most contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated increased risk for all solid cancers will be around 4% in females exposed as infants; a 6% increased risk of breast cancer for females exposed as infants; a 7% increased risk of leukaemia for males exposed as infants; and for thyroid cancer among females exposed as infants, an increased risk of up to 70% (from a 0.75% lifetime risk up to 1.25%).
  • Radiation biologist Ian Fairlie estimates around 5,000 fatal cancer deaths resulting from exposure to radioactive Fukushima fallout. In addition, there is no dispute that at least 2,000 people died due to the botched evacuation of Fukushima and the mistreatment of evacuees over the following years.
  1. How much water does a nuclear power plant consume?

  • Nuclear requires water in the mining and production of uranium fuel, generation of electricity and cooling at nuclear reactors, and for the management of wastes.
  • Reactors are generally situated near lakes, rivers or the ocean to meet cooling water requirements. There are two types of cooling systems used for nuclear power ‒ either ‘once-through’ or recirculating. With once-through systems, warmer water is discharged back into the environment, often having a significant impact on the local ecology.
  • A single nuclear power reactor operating for a single day typically consumes 36‒65 million litres of water. A 2006 paper by the Commonwealth Department of Parliamentary Services states: “Per megawatt existing nuclear power stations use and consume more water than power stations using other fuel sources. Depending on the cooling technology utilised, the water requirements for a nuclear power station can vary between 20 to 83 per cent more than for other power stations.”
  • By contrast, the REN21 ‘Renewables 2015: Global Status Report’ states: “Although renewable energy systems are also vulnerable to climate change, they have unique qualities that make them suitable both for reinforcing the resilience of the wider energy infrastructure and for ensuring the provision of energy services under changing climatic conditions. System modularity, distributed deployment, and local availability and diversity of fuel sources − central components of energy system resilience − are key characteristics of most renewable energy systems.”
  1. Are there vested interests in the current resurgence of arguments for nuclear power?

  • Yes, corporations with vested interests in nuclear power and uranium routinely promote dishonest arguments in support of nuclear power. For example, the Minerals Council of Australia promotes ‘clean nuclear’ and ‘clean coal’.
  • In addition, right-wing ideologues promote nuclear power as part of the ‘culture wars’ and they hope that nuclear promotion will divide the Labor Party and the environment movement. Those efforts have been unsuccessful and self-defeating ‒ the only splits that have emerged in recent years are within the Coalition parties, with the SA, NSW and Tasmanian Liberal parties and the Queensland branch of the Liberal-National Party opposing nuclear power and calling for more support for the expansion of renewable energy sources. At the federal level, there is bipartisan support for Howard-era legislation banning nuclear power in Australia.
  • Lastly, beware of pro-nuclear ‘greenwashing’ ‒ corporate-funded fake environmentalism. An Australian example was the ‘Bright New World‘ group which accepted secret corporate donations. Another example is the fake ‘Australian Greens for Nuclear Energy‘ group.