Media release

No excuses: power stations can clean up – expert

February 13, 2018

A US expert in pollution-reduction technologies believes emissions of mercury from Victoria’s coal-fired power stations are significantly higher than the figures reported to the National Pollutants Inventory – and five times higher than what would be permitted in the United States.

Dr Ranajit (Ron) Sahu Ph.D, QEP, CEM, an Air Quality Consultant with extensive experience in the design of pollution control equipment at thermal coal plants, estimates the three Victorian power plants emit around 3.3 tonnes of mercury per year (NPI underestimates this as 1.11 tonnes). US rules would require them to emit a maximum of 0.6 tonnes of mercury per year or less.

A December 2016 statement by the Australian Government says mercury “can cause a range of adverse health impacts which include; cognitive impairment (mild mental retardation), permanent damage to the central nervous system, kidney and heart disease, infertility, and respiratory, digestive and immune problems. It is strongly advised that pregnant women, infants, and children in particular avoid exposure.”

Dr Sahu’s analysis of the Victorian coal-fired power stations, which appears in Environmental Justice Australia’s submission to the EPA review of the power station licences, finds:

  • The Victorian power stations have emitted more than 113 tonnes of mercury since operations began, and will yet emit almost 80 more tonnes in the coming decades
  • Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon dioxide (CO2) and mercury from the Latrobe Valley power stations can and should be continuously and automatically monitored, as they are in the US
  • There are no technological barriers to designing pollution control systems for the brown coal burned at the three Victorian power stations

“Victoria’s three coal-fired power stations are sending out huge quantities of toxic materials onto the Latrobe Valley community,” said EJA lawyer Nicola Rivers.

“These power stations have been allowed to get away with not installing pollution-controlling technologies that have become mandatory and commonplace in other parts of the world.

“As the power station operators – AGL, Alinta and EnergyAustralia – tell the market their facilities will keep operating until well into the 2030s and 2040s, they must be prepared to install technologies that have been available for many years and could significantly reduce toxic emissions.

“The EPA must address this serious problem in its review of the power station licences,” she said.

Read EJA submission to EPA power station licence review February 2018

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