Letter to the Nuclear Energy Senate Inquiry
16th September, 2019
Standing Committee on Environment and Energy
PO Box 6021
Canberra ACT 2600
By Email: Environment.Reps@aph.gov.au
Re: Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia
Dear Committee Secretariat,
Energy 360 Pty Ltd welcomes the opportunity to submit to the “Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia”. The concept of the circular economy underpins Energy360’s technology. Australia has vast, untapped bio-resources to support the circular economy. It is on the basis of these renewable resources that Energy360 rejects the proposal that Australia should adopt Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNRs) – for any purpose.
Following the Terms of Reference, our reasons for rejecting the proposal are as follows:
- Waste management, transport and storage
The majority of the waste from a nuclear facility is generated by the fuel cells. The fuel cells are highly radioactive and have a half-life of thousands of years. The storage methods are complex and seem unlikely to last the required thousands of years to prevent contamination. The production of radioactive material occurs during mining of the uranium ore and also throughout the life of the reactor. Although low-radiation at this stage, the mere presence provide opportunities for exposure to and harm to lifeforms as well as the planet.
- Health and safety
As a qualified accountant rather than a doctor, I quote from the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States of America. (https://www.epa.gov/radiation/radiation-health-effects)
“Exposure to very high levels of radiation, such as being close to an atomic blast, can cause acute health effects such as skin burns and acute radiation syndrome (“radiation sickness”). It can also result in long-term health effects such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.”
From personal experience I know that these sicknesses are debilitating, tragic, painful and are likely to shorten an individual’s life. They are also extremely expensive to treat in the medical system.
- Environmental impacts
The environmental impacts of nuclear waste are vast. The containment and disposal solutions for the highly radioactive spent fuel cells from nuclear power plants are still being developed, at vast cost by governments including the UK, France, Russia and Japan. (world-nuclear.org) Currently the fuel cells are stored in water baths and then may be stored geologically. The half-life of these fuel cells is thousands of years – the legacy for future generations is an enormous burden. Given there are renewable energy options available whose parts are not radioactive, surely as a nation we have an obligation to future generations to investigate without restraint, all energy generation options that have a lesser impact on our environment.
- Energy affordability and reliability
The security and technology requirements for the construction and provisions for the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant, although reasonably cheap to run, make the whole-of-life economics similar to that of other dispatchable energy generation (world-nuclear.org). Energy provided by a nuclear power plant therefore is not more affordable on a $/MW basis. With the continued advancements in solar and bioenergy technology in particular, the $/MW of these renewable energy solutions is already the cheapest source of energy available today.
With regards reliability, although nuclear technology is dispatchable, the reliability issues for Australia are predominately governed by the insufficient voltage capacity of the currently installed poles and wires. Investment in this element of the energy grid would provide greater reliability for the transmission options for our new renewable energy generation assets.
In addition, the government should be encouraged to support Australia’s world leading, distributed energy technology and innovative battery solutions. These technologies will enable the instant and effective use of Australia’s renewable energy assets throughout demand peaks and troughs and provide us with a new export product that is difficult to duplicate given the extent of our renewable energy solutions.
- Economic feasibility
Please see d above.
- Workforce capability
As nuclear energy has not been installed in Australia we would rely upon project management, engineering, construction and operational skills from foreign countries. Sovereign risk to our energy supplies needs to be carefully assessed and weighted against the current experience Australia can offer through its varied energy generation capability which is already embedded within our experienced companies and their people.
- Security implications
With the increase of terrorism and the impact of devastating weather conditions caused by climate change, the security risks to a nuclear plant would be vast and many of these risks would be considered catastrophic to the nation as a whole. Some of these risks are demonstrated by the ongoing exclusion zones around Fukushima in Japan at 371 kms2 (https://medium.com/social-innovation-japan/fukushimas-nuclear-exclusion-zone-7-years-on-5b1998a1d560) and the desolate, unhabitable area near Chernobyl in Russia.
Many thousands of people have been displaced in these two areas and the land is untenable. With Australia exporting more than 65% of its agricultural produce (The Conversation, July 2017), it is imperative that we maintain the reputation for the production of “clean and green” agricultural produce for our export markets.
- National consensus
Energy360 has not been provided with any evidence to support a national consensus on nuclear energy. Energy360 can however provide examples of consensus for renewable energy technologies, including bioenergy.
MSM Milling – “Biomass heats up”, https://arena.gov.au/blog/biomass-starts-to-heat-up-down-under/ The emergence of an Australian biomass-powered operation has not gone unnoticed. Mac Smith says he is regularly approached by businesses interested in embracing bioenergy, or even to supply waste products that could fuel the boiler.
This government should not go down the outdated, potentially dangerous nuclear energy path when we have safe, renewable energy options which will benefit the community on multiple levels. Political leadership with a forward thinking perspective and a strong understanding of Australia’s renewable energy capabilities will provide the country with clean and reliable energy for now and for future generations.
Samantha Lamond. CPA.
Chief Executive Officer
Energy 360 Pty Ltd
“Power up your Waste”