Fears for safety at Lucas Heights nuclear reactor: permanent supervisors to be dumped as part of cost-cutting GEOFF CHAMBERS THE DAILY TELEGRAPH JULY 25, 2014 PERMANENT frontline safety supervisors will be dumped and Australian Federal Police roles overhauled as part of cost-cutting measures at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.
Workers at the facility in Sydney’s south have expressed concern about the removal of permanent safety inspectors.
The AFP will retain an armed presence but it is expected that light duties, including boom gate operation and CCTV monitoring, will be outsourced.
With 260 production, laboratory and technical staff on its books, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has firmly opposed what it describes as a “cost-cutting exercise” by ANSTO.
The union’s state secretary, Tim Ayres, said that the reactor site was an important local employer and crucial for the innovation and manufacturing industry.
“This is in no way an improvement to safety at Sydney’s only nuclear facility, this is a decision to wind back the safety protections purely on the basis of costs,” he said.
Mr Ayres said having permanent safety inspectors on staff should be a priority for management.
The inspectors, many with years of experience, are the first point of contact at Lucas Heights during an emergency situation.
- “This sends a message that safety is a second-order issue. It will set the safety culture back,” he said………
‘Considerable concern’: Oz in hot water over climate denial errors, Crikey, by Myriam Robin, 24 July 14 The Press Council has handed down an adverse ruling against The Australian for a front-page article published in September last year that relied on a rapidly debunked Daily Mail story claiming the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had revised down the rate of global warming since 1951.
In highly unusual language for the Press Council, it says it is a matter of “considerable concern” that The Australian delayed in acknowledging its errors. Asked to explain the strong language, Press Council executive director John Pender told Crikey ”the initial error was very serious and prominent, was repeated unequivocally in a later editorial, and was not corrected with sufficient speed, clarity and prominence”.
In a September 16 article, since changed online but archived here on the Media Watch website, The Australian environment editor Graham Lloyd rehashed a British story published a week before the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC was released that claimed the report update would say the true figure of warming since 1951 had been 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade, and not the 0.2 degrees Celsius claimed in previous reports.
The Oz’s piece continued:
“Last week, the IPCC was forced to deny it was locked in crisis talks as reports intensified that scientists were preparing to revise down the speed at which climate change is happening and its likely impact.
“It is believed the IPCC draft report will still conclude there is now greater confidence that climate change is real, humans are having a major impact and that the world will continue to warm catastrophically unless drastic action is taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The impacts would include big rises in the sea level, floods, droughts and the disappearance of the Arctic icecap.
“But claimed contradictions in the report have led to calls for the IPCC report process to be scrapped.”
These reports were wrong. The Daily Mail got its numbers wrong, and The Australian repeated the error, as Media Watch and The Guardian pointed out last year. The long-term trend in the IPCC report is 0.13 degrees of global warming a decade, and has been for some time — there was no retreat from higher figures……..http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/07/24/considerable-concern-oz-in-hot-water-over-climate-denial-errors/
Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding Lord Howe Island’s hybrid renewable energy project
Lord Howe Island’s Clean, Renewable Energy Future http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=4411 25 July 14 The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is helping to fund a hybrid renewable energy project on Lord Howe Island that will include energy storage.
ARENA will contribute $4.5 million in support for the 1 MW, $11.6 million wind, solar, storage and diesel hybrid system that will reduce the Island’s consumption of diesel by 70%.
“Lord Howe Island is 600 km off the east coast of Australia and, like other remote off-grid communities across the country, is heavily reliant on diesel generators that are costly to run and subject to volatile fuel prices,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknech.
“It is another significant project to come out of ARENA’s Regional Australia’s Renewables Initiative, which is focused on increasing the uptake of renewables in offgrid Australia.”
It’s been a long road to reach this point according to Lord Howe Island Board CEO Penny Holloway; who said said the community had been working towards a renewable energy future for more than ten years and ARENA’s support means it can now become a reality.
The Lord Howe Island Group is part of the state of New South Wales; administered by the Lord Howe Island Board.
NSW Environment and Heritage Minister Rob Stokes congratulated ARENA and the Lord Howe Island Board for their vision and commitment.
“Lord Howe Island was included on the World Heritage List because of its unique natural and heritage values and this initiative is a powerful way of protecting these into the future,” he said.
In other recent news from ARENA, the body announced it is also providing $500,000 to the Clean Energy Council (CEC) to support the execution of the first stage of a project to future-proof Australia’s energy system and improve the electricity grid to support the growth of clean energy.
The CEC will be working with industry, government, regulators and consumers and commissioning various related analyses; with the first stage of the future proofing project due to be completed by the middle of next year.
Renewable energy: NSW to be ‘Australia’s answer to California’, SMH, July 22, 2014 Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald New South Wales aims to be “Australia’s answer to California”, accelerating the use of renewable energy and finding new ways to curb waste, in a push that puts it at odds with Coalition counterparts in other states and at the federal level.
The Baird government says it plans to adorn as many of its buildings with solar panels as possible and ease the way for more wind farms.
The announcement comes days after the Abbott government secured its almost five-year quest to axe the carbon price and amid ongoing signs it will weaken the national renewable energy target (RET), “We are making NSW number one in energy and environmental policy,” Environment Minister Rob Stokes told the Clean Energy Week gathering in Sydney……….
Mr Stokes said NSW was committed to the 41,000 GW-h goal – a target that was the federal Coalition’s pre-election commitment. Maverick MP Clive Palmer has said his party will use its balance of power in the Senate to block any effort by the Abbott government to cut the renewable energy target.
The NSW Resource Efficiency Policy will take advantage of the government’s scale – with more than half a billion dollars spent on energy, water and waste each year – to demand savings.
Investment over the next decade is likely to reach $290 million and deliver savings to energy bills of $55 million a year by then, Mr Stokes said.“We are the country’s largest employer,” he said of the NSW government. “We purchase 1 per cent of all new cars in Australia and we own half of all the land in the state – around 400,000 square kilometres.”
All new electrical equipment bought by the state will have to meet at least the average energy efficiency star rating for each appliance. For dishwashers that means 4 stars or higher and 3.5 stars for small air conditioners.
The Energy Efficiency Council said it applauded NSW’s leadership.
“Other governments around Australia should watch what NSW is doing and follow its lead,” said chief executive Rob Murray-Leach.
Improving energy performance was “a no-brainer”, strengthening the budget, as well as forcing through higher standards that build industry capacity, benefiting other parts of the economy, Mr Murray-Leach said. Mr Stokes told Fairfax Media: “It’s never been anyone’s job in the Department of Health or Department of Education to go and look at these efficiency opportunities.
“It’s a big opportunity, we’ve got a vast building stock, and there’s been nothing to activate it.”
As part of the policy, the Health Department will be required to audit energy use for 55 per cent of their power bills by June 2018; other departments will have to audit 40 per cent of their bills. The rate will rise to 90 per cent by 2024.
In a separate nod to the renewable energy sector, Mr Stokes said he has recommended that the Environment Protection Authority treat noise from wind farms as it would noise from other mining and resources projects.
“I’ve asked the NSW EPA to consider the inclusion of the draft noise standards for wind energy projects into the Industrial Noise Policy, which is due to be finalised by December,” Mr Stokes said.
“This will provide clarity and certainty for wind farm operators, and will facilitate appropriate and responsible siting of wind farms in regional and rural areas,” he said……. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/renewable-energy-nsw-to-be-australias-answer-to-california-20140722-zvl60.html#ixzz38YKi2HqG
Toxic sites in Adelaide’s suburbs number in their thousands BRAD CROUCH THE ADVERTISER JULY 22, 2014 THE Opposition has demanded a statewide audit of contaminated sites, as it emerges the dangers of trichloroethene entering groundwater was suspected as far back as the 1940s.
The call for an audit comes after Environmental Protection Authority chief executive Tony Circelli confirmed that “thousands” of sites were contaminated with various chemicals and the EPA received about 100 new notifications each year.
The State Government and Environment Minister Ian Hunter are under increasing pressure over the contamination scandal in Clovelly Park , where dozens of people have been forced to leave their homes because of health risks from the vapours of trichloroethene (TCE) rising up through the soil from industrially poisoned groundwater.
Mr Circelli, was responding to a claim by UniSA Professor Ravi Naidu, the managing director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation, that there are about 4000 contaminated sites in SA.
Mr Circelli said that claim was incorrect, but conceded the number “is in the thousands”.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said an audit was needed to clarify the exact number of contaminated sites and their locations. “The purpose of conducting a statewide audit would be to establish a hierarchy of sites based on potential public health risks,” he said.
“As well as playing an important community awareness role, the audit could also provide a benchmark for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of contaminated sites for the EPA and assist with any future contamination investigations………http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/toxic-sites-in-adelaides-suburbs-number-in-their-thousands/story-fni6uo1m-1226998071395?nk=38b4e03626cff750bb726e65c1a3e9f4
Red Centre keeps shining as solar technology hub http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-22/alice-springs-solar-hub-technology/5613534 ABC Rural By Lauren Fitzgerald Central Australia is continuing to attract international investment from the solar industry, despite the Alice Solar City initiative wrapping up more than a year ago. In its five-year history, the program helped hundreds of homes and businesses install solar panels and solar hot water systems.
The general manager of the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT), Lyndon Frearson, says Alice Springs now also has a reputation as a hub for developing technology.
He says companies from China, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland and America are all installing different solar PV modules at the CAT site. “The range of their investment varies depending on the size of the facility that they want to put in,” he said.
“Some of them are putting in little five-kilowatt systems as a test site, where they might be putting a number of small test sites around the world, through to a Swiss-based company which only has three R & D [research and development] facilities in the world, and they chose to build one of them here.
“And certainly those investments are in the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Mr Frearson says local businesses like the Alice Springs Airport are also demonstrating an ongoing commitment to solar. “They received a subsidy to do their original project, but they’ve just [installed] 320 kilowatts off their own bat, completely their own investment. “And that’s both a maturing of the economics, that the solar panels are cheaper and the energy prices have changed.
“But it also shows a degree of confidence that they as an organisation and their board have in the technology to better run their business. “And there are a number of examples within Alice and broader afield throughout central Australia where different entities are making those decisions.
“So I think the legacy of Alice Solar City in central Australia is strong. “Certainly it’s something we see people talking about with pride, and we still see people outside of Alice focus very heavily on and see Alice Springs as a leader in this space.”
Wind companies question planning office response ENERGY companies will be allowed to make minor changes to wind farm planning permits from next month. Weekly Times 22 July 14, The move — which will pave the way for up to 964 turbines to be built across the state creating up to 2376 megawatts of wind energy — has been labelled a “change of heart” by Greens leader Greg Barber.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy said “we’re making a small adjustment to the planning scheme to allow existing wind farm planning permits to be amended, which may assist with upgrading turbine technology”……….http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/politics/wind-companies-question-planning-office-response/story-fnkerdda-1226997709510
Clean Energy Finance Corporation plans expansion after dodging axe http://www.smh.com.au/business/clean-energy-finance-corporation-plans-expansion-after-dodging-axe-20140721-zvdhg.html#ixzz38MD2vaOK July 22, 2014 Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has capped its first year of operations, managing to avoid the federal government’s axe and generating more than $3 billion in investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
The CEFC issued more than $900 million in loans in the year to June 30 – backed by the private sector at the rate of $2.20 for each of its own dollars – securing the annual abatement of at least 4.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in the process.
Chief executive Oliver Yates said the fund generated a “reasonable return” for the taxpayer, raising funds at the government rate of about 3.5 per cent and lending under commercial terms at about 7 per cent.
The CEFC aims to at least match last year’s investments this financial year, with many of the projects “very complementary” to the government’s $2.55 billion Direct Action plan to pay polluters, Mr Yates said.
“Our numbers to date are that energy efficiency upgrades to buildings are saving about 45 per cent in energy costs,” Mr Yates said. “The challenge for Direct Action is that you need to fund all the action before you get paid for it, and that comes down to who actually funds these projects.”
In its first year, the CEFC’s investments were split about 60-40 in favour of renewable energy – largely solar – over energy efficiency projects.
Insiders say morale remains high among the 50 or so staff despite the Coalition’s vow to scrap the fund, a move blocked by Labor, the Greens and lately the Palmer United Party.
“It’s a game of snakes and ladders and has been for a while,” Mr Yates said, noting the regular policy shifts including last week’s repeal of the carbon price and uncertainty over the government’s support for large-scale renewable energy target.
Despite that uncertainty, companies and banks continue to line up for new investment, particularly in small-scale solar photovoltaics (PV).
The CEFC announced on Tuesday it will provide as much as $120 million for three new solar PV financing programs, including $70 million for US-based SunEdison. Tindo Solar, the country’s only solar PV panel maker, will also get $20 million in loans.
The fund will also provide up to $80 million as part of a cornerstone investment with a unit of Colonial First State to create Australia’s first unlisted clean energy investment platform for institutional investors. Colonial First State will aim to raise as much as $500 million for investments.
Falling solar PV prices have made panels more attractive for residential and commercial users alike. Globally, solar PV investment fell 22 per cent last year but actual new capacity rose 27 per cent because of tumbling costs, according to the Renewable Energy Policy Network.
Game-changing rooftop solar boom is squeezing the profits out of coal power in Australia http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/rooftop-solar-boom-squeezing-profits-coal-power-autralia.html Michael Graham Richard (@Michael_GR) 14 July 14
Solar power briefly turned electricity prices negative in Queensland Australia is known for its coal, which provides over 80% of its electricity and is a big export, but someday soon it might be known for its solar power. Thanks to rapidly falling solar PV prices, there’s been a rooftop solar boom in Australia. It’s now reaching a point where few coal generators made money last year, and even fewer will make profits this year… Wholesale energy pricing even briefly went negative in the middle of the day (see graph below) recently in the middle of the day in Queensland where there is 1.1 gigawatt of solar spread over more than 350,000 buildings.
Australia as a whole has about 3.4GW on 1.2 million buildings! Eventually, coal won’t be able to compete with solar at any price:
let’s imagine that the wholesale price of electricity fell to zero and stayed there, and that the benefits were passed on to consumers. In effect, that coal-fired energy suddenly became free. Could it then compete with rooftop solar?
The answer is no. Just the network charges and the retailer charges alone add up to more than 19c/kWh, according to estimates by the Australian energy market commissioner. According to industry estimates, solar ranges from 12c/kWh to 18c/kWh, depending on solar resources of the area, Those costs are forecast to come down even further, to around 10c/kWh and lower. (source)
The next step will be for people to get some storage and go off the grid to avoid having to pay these network charges. Australian solar installers are already reporting that “between 15 and 20 per cent of solar customers are asking about storage, and that rate is increasing each month.”
With companies like Tesla having ambitious goals to cut battery prices down over the next few years with gigafactories, the combo of cheap solar PV + cheap battery storage will be hard to beat. Dirty power sources will simply stop being competitive. Australia has lots of sun and high network costs, so it’s at the forefront of this movement. But most other countries will follow at their own pace. The best things we can do to accelerate the switch over to clean energy is to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, create regulation that is more friendly to rooftop solar (net-metering, for example), and put a price on carbon emissions.
Photon to build solar plus storage unit for NSW broadcast tower REneweconmy, By Giles Parkinson on 15 July 2014 German-based solar group Photon Energy is to install a large scale solar plus battery storage hybrid power system at a telecommunications tower in New South Wales that it says could be the fore-runner of thousands of such installations across the country.
The system, to be installed at a broadcast tower operated by BAI near Muswellbrook, will provide 24/7 power through a 39kW solar array and a 215kWh battery storage installation. An 8kW diesel generator will provide standby in emergencies.
Photon Energy says once successfully tested the concept could be implemented on thousands of sites across Australia.
Michael Gartner, the head of Photon Energy‘s Australian operations, said the project was a great step forward“ for solar power to provide clean and economically viable power supply for remote sites.
“The potential for solar PV in the replacement of conventional energy sources is substantial and will bring cost benefits and emissions savings for Australia in the coming years and decades.“
“… We can show how to incorporate solar PV into any given energy system and prove that using abundant sunlight for your own power consumption is the way forward.”……..http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/photon-build-solar-plus-storage-nsw-broadcast-tower-37262
The Carbon Tax Is Dead, Long Live the ..? http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=4399 18 July 14 The carbon tax is dead; but don’t expect to see a major difference in power bills – or for too long.
It doesn’t matter that many households were compensated for any impact of the scheme under the Household Assistance Package, or that the carbon tax prevented 11 to 17 million tonnes of carbon emissions.
Nor does it matter higher it resulted in some filthy brown-coal fired power stations being mothballed.
Like it or loathe it, it’s kaput. Spin bettered substance and Thursday’s passing of the repeal turned Australia from a leader to laggard.
“The repeal of Australia’s carbon price is a tragedy, not a triumph” said Michael Raupach Director, Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.
“It flies in the face of three giant realities: human-induced climate change, the proper role of government as a defender of the common good, and the emerging quiet energy-carbon revolution”.
According to the ABC, , consumers can expect to save between 20 and 50 cents each day on their electricity bills now the carbon tax has been repealed.
However, any financial benefit relating to power bills could quickly be eaten up by increases in other charges.For example, in New South Wales, Ausgrid wants increases of around 2 per cent a year over the next five years and TransGrid wants to raise prices by almost 4 per cent – this is just in relation to network charges.
Other states including South Australia have just implemented more electricity price rises. The average South Australian household will pay around $85 a year more.
In Queensland, households were recently hit with a 13.6 per cent increase, expected to cost the average household an extra $190 a year.
Depending what end of the scale of carbon tax savings are to be had, any relief may have already been gobbled up before many will receive their post-carbon tax bill. Anyone planning to do something other than pay power bills with the perceived windfall may need to re-evaluate those plans.
Australian War Memorial should recognise revised Aboriginal death toll: researcher, Brisbane Times July 17, 2014 Cameron Atfield Brisbane Times and Sun-Herald journalist New research that has calculated an Aboriginal death toll of more than 65,000 in Queensland alone during the so-called frontier wars has renewed calls for formal recognition at the Australian War Memorial.
But the AWM in Canberra has dismissed the idea, saying recognition should instead be in the National Museum.
The research, presented to the Australian Historical Association’s Conflict in History conference last week at the University of Queensland, estimated 66,680 deaths between 1788 and 1930.
Of those deaths, 65,180 were indigenous, which is more than six times what was previously thought. The report’s co-author, historian Professor Raymond Evans, said the calculations were based on official records, witnesses’ reports and the number of patrols undertaken by the colonial Queensland government’s Native Police.
Professor Evans said the 65,180 figure was “conservative” and could be as high as 115,000.
“This is just Queensland – imagine what the nation-wide figure could be,” he said.
“If you say it’s a war, you at least allow the fact that Aboriginal people fought hard to defend their lands, so you can say they were warriors and they were fighting for their country. “They were fighting for Australia, for their land.”
Professor Evans said the estimated death toll was at least on a par with Australian casualties during World War I.
“The Australian War Memorial should recognise this as a war. It’s got such a high death rate, it was fought over a long period of time and it was fought between different communities, different nations, for territory,” he said.
“It’s a fight for land and territorial possession and it has many features of warfare and, of course, a huge death rate.” http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/australian-war-memorial-should-recognise-revised-aboriginal-death-toll-researcher-20140716-ztqr6.html#ixzz388vSgyg2
The search for the clean coal holy grail http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/ The Abbott government and a group of investors are pinning their environmental hopes on a clean coal technology that is still in the very early stages of development. Paddy Manning tracks the quest for the clean coal holy grail and investigates the men getting unspeakably rich from the search.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has made clear that a key plank of the government’s plan to tackle climate change is reducing emissions from existing black and brown coal-fired power stations……
Ignite Energy Resources, a member of the DICE network, recently recieved a $20 million grant to produce liquid fuel for DICE engines from brown coal, among other things………
photo - Dr John White Executive Director, Ignite Energy Resources
The nuclear war against Australia’s Aboriginal people, Ecologist Jim Green 14th July 2014 Dumping on South Australia “……….The failed attempt to establish a dump at Muckaty followed the failed attempt to establish a dump in South Australia. In 1998, the Howard government announced its intention to build a nuclear waste dump near Woomera in South Australia.
Leading the battle against the dump were the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern SA. Many of the Kungkas personally suffered the impacts of the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga and Emu in the 1950s.
The proposed dump generated such controversy in SA that the federal government hired a public relations company. Correspondence between the company and the government was released under Freedom of Information laws.
In one exchange, a government official asked the PR company to remove sand-dunes from a photo to be used in a brochure. The explanation provided by the government official was that: “Dunes are a sensitive area with respect to Aboriginal Heritage”.
The sand-dunes were removed from the photo, only for the government official to ask if the horizon could be straightened up as well. ‘Terra nullius’!
In 2003, the federal government used the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 to seize land for the dump. Native Title rights and interests were extinguished with the stroke of a pen. This took place with no forewarning and no consultation with Aboriginal people.
Victory in the Federal Court
The Kungkas continued to implore the federal government to ‘get their ears out of their pockets’, and after six years the government did just that.
In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election – after a Federal Court ruling that the federal government had acted illegally in stripping Traditional Owners of their native title rights, and with the dump issue biting politically in SA – the Howard government decided to cut its losses and abandon the dump plan.
The Kungkas wrote in an open letter: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”
The Kungkas victory had broader ramifications – it was a set-back for everyone who likes the idea of stripping Aboriginal people of their land and their land rights, and it was a set-back for the nuclear power lobby.
Senator Nick Minchin, one of the Howard government ministers in charge of the failed attempt to impose a nuclear dump in SA, said in 2005:
“My experience with dealing with just low-level radioactive waste from our research reactor tells me it would be impossible to get any sort of consensus in this country around the management of the high-level waste a nuclear [power] reactor would produce.”
Minchin told a Liberal Party council meeting that “we must avoid being lumbered as the party that favours nuclear energy in this country” and that “we would be political mugs if we got sucked into this”…….. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2476704/the_nuclear_war_against_australias_aboriginal_people.html