Australian news, and some related international items

A backward move for Australia’s environment: Federal govt abandons regulation to South Australia’s control

highly-recommendedSouth Australia’s Assessment Bilateral Agreement with the Commonwealth is finalised

As part of its broadly criticised ‘One Stop Shop’ agenda the Federal Government has announced that its Assessment Bilateral Agreement with South Australia has been finalised and signed by both parties.  The Bilateral Agreement will come into force 30 days after execution, on or about 24 October.

The Agreement allows the Commonwealth to now rely on South Australian environmental impact assessment processes in assessing ‘matters of national environmental significance’ defined under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.  This change has been widely criticised.  There is significant doubt as to whether existing State regulations can actually be brought up to meet the standards required under the EPBC Act.  There is also concern about whether the cash-strapped states are likely to make effective champions of our environmental assets when at the same time they are under increasing pressure to jettison environmental safeguards in order to pump through development and replenish state coffers.

October 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

IAEA finds Lynas rare earths plan unsatisfactory – no proper radioactive waste plan

antnuke-relevantflag-MalaysiaIAEA reports no long-term plan for Lynas waste, Malaysian Insider  17 October 2014 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday gave a passing safety grade to a controversial Malaysia rare earths plant, but raised concerns that there was no long-term plan for properly disposing of the plant’s potentially radioactive waste.

The rare earths processing plant in the state of Pahang has generated opposition from green groups who fear radioactive contamination and have accused authorities and Lynas of overriding public concern.

In a report, the IAEA said it saw little risk of contamination due to the low-level radiation involved, and that its investigators were “not able to identify any instances of non-compliance” with international standards. “Lynas needs to demonstrate that the disposal of solid waste can be carried out in a safe manner over the long-term,” the report said.

It recommended that Malaysian authorities require Lynas to come up with a plan.

“There is a lack of a plan for managing the waste from the decommissioning and dismantling of the plant at the end of its life,” it said……

However, it also appeared to underscore environmentalists’ concerns that Australian miner Lynas Corp has no long-term plan for the disposal of waste from the plant.-


October 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths | Leave a comment

Delay in restart of Japan’s Sendai nuclear reactors- neighbouring towns object to restart

flag-japanJapan’s nuclear restart unlikely this year, local vote expected in December 16-Oct-14  JAPAN  Kentaro Hamada As Japan pitches an unpopular nuclear restart to residents near Kyushu Electric Power Co’s Sendai plant, local politicians say approval is unlikely until December, delaying an already fraught process to revive the country’s idled reactors.

More than three years after the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima, the worst disaster since Chernobyl, Japan’s nuclear plants remain offline nationwide even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes to restart reactors that meet new safety guidelines set by an independent regulator.

The focus has switched to townships located near the Sendai reactors, the nation’s first to receive safety clearance from regulators. The debate over restarts pits host communities that get direct benefits from siting reactors against other nearby communities that do not reap the benefits but say they will be equally exposed to radioactive releases in the event of a disaster. Continue reading

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Victorian communities at Dartmoor and Drumborg declare themselves ‘gas field free’.

Residents to declare Dartmoor and Drumborg in Victoria ‘gas field free’  CIMARA DOUTRÉ WEEKLY TIMES NOW OCTOBER 17, 2014  

TWO Western Victorian communities will today declare themselves ‘gas field free’.

A number of minor and micro party politicians will attend the events at Dartmoor and Drumborg.

It takes the number of Victorian communities to have declared themselves as gas field free to 31.

Dartmoor farmer Michael Greenham said the response to invitations was heartening.

“Unfortunately several of the major party representatives for Lowan, South Coast and Western Victoria are not able to attend, but some minor party and independent candidates will be there,” Mr Greenham said.

“In talking with them, everyone is on the same side of the see-saw on this issue of shale gas fracking — it’s just a matter of how far along the seat they sit.

“Our communities just want to make sure prospective parliamentarians keep moving down our ‘total ban’ end, to ensuring there is no budging when the heavyweights of the unconventional gas mining companies start jumping up and down on the other end. “

The Victorian Government has a moratorium on all onshore gas exploration and fracking in place until July next year.

This week, Energy Minister Russell Northe unveiled a new website to allow landholders to search for mining licenses that cover their property.

October 18, 2014 Posted by | environment, Victoria | Leave a comment

We cannot ignore the fact of massive melting of ice sheets

ice-sheets-meltingwe cannot ignore it, because the sheer volume of land ice on Earth is enormous – equivalent to more than 65m of global sea level rise; Greenland alone accounts for 6 to 7m, West Antarctica for some 5-6m, and East Antarctica for the remainder. These melting ice sheets will dominate major sea level changes for centuries to come.

Why ice sheets will keep melting for centuries to come, Skeptical Science By Eelco Rohling, University of Southampton 17 Oct 14    Ice sheets respond slowly to changes in climate, because they are so massive that they themselves dominate the climate conditions over and around them. But once they start flowing faster towards the shore and melting into the ocean the process takes centuries to reverse. Ice sheets are nature’s freight trains: tough to start moving, even harder to stop. Continue reading

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

$180 billion damage costs for Chernobyl shattered nuclear reactor- funds for cover running out

Chernobyl-tomb-14Funding woes delay new Chernobyl cover, DW 17 Oct 14  The casing around the ruined nuclear reactor at Chernobyl is crumbling, causing a renewed radioactive contamination risk. A new cover for the site is under construction – but the project is running out of funding. “There’s no precedent for this anywhere in the world,” Jochen Flasbarth said. “Of course there is uncertainty.”

The German Ministry of the Environment’s senior civil servant was talking about the New Safe Confinement – a new protective cover that is to be built over the stricken reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine: 100 meters high, 165 meters long, built at a safe distance from the still radioactive ruin.

The cover will slide over the reactor on rails. It will be three times as large as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome – if it is finished. But at the moment there is no money – that’s the “uncertainty” Flasbarth was talking about.

There will be a shortfall of 600 million euros by the end of the year. Construction is proving to be more expensive than expected, and funding more difficult to obtain. A Ukrainian government construction freeze now threatens the project. Continue reading

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Record levels of radioactive Strontium 90 in groundwater at Fukushima nuclear plant

diagram-Strontium-90Agency: Fukushima workers urgently trying “to prevent groundwater from leaking into ocean” — Levels of nuclear waste surge next to sea — Strontium-90 shatters previous record by over 5 Billion Bq/m3 — Now 25 million times EPA limit

Jiji Press,Oct. 14, 2014: Cesium Level Rises in TEPCO Plant Well — [TEPCO] on Tuesday reported a sharp rise in cesium levels in water collected from an observation well near the sea [on] Monday [with] a record 251,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per liter, 3.7 times the cesium level… [last] Thursday… Monday’s reading was the highest level… from any of these wells… The samples in question also contained 7.8 million becquerels of beta particle-emitting radioactive substances, such as strontium-90, per liter, also a 3.7-fold increase.ITAR-TASS (Russian News Agency)Oct. 14, 2014 (emphasis added): Highest radiation inground water at Japan’s NPP after nuclear disaster… The highest radiation level was registered in subsoil water taken from a technical well at 1st and 2nd power units at Fukushima-1.., [TEPCO] said on Tuesday. The underground water sample was taken on October 13… Company’s experts said that a surge in radiation was linked with the impact of a typhoon raging in the locality, when heavy rain triggered spread of radiation-contaminated particles in underground water. Now nuclear plant’s specialists are pumping out ground water urgently to prevent it from leaking into the ocean.

Kyodo News, Oct 14, 2014 (Google translation): … record high values of cesium, the influence of the typhoon in Fukushima first nuclear power plant… from the water of the well in the seawall of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Units 1 and 2 [cesium is 251,000] becquerels per liter… manganese 54 is… 700… cobalt 60 [is 3,600]… [TEPCO] found under the influence of typhoon No. 18 earlier this month, contaminated water that has accumulated in the piping has been spreading. Both record high values in groundwater…

Note that the most recent stontium-90 test results for well No. 1-6 published by Tepco on Oct. 1show that levels of Sr-90 are virtually equal to Gross Beta. This means the Oct. 13 Sr-90 levels are near 7,800,000 Bq/L — 26,000,000 times the EPA limit for Sr-90 in water (0.3 Bq/L).

See also: Officials: Typhoon caused significant increase in radioactive releases from Fukushima — Record levels of ‘highly toxic’ nuclear material found in ground outside reactor

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tony Abbott’s comments on coal make prize-winning author cringe

Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan ‘ashamed to be Australian’ over Tony Abbott’s coal comments ABC News 15 Oct 14 Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan, winner of the prestigious 2014 Man Booker literary award, says Tony Abbott’s comments that “coal is good for humanity” make him “ashamed to be Australian”.

Flanagan took out the 50,000-pound ($88,000) prize, announced in London, for his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North…….

Flanagan a better ambassador than PM: Bob Brown

Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said Flanagan had become the ambassador for Australia the Prime Minister had failed to be.

“Tony Abbott’s ‘shirtfronting’ approach to global diplomacy is a matter of shame for many, many Australians, but Flanagan restores our pride in Australia.

“He’s the… thoughtful, far-visioned, compassionate intellect that our Prime Minister isn’t,” he said…….

October 18, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Luxembourg issuing iodine pills to 500,000 citizens near French nuclear power plant

potassium-iodate-pillsLuxembourg hands out iodine pills over fears of French nuclear mishap TONY PATERSON   FRIDAY 17 OCTOBER 2014 A series of accidents at France’s controversial Cattenom nuclear power station has prompted the government in neighbouring Luxembourg to take the unprecedented step of issuing free iodine pills to its half a million citizens to help protect them in the event of a serious nuclear incident at the plant.  Continue reading

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding online grid maps to boost renewables

logo-ARENAGrid maps to ‘boost renewables': ARENA  JOHN CONROY    ARENA yesterday announced $425,000 funding to create online maps of electricity network constraints to help better inform network investments and increase the use of renewable energy.   (EDIS on renewable energy’s crucial new tool, October 17)

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) would develop annually updated maps and make them freely available online.

“Currently there is a lack of clear, accessible and timely network information across the National Electricity Market,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“A consistent, standardised approach will be developed with Australia’s poles and wires businesses to make data more accessible and easier to understand and use.

“The maps will help renewable energy and demand management project developers to anticipate network constraints, reduce the need for new grid infrastructure and lower electricity bills. “The new maps may also enable faster development of renewable energy by showing where renewables and demand management can be more cost effective than network upgrades.” ISF Research Director Chris Dunstan said the energy sector is changing quickly and new tools are needed to manage this transition.

“The rapid rise of rooftop solar, local generation, energy efficient equipment and battery storage means managing networks is becoming both more challenging and more collaborative,” Mr Dunstan said.

“The three year project will provide a key resource for developing this collaboration between networks, customer and renewable energy providers.

“It has the potential to lower electricity costs, improve energy services and develop new markets for networks and renewable energy.”

Energy manager of demand management at state-owned Queensland network company, Glenn Dahlenburg, said the network is providing full support to the project to complement its existing efforts to engage broad market participation for developing alternatives to network upgrades.

“Ergon Energy sees these maps as a valuable tool to provide customers and stakeholders with information on the location and value of network improvement opportunities,” Mr Dahlenburg said.

The project has strong support from the network industry through partnerships with Ergon Energy, ElectraNet and TransGrid. Other project partners include ARENA, ISF, NSW Department of Trade and Investment

October 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

‘Devastating impact’ on Australia by cutting renewable energy

REUTERS SUMMIT-Australia faces ‘devastating impact’ by cutting renewable energy target -lawmaker Oct 15, 2014 (For other news from the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit, click here) By Byron Kaye SYDNEY Oct 15 (Reuters) – Plans by Australia to cut back its renewable energy target would have a “devastating impact” on investment in the country’s sustainable power generation industry, a senior opposition lawmaker said.

Australia is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitting countries per person but has seen declining electricity use in the past five years amid rising power bills and cheaper renewable energy options such as rooftop solar.

As such, the government led by conservative prime minister Tony Abbott wants to redefine a renewable energy target (RET) set by a previous centre-left government in 2009. Instead of a fixed amount then equivalent to 20 percent of projected energy use in 2020, the government wants to aim for 20 percent of actual energy use, which is far less.

To reach the target, the government subsidises companies which invest in renewable energy as well as households and small businesses which opt to use such energy. But the cost of renewable energy is higher than the subsidies, so companies pass on costs to customers.

The government and opposition are now negotiating new terms of the RET in hope of giving investors confidence beyond the three-year electoral cycle.

But they face a deadlock with neither side apparently willing to give ground.

“It would have a devastating impact,” Mark Butler, environment spokesman for the opposition Labor party told the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit on Wednesday when asked about the government’s so-called real 20 percent target.

“It would largely kill any chance of significant new investment. It would collapse the certificate price to the point where even the existing investments would be seriously compromised.”……….


Australian aluminium miners have argued they deserve an exemption from paying any additional costs associated with the RET in their energy bills because sharp falls in the metal’s spot price have put significant pressure on their industry.

Butler said Labor may agree to exempt the aluminium industry, but rather than force households and other industries to subsidise the 2,000 gigawatt hours used by that industry, it could cut the target by that amount.,,,,,,,,

October 18, 2014 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Biofuels conference October 31 – impportance of biofuels for Australia

Biofuels: the forgotten element in Australia’s renewable energy sector, Transport & Logistics News,  October 16, 2014 On 31 October, the Biofuels Association of Australia will hold its annual conference ‘A New Energy for Biofuels’, which will serve as a timely platform for discussion regarding the fragile state of Australia’s developing biofuels industry.

With the future of the biofuels industry under threat as a result of the Australian Government’s about face on the excise tax on biofuels and the dumping of unsustainably-sourced Australian government subsidised foreign biofuels, this conference is set against the backdrop of ever-increasing costs of energy and fuel in Australia.

Australia is the world’s leading per capita contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions from electricity production currently on the rise for the first time after six years of consistent reductions. The necessity of adopting policies mandating the development and implementation of renewable energy schemes was discussed at the recent UN Climate Summit in New York.

“While countries across the globe have embraced biofuels, Australia is reducing support for our own fledgling biofuels industry, backing away from an energy option which not only guarantees significant economic, environmental and public health benefits but which limits our dependence on foreign imported fuels and creates employment in rural areas,” said Gavin Hughes, CEO of the Biofuels Association of Australia.

In 2001 the then Howard coalition government laid down a world leading vision for growing the renewable sector, putting in place a target for Australian biofuel consumption and setting a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (now RET) for clean power generation. Both the RET and the Biofuels target were designed to diversify Australia’s energy production mix to include greater investment in clean energy sources. Recommendations such as those contained in the RET review- if implemented – and the changes to biofuels excise support – will have a devastating effect on existing investments in Australia’s renewable energy sector, including the loss of thousands of jobs in the solar, wind and biofuels industries.

Today, a staggering 90% of Australia’s liquid fuel requirement is imported- a dramatic leap from 60% in 2000- and continues to increase despite advances in the potential to use domestically-produced renewable options such as biofuels. This near-total dependence poses a threat to national security as Australia would only be able to independently sustain its energy needs for three weeks without imported fuels.

While many of Australia’s leading trade partners such as China and India have enacted mandates to grow investment in biofuel utilisation, Australia is falling behind global trends as there are no government mandates in place to support the biofuels industry………….

Benefits of biofuels

The advantages of biofuels are extensive and well-known; they encompass benefits impacting the economy, the environment and public health. These include:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions; lessened reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Economic development opportunities.
  • Energy independence and enhanced energy security.
  • Improved air quality and associated public health benefits. (According to the OECD, deaths associated with ambient air pollution in Australia have risen from 882 to 1483 over the period of 2005-2010.)
  • Job creation, especially in rural areas.

Speaking at the event will be:………

October 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Incident on nuclear waste ship illustrates why we should shut down Lucas Heights nuclear reactor

Lucas-09Why Australia should shut down the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, Independent Australia  Last week’s fire on a nuclear waste ship off Scotland shows why Australia’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor should to be shut down, writes Noel Wauchope. 15 Oct 14, “……. The ship, the Parida, was carrying radioactive wastes that were being returned to Belgium……

WWF ScotlandComhairle nan Eilean Siar and SNP MSP Rob Gibson have expressed concern about nuclear waste travelling by sea. ……Highly radioactive wastes from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor have been sent to France, Argentina and Dounreay under contracts that require Australia to take back the processed wastes. Indeed, the French batch is due by the end of 2015.

In the case of Dounreay, there is now pressure on the countries where the wastes originated, because the Dounreay nuclear site is being decommissioned and demolished……

Transport of radioactive wastes to and from Lucas Heights is indeed a hazardous operation, requiring much expensive security. However, transport is not the only safety consideration. The previous HIFAR reactor ‒ and the present OPAL one ‒ have troubled safety records…….

Australia’s most notorious terrorist, Willie Brigitte was gaoled in France in 2007 for joining an al-Qaeda backed Pakistani terror cell that had conspired to blow up the Lucas Heights nuclear plant. …….

We should shut Lucan Heights down before we regret it.,6999

October 15, 2014 Posted by | New South Wales, safety | Leave a comment

Uranium companies rejoice, as universities and groups get out of fossil fuel investments?

pray-radDivestors painting themselves into the uranium corner, JAMES KIRBY THE AUSTRALIAN OCTOBER 11, 2014
SUDDENLY the urge to “divest” is reaching fever pitch. Inside a couple of weeks there has been more noise than we have had in years as universities, religious groups and super funds announce they are “getting out of polluters”.

Indeed, the ANU’s plan to ­divest itself of seven resource companies, including oil and gas major Santos, has been branded a “disgrace” by federal Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs.

Like most trends, this started in the US where a number of leading funds have been loudly exiting resource stocks. The rush reached something of a climax in recent weeks when the heirs of Standard Oil founder John D Rockefeller said they were getting out of oil.

Now Australia will mark a ­national “Divestment Day of Action” targeted largely at banks that invest in resources on October 18, an initiative backed by………

Uranium prices have staggered up off the floor in recent months at the same time as the divestment movement has gained attention worldwide……..

October 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Australia invites a nuclear non proliferation disaster, in its flawed deal with India

India-uranium1Australia–India nuclear treaty: a non-proliferation disaster, The Strategist, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog 14Oct 2014  By  “…….Nuclear suppliers do have a responsibility, however, for ensuring their nuclear material isn’t used to build nuclear weapons, and must maintain strict mechanisms for that purpose. If countries can access nuclear supply without the attendant responsibilities, then support for longstanding non-proliferation regimes will be undermined, countries will see less value in treaties such as the NPT, and a key pillar of the nuclear arms control regime as a whole will be weakened.

The text of the proposed Australian export deal fails that basic test. In addition to a range of other flaws, for the first time in 40 years Australia won’t be able to guarantee how the nuclear material it supplies is being used. Specifically, the agreement allows India to reprocess uranium supplied by Australia to create plutonium, potentially at weapons grade, with no direct accounting by India to Australia for that material, and unusually, no provision for the return of the material in the event of it being misused. As former Director-General of ASNO, John Carlson, explains, Australia currently allows reprocessing only by two export partners, the EU and Japan, each with direct reporting requirements and specific permission being given by Australia as to how the reprocessed material is to be used.

Accordingly, the deal with India isn’t comparable to Australia’s other nuclear export agreements. Australia is privileging India by excluding key provisions normally included to ensure a recipient of nuclear material is accountable to the supplier. Australia’s other nuclear export partners might demand similar concessions, undermining the integrity of the non-proliferation regime as a whole.

Moreover, the concessions made by Australia are unnecessary. ………Not only does this agreement undermine long established non-proliferation regimes and Australia’s credibility as a nuclear supplier, it represents a missed opportunity to strengthen it. Given that what matters most to India is being treated on a par with China and the United States, India should be expected to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) after the US Senate does, just as China has already agreed to do……..

The agreement marks a significant departure from Australia’s longstanding practice. By excluding the normal provisions that ensure a nuclear recipient is directly accountable to the supplier, Australia is abrogating the principle that nuclear suppliers are accountable for how their exported nuclear material is used……..Crispin Rovere is a former PhD student at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU and co-author of Non-strategic nuclear weapons: the next step in multilateral arms control. Image courtesy of Flickr user Indiawaterportal.org

October 15, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment


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