Australian news, and some related international items

UN report finds in favour of Julian Assange

Assange also remains fearful of a potential future extradition to the US, where a secret grand jury has been looking into whether to prosecute him over WikiLeak’s publishing activities……..

 the former chair of the UN working group, Mads Andenas, defended its finding, saying: “There is no doubt that the normal course of action for the Swedish authorities would have been to interview Assange in London. The extradition request was disproportionate

flag-UN.Julian Assange: ‘sweet’ victory soured by British and Swedish rejection
No release in sight despite UN panel deciding WikiLeaks founder is being arbitrarily detained at Ecuador embassy,
Guardian, ,, in Gothenberg, and   5 Feb 16 A UN panel may have found that Julian Assange is subject to “arbitrary detention” and called for him to be allowed to walk free, but the WikiLeaks founder remains exactly where he has been for the past 44 months – inside Ecuador’s London embassy and locked in a three-nation war of words.

Britain and Sweden immediately rejected the UN report, which declared that Assange had been “arbitrarily detained” since his arrest in 2010 and during his lengthy stay in the embassy, where he sought asylum in June 2012. The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, described the findings as “ridiculous” and the Australian as a “fugitive from justice”.

However, the panel’s findings, leaked on Thursday and published in full on Friday morning, were a welcome victory for Assange, and a moment he intended to savour fully. At 4.01pm he emerged on to the balcony of the west Londonembassy to greet a crowd of several hundred supporters and journalists, pausing first, just briefly, to glance at the sky he has rarely seen for more than three years.

“How sweet it is,” said Assange, holding aloft a copy of the UN report while supporters shouted: “We love you, Julian!” It had been, he said, “a victory of historical importance”, and a decision reached after a process to which both Britain and Sweden had made submissions. “They lost. UK lost; Sweden lost.”

The Swedish government, however, has insisted the report changes nothing, and that it cannot interfere in an independent prosecutor’s ongoing attempt to extradite Assange for questioning over an allegation of rape dating from 2010, which he denies.

Meanwhile, for Ecuador – the Australian’s (mostly) willing host – the findings meant it was time for the two countries to allow Assange to walk free, and to compensate both him and them for the lengthy period he has been holed up in one of its few rooms……

After exhausting all his legal options in the UK and Sweden some time ago, there is no question that the report represents a boost for Assange’s legal team. Continue reading

February 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

​Calm heads and clear information needed on nuclear medicine and waste claims 

Medical Association for the Prevention of War, 5 Feb 16 Media reports today linking continued access to nuclear medicine to the development of a new national nuclear waste facility do not correctly reflect the situation or advance considered discussion of these issues, according to leading national public health group the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW).
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which runs the Lucas Heights reactor, has increased pressure on the waste dump selection process by saying it will run out of storage capacity by early 2017, and will have to stop making medical isotopes for nuclear medicine use. This statement omits many facts. 
ANSTO has quietly decided to develop a reactor based export industry for medical isotopes, to supply 30% of the world market. This plan, made with no public debate or inquiry, would very significantly increase waste from reactor use. 
In contrast, Canada had an extensive public review of its reactor production in 2009, and decided it did not wish to continue using a reactor to produce isotopes. Reasons included lack of reliable supply (reactors only operate 80% of the year, and do break down from time to time), expense to the taxpayer of the production, and the burden of nuclear waste left in Canada due to international use. 
Medical isotope production
The Canadians have developed proven methods of isotope production using cyclotrons (which does not generate reactor waste), with a successful pilot in January 2015. They are now in the process of scaling up and getting regulatory approvals for this, and look to be able to supply Canada in the next 3-5 years. 
It should be noted that using medical isotope produces extremely little waste. It is reactor production of isotopes that needs public debate and scrutiny. 
We can continue with ANSTO’s business plan, and export to supply the world market. This will leave Australia with vastly increased burden of nuclear waste from international nuclear medicine use, and is the more expensive option.
We can return to business as usual supplying Australia, which means we produce isotopes less than one day a week (not five days a week), with a subsequent major decrease in radioactive waste. This would enable all parties to plan world’s best practice storage in a rational and calm manner. We could further partner with Canada and work to develop cyclotron production of isotopes at commercial scale in Australia. 
This is cheaper and more reliable than reactor production, and does not leave communities, taxpayers and future generations with a nuclear waste burden that will last for millennia. And unlike a nuclear reactor, it poses almost no accident, proliferation or terrorist risks. We do not need to choose between access to nuclear medicine and the time and processes needed to advance responsible radioactive waste management. 

February 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, New South Wales, politics | Leave a comment

Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into Lucas Heights Nuclear Waste Management Facilities

Upgrade and extension of radioactive waste management facilities at Lucas Heights House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia, 5 Feb 16 
text-wise-owlThe Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works today announced that it is conducting an inquiry into the upgrade and extension of radioactive waste management facilities for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

ANSTO’s submission notes that current storage facilities will reach full capacity early in 2017 and although locations for a new facility are being considered, the new facility is not expected to be operational until 2020.

The inquiry will examine existing low and intermediate-level solid waste facilities at Lucas Heights that require extension and upgrade, with extension works for the low-level solid waste facilities expected to be completed by April 2017, and works for the intermediate-level facilities to be completed by June 2018.

In addition to upgrading and extending storage capacity, works will include upgrading ventilation and security systems, electrical infrastructure and surrounding roads.The estimated cost of the project is $22.3 million and it is anticipated that the Committee will conduct public and in-camera hearings for the inquiry in the near future.

Further information on the public hearing will be available soon on theCommittee’s website.

Submissions to the inquiry close on 10 March 2016.

NB the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works is neither involved in the tendering process nor the awarding of contracts. Enquiries on those matters should be addressed to ANSTO.

For media comment – Office of Senator Dean Smith (Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works) (08) 9481 0349 Committee Secretariat (02) 6277 4636Full details on the project are available on the Committee’s website.


February 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, New South Wales, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Queensland government rejects any nuclear waste dump plan

Queensland--antinukeQueensland says ‘no’ to national radioactive dump plan February 3, 2016 senior reporter The Palaszczuk government has ruled out supporting any plan to build a national radioactive waste storage facility anywhere in Queensland.

That includes Oman Ama, the small town on the Cunningham Highway between Inglewood and Warwick, where a private landowner had put forward his property as a potential radioactive waste site.

Information from the Australian government project confirms intermediate-level radioactive waste would be “temporarily” stored at the chosen facility for many years, while the majority of radioactive waste would be low-level.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says intermediate-level radioactive waste “contains higher radioactivity levels than low level waste. It requires shielding when handled. Intermediate level waste – generated during operation of a nuclear power plant – consists mostly of ion exchange resins used to clean the water circulating through the reactor.”

Queensland has now written to the Australian government and asked that all potential Queensland radioactive waste storage sites be removed from the Australian government’s shortlist of six potential sites.

This was revealed in a letter on January 25, 2016, written on behalf of State Development Minister Anthony Lynham, to one of the opponents of the proposed radioactive waste dump.

Private land holder Gordon Donovan – who owns land at Oman Oma, suggested his property as a radioactive dump. The federal government has offered $10 million for the community which is eventually chosen to accept the waste.

The January 25 2016 letter, from Dr Lynham’s policy advisor, says the Queensland government will not support “in any circumstances” a radioactive waste storage facility in Queensland.

I wish to advise that the Queensland government does not support, in any circumstances, anywhere in Queensland being utilised for radioactive waste storage,” the letter says.

“Minister Lynham has specifically written to the Honourable Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, asking that he remove Queensland sites from the Australian government’s shortlist for the storage of radioactive waste.”

The decision was welcomed by Bob Morrish, from the lobby group Friends of Oman Ama which is effectively southern Darling Downs grazing land with a single service station.

“It is very heartening to us to see that the state government will back their legislation dating back to 2007; that’s their Prohibition of Nuclear Facilities Act,” Mr Morrish said……..

February 5, 2016 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, politics, Queensland, wastes | Leave a comment

Minister Josh Frydenberg says radiation anxieties are based on myth

Minister dismisses scare campaign, urges residents to embrace opportunity of nuclear waste dump, Courier Mail February 5, 2016  QUEENSLANDERS have been urged not to be scared of radioactive waste, but to ­embrace the opportunities a nuclear dump could bring.

Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Minister Josh Frydenberg said Queenslanders should not be panicked by nuclear because most fears were based on myth.

Frydenberg radiation

The Federal Government has moved to intervene in the debate after a protest campaign in the tiny locality of Oman Ama, near Inglewood, 250km southwest of Brisbane.

A property owner has ­offered his land to the Government for a mega low-waste ­nuclear dump and it is one of Mr Frydenberg’s six preferred sites across Australia.

Mr Frydenberg told The Courier-Mail community feedback was important and up to three sites would soon be short-listed.

“It is also important to remember the number of benefits that will flow to the final chosen community,” he said……..

February 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Renewable energy an economic boon for Australia’s drought affected rural communities

logo-ARENARenewable energy drought-proofing our farms  February 3, 2016 ANDREW THOMSON The Weekly Times 
AS Australian farmers and firefighters endure El Nino and world leaders agree on emissions targets to manage climate change, it is time to look again at the role of renewable energy.

Renewable energy is not only a tool to provide clean energy and control the emissions that are changing our climate. It is also a growth industry offering employment and revenue opportunities almost exclusively in regional and rural communities.

For many farming landowners, such as Peter, Leigh and David Watts, of Yeungroon, featured in The Weekly Times last week, lease payments from turbines are a way to drought-proof farms by ensuring ­ongoing income in tough times.


There is enormous potential to grow the partnerships between rural communities and renewable energy providers.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has signalled a new approach to ­renewable energy and this has given businesses such as energy company Acciona the confidence to make major investments in Australia.

Last month, it announced plans to progress the Mt Gellibrand wind farm proposal, which would provide clean power to more than 100,000 households. The project would create more than 100 jobs in the building phase, about 10 ongoing roles, and deliver substantial revenue for the life of the wind farm to landowners, council and the wider community.

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target has generated $18.5 billion of investment and, under the revised target, we expect to see at least ­another $10 billion by 2020.

 Job creation alone has considerable impact on regional economies.
 According to the Clean Energy Australia Report 2014 from the Clean Energy Council, the renewable ­energy industry employed more than 20,000 people last year, and that figure will grow as the industry grows.

Today the industry employs more people than the coal-generation ­sector in Australia. With stable policy settings, a clear direction on emissions targets and an understanding that Australia requires a more sophisticated approach to ­energy policy, the renewables sector is well placed to innovate and grow.

Improving technology in the wind sector means we can now generate more electricity from fewer turbines and maintain an income stream for landowners, councils and community organisations in regional and rural communities. It is my hope regional Australia and the renewables sector can grow together.  Andrew Thomson is managing ­director of energy company Acciona

February 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wind | Leave a comment

Massive Adani coal mine halted indefinitely due to poor coal market

Parkinson-Report-Adani puts Galilee coal mine on hold pending recovery in coal price, REneweconomy, By  on 4 February 2016 The Indian mining and energy giant Adani Enterprises appears to have put development of its massive and controversial $16 billion Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin on hold – until coal prices show signs of a solid rebound. Which could be never.

A report from brooking house Axis Capital in India this week quotes Adani management as saying that no capital expenditure is planned by the company for the project until there is “visibility” of a rebound in the coal price.

Given that international coal prices are at record lows, and most analysts predict further falls as the commodity faces increased competition from renewables, and major economies turn away from coal due to environmental and climate impacts, it suggests that Adani accepts that the Galilee Basin may not get developed……

February 5, 2016 Posted by | General News, Queensland | Leave a comment

Port Augusta Council to consider DP Energy’s big solar/wind project


solar,-wind-aghastDP Energy seeks approval for big solar/wind project near Port Augusta as public urged to have say ABC News2 Feb 16  Port Augusta’s council is encouraging the public to share their views on a renewable energy park proposed to the south of the city, along the Augusta Highway.

Map Spencer GulfDP Energy has submitted an application to the state Development Assessment Committee for the project, which contains up to 59 wind turbines and 1.6 million solar panels, to be built in stages south of Port Augusta.

Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said the project fits in well in the region, which aims to be a centre for renewable energy.

“It’s been demonstrated in Port Augusta through Sundrop Farms using the technology which they’re using, in this case yes we know that wind turbines do exist around the world and around the countryside and in South Australia as well as solar PV [photovoltaic], but this one is the first of its kind in linking the two together,” he said.

The proposal is now out for public consultation and councillor Johnson is encouraging people to have a say……..

February 3, 2016 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

AUSTRALIAN NUCLEAR ASSOCIATION wants nuclear reactors on Spencer Gulf

Submission pro nuclear

THE AUSTRALIAN NUCLEAR ASSOCIATION (ANA) put in a submission to #NuclearCommissionSAust devoted only to promoting NUCLEAR ELECTRICITY GENERATION. Of course, they made no attempt to consider renewable energy generation, let alone compare the costs. Heaven forfend, as that would have blown their argument right out of the water!

Anyway, they selected recommending Upper Spencer Gulf Area as the site for South Australia to get nuclear  reactors:

“The sites are · Site 1 – Fleurieu Peninsula · Site 2 – Upper Spencer Gulf Crag Point · Site 3 – Kadina site, Spencer’s Gulf east coast”

Map Spencer Gulf

ANA went to great lengths comparing the different types of nuclear reactors – large, small and medium reactor types.

They were hesitant about  Generation IV   (new nukes) stating that emerging technologies would be available too late to be effective against global warming.

As for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, ANA sees hurdles, and is not enthusiastic:

“their deployment is highly dependent on: 1. An order book which matches factory scale manufacture to ensure their economic competitiveness 2. A new regulatory regime which enables operations and security personnel to be deployed in reduced numbers to match the scale of power output”

So, ANA wants to put existing types of nuclear reactors on Spencer Gulf coast:

“the Westinghouse AP1000, the Russian VVER1000 and the Enhanced Candu 6”

Their conclusion?

“nuclear power is a realistic option to connect the grid in SA provided the interconnector to Victoria is upgraded.”   (Nary a word about how there’s have to be a nuclear waste dump site set up first. )

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Submissions to Royal Commission S.A. | 1 Comment

South Australian community in Kimba alarmed: nuclear waste site “at Minister’s discretion”

radioactive trashCommunity shortlisted for nuclear waste site says consultation is driving community apart ABC Radio PM 1 Feb 16   “……..NATALIE WHITING: Three of the six sites shortlisted for Australia’s nuclear waste dump are in the federal seat of Grey in South Australia.

Two of those are in the small farming community of Kimba. Local farmer Peter Woolford says consultation about the proposal is taking its toll.

PETER WOOLFORD: The stress that’s there is quite evident, and the community is fractured…….

The Commonwealth’s consultation team has visited Kimba three times since the shortlist was announced in November.  They’ll be back again this month.

PETER WOOLFORD: They meet with groups, they meet with individuals, so to me it’s a pretty divisive thing doing it separately, and in small groups, but you know, that’s what they have to do.  They say they’re trying to get word to everybody, and I guess that’s the consultation process.

NATALIE WHITING: The Federal Government has said the shortlist will be whittled down further in March. But across the border in New South Wales, a shortlisted community has already been told they won’t be getting the dump.

The Federal Member for Calare, John Cobb, assured a packed community meeting in Hill End on the weekend that it wouldn’t be the site. He said he had already spoken with the Minister, and it would be ruled out because of community opposition. That’s frustrated some people in Kimba……..

PETER WOOLFORD: The consultation team cannot tell us what percentage is against, you know, we’ve asked that question to them, you know, what percentage against will stop this? But at the end of the day they keep saying to us that it’s up to the Minister’s discretion. And they said to us they will find a site.

NATALIE WHITING: The Commonwealth process has been running alongside South Australia’s Royal Commission into the Nuclear Cycle.

The Royal Commission will hand down its tentative findings in a fortnight. It has been investigating all possible involvement in the industry – from waste storage to power generation.

The country’s chief scientist Alan Finkel told Radio National he looks forward to advising the Commonwealth when it responds to the findings.

ALAN FINKEL: The primary focus I anticipate from the report will be on storage: is there an opportunity for Australia, in particular South Australia, to have a role in a global nuclear fuel cycle by taking the role of long term storage.

NATALIE WHITING: That goes well beyond the waste plans currently being discussed by the Government……..

February 3, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, South Australia, wastes | Leave a comment

Turnbull copying Abbott as destroyer of renewables, stripping Australian Renewable Energy Agency

“The fact that Arena and the CEFC are still on the chopping block shows that the Liberals’ attacks on renewables hasn’t stopped under Malcolm Turnbull. Greg Hunt has confirmed that these two agencies will remain in the Turnbull Liberal government’s sites.”

Renewables agency stripped of members and run by bureaucrat

Board terms expire, leaving body tasked with investing in emerging technology in hands of department secretary for second time in two years. ll appointed board members of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency have had their terms expire and have not been replaced, leaving it governed by the secretary of the Department of the Environment, Guardian Australia has learned.

The same thing happened in 2014 while Tony Abbott was prime minister, and the move has now been criticised as an attempt by the Turnbull government to remove the independence of the agency.

Turnbull destroys renewables

According to legislation, the board must consist of the secretary of the Department of the Environment and up to six others appointed by the minister. The agency can operate with the secretary being the only board member, since it reaches quorum when a majority of the board members are present, which now occurs with one.

Parliament sits for the first time in 2016 on Tuesday, with bills abolishing both the renewable energy agency (Arena) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation still before parliament, despite having been rejected by the Senate. Signs indicate the Turnbull government intends to keep them. Continue reading

February 3, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Queensland govt faces outrage after approving Adani coal project

Environmental groups outraged over Adani approval    Queensland political editor Environment advocates have been quick to express their disappointment following the news the state government has granted an environmental authority for the controversial Adani coal mine project in the Galilee Basin.

While the environmental approval is still one less hurdle the India-based company has to overcome, it is still to secure funding for the $16 billion project and receive a mining licence from the state.

But the authority has drawn criticism from green groups, including the Environmental Defenders Office, with Queensland principal solicitor Sean Ryan announcing the group’s “disappointment” with the decision.

“The EA, granted by Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, authorises the environmental harms of the project subject to conditions but the project still requires mining leases to proceed,” he said.

“These leases are under the cloud of an appeal currently in the Queensland Supreme Court regarding native title issues.

“The lawfulness of federal approval of this project, re-issued by the Environment Minister on 14 October 2015, is also being questioned by our client Australian Conservation Foundation in the Federal Court. ACF’s challenge includes whether the minister had sufficient regard to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef required by international convention.”

Last year, the Queensland Land Court found Adani had exaggerated the benefits the project would bring, agreeing it was most likely to create just under 1500 net jobs a year, rather than the 10,000 it had been promoting and that Adani’s modelling had “probably overstated the selling price of the coal and therefore the royalties generated by the project and the corporate tax payable”.

But it rejected testimony that the mine would not be financially viable.

Greenpeace Australia’s Shani Tager said the government had “sold out” the Queensland environment.

“This environmental authority waves through a project that threatens the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which is already suffering from climate change and pollution,” she said in a statement.

“As Australia’s largest coal mine, Carmichael will add to the global warming that is threatening the reef. It will mean expanding Abbot Point port, dredging in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and sending more ships through this delicate ecosystem.”

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said the foundation, which was challenging the federal government approval of the mine in court “could not understand the decision”.

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Queensland | Leave a comment

Queensland disused coal power site could be solar station this year

Solar power station in Collinsville could be under construction this year, ABC News map-solar-Queensland(includes Audio) 2 Feb 16  QLD Country Hour  By David Sparkes Construction of a $100 million solar power station in Collinsville, North Queensland, could begin this year if a deal is struck for selling the electricity.

Ratch Australia plans to build the station on the site of the disused coal power station it purchased in 2011.

Business development executive general manager Anthony Yeates said the company had been short-listed in an tender process with Ergon Energy and, failing that, there were other potential clients for an off-take agreement.

“The bulk of the development activities are all completed, so it’s a fairly advanced project and it’s really just awaiting us to close out some of the important commercial arrangements,” he said………

February 3, 2016 Posted by | Queensland, solar | 1 Comment

Energy self sufficiency- battery storage and solar getting cheaper

The latest report shows that almost two-thirds of Australians want to be self-sufficient in meeting their energy needs and while battery systems will not give complete independence for most consumers, it does offer a bit more control.

Costs of battery storage systems have been falling at a rapid rate and forecasts are for this trend to continue as more and more households adopt them. It is expected that prices will halve again within the next five years.

Solar panels have also gotten cheaper, with the Climate Council reporting a 75 per cent drop in price over the past five years.

Companies such as Reposit, an ACT-based start-up, are using the grid’s infrastructure to allow people to trade their energy directly on the wholesale market, effectively acting like a mini power station in everybody’s backyard.

battey TeslaExplained: The Tesla Powerwall and what it means for Australia’s energy market, ABC News, 2 Feb 16,  The Powerwall, a lithium-ion battery system designed to store electricity generated from rooftop solar panels, is widely considered to be a game-changer for the electricity industry. 7.30 has asked consumer group Choice to crunch the numbers. Here’s what they found.

By 7.30‘s Andy Park, digital producer Amy Sherden

What is the Tesla Powerwall?While the concept of a home battery storage system is not new to Australians, the Tesla Powerwall unit has been highly anticipated. Continue reading

February 3, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | 1 Comment

Peter Burn, Australian Industry Group’s Submission to #NuclearCommissionSAust – is weakly pro nuclear

Submission pro nuclearThis is one of those pro nuclear Submissions that carefully hedges its bets, while coming out as weakly pro nuclear.

It comments on – “future world demand for nuclear fuels. We recognise that this is highly uncertain”

It even warns on the effect on Australia’s uranium industry, if nuclear reprocessing were to be adopted:   “would alter the dynamics of the world market for nuclear fuels and potentially reduce the prospects for expanded uranium mining”

Peter Burn’s Submission comes up with that interesting bit of ?logic that I keep meeting. Acknowledging that currently there is  a poor market for nuclear electricity, then his argument goes that we’d better get cracking on setting up a nuclear industry in case there’s  a big demand later!

“these facts and uncertainties mean that any investment commitments are likely to be many years away – and that now is a good time to start preparing  our energy options, including a potential nuclear generation sector.”

Like all the pro nuclear proponents, this AIG Submission calls for “review of the legal context of these developments” – i.e change Australia’s Environmental Laws.

This is not  a very enthusiastically pro nuclear Submission. It lists 7 recommendations, all of which come straight from Australia’s pro nuclear front group “Think Climate Consulting”, headed by Barry Brook.

The two major ones are a “cost benefit” study of South Australia importing nuclear waste, and of setting up nuclear recycling.  Left to Barry Brook’s nuclear lobby group, we can guess what the outcome of that study would be.

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Submissions to Royal Commission S.A. | 1 Comment


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