Kyoto vs GNEP
- by/par Debra Cathcart
- Published / Édité 09/1/2007
Montreal interior designer by day,Â poet and author by night.
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Some environmental critics are calling membership in the "GNEP" a smokescreen for avoidance of signing on to the Kyoto protocol. The questionable motives certainly seem to point that way, and Canada and Australia, invitees to the mid-September meetings in Vienna, should be wary. Both nations have alot to lose and should weigh their options carefully. In Canada, the export of uranium could be compromised, as well as the sale of Candu reactors. Australia fears becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste...
From " Nuclearfreeaustralia.org"
In a trip to North America in May 2006, the Prime Minister had discussions with US President George Bush about the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). He was also briefed by the US Energy Secretary, Samual Bodman.
GNEP involves a small number of “supplier” nations enriching uranium, leasing the nuclear fuel to other nations eager to develop nuclear power and taking back the spent fuel for reprocessing and final disposal. GNEP advocates argue that yet-to-be developed reprocessing technology will prevent the reprocessed fuel being used for nuclear weapons: http://www.gnep.energy.gov/
The USA is considering only a small number of countries for the GNEP 'club': Russia, Japan, China, UK and France. However, on 17 August 2006, the assistant secretary for nuclear power at the US Department of Energy, Dennis Spurgeon, said Australia and Canada were likely to be given special consideration because they would play a pivotal role in a new nuclear suppliers club the US is trying to establish.
Developing countries would build smaller scale nuclear power plants, about 5-10% of the average size of a nuclear power plant in developed countries today (1,000 MWe), ‘rent’ the nuclear fuel and then return the spent fuel to the nuclear fuel supplying nations (the GNEP club). The supply agreements would require a commitment from the fuel recipient countries that they would not seek to develop domestic nuclear fuel production capabilities (ie enrichment and reprocessing plants).
GNEP nations would then reprocess the fuel, using modified reprocessing technology, yet to be developed. Modified reprocessing would differ from current reprocessing in that plutonium would not be separated, but would remain mixed with uranium and highly radioactive fission products, arguably making it unsuitable for use in nuclear weapons. (Nuclear weapons require pure, separated plutonium). The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) submission to UMPNER, promotes the non-proliferation benefits of this yet to be developed technology. http://www.dpmc.gov.au/umpner/submissions.cfm
The remaining high level waste would be transmuted into less long-lived waste. Currently high level waste remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years, but with the promised technology, waste would need to be isolated for only 300-500 years. According to ASNO, however, about 1% of the total fission products remaining after GNEP reprocessing would remain unchanged, such as technetium-99 and iodine-129. These isotopes would therefore need to be dealt with according to current high level waste timeframes (10,000+ yrs). According to ASNO, deep geologic disposal may be used to deal with these wastes, perhaps conditioning with Synroc and disposal by deep bore hole.
According to the World Nuclear Association, the new mixed fuel promised by GNEP means that fast neutron reactors will be needed to burn the fuel. (Dropping them into a conventional thermal reactor would result in relatively little fission.) GNEP envisages development of a new generation of fast neutron reactors under the Generation IV International Forum (GIF).
The proponents of the program claim that it will not only regulate nuclear energy for purposes of good, but will help to curb or control those nations that are building nuclear power for what can be construed as nefarious purposes. This is an article copied from the Financial Post, that sheds light on the subject.
In particular, one line stands out. That part of the conservation will be addressed by: "the rising demand for power will be covered by forcing consumers not to demand it." In other words, tighten your belt and you won't need as much, something we should have been doing years ago.
Alternate sources of "Clean" power are being used all over the world, from hydroelectric to solar. Thankfully Quebec has come on board with a few wind-power operations of its own, although their commercial output is still quite far into the future
Read the rest of the article:
Terence Corcoran, Financial PostPublished: Saturday, September 01, 2007
Across Canada, provincial governments are aggressively following the call of green power and energy conservation. No watt of electricity is exempt, from mandated fluorescent light bulbs to subsidies for windmill farms to the campaign to rehabilitate the granddaddy of power boondoggles, nuclear energy, out of long-term care.
The rationale for this massive release of plans and mega-schemes is climate change. In the name of curbing carbon emissions, no form of electricity is too outlandish or too costly. And even if some electricity projects are too costly -- nuclear power, for example -- Dalton McGuinty's Ontario remains ready to spend and risk whatever it takes.
Promoters are boosting nuclear power in Alberta and New Brunswick, home of the Point Lepreau nuclear fiscal calamity. Gordon Campbell's British Columbia is steadfastly anti-nuclear, but the government is in the grip of green power fantasies. B.C. aims to be "self-sufficient" in electricity by 2016 and only through the addition of renewable power, also apparently regardless of cost.
And now Ottawa, spurred in part by the Bush administration's grand nuclear power ambitions, seems set to join the U.S. President's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. The aim of the GNEP project is to expand the use of nuclear energy for environmental and geopolitical reasons.
There's a lot of craziness in all this, in the United States and Canada, but especially in Ontario, home of a 20-year, $60-billion integrated power plan. A new version this week reveals a patchwork of unstable assumptions and arbitrary directives from the Premier. The province faces a 24% increase in energy demand over the next 20 years, and a 30% increase in required power capacity. Under the plan, half of the capacity need will be met, under government directive, by "conservation." In other words, the rising demand for power will be covered by forcing consumers not to demand it.
But the major hole in Ontario's energy market, created mostly by the arbitrary shut-down of carbon-emitting coal plants, will be filled with $26.5-billion in new spending on nuclear power.
Nothing wrong with nuclear power plants in principle, if only they worked as promised, could be built cost-effectively, were competitive with other sources of power, did not require billions in subsidies, didn't also insist on an assortment of regulatory and legal backstops, and they could figure out what to do with nuclear waste. Otherwise, nuclear is good.
Due mostly to its uneconomic fundamentals, nuclear power development has been moribund in North America for more than a decade. And it would still be dead were it not for global warming and climate change.
In climate change and nuclear power, we have the perfect convergence, a pairing of two distinct flows of government-created demands for more government action. All over the world, nations fund climate research to prove and promote the existence of a looming climate disaster, and now they are using those findings to promote another great government-funded program, nuclear power. The state meets the state, and likes what it sees
Having sunk billions into nuclear power, governments now have a reason to justify past spending and new billions. The U.S. nuclear energy push that Ottawa seems set
to join already comes front-loaded with a mess of subsidies. Packed into the 2005 U.S. Energy Act, the aid includes extending insurance indemnity provisions that get nuclear plans off the hook in case of an environmental disaster. Then there's $2-billion in "cost overrun support" for each of the first six nuclear plants to be built. Then there's a production tax credit of 1.8¢ per kilowatt hour for the first eight years the six new plants operate. Then there's $1.25-billion to build a nuclear electricity and hydrogen facility.
Why so much subsidy? Nuclear power is uneconomical, a fact driven home in a 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study titled The Future of Nuclear Power. The costs of building new nuclear plants is essentially unknown, but nobody believes they will be low or even manageable. "The bottom line is that with current expectations about nuclear power plant construction costs, operating costs and regulator uncertainty, it is extremely unlikely that nuclear power will be the technology of choice for merchant plant investors where suppliers have access to natural gas or coal resources
Investors, in other words, will not invest in nuclear energy. Can this problem be fixed? The MIT study -- by an interdisciplinary team -- came to support the idea that nuclear power could be made economic, sort of. But first nuclear needs to get its costs down, a near-impossible task. To be competitive with coal, nuclear construction costs would have to be cut by 25%, and operating and maintenance costs by 25%. Even then, the study concludes "nuclear is never less costly than coal."
Solution: If coal and gas are way more economical, the ultimate option is to price them out of the market with a carbon tax. The MIT group worked on a tax on carbon running as high as US$200 a tonne. With all these fixes, nuclear could perhaps be made to look nominally identical in cost to coal and gas -- although there would still be no guarantee investors would pick nuclear. The role of liquid natural gas, even cheaper, was not explored.
Without the government-created need to curb carbon emissions to fight global warming, there would be no new demand for the government-created nuclear power industry, in Canada or the United States. The nuclear industry's big hope--its only hope, in fact --is climate change. Without big subsidies, and punishing taxes on coal and gas competition, and forced nuclear mandates, nuclear power's big comeback would never happen