Australian news, and some related international items

Australia deliberately prevented a nuclear-free Pacific treaty, to obey USA’s interests

Declassified documents from the National Archives of Australia, including the 1985 Cabinet minute about the SPNFZ Treaty, show clearly that Australia designed the treaty to protect US interests in the Pacific, including the deployment of nuclear-armed warships and the testing of nuclear missiles.

Aust-two-faced-on-peaceInternational legal experts, including Don Rothwell, professor of international law at the Australian National University, have raised concerns that uranium sales to India would breach Australia’s obligations under the treaty. Rothwell has prepared a legal opinion stating that the SPNFZ Treaty prohibits members from selling uranium to countries that do not accept full-scope nuclear safeguards under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This is consistent with past Australian government policy. 

Delaying The Nuclear-Free Zone In The Pacific By Nic Maclellan At the height of the nuclear arms race between the United States and Soviet Union, a treaty to create a South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, or SPNFZ, was opened for signature on Hiroshima Day, 6 August 1985, at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Rarotonga.

Twenty-eight years after it was signed on that day by Australia, New Zealand and island nations, the United States still hasn’t ratified its protocols, in spite of a request from president Barack Obama to the US Senate more than two years ago.

Next week, as Forum leaders gather in the Marshall Islands – site of sixty-seven US nuclear tests at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls – the US government will be eager to keep nuclear issues off the agenda, as it has been since the Treaty was first mooted. Declassified documents from the National Archives of Australia, and US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, highlight longstanding opposition in Canberra and Washington to a comprehensive nuclear-free zone that might hamper US nuclear deployments in the Pacific.

The Forum meeting, and the US Senate’s continued stalling, coincide with on-going concerns that Australia’s decision to sell uranium to India threatens to breach Australian treaty obligations. As Conservative Australian governments in the 1960s debated the acquisition of nuclear weapons and purchased aircraft capable of delivering nuclear strikes in Southeast Asia, the labour movement across the region proposed a nuclear free zone designed to ban the bomb in this part of the world. The SPNFZ Treaty was finally negotiated in the 1980s after decades of campaigning by unions, Pacific churches and the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement. Continue reading

April 24, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian government’s unseemly haste in selling uranium to volatile Middle East region

exclamation-Robb Fast-Tracks UAE Uranium Dea  By Dave Sweeney, 23 April 14 The Federal Government has signed another uranium export deal with a dubious overseas partner – and without inspecting the country’s facilities. We need an independent inquiry, writes Dave Sweeney

In a move that marks the first time Australia uranium would be sold to the Middle East, Trade Minister Andrew Robb is fast-tracking a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Last week hesigned a new treaty in Dubai worth 800 tonnes of Uranium a year from 2020. But in doing so, the Minister is treating our Parliament as little more than a radioactive rubber stamp.

The foundation for these sales was laid by former foreign minister and airline food critic Bob Carr, who signed the initial agreement with the UAE — a country with a secretive, unelected government situated in one of the world’s most insecure regions.

Consequently, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recently recommended that prior to any ratification of the sales plan, the International Atomic Energy Agency undertake physical inspections of UAE facilities.

But the Federal Government’s failure to take this or any other prudent step, in favour of providing “certainty” to the ailing uranium sector shows it has confused the commercial interest of Australia’s small, high-risk low-return uranium sector with our national interest. Uranium is a small contributor to Australian export revenue and employment, but when it comes to global impact and risk Australian uranium is playing in the major league. The Australian Conservation Foundation has used industry data to examine the sustained gap between the sector’s promise and performance.

The report, Yellowcake Fever: Exposing the Uranium Industry’s Economic Myths, highlights the urgent need for an independent cost-benefit analysis and a comprehensive and transparent assessment of Australia’s uranium trade. The sector’s employment contribution is tiny: the World Nuclear Association estimates there are less than 1800 jobs in Australia’s entire uranium industry, representing just 0.015 per cent of Australian jobs. From 2002 to 2011, uranium sales averaged $627 million annually and accounted for only 0.29 per cent of all national export revenue: small beer, but with a big hangover.

Why sell to the UAE? The seven emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have one of the least participatory political systems in the world. In 2012, more than 50 human rights activists in the UAE were rounded up and detained without charge following calls for political reform. The Human Rights Watch 2013 world Report describes a worsening human rights situation in the country, with labour rights a particular issue.

The planned uranium sale treaty doesn’t take into account local human rights issues, political changes or broader social upheavals in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It states that the agreement “shall remain in force for an initial period of thirty years and upon expiry of this initial period shall be renewed automatically for successive thirty year periods”. If this is advanced Australia would be locked in. As Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said, the Federal Government should “take a deep breath” and ask “do they really want to be selling ­uranium into the Middle East at the moment?”

Despite the Federal Government’s repeated insistence that the uranium must and will only be used for peaceful purposes, there is clear evidence that international nuclear safeguards are stressed, under-resourced and effectively impossible to police. To simply state that Australian uranium will not be misused is dangerously naïve.

In the shadow of Fukushima — a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium — we need policy based on evidence. Instead of fast-tracking irresponsible uranium sales to the UAE and India — or continuing to provide nuclear fuel to nuclear weapon states — we urgently need an independent assessment of the full impacts of Australia’s radioactive and risky uranium trade.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and uranium deaths in Africa

antnuke-relevantUranium kills in Namibia 2014-04-22  Andreas Wilson-Späth 

That uranium is a radioactive and toxic substance with potentially lethal impacts on the people who dig it out of the ground is generally glossed over by those among us who argue for nuclear power as a clean, green, safe and sustainable source of electricity.

Along with other intractable problems faced by the atomic energy industry – like its propensity to lay to waste entire landscapes if and when things go wrong and the fact that we still don’t have a long-term solution for storing its noxious waste products – this is not in dispute. It’s merely a matter of unintended side-effects. Collateral damage.

For uranium miners in Namibia, however, their occupation in proximity to the metal has much more first-hand and personal consequences. A report soon to be released by Earthlife Namibia and the Labour Resource and Research Institute argues that long-time workers at the Rössing uranium mine are routinely exposed to unhealthy working conditions, radiation and dust.

For uranium miners in Namibia, however, their occupation in proximity to the metal has much more first-hand and personal consequences. A report soon to be released by Earthlife Namibia and theLabour Resource and Research Institute argues that long-time workers at the Rössing uranium mine are routinely exposed to unhealthy working conditions, radiation and dust.

The survey of current and former Rössing employees suggests that an anomalous number of them are dying of cancer and other mysteriously unexplained illnesses caused by their working conditions.

Rössing, which is located in central Namibia and employs over 1500 people, is majority owned (69%) by British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. The next biggest shareholders of the mine are the government of Iran (10%) and our own Industrial Development Corporation (10%).

Rio Tinto officials have consistently denied that they’re to blame for any harm, insisting that their operations at Rössing and elsewhere, including their copper, gold, coal, bauxite, iron ore and diamond mines around the world, are well monitored and run ethically, for the benefit of local communities, respecting human rights and protecting the environment.

But a closer look at the multinational’s global operations reveals that Rio Tinto isn’t quite as squeaky clean as they would like us to believe:

• At the end of last year, radioactive and acidic slurry spilled from a uranium processing tank at Rössing. Two weeks later the damaged rubber lining of a similar tank at the company’s Ranger mine in Australia’s Northern Territory leaked more than a million litres of the stuff.

• In 2013, 33 miners perished when a tunnel collapsed at Rio Tinto’s Grasberg gold and copper mine in Indonesia – the largest portion of the total of 41 deaths at their global operations during that year which international trade union IndustriAll claims the company should have done more to prevent.

• Locals have blamed the Grasberg mine for pollution affecting the environment and population.

• In Madagascar, activists have accused Rio Tinto of “land grabbing and environmental devastation”.

• A lawsuit has been filed against Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon mine in the US state of Utah for five-year breaches in air pollution regulations. The organisations that brought the case claim, that on some days the dust from the mine has a similar “effect on people who are consistently outdoors” as “smoking a pack of cigarettes a day”

• In Mongolia, indigenous nomadic herders have raised concerns that an expansion of Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in the Gobi desert would threaten the integrity of the local ecosystem along with their access to fresh water.

Of course Rio Tinto also made over $1 billion in profits last year. I guess in the minds of the company’s executives that justifies the occasional mishap.

- Andreas is a freelance writer with a PhD in geochemistry. Follow him on Twitter:@Andreas_Spath

April 23, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s very misplaced enthusiasm for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

Last month, the Department of Industry’s submission to the Energy White Paper pitched Small Modular Reactors as an energy solution for isolated areas in Australia, where there is no access to the electricity grid.

The Energy Policy Institute of Australia (EPI) agreed in its submission, suggesting in its submission small modular reactors (SMRs) are particularly suitable for use in mines and towns in remote locations around Australia.

The BHP-funded Grattan Institute’s submission envisages a string of these little nuclear reactors, connected to the grid, along Australia’s Eastern coast.

Keith Orchison reports on the Grattan Institute submission:

‘The Abbott government is being told that now is the time to flick the switch to “technology neutral,” opening the way for nuclear options.’

Orchison described the advantages of SMRs as Lego-like’.

Why now?

In 2014, it was becoming clear that Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) were not likely to become an operational reality for many decades — and perhaps never.

America was the pioneer of small reactor design in the 1970s.  Again recently, Westinghouse and Babcock and Wilcox have been the leaders in designing and developing SMRs.

But in 2014, the bottom has fallen out of these projects………..

It should be noted that nowhere in [the original article about China, does the author]  Chen mention “small” reactors. However, Australian proponents of ‘small’ reactors welcomed this article, as the Thorium Small Nuclear Reactor is the favourite type proposed for Australia from all 15 possible small designs.

So, while we’re being told that China is racing ahead in the scramble to get these wonderful SMRs, in fact, China has been very much encouraged and helped into this by the U.S. Department of Energy.

This is understandable, seeing that for China it is a government project, with no required expectation of being commercially viable.

In their enthusiasm for China’s thorium nuclear project, writers neglected to mention the sobering points that Stephen Chen made in his South China Morning Post article, such as:

  • Researchers working on the project said they were under unprecedented ‘war-like’ pressure to succeed and some of the technical challenges they faced were difficult, if not impossible to solve.’
  • ‘… opposition from sections of the Chinese public.’
  • ‘… technical difficulties – the molten salt produces highly corrosive chemicals  that could damage the reactor.’
  • ‘The power plant would also have to operate at extremely high temperatures, raising concerns about safety. In addition, researchers have limited knowledge of how to use thorium.’
  • ‘… engineering difficulties .…The thorium reactors would need years, if not decades, to overcome the corrosion issue.’
  • ‘These projects are beautiful to scientists, but nightmarish to engineers.’……….

Australia’s SMR enthusiasts discount the known problems of SMRs. Some brief reminders from the September 2013 report, from the United States’ Institute for Energy and Environmental Research:

  • ‘Economics: $90 billion manufacturing order book could be required for mass production of SMRs …the industry’s forecast of relatively inexpensive individual SMRs is predicated on major orders and assembly line production.’
  • ‘SMRs will lose the economies of scale of large reactors.’
  •  ‘SMRs could reduce some safety risks but also create new ones.’
  • ‘It breaks, you bought it: no thought is evident on how to handle SMR recalls.’
  • Not a proliferation solution. ‘The use of enriched uranium or plutonium in thorium fuel has proliferation implications.’
  • Not a waste solution: ‘The fission of thorium creates long-lived fission products like technetium-99 (half-life over 200,000 years).’
  • Ongoing technical problems. ……….,6404

April 22, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, South Australia, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Australia to co-operate with United Arab Emirates in nuclear-related activities

exclamation-Australia hopes to lure Emirati students to its institutions while selling uranium to the UAE The National, Caline Malek
 April 17, 2014  ABU DHABI  Higher education and nuclear power are areas in which the UAE and Australia will start collaborating.
During a visit to the UAE this week by Andrew Robb, Australia’s trade and investment minister, an agreement was signed with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak, the Minister for Higher Education. The countries will collaborate on vocational education, training and research cooperation in higher education……..

Mr Robb said the UAE was investing in infrastructure and restructuring its economy, creating opportunities in sectors where Australia had a proven track record.

He also met senior ministers to advocate for a resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement with the GCC.

“I [used] my visit to set out the Australian government’s trade and investment agenda, to emphasise that Australia is open for business and that we are committed to deepening our economic engagement with the region,” he said.

Australia will also begin to export uranium to the UAE for its nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed in July 2012 but was ratified and came into force only on Monday. It could lead to the export to the UAE of up to 800 tonnes of uranium a year by the end of the decade. “The agreement should now pave the way for separate commercial agreements between potential Australian uranium suppliers and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation,” said Mr Kang. “The [first exports] are subject to the timeline for the construction of the UAE’s nuclear power plants, but I understand the first of these plants is scheduled for completion in 2017.”

Under the agreement, Australia will supply uranium for use in the UAE’s developing civil nuclear power programme and cooperate in nuclear-related activities, such as safeguards, security, safety and science.

“The agreement has been secured because Australia is a reliable supplier of uranium and the UAE is a responsible user of nuclear energy for civilian purposes,” said Mr Robb, who met Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, this week in Abu Dhabi.

“This will open up a new long-term market for Australian uranium producers.”……….Sheikh Abdullah said the ratification of the agreement would offer more opportunities for collaboration between the Government and private sectors of both countries. He said this falls in line with the UAE’s policy of developing its peaceful nuclear energy programme in collaboration with other countries that shared the same commitment.

Hamad Alkaabi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the agreement constituted a governmental framework for cooperation in nuclear activities between both countries……..

April 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

Austtralia’s hypocrisy. Government knows full well that Israel has nuclear weapons

hypocrisy-scaleAustralia still denies Israel’s open secret of a nuclear arsenal, SMH, April 15, 2014  Phillip Dorling  
Secret government files reveal that Australian governments, diplomats and spies have known for more than 30 years that Israel has an arsenal of nuclear weapons, while continuing to deny any knowledge of its existence to the point of misleading Parliament.

Previously secret diplomatic files declassified by the National Archives reveal a longstanding policy to turn a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Last week the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade again declined to comment on whether the Australian government thinks Israel is an undeclared nuclear weapons state.

Foreign Affairs Department briefing papers prepared for former Labor foreign minister Bill Hayden in 1987 state that ”intelligence assessments are that Israel has a small arsenal of nuclear weapons (possibly about 20). Israel’s technological capabilities would enable it confidently to deploy such weapons without recourse to a nuclear test.”

 In a confidential exchange with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Hans Blix on September 22, 1987, Mr Hayden ”commented that there appeared no doubt that Israel had nuclear weapons”.

Mr Hayden and Dr Blix were talking against the backdrop of the treason trial of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who in 1986 disclosed detailed evidence of Israel’s nuclear weapons production. The Foreign Affairs Department advised Mr Hayden to publicly deny knowledge of Israel’s nuclear weapons capabilities. Mr Hayden told Parliament on September 17, 1987: ”We have no information to corroborate these allegations.”

However, Foreign Affairs’ files, declassified in response to applications by Fairfax Media, reveal that Australia had been monitoring Israel’s nuclear program from its beginnings in the 1950s………

Australian policy remains unchanged, with the Abbott government deciding last October not to support a UN General Assembly resolution on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East – 169 countries voted for the resolution. Only five – the US, Israel, Canada, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia – voted against. Australia abstained……..

April 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, secrets and lies | 2 Comments

Australia to work with United Arab Emirates in developing nuclear technology

UAE declares launch of nuclear energy cooperation deal with Australia
Kuwait News Agency, 14/04/2014   |   11:28 PM | World News
ABU DHABI, April 14 (KUNA) — The United Arab Emirates said on Monday that an agreement on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful means signed with Australia in 2012 has come into force.
The announcement was made in an official statement published on state news agency, WAM, which mentioned that the decision for the move was made during a meeting between Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Australia’s visiting Minister of Trade and Investment Andrew Robb.
The Emirati foreign minister said that enacting the agreement will “provide broader opportunities for cooperation between state institutions and businesses operating in the nuclear energy field.”……..
According to the report, the discussions also touched upon enhancing existing economic and trade ties, and encouraging joint investments.
Sheikh Abdullah went on to stress the importance of exchanged visits in supporting bilateral cooperation and assessing the levels development and growth in each of the two countries……
The Australian minister, for his part, commended the level of cooperation between the two sides, emphasising the need to further these ties.
He also noted to the high reputation the UAE has managed to make for itself on the international scene, through providing a lucrative location for international businesses. (end)

April 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Julie Bishop is out of step with Australian opinion on nuclear weapons

Bishop, Julie cartoonJulie Bishop says banning nuclear weapons impractical  ABC Radio National, Tanya Nolan reported this story on Friday, April 11, 2014  TANYA NOLAN: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is representing Australia at a 12 nation summit in Hiroshima today discussing global efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.  Disarmament activists in Hiroshima are lobbying hard for agreement to be reached on a global ban on nuclear weapons.

But Australia is one of a group of countries that is unlikely to support any such push: Ms Bishop says banning weapons won’t get rid of them and any global treaty would be impractical without the support of the world’s nuclear armed states – something unlikely to be achieved. 

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons say Australia’s position is out of step with the views of most Australians. logo-ICAN
It’s released a survey of 1,500 Australians who were asked whether they think the Government should support a global ban on nuclear weapons.

Ruff,TilmanI spoke to Dr Tillman Ruff, co-chairman of the campaign who is in Hiroshima for the Non-Proliferation Disarmament Initiative. 

So the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN has released its poll showing 84 per cent of Australians think the Government should support a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. Don’t you think it would have been more accurate to pose the question would a global ban on nuclear weapons be effective without the support of those countries that have nuclear weapons?

TILLMAN RUFF: Well, that’s a different and rather more complicated question but I think what’s really interesting about this poll is that although this issue hasn’t been front of mind, in front of the media, in front of people’s concerns necessarily, there is still a very strong sentiment of support in Australia for people want the Government to support a global ban on nuclear weapons and it’s interesting to me to look at how widespread that support it. It’s across ages and genders and all parts of the country, all income strata. 

TANYA NOLAN: But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has a point doesn’t she, that any global ban on nuclear weapons won’t be effective if you can’t get the nuclear armed states on board? 

TILLMAN RUFF: Well, of course the elimination of nuclear weapons is going to require the states that have them to do that. I mean I think that’s obvious, but what we’ve seen essentially over the last 70 years is a failure of the nuclear armed states to live up to their legally binding obligation under the non-proliferation treaty to disarm. 

There are currently no negotiations underway and arguably our, the danger of nuclear weapons being used, many experts are suggesting is actually increasing. Proliferation is certainly not under control so it’s hard to claim that business as usual is getting us very far, very fast. 
So what might break the logjam on this, the idea of a ban, a specific legal prohibition that is something that the states that don’t have the weapons could initiate that could change the landscape very dramatically and we’ve seen that other treaties that have banned indiscriminate and inhumane weapons such as land mines and cluster munitions have in fact had a substantial influence on the major users and producers including many of the nuclear armed states, even though they haven’t signed up to those treaties. So simply the international community setting a firm moral, legal, political position that these weapons have unacceptable consequences and can’t be used for any legitimate purpose that’s consistent with international law has influenced the behaviour of those who have the weapon. ………..
TILLMAN RUFF: I think waiting for the crumbs to fall from the table of the nuclear armed states to continue for the whole world to remain hostage, to the threat, any hour of every day of every year to the risk of nuclear weapons being used and jeopardising the future for all of us and our descendents, is an unacceptable situation. 

So, you know, the states that have the weapons have so far shown really no serious intent to get rid of their nuclear weapons. ……….
TILLMAN RUFF: The fact that the foreign ministers of 12 nations are meeting in Hiroshima and seeing for themselves at first hand evidence of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that were caused by even one, by today’s standards, very small tactical sized nuclear weapon almost 70 years ago, is an important step and it’s because the fundamental evidence base that has to drive policy around nuclear weapons is not abstract notions of deterrence and geopolitics and strategy and balance, it’s about what the weapons actually do and what’s at stake. …….

April 12, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia-Japan joint military exercises (China won’t like that)

flag-japanFlag_AustraliaAbe, Abbott agree on joint research on submarine technology, Kyodo News International April 7, 2014   Global Post  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott agreed Monday to conduct joint research on submarine-related technology as part of efforts to bolster bilateral security ties under Japan’s new policy on defense equipment.

The agreement reached during a summit between the leaders in Tokyo came nearly a week after Japan relaxed its arms export ban by adopting new principles and guidelines for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Abe and Abbott picked marine hydrodynamics used for submarines as the first area of bilateral cooperation. The Japanese and Australian defense and foreign ministers will meet in Tokyo in June and work out details. We confirmed that we will expand practical cooperation to include joint exercises,” Abe told reporters after the summit. …….

April 9, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Tony Abbott to share advanced military technology with Japan (Will China mind?)

Tony Abbott moves to strengthen defence ties with South Korea DAVID CROWE SEOUL THE AUSTRALIAN APRIL 08, 2014  
TONY Abbott has moved to tighten defence ties with South Korea by laying out plans to conduct more joint exercises and share more military technology, helping to mend a bruising row two years ago over a cancelled weapons deal.

Blasting North Korea as an “outlaw state” that must give up its nuclear weapons, the Prime Minister used high-level talks in Seoul to assure his Korean counterpart about future defence collaboration.

flag-japanThe plans come one day after Mr Abbott formally launched negotiations with Japan to share advanced military technology and one day before he arrives in China, which has objected in the past to Australia’s defence declarations with Japan………

April 9, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia’s Dr Helen Caldicott in Japan threatened with death for speaking out about nuclear power

Caldicott-2013KPFA: Dr. Helen Caldicott threatened with death while in Japan for speaking about nuclear power — Students being charged with disturbing the peace for handing out flyers (AUDIO)

KPFA Flashpoints, Mar. 10, 2014

Steve Zeltzer, reporting from Japan: We went to Osaka […] we were told there’s continuing repression. Activists here are being threatened, including Professor Shimoji who was arrested for handing out leaflets. The government is trying to suppress opposition to nuclear power by passing the secrecy law which just passed the parliament and also by intimidating antinuclear activists and saying they have to keep quiet. [...] We also learned from Dr. Helen Caldicott that she was threatened. She spoke at a meeting in Kyoto on the 8th and it was reported at the meeting that she had been threatened by right-wingers with death for speaking out about the dangers of nuclear power. (correction – Dr Caldicott referred to previous incidents in USA, not Japan)

KPFA Flashpoints, , Mar. 11, 2014Zeltzer: There were also students there from different universities that are reporting that they’re being repressed. They’re being charged with disturbing the peace for handing out flyers against the burning nuclear rubble and against nuclear power plants.
Full Flashpoints broadcasts available here

March 22, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

USA govt did not like nuclear disarmament statement, so Australia obeyed USA

Nuclear Weapons Ban: Secret Documents Reveal Australia Blocking New Zealand-Led Campaign International Business Times, By Reissa Su | March 10, 2014 The Australian government was reportedly leading secret attempts to block New Zealand’s push for nuclear disarmament based on the released documents under the freedom of information laws. The documents contained declassified information on ministerial communications, cables and emails from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and revealed the efforts of Australian diplomats working in secret. The documents said that the Australian government relies on U.S. nuclear forces to prevent a nuclear attack in the country.

In October 2013, shortly after the Coalition won the seat of power, Australia had refused New Zealand in its request to endorse a joint statement signed by 125 countries at theUnited Nations which highlighted the effects of nuclear weapon use. Australia had reportedly found the statement declaring that it is in the best interest of mankind not to use nuclear weapons “under any circumstances.” Reports said that 16 countries including New Zealand, Malaysia, Mexico andSouth Africa are working together to put the spotlight on the use of nuclear weapons and its humanitarian consequences.

The nuclear disarmament campaign will lay the foundation for negotiating an agreement to ban nuclear weapons. The diplomatic campaign seeks to put nuclear weapons in the same category as chemical and biological weapons which are already considered illegal under international law……..

Among the documents revealed included Foreign Affairs and Trade head Peter Varghese’s statement that New Zealand’s push for nuclear disarmament goes against the security interests of Australia.

The diplomatic image of Australia has been hit with the Japan’s consent to sign the New Zealand-led initiative through Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Australian diplomats had conferred with the U.S. State Department over the matter. Declassified information revealed the email exchanges between the two parties, including Washington reprimanding Tokyo for its decision to sign the nuclear disarmament statement.

March 12, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Abbott govt to weaken safety regulations on uranium sales to India

There are indications that the Abbott government might be willing to dilute some of Australia’s monitoring safeguards 

Australia seeks to draw India into tighter embrace with nuclear deal TNN | Feb 17, 2014, CANBERRA: Australia, which in the past has expressed serious reservations about New Delhi’s nuclear programme, appears extremely keen to close a deal to supply uranium to India. “We see it as a priority and want to move as quickly as possible. The political will certainly exists within this government,” Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop told reporters here even as the two countries were in the middle of their fourth round of talks for a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. …..

Both Bishop and Robb were critical of the Kevin Rudd-led Labour government for overturning Liberal predecessor John Howard’s decision to supply uranium to India……..
Rudd, who was considered an ‘Asianist’ (and was perhaps best known in the world of foreign policy for his knowledge of Mandarin), said no to uranium supplies to India primarily on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). There are indications that the Abbott government might be willing to dilute some of Australia’s monitoring safeguards – for instance, end-user verification – which are actually more stringent than what the International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA) mandates and which India has little interest in agreeing to. According to Bishop, “The points of difference are narrowing, we have a couple of things to work through.”

While she would not elaborate, the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, of which Australia is a member, is said to be one of them. (There’s also a narrower self-interest in finding a new market for Australia’s uranium producers.) …………..

The Abbott government recognizes that a civil nuclear agreement with India perhaps has more symbolic than practical value. With governments around the world reviewing their nuclear power projects and plans, particularly in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, supply is chasing demand, which, in turn, has depressed global uranium prices; also, a number of producing countries are happy to supply the radioactive mineral without asking too many questions. …………….

February 17, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

At last! Notorious (Australian) Paladin uranium mine in Malawi shuts down

Paladin-thumbPaladin uranium mine shuts, PAUL GARVEY, THE AUSTRALIAN FEBRUARY 08, 2014 PALADIN Energy has bowed to persistently low uranium prices and moved to stop production at its Kayelekera mine in the southern African nation of Malawi.

The mine, which has been in production since 2009, has been bleeding money in recent years……

    Last month Paladin sold a 25 per cent stake in its flagship Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia to China National Nuclear Corporation for $US190m, as well as debt refinancing.

February 8, 2014 Posted by | business, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

Tony Abbott’s pathetic performance at Davos, on climate change

there is a growing view among business leaders and mainstream economists who see global warming as a force that contributes to lower gross domestic products, higher food and commodity costs, broken supply chains and increased financial risk.

Abbott smilesShipping Oars,The Australian Independent Media Network BY KAYE LEE on JANUARY 26, 2014 Tony Abbott’s brief sojourn in Davos left most of us cringing and somewhat bemused as to the purpose of his journey.  He met with some Australian big business leaders and delivered a speech that had nothing to do with the stated priorities of the forum – the problem of increasing income inequality and the economics of climate change.  Le Figaro noted Abbott’s address as a footnote, quoting him as calling for more free trade, an idea that was a long way from the agenda – très loin de la thématique – of earlier gatherings.  In fact, Tony left before any of these meetings took place.

But he did fit in a few personal meetings.

With Peta Credlin glued to his side, Abbott showed his ignorance of geography and total ineptitude at small talk when meeting with World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab.  Tony had lined up for his usual photo shoot and looked around with a silly grin as Professor Schwab turned and walked away in a kind of WTF moment as Tony kept waffling on.  Peta leant forward looking like a nervous mother whose child has forgotten his lines in the school play.

Apparently the Dutch Prime Minister also requested a meeting.  Tony suggested it was a meet-and-greet but I suspect there was a bit more to it than that. Continue reading

February 1, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment


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