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International Environment Law Assignment Help
This International Environment Law Assignment Help is describe the thirty years ago energy sustainability was considered only in terms of availability of energy relative to the amount of use. But today several other concerns have also come up which need a serious consideration. The concerns are namely global warming, environmental safety, health and welfare of human beings. The criteria of sustainable development have been forced to shift to the beginning of the line for energy policy. With change in climatic conditions due to increase in population and greenhouse effect, the concern regarding the ways in which energy can be utilized on a sustainable basis comes up. Nuclear energy has turned up to be an important source of power generation now-a-days considering the fact that it is one of the safest sources of power generated all over the world.
Energy- Source of Sustainable Development
Energy can be linked with three dimensions in sustainable development namely, economic, social and environmental. The energy services serve as an important factor towards economic and social development. For the purpose of achieving sustainable development, with increased use of energy its health and impact on environment needs to be controlled or mitigated. Energy has become a driving force for modern society. It has a huge contribution towards economic development. The challenge which is faced by sustainable development in energy sector is expansion of its services globally without hampering the life support system and the bearing capacity of the environment. People belonging to the OECD countries (being Australia a member country) consume most of the energy, which is almost half of the primary energy generated in the world. They also use about 60% of electricity produced. Fossil fuel and nuclear energy serve as important source of energy. As per report the OECD countries use fossil fuel and nuclear energy almost 83% and 11% respectively.
Nuclear Power and Environment
The nuclear power does not create any air pollution or carbon di oxide unlike fossil fuel. But the process requires enormous amount of energy, including refining of uranium ore and mining. Manufacturing of nuclear plant requires huge amount of energy. The main concern for environment when it comes to nuclear energy is creation of radioactive wastes namely, uranium mill tailings, reactive fuel and other radioactive wastes. These materials can harm health of human beings for many years. Hence, these are subject to several regulations which put control over their handling, storage, transportation and disposal in order to protect the environment and health of human beings. In Australia, ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization) operates the one and only nuclear reactor in the country.
In compliance with regulatory reforms in several countries, nuclear power stations have established standards for improving the quality of air and avoid any kind of harm. Several researches have been conducted for chalking out ways to reduce air pollution through transportation. Electric vehicles have thus been initiated for this purpose. It is through nuclear plants that clean electricity can be produced which will be helpful to these vehicles. The nuclear power is said to be least impact on the environment and controls green house gas emissions and other harmful emissions. Thus, nuclear energy plays an important role in delivery of clean energy for sustainable economic development throughout the world.
Australia and Nuclear Energy
When the issue of nuclear energy comes into the picture Australia doesn’t seem to react much. Australia is the major supplier of uranium to the world’s rectors. Thus, it should have a moral responsibility of addressing issues relating to the way uranium is used and disposed after they have been used. Apart from the moral responsibility the country also has to consider several environmental factors while considering nuclear electricity generation. The world needs to reduce its dependency on fossil fuel in order to check green house gas emissions. This can be done by converting the electricity supply to use low-emission sources and generate two to three times more electricity so that additional support can be extended to transportation and heating. Hence, this needs to be the goal of the administration. Now, question arises how to generate huge amount of electricity so that the goal can be achieved? The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences (ATSE) argued that it is a requirement for Australia to mix new and existing technologies. In case, nuclear energy is not considered as a part of this mix, it will become difficult for the country to achieve the target of enough supply of low-emission electricity for meeting the objectives or goal. Thus, nuclear power is considered as a transformational opportunity. A recent case that showed the negative impact of nuclear power was the worsening emission of carbon-di-oxide (CO2) from Germany and Japan which mothballed their nuclear plants in Fukushima. This situation arose by releasing of radioactive isotopes from reactor containment vessels due to venting for reduction of gaseous pressure and discharging of coolant water into the sea. Moreover in France, which lies across the border of Germany, about 78% of electricity is generated through nuclear power and about 12% through hydro. In this country the level of average emission grid in terms of electricity generation is nearly 85gms/kilowatt hour, which is about ten times more than the average emission in Australia (i.e. 850gms/kilowatt hour). What is required for Australia is non-stop supply of available sources of electricity.
Figure 1: Nuclear power as a source of electricity
All over the globe, demand for power tends to grow drastically. In case of Australia, the need for electricity might raise upto doubling itself by 2040 and 2050 compared to what it is at present, irrespective of the fact how consciously and wisely people use it or conserve it.
Conference Report - Nuclear Energy for Australia
The Conference was held for discussion on consideration of Nuclear energy in Australia. Twenty-two written papers were submitted by the speakers invited in the Conference which were based on debate regarding opportunities and threats of using nuclear power and other feasible technology options since Australia seeks to shift to a less carbon electricity supply.
During the conference several issues regarding adoption of nuclear power has cropped up. The issues are categorized as Policy Issues; Technology Issues; Economic Issues; Regulatory Issues; Environmental Issues; Health, Safety, Risk and Waste Disposal Issues; Knowledge and Skill Formation Issues and Social Issues. Each of the categories is discussed as below:
Issues on the ground of Policy:
- The present policy of Australia as discussed in 2012 Energy White paper the government does not favour use of nuclear energy in the country. For majority of the delegates it seemed inconsistent that for Australia which commits as a reliable supplier for uranium fuel and being capable in the field of operating research reactors does not come forward in considering nuclear energy for the purpose of generating electricity for domestic purposes. Even through elaborative discussion no favour has been shown towards generation and deployment of nuclear power.
- The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences (ATSE) is of the opinion that Australia must consider nuclear power in its future energy generation portfolio. Several delegates supported this point of view put forward by ATSE stating that the country must set ways for reduction of carbon emission at the same time retain sufficient electricity supplies.
- Apart from nuclear power several other modes have also been advisable such as, hydro, solar and wind, which can be considered for generating power in the long run. Many other low emission technologies namely, CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage), geothermal, etc. have been considered in long term generation portfolio although their feasibility remain unproven at the level of commercial scale. These might become enforceable if they turn to be feasible in the long run. Even though so many proposals came into the picture none could replace nuclear power in case long term emission reduction aim needs to be achieved economically.
- A stable Bi-Partisan policy is required by Australia in order to cover all the possible sources of energy and technologies for conversion (inclusive of nuclear energy) in order to meet its combined goal of security, cost-efficiency, reliability and emission abatement.
Issues on the ground of technology:
- Australia being the third largest supplier of uranium for the nuclear power plants; plays an important role in nuclear international fuel cycle.
- The modern nuclear power plants are designed in such a way that the grid scale (1,000 MWe and over) as well as small modular reactors (300 MWe and below) are effective in delivery of electricity which is cost competitive with coal. It was noted in the Conference that nuclear energy by the use of modern reactors is eligible of offering near-zero greenhouse gas and other emissions which are airborne, accompanied by high fuel efficiency, minimum residual waste, built-in proliferation protection and advanced safety and protection.
- The nuclear power (small modular reactors) can serve the remote areas effectively and economically which will enable supply of fresh water instead of saline water or brackish water for the purpose of development in agriculture.
- Nuclear reactors are effective in delivery of high temperature process heat such as dissociating hydrogen directly from water or enabling high-temperature electrolysis. This hydrogen can be utilized for making diesel and jet fuel from available coal or gas in Australia.
Issues on the ground of economy:
- Many countries experiences surge in investments towards nuclear facilities such as India, China and Russia. Countries like France, Finland and Korea have invested in many new fields. Now, question arises as technology improves and Australia seeks to deploy well proven reactor technology; is there a scope for the country to adopt nuclear energy?
- As per the independent modelling of Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics stated that nuclear energy seems to be competitive with the other forms of generation. Again the eFuture model of CSIRO by using AETA data Australia will be in an advantageous position if it includes nuclear power in its future generation mix since it will be advantageous both economically and for the environment.
Issues on the ground of regulation:
- In case Australia seeks to adopt nuclear energy for the generation of power, the country will be required to enhance and extend its regulatory regime which will take a long time. Still the nuclear regulators of Australia provide a basis for development of correct regulatory arrangements for the purpose of generating nuclear power.
Issues on the ground of environment:
- In the Conference the point that, a little doubt exist that human activities serve as the primary reason for fast changing chemical composition of the atmosphere has been given due acceptance. The Conference also accepted that real risk in the long term vests on the unfavourable consequences that effects climate and ocean oxygen supply on which mankind is dependable.
- The response of Australia towards inheritance of ways of reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions, have not been effective. Although it understands the need of controlling those but the country has failed to consider nuclear power. The country instead of choosing nuclear power as an option finds expensive renewable energy as more effective although they are uneconomical in achieving their policy objectives of controlling emission of harmful gases.
- As compared with the movement toward renewables assumed in 2012 Energy White Paper, the initiation of nuclear power by 2030 will prove to be much economical and convenient through which the country can abate greenhouse gas emission, cost of electricity will become much competitive, improvement in health and reduced cost of health.
Issues on the ground of health, safety, risk and disposal of waste:
- It was advised in the Conference to prove with evidence how nuclear fuel cycle will be superior compared to other sources of energy technologies in terms of personal health and safety of the people and environment.
- Regardless of the accidents documented in the near past the industry feels importance of nuclear power and demonstrated that they can operate harmlessly. It was stated that the safety of using nuclear power is far more than any other power and manufacturing industries throughout the world. Even then concerns remain that needs to be addressed whether adoption of nuclear power will be beneficial to the country.
- Several countries have proven that, the most feasible way of managing the challenge of a safe and permanent nuclear waste disposal is through perfect engineering practise and careful construction with thorough regulatory support. Finland is the country which has successfully developed the model of perfect political and technological practise. Australia can take guidance from Finland.
- The Conference gave due respect to the proposition which have been adopted by several nuclear nations proposing that the long term price of high level nuclear waste disposal and ultimate de-commissioning of plant must be granted through levying on wholesale price of nuclear generated electricity, which will accumulate over the life of the plant.
Issues on the ground of Knowledge and formation of skill:
- It will take some time to develop required skills and knowledge not only regarding reactor engineering but also in meeting the future requirements for regulators, approval of environment and licensing. To this point the Conference noted the planning for new Nuclear Science and Engineering degree course at University of New South Wales associated with other established international providers. The Conference also noted the contribution of Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (also known as ANSTO).
- It was accepted in the Conference that education on nuclear engineering will offer a challenging career to the youth of Australia in upcoming high technology industries. Research and personal Development techniques have been initiated worldwide for the purpose of reducing nuclear waste, lowering of cost and increasing the level of safety. The best resources of Australia need to develop such advanced techniques of clean energy through their knowledge in their own country as well as their regional partners.
- It was noted in the Conference that through a well established internationally identified education and training programme on nuclear power engineering the youth of Australia will be in high demand not only in their home country but also in the international markets.
- The Conference also noted that many major engineering organizations in Australia are developing valuable engineering abilities and experience in project management in the global nuclear power markets.
- It was noted in the Conference that the country offers considerable skills and capabilities in the areas of therapies and radiomedicines. The new Open Pool Australian Light Water Reactor (OPAL) of Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization has a great contribution in this respect.
- The nuclear Research and Development (R&D) capacity by ANSTO is noteworthy but they need to be focussed more in case the country seeks to adopt nuclear power and develops engagement in modern nuclear technologies.
Issues on the ground of Society:
- There are concerns that nuclear industry is expensive, risky and unsafe, where problems on disposal of nuclear waste remain unsupported by evidence, still these concerns cannot be taken up lightly or ignored. Hence, the Conference seeks to take the opportunity and through research and deliberation transform slowly the fear of nuclear energy that is instilled in the minds of the public to the one which creates hope for sustainable development in the future accompanied with low carbon option.
- Although proposals have been made stating engagement of nuclear power in Australia, still there are certain activities that need to be addressed. There will be requirement for a transparent communication and public debate over a period of time. Again the approach of Finland community has been noted as a model which can be followed by Australia if it understands the importance of nuclear energy in the society and makes the society accept the same.
Outcome of the Conference
At the end of the Conference most of its delegates supported that nuclear energy is a feasible information technology for the country. One of the feasible reasons being that, it generates around 11% to 12% of the world’s electricity, where Australian uranium becomes a major input. This is effective in reducing the level of gas emission when compared with fossil fuel. Despite of several challenges, nuclear power can be considered as the most suitable option as near-zero emission technique in Australia which will easily replace age old coal power stations. The Conference ended with a series of discussions out of which one point is that, no suitable reason has been found which may lead to omission of nuclear power from the generation mix of Australia. The Conference made a note of another point that an open public debate and consultation (including the young members of the community) needs to be arranged. It was considered in the Conference that an extensive and relevant study on economic and environmental potential of nuclear power must be justified. Many suggestions came up supporting this viewpoint.
Ultimately, the delegates attending the Conference concluded that there are several positive outcomes of nuclear power in Australia and the policies which negate this point of view need to be reviewed. Australia must be prepared well in advance for nuclear power if need arises. Hence, in order to enforce these, proper plan needs to be framed considering required legal and regulatory mechanisms at the same time education, training and development facilities.
Nuclear Power - Parliament of Australia
For the purpose of generating electricity in Australia, coal and gas are considered as the most reliable sources of energy. Since, Australia has huge supplies of Uranium; nuclear power is considered a suitable option for generation of base-load electricity supply. Countries like Australia or even larger in economic size are using nuclear power. Australia is counted as the only one among the 25 top economies which exclude the use of base-load power supply. Many people are of the opinion that it might take decades for Australia to include nuclear power in its operations. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry and Resources (2006) report “Australian uranium-Greenhouse friendly fuel for an energy hungry world and 2007 Uranium Mining , Processing and Nuclear Energy review Taskforce 2006 (Switkowski report)”, both of them prepared a case stating the importance of nuclear power in Australia for mitigating with the emission of greenhouse gas in the near future. They also stated that use of nuclear power will be atleast 20% to 50% expensive compared to coal without pricing CO2 but lower than the emissions of CO2.
Australia built nuclear power stations in the past but the outcomes of certain incidents occurred in USA in the year 1979 and Chernobyl in Ukraine in the year 1986 forced Australia to withdraw this option. The Northern Territory Parliament gives an introduction to the “Debate on Nuclear Policy in Australia, 2005-2006. This introduced a huge number of papers that examine the arguments presenting a debate stating for or against involvement of nuclear activities such as uranium mining, generation of nuclear power and radioactive storage of waste in Australia. These papers consist of thorough debate giving an overview over past few years, stating the environmental, political and economic factors that led to higher intensity of conversation over the matter since the year 2005.
Nuclear Waste and ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization)
The Federal government in the year 2010 announced for funding for decommissioning of obsolete nuclear facilities which were operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) at National Medical Cyclotron, Camperdown and Lucas Heights Science and Technology Centre. The Government reported in the year 2010-2011, of issuing $9.7 million to Australia to ensure that it complies with the best international practise of decommissioning of nuclear amenities. In the Fiscal Outlook 2007-2008 and the Mid-Year Economic the figure provided for the measure was $13.2 million for the purpose of initiating decommission at Lucas Heights. It is also expected that Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, impose efficiency dividend on the actions which amounted to $2.5 million over 4 years for administrative and corporate cost.
The staffs in ANSTO are expected to complete the decommissioning of the reactor “MOATA” and continue to work on decommissioning of the reactor “HIFAR” at Lucas Heights. It is also expected to start working on the process of decommissioning of National Medical Cyclotron. The funds hence will be utilized for the purpose of supporting the maintenance under progress, dismantling of services and managing the waste products. The decommissioning projects will be supervised by the Australian radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, ensuring that safety procedures are undergone thoroughly.
Nuclear Power – Major Challenges
There are several challenges faced while acceptance of nuclear power as an essential source of energy. The major challenges are illustrated below:
- Acceptance of nuclear power as essential source of energy was declined by the public after the accident in Fukushima. Although many countries have come out of it and realized the importance of nuclear power.
- Several legal and regulatory reforms as well as political commitments are required for the introduction of nuclear power.
- Construction projects and their budget need to be considered for generation of new nuclear reactors. In order to gain knowledge and reduce costs sufficient amount of Generation III type reactors needs to be built.
- The infrastructure and supply chain needs to be established once again if the enough amount of nuclear build needs to be proceeded with.
- A concern still remains on disposal of radioactive wastes for public which requires a thorough demonstration for management of high level waste. Countries like Finland, France and Sweden have made a remarkable progress in this field.
Australia has the advantages of availability of fossil fuel and efficient deployment of renewables at the same time it has enough availability of uranium resources and good geology for the disposal of waste. Despite all the efforts initiated by the government, the country remains a very huge per capita emitter of CO2 and carbon capture and storage (CCS); and is not proceeding at the pace expected. The renewables play an important role in meeting the load during peak times, especially during warm months. However, these are irregular and require heavy system costs for connection of grid back up and support. Hence, they always require support for base load which can either be derived from coal with CCS or nuclear.
Nuclear Power – Economic Upsides
Two Government agencies in the year 2012 produced models showing the future electricity generation mix of Australia by 2050. The Energy White Paper (EWP) was released by Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET) and eFuture released by CSIRO. While the Energy White Paper (EWP), released by Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET) showed the current policies of the government but did not include anything on nuclear power whereas the web based modelling instrument of CSIRO included provisions for nuclear. Through the models and scenarios from where these have been derived, it raises the possibility for assessment of their individual impacts on Australian economy by 2050 and thus determines the possible impacts of not including nuclear energy in the generation mix.
The main areas which have national economic impact are:
- The cost of reduction of greenhouse gas;
- Cost which needs to be borne for damaging of health through burning fossil fuel for generation of electricity;
- The cost for generation of electricity and the way it influences the retail cost;
- Opportunity for new jobs while developing nuclear power industries;
- Involvement of capital cost;
- Cost to be borne for delay in introduction of nuclear power.
According to Martin Nicolson (publisher of Energy in a Changing Climate 2009 and The Power Makers Challenge 2012), his analysis with respect to the above areas of economic impact reflects that nuclear power will;
- Save upto $130 billion of cost,
- Health damage can be reduced upto $20 billion which would occur due use of fossil fuel,
- The electricity generation cost can be reduced upto 20%, thus bringing down the cost of electricity,
- About 29,000 jobs can be created in the nuclear industry, both direct and indirect,
- No additional investment of capital is required for introducing nuclear power thus replacing the alternatives,
- Any further delay after 2025 will result in a cost exceeding $8 billion.
Current List of Australia’s Nuclear Cooperation Agreement and Conditions
Current List of Australia's Nuclear Cooperation Agreements (NCAs)
Republic of Korea
United States (cooperation on SILEX)
United Arab Emirates
United States (supply to Taiwan)
*Argentina (no Additional Protocol)
*Egypt (no Additional Protocol)
*Philippines (no Additional Protocol)
*Ukraine (not in force)
There are many restrictions in case of some of the countries which have entered into nuclear cooperation agreement with Australia on facilities upon which the material can be received or stored or used.
CHINA – Delineated Chinese Nuclear Fuel Cycle Program (facility list);
JAPAN – Japanese Nuclear Fuel Cycle Programme (facility list);
UKRAINE – Facility list;
INDIA – Limited to the facility list according to the Agreement entered between the Government of India and International Atomic Energy Agency for Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities;
RUSSIA – Eligible Facilities List.
Nuclear Power – Report of Royal Commission
According to the Royal Commission over Nuclear Fuel Cycle it is not feasible to conduct generation of nuclear power commercially in Australia till 2030. But still the Commission want the government of Australia to revoke the laws which are directed towards ban of nuclear generation. The major findings conducted by the Royal Commission were regarding creation of dump for nuclear waste, inspite of a huge criticism over this. The government of South Australia will be responsible for reviewing this. When the coal-fired power generator stopped down in the state, the Royal Commission argued on this proposing requirement of nuclear power, stating it “might” be required by post 2030. It was accepted by the Commission that not only nuclear power is huge enough to fit the market of South Australia but also very expensive. Apart from that it seems to be risky for the state to manufacture “new generation” technology like reactors of “generation IV”. The Commission in its report states the requirement for modular reactors which are small in size although they will be comparatively expensive as a result of low economies of scale at the same time is a part of the technologies of “new generation” ; moreover for the previous one, it is not likely to be initiated by the next decade.
The interpretations given by the Royal Commission seems somewhat bizarre when it stated, renewables resulted in “increase in the profitability” of generating gas, “given its ability to rapidly respond for meeting shortfalls in the supply”. The gas generators, including the new ones have been closed down since they are non-profitable in nature and their power of mitigating shortfall in supply has also diminished. Recently, rise in the cost of generating gas has been encountered as a result of re-pricing of gas supplies as a result of new LNG export market. The report also says that due to reduction in the profitability of base load forms of generation the chances for new entry of base load capacity has been discouraged. The market research operators are trying to bring an end to the base load capacity instead of newly building them.
Even then, the Royal Commission wants the government of South Australia to urge Canberra, remove any sort of ban on generation of nuclear power and initiate research to see how nuclear power can be brought into exercise in the near future. Inspite of the warning that introduction of nuclear technology can result to be an unwise decision for the country, the Commission has asked the federal government to “monitor” the new designs of nuclear reactors which can be effectively used by Australia in the near future. The energy supply council that represent AGL (Australian Gas Lights), Origin and other generators is in favour of generation of nuclear technology, as told to the Commission. Nuclear technology has also been supported by Innes Willox, from Australian Industry Group.
In its final report, the Commission concluded that it will not be possible for solar or wind energy to do the task, the other renewable energy technologies are not tested as well as the renewables will need additional back up of power which will turn upto be expensive.
When it comes to low-carbon technologies, solar PV and wind energy are the only available sources deployed in Australia. But dependence on these intermittent sources of energy will not be possible for the country to cater to the demand when wind and sunlight will be unavailable. Hence, the need for substantial amount of investment is required for balancing this situation.
The need for modular reactors on Eyre Peninsula has also been addressed by Professor Stephen Lincoln, from University of Adelaide who favour nuclear energy as a source of power in Australia.
Nuclear Power – Documented by Several Bodies
Several Information Papers have been prepared by the World Nuclear Organization (WNO) on topics which are directed towards details representing the nuclear industry. In the year 2001, OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and IEA (International Energy Agency) came up with a study “Nuclear Power in the OECD”, which sheds light on the estimated costs for gas, nuclear and coal-fired and other types of plant. In this study they included position of different countries for or against the option of nuclear power. In the American Wilson Centre, the arguments regarding for or against of nuclear power is available online. The Institute of Public Affairs on view of supporting nuclear energy and management of nuclear waste, gives a small discussion on policies in “Nuclear on the Agenda”. The point of views stated by Institute of Public Affairs was opposed by Greenpeace, Friends of Earth and similar kind of bodies.
The report sheds light on the sources of energy available for generation of power and how far they are suitable for the environment. Several conferences, reports and papers have been submitted which consist of recommendations, debate and conclusions stating the advantages and probable outcomes of introducing nuclear energy as a source of power in Australia. Although this matter has faced many debates, many researchers are of the viewpoint that Australia must include nuclear power in their generation mix if the country wants an unstoppable flow of clean and harmless power in the near future.
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