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2006 08 18, UMPNER CK_submission

2006 08 18, UMPNER CK_submission

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Published by Colin Kline

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Categories:Types, Letters
Published by: Colin Kline on Nov 20, 2010
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Page: 1/4146037005.doc11 August 2006
This paper is a submission from a private individual to
, due date =
18 August 2006
.The content of this paper is endorsed for public distribution, and is not confidential.
Colin KLINE, RMB – N677, Ballarat, Vic, 3352;elkline@vic.chariot.net.au
B.Sc (Physics & Electronics); Dip Electrical Engineering; TTTC; Graduate Inst. Engineers Aust; Member Inst Elec & Elt Engineers.27 Years lecturer in Tertiary Engineering; Consulting roles in industry; 2 Tours of duty at Lucas Heights, Research Division.Currently retired, but involved in elective consultancies.
The author of this submission cannot pretend to have authoritative expertise in all areas of the(comprehensive) UMPNER Terms of Reference, as published on-line. Hence appendix01 is a spreadsheetchecklist of those items that this author felt qualified to comment or advise upon. Only those items ticked arediscussed. Some unavoidable overlap occurs because of the broad terms of reference.The body of this submission lies in the 5 following pages. The remaining 34 pages are annexes of “electronichard-copy” of the content of web-URLs, cited in the body, but sometimes difficult to locate on the web.
The key issues that this submission addresses are straightforward for they invoke no new technologies:
Australia is admirably placed, out of all nations, to technically, geographically and competentlyquarantine nuclear waste(s); Australian SYNROC technology offers an excellent solution.
Australia is admirably placed to demonstrate technical vision and competence in reducing the ‘threatof weapons proliferation’ inevitably arising out of exporting Uranium. The technology reviewed for this topic (viz, export Aluminium as energy, not Uranium as energy) would provide Australia withimmense dollar profits, and considerable “moral standing” on the global stage.
Australia has NO intrinsic advantage in being able to deliver objective assessments of nuclear energyadequacy. The common political risks involved in nuclear policy making are universal – but thesehave nearly always implemented self-contradictory measures of the value of trade-offs.
An additional included topic is admittedly not in the current mainstream of technologies (i.e., globalcooling by IR filters in space), but could indeed be key to solving a crucial problem – that of planetaryheating (i.e. Greenhouse Effect) - by direct cooling of the planet. Such a proposal would requireinternational cooperation and support.
Page: 2/4146037005.doc11 August 2006
It is frequently asserted, in some circles, that: “…
there are no adequate technologies in place to safely quarantineradioactive waste
...” This claim is provably uninformed, and inaccurate. Safe quarantine technology IS well known andavailable to us. Alas, this erroneous assertion is even published, unquestioned, in a draft paper by Engineers Australia (akaThe Institution of Engineers Australia). 
One should consult better information at:
These above links report on Australian SYNROC technology, invented 25 years ago by
, atANU. This process can store nuclear waste in a relatively small mass, buried deep in geologically stable rocks, for eons.This technology has already been used by the US & Russia in de-weaponising Plutonium warheads, and recently a largecontract has been sold for binding nuclear waste at Sellafield (UK).The best implementation of this idea would be to locate a small SYNROC plant set beside every reactor, which wouldstabilise waste into a solid & unleachable
chemically bound ceramic matrix
(not a mixture), whose
lifetime is longerthan any known radionuclide
.A naïve objection to SYNROC has been:
 How could anyone be sure of this estimated lifetime?
” Answer: Engineersregularly test laboratory samples for a statistically short duration, and then extrapolate to longer durations. That’s why bridges rarely fall down.Another objection is:
 But SYNROC still emits radiation – therefore it’s still dangerous
”. Answer: The ‘half-thickness’shielding for 
rays (the most penetrating) is 50mm for concrete, and 83mm for earth, a very easy construction goal. See:
So, a 10metre thick earth shield will reduce
rays by afactor of 
, but if buried under a desert cap of 100metres, any radiation from these buried blocks is reduced to a levelalmost infinitely below background cosmic radiation. Australia’s deserts fortunately offer geological structures that aresuperbly stable for this purpose. To aim for a zero radiation target (as touted by Friends of the Earth) is impossible, givenexisting background cosmic radiation. Even sawn & milled wood has a measurable radiation rate – yet no one demands thatall wood products be banned.Yet another concern is: “
 How can one safely transport 
nuclear waste
from a reactor over roads/sea to a SYNROC  plant?
Answer: Don’t. Maintain an adequately sized SYNROC plant intimately proximate to every reactor, andthen nuclear waste will never have to be transported anywhere through an open environment.Another question met is: “
 How can one safely transport refined 
nuclear fuel 
to a reactor?
” Answer: Don’t. Placethe reactor(s) close to Uranium mine(s) to minimise transport of Uranium. Reactor(s) established near to Uraniumdeposits, and far from urban centres, will also lower NIMBY fears in the populace. Reticulation of reactor energy toregional steaming electricity generators would use the below discussed mechanism of “Aluminium as energy.” Inaddition, there already exists a fairly substantial High Voltage electricity power network around Australia.Underground tunnels through stable geological strata would also minimize risk of Uranium contamination in theopen environment. Though most Australian Uranium Mines are open-cut, it would require little cost to convert themto fully sealed mines, which could perhaps use automatic, robotic, or telematic mining machinery.
There is proper concern about exported Uranium ‘proliferating’ into a weapons program. Solution? Don’t ship anyUranium at all, instead ship the energy it represents.The idea is to use reactor generated electricity to smelt Aluminium ingots as floating barges, then one tugboat cantow vast amounts of Aluminium fuel to anywhere in the world. Aluminium is then burnt as Thermite
which createsheat for steaming electricity generators, with no CO
generation whatsoever.Australia then keeps the used Uranium fuel, and safely processes this via the excellent SYNROC process. Instead of exporting Uranium metal, one now exports Aluminium metal. Australia has a substantial world percentage of both ores.
Page: 3/4146037005.doc11 August 2006
This proposal would advance Australia as an environmental visionary to the world, and demonstrate a workableinternational nuclear safety policy. To dissuade power reactors being converted into weapons grade nuclear forges,Australia could simply say:
 Dismantle your power reactors or we ship no Aluminium fuel 
!”However, because of the short half-life of medicinal radio-isotopes, and long transportation times, one must make theconcession that small isotope reactors have to be allowed in every nation, for the creation of diagnostic radio-tracers. Not only does “Aluminiumisation” – if such a ghastly word is ever to be coined – substantially cancel weapon
concerns, it also solves the concern of any
from transporting Uranium ore (or worse,reactor fuel element rods, both new & used) over open environments.It is not infeasible to imagine that all Uranium processing – from mining to nuclear fuel to electrical energy toAluminium energy to SYNROC waste to waste archival – could be conducted deep underground in Australia’s verystable geological strata. Radon gas can be captured underground by engineered air filters, and solidified incarbonates then SYNROC. Only clean Aluminium and electricity need appear in the open environment.There is a minor concern about the natural fast burn rate of Aluminium as energy. However, a probable solution isthat the manufactured Aluminium briquettes can be “doped” to slow their burn rate to a desirable figure. Or elseconvert the Aluminium into even smaller briquettes, and then coat each small briquette with a fusion retardant. Or chop spools of Aluminium rod into short cylinders, and fire these (with compressed gas) into the furnace at anappropriate rate.There is also no logical difficulty in diverting a small fraction of an almost infinite supply of a nuclear generatedelectricity supply into vast desalination plants for a water-hungry Australia – indeed the world.If water has to be shipped to isolated water reactors (but one hopes that instead much safer gas reactors will be used),ocean water can be flown to reactor sites via fire-fighting air-tankers, and desalinated by reactor electricity. For example, a Boeing 747 Fire Truck carries 24,000(US) gallons. In addition, a fleet of such ‘Flying Fire Trucks’ can be rotated around the world to fight fires in each hemisphere, as needed in a fire season. Costs could be shared byeach participating nation. As another example, a Martin-Mars air-tanker can pick up 7200(US) gallons in 15minutes,without landing.
The most common objection to (any) nuclear technology is “...
nuclear energy is more expensive than conventional or alternative power sources
...” But
, [School of Nuclear Engineering, UNSW] has published favourablecostings of nuclear power, see:
Most costings have not been so precise, and have used inconsistent units, sometimes from unattributed sources, oftenwithout specifying what is, or not, included in the costing. See ANNEXE01. This is shoddy lobbying.However, if it is rare for figures to be given for CO
over a nuclear life-cycle, it is obtusely omitted by proponents of “sustainable” energy technologies. These sustainable technologies always carry added costs (dollar and CO
) due to aneed for necessary
base-load generation plant
, because wind and sun supply are not continuous 24*7*365. Energydemand however IS unavoidably 24*7*365, particularly for essential services. Note that wind energy is intrinsicallyvariable in density; and solar energy is weakest in average supply, when energy is needed most, winter. There isconjecture that geothermal “heat banks” could provide the storage mechanism to solve this high energy variability. Thisadditional facility would have to be properly costed.Geoff STRONG, senior staff writer of the Melbourne Age, has recently written a powerful article about theunviability of wind-energy as a sole solution to climate change. See:
 Nuclear plants typically have the highest
capacity factor
of any generating source with capacity factors of about 90 percent. Fossil fuelled plants have lower capacity factors; coal typically has around a 70 percent capacity factor,natural gas plants of different types can vary from 14 percent to 50 percent capacity factors. Many renewables havelow capacity factors. Wind and solar generation typically average around 15 to 30 percent capacity factors.

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