Well, Australia seems to be doing not too well in environmental matters, (nor in most others, at present). The sooner we get rid of the Abbott government, the better.
I’ve tried to be non political – because our land, our water, our air, our planet – these matters are beyond party politics. That is something that some Liberals are now realising.
The mass Climate Action Marches on September 21st showed that Australians care. On the local level, so many Australians, including Liberals, are working to conserve the wildlife, our water and land, and many are members of groups like Landcare, Australian Koala Foundation, and the most prominent activist groups – Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth, and Beyond Nuclear.
Australia’s environmentalists do have quite a proud history of achievement in environmental goals, really, a remarkable record in awakening public opinion and in slowing down polluting industries. It is thanks to the work of Australians like Dr Helen Caldicott that the atmospheric nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific were stopped. It is thanks to the anti-nuclear movement that Australia does not have the nightmare of nuclear power.
Australians in general do have a strong appreciation of nature. They also seem to be showing a keen appreciation of the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy. The September Climate March, is, I believe, the start of a stronger movement for public awareness of our ecological peril, and for action for positive change.
Great changes in the Earth’s history are marked in geological Ages, with great changes caused by events such as volcanoes, meteorite impacts, climate change and the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates, and occurring over millions of years. Now geologists are seeing changes in the Earth that are occurring over merely one hundred years.
These changes are caused by the activities of one species – human beings. They usher in a new Age – the Anthropocene (or human-caused ) Epoch.
The changes in the Anthropocene Age are already profound:
- Landscape – Deforestation, desertification, mountains carved by mining, rivers dammed and rerouted, islands sinking under sea level rise.
- Ecology – massive extinctions of species – loss of habitat, loss of biodiversity
- Climate change – rise in greenhouse gases in atmosphere, heating of air and oceans, acidification of oceans, glaciers melting, sea level rise
- Water - shortage of clean drinking water, pollution of groundwater and surface waters.
Those are just a few “headlines” for the changes that we have already wrought on the only liveable planet.
THE NUCLEAR CONTRIBUTION to the Anthropocene Epoch has already been great – with the landscape scarring effect of thousands of atmospheric and underground atomic bomb tests.
Radioactive pollution – from atomic bomb making, and testing, and from several parts of the nuclear power chain has affected soil, groundwater and air.
The nuclear lobby loves to talk about “background radiation” as if it’s all naturally caused and benign. However it includes radionuclides that never before existed on Earth – plutonium, strontium, cesium, carbon-14, and radioactive iodine from atomic bomb testing and other nuclear activities.
The nuclear industry is the epitome of the whole process of human society destroying its own essential environment. While so-called “primitive” societies function on a culture of spirituality, and respect for the land, unfortunately the “developed” society has the upper hand in this sad world, and seems bent on mindless destruction.
I do single out nuclear power and nuclear weaponry, because this toxic industry has special features that do not apply in anything like the same degree, to our other toxic industries. These features are: secrecy, deception, false propaganda, invisible cancer-causing radiation, dangerous wastes lasting for thousands of years, weaponry that could quickly annihilate millions, astronomic costs to be paid by present and future generations.
This nuclear nastiness is symptomatic of the malaise affecting the world. The dominant culture of endless growth and endless consumption has now brought about global warming, and frightening climate change with extreme weather, sea level rise, and acidification of the oceans. The focus is now on climate change – but it is not the only disaster befalling our planet.
And all these disasters are related to each other – and to the race for to grow, consume, and sell. Where to start? – over-population, chemical pollution, deforestation, over-fishing, scarcity of clean water , destruction of habitats – loss of biodiversity, loss of arable soil, – just a few aspects of our truly disastrous world culture.
An alien space traveller might be bemused – observing how the world’s technocrats come up with “solutions”. Things like geo-engineering – an example of yet again trying out grand chemical fixes, which would make an awful lot of money for a few, and an awful lot of misery for many.
The trashing of our world is the background to the distrust between ethnic and religious groups, and to violent and criminal clashes. That in turn, feeds the greedy weapons industry, which, while making a few people rich, sets the scene for military destruction of the world environment.
My favourite silly solution is the push to set up a colony on Mars. Never mind that Mars average temperature is 51F, but can reach – 184F on cold nights, that there’s not enough oxygen, that there’s no magnetic field to protect us from cosmic radiation, there’s intolerably low atmospheric pressure …..etc. Never mind that the astronauts would probably die on the way there anyway.
There IS NO PLANET B.
Australia is seen as the “lucky country” – wealthy, healthy, progressive – happily remote from the troubles, and the pollution of other countries. But, as Barry Jones once wrote – Sleepers Awake!
Australia is well and truly up there with the major world polluters. Indeed, we boast the greatest greenhouse emissions per person, of any country in the world. We’re letting the coal industry trash the Great Barrier Reef. We’re killing our one and only major river system – the Murray Darling. We’re champion deforesters. Australia’s thin arable topsoil is being blown and washed away. Radioactive pollution has been with us since the inception of the dirty uranium industry, and the colonialist scandal of Britain’s atomic bomb testing, – and fools are recommending that we get more of it!
This website has focused on the nuclear industry. But really, that should not be separated from all the other criminal offences against the planet – carried out because of an exploitative and crazy culture of endless growth and endless consumption.
We’d better hope that it is not too late to change. At a “local level” Australians can learn from traditional Aboriginal land management, as described by Bill Gammage in his book The Biggest Estate”
At a global level, we’d better take part in the world-wide movement towards clean energy, and towards a conserver, rather than a consumer, society.
We know what a suicide plane crash can do to buildings. We know what missiles can do to planes. But what about the radioactive devastation that terrorist missiles, bombs, computer hacking could do to nuclear facilities?
While the nuclear nations ramp up their nuclear weapons – supposedly for “security” “defense” – they are in fact increasing their vulnerability – setting up targets for terrorists.
Nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel pools, nuclear waste containers, nuclear transports – these are indeed the perfect targets for terrorist attack. Meanwhile the nuclear lobby spins out its guff about “energy security” blah blah. Governments worry about earthquakes, floods, tsunamis – and well they should.
The “twin towers” attack of September 2011, the missile attack on a civilian plane over Ukraine – surely these are indications of why it is time to get rid of those even more terrible targets – the world’s nuclear facilities.
In August, we remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki and World War 2. The fear of nuclear war still hangs over the world. However, terrorism is now a more likely threat. The nuclear industry in all its forms provides for terrorists the best possible targets.
AUSTRALIA RISKS AN EVEN WORSE NUCLEAR TARGET FUTURE
Greedy businessmen and unimaginative politicians are scheming to get the entire nuclear fuel chain into this country. This will inevitably be part of the USA militatarism in the region, and will provide not just one nuclear terrorism target, as we now have, but many. The big push is for the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor ( LFTR), Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, Importation of Nuclear Wastes. A lot of money for a few? A lot of danger for all of us!
Yes, the wonderful traditional owners at Muckaty did have a landmark win, after their 7 year battle to stop a radioactive waste dump on their land.
And yes – informed people world-wide ware applauding their courage and conviction. And yes, Australia’s mainstream media is pretty much ignoring it.
The next sally by the pro nuclear forces will be to portray thos courageous indigenous people as ‘victims’ – manipulated by ‘outside forces’ – by which they mean the environment movemnt.
We would be naive to think that the nuclear lobby and government will now give up on dumping nuclear waste on Aboriginal land. They could give up, and select a site at Lucas Heights for teh storage of the small amount of highly radioactive waste that Australia is bound to take back from overseas.
But that is not the real aim of Australia’s pro nuclear Liberal and Labor parties. The old greedy dream of John White and others is to make Australia the radioactive trash importing country for the world.
It will indeed be tragedy, if they are able to blackmail and or bribe Aboriginal communities to host this toxic dump. It is understandable that many indigenous people, living in conditions of poverty, could see such deals as beneficial to their families
The nuclear lobby is determined to keep both their thriving nuclear weapons industry and their failing commercial nuclear industry going.
A major impediment for them is the ever- growing piles of toxic radioactive trash, including the dead reactors themselves. So, amongst the many nuclear lies (about radiation being OK for health, about solving climate change, about cheap costs, about helping under-developed nations) – amongst these lies – the top ones today are the:
LIES ABOUT NUCLEAR WASTES
1. THE LIE about new nuclear reactors turning nuclear wastes now into valuable resources. “The new nuclear reactors will consume the former ‘wastes’,that we now call ‘valuable fuel resources’ ” .
This is supposed to happen through Mixed Oxide Fuel reactors (MOX) or through pyroprocessing as in Molten Salt fuelled Reactors(MSRs) such as Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs) But all in fact greatly increase the volume of radioactive waste.
2. THE LIE that new gee-whiz Thorium Nuclear Reactors do not produce wastes. They do, some lasting the mere 3 centuries, some lasting for many thousands of years
The Thorium lie is often linked to promotion of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) . They sound sweet and harmless, but require plutonium and/or enriched uranium to function. That means that the conventional nuclear industry must keep going- to supply them – and hey presto! they will solve the waste problem!. Wrong! As they themselves produce and indeed become – radioactive trash.
Thorium reactors and SMRs are unlikely to ever happen, due to their exorbitant cost, technical problems, and public resistance.
BUT because communities are unwilling to host radioactive trash dumps, thorium promotes are touting their wares to governments – a cowardly escape from the hard decisions that are needed.
The hard decisions needed are:
1. Stop nuclear power in all its forms – stop making the stuff
2. Confront and deal with the necessary task of deep burial of the existing radioactive trash, with equitable and full community participation and understanding
Right now the Federal Court case is on with hearings in Melbourne, Tennant Creek and Darwin, examining the Federal Government’s plan for a radioactive waste dump on Aboriginal land at Muckaty near Tennant Creek. The Court’s focus will be on issues of consent and control, regarding the Traditional landowners.
Australia is obliged to take back high level radioactive wastes that were sent from Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, in Sydney, to UK and Europe. So this, not huge, volume of nuclear wastes has to go somewhere. There is also the continuing problem of more nuclear wastes being churned out by the. Lucas Heights reactor. Still, not now a huge volume. There is a sound case for it to be stored onsite
The underlying motive for the planned Muckaty waste dump could well be what Bob Hawke has been suggesting – the start of a lucrative (for some people) international nuclear waste import business.
No surprise that it is planned for Aboriginal land. This is the the time honoured traditional way – privileged societies make money out of industrial processes, and make sure that indigenous peoples cop the environmental degradation and the health costs. If absolutely necessary, bribery or blackmail are used to help this process along.
The nuclear nations are now, very late in the peace, beginning to face up to the foul thing that they have created – nuclear radioactive trash. USA, UK, Europe, Russia even China face the turmoil of where to put it.
It is simple insanity to keep on making the stuff.
Australia has already trashed the land of Aboriginal people, by allowing Britain to atomic bomb huge expanses of South Australia, where teh radioactive wastes linger. But we have the opportunity to remain one of the many nations that are now intrinsically nuclear free. We can shut down Lucas Heights, (get medical isotopes from non nuclear sources) and say NO to radioactive trash dumping on Aboriginal land
The world faces a dangerous and ever more pressing problem – nuclear wastes. In Australia – “new nuclear” is being hyped as the answer- don’t believe it!
The logical steps to deal with nuclear wastes are:
1. Stop making the stuff. Close down the commercial and military nuclear reactors that produce plutonium and other long-lived radioactive materials
2. Choose the “least worst” option to dispose of the existing nuclear wastes – (a) Interim storage of radioactive wastes into above ground containers (b) Deep burial underground permanent repositories.
The nuclear lobby, desperate to stave off the death of its industry, comes up with grand promises of new Generation IV systems, reactors that will reprocess, “recycle” plutonium wastes into Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) to fuel for other Gen IV reactors. At the end, highly toxic radioactive wastes are still produced.
And all this – despite the enormous costs, the very dangerous transport of plutonium, the risks of terrorism, the increased risks of weapons proliferation.
The nuclear lobby’s cries for Very High Temperature Reactors (VHTR)s, Super Critical Water Reactors (SCWR)s, Molten Salt Reactors (MSR)s, Gas Cooled Fast rectors (GCFR)s, Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors (SCFR)s, Lead Cooled Fast Reactors (LCFR)s – all desperate and conflicting cries for their own salvation, rather than any solution to wastes, costs, climate change, energy needs.
The worry is that the nuclear lobby might win, by manipulating governments and populations into buying their expensive and dangerous new toys – because nobody really wants a nuclear waste tomb in their area.
The trouble is – nuclear cemeteries, however unappealing, are still the least worst option.
As the nuclear lobby is busy persuading the world that ionising radiation is OK really, the facts are different. The most recent National Academy of Sciences Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation ( BEIR VII) in studying the cancer risk, supplied tables that showed the clear difference between radiation effects on males and females.
This lifespan graph (By Ian Goddard, deriving data from those tables) shows increased cancer risk by exposure to a given amount of radiation. Note the high risk for infant and little girls.
The pink line shows the risk for girls, the blue line for boys. Look at left hand part of the graph. It covers from zero to 5 years, and includes pre birth. We see a striking difference between the blue line and the pink line. The nuclear regulators assume that the risk shown here at age 30– in the blue line- is the same for every individual regardless of age or gender, – this is marked by the green circle. Yet, even at ages 40 – 60 the cancer risk from radiation is significantly more for women, than for men. - Mary Olson
That’s just looking at cancer risk. Not even considering risks to reproductive system pregnancy, and genetic effects.
A woman is at significantly greater risk of suffering and dying from radiation-induced cancer than a man who gets the same dose of ionising radiation.
This is news because data in the report on the biological effects of ionizing radiation published in 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has been under-reported.
It is more often acknowledged that children are at higher risk of disease and death from radiation, but it is rarely pointed out that the regulation of radiation and nuclear activity (worldwide) ignores the disproportionately greater harm to both women and children. http://www.nirs.org/radiation/radhealth/radiationwomen.pdf
It is scandalous that these facts are not generally known. It is scandalous that the so-called “permissable levels” of ionising radiation are based on the “normal person” – that is, a 30 year old male. Foetuses, children and women are far more susceptible to radiation harm than men are.
Women are consistently reassured by narrowly educated nuclear physicists, and other technocrats, that nuclear power is safe, and that they have nothing to worry about in regard to ionising radiation.
Decisions on nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear wastes are almost exclusively made by men.Yet the brunt of nuclear-caused cancer is suffered by women and children, as is the brunt of nuclear war, and of depleted uranium spread.
Opinion polls over many years, and in many countries, consistently show that women are opposed to nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
More women than men are concerned about health and environmental effects of the nuclear industry.
Yet they are consistently reassured by narrowly educated nuclear physicists, and other technocrats, that nuclear power is safe, and that they have nothing to worry about in regard to ionising radiation.
Decisions on nuclear power and ionising radiation. The nuclear power heirarchy is almost uniformly male, though the nuclear lobby tries hard to pretend that they have equal rights credentials by getting a few token women to show off. And, a favourite male trick, – put a woman in an untenable position – as for example, Anne Lauvergeon was put at the top of France’s rather wobbly pinnacle of nuclear expansionism – AREVA.
In Australia they’ve given the CEO job for Toro Energy – with its unlikely-to -be profitable uranium enterprise to Vanessa Guthrie
The latest propaganda from Australia’s nuclear lobby came from the BHP-funded Grattan Institute’s submission to the Energy White Paper, (due in September). They suggest a chain of small modular nuclear reactors along the East Coast.
Nuclear power and sea level rise – All reactors on sea coasts endangered by sea level rise Over the next hundred years there will be significant sea rises, one meter or more, and many closed nuclear reactor sites could be flooded, including the stored nuclear waste. That could contaminate much of the coast lines for decades.
Nuclear power and water shortage – Climate Change is already bringing droughts and changed rainfall patterns. Even if the vloume of rain might be the same, or greater, with the warming planet – it’s not much help if it falls in the oceans, or if it falls intermittently – in flooding torrents.
As water becomes scarcer, and more expensive, nuclear power becomes a very uneconomic way to use it.
As temperatures rise, nuclear reactors will more and more often be forced to shut down – adding to the already well known diseconomics of nuclear power