Australian news, and some related international items

BHP Billiton above the law, exporting megalitres of Australia’s water – for free!

BHP Billiton: Billions in profits and not paying a cent for water in SA, 
Friends of the Earth Adelaide
24th AUGUST 2011 Today mining giant BHP Billiton announced record financial results for the 2011 financial year, recording a total net profit of US$23. 95 billion, nearly double its 2010 figure of US$13.01 billion.

Despite its profits more than tripling in the last three years, BHP has never paid a cent for the vast amounts of water used by the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine near Roxby Downs. The mine currently uses approximately 35 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin. Under the Roxby Downs Indenture Act BHP is not required to pay for this water usage.

The Indenture Act applies specifically to the Olympic Dam mine, and provides for wide-ranging legal exemptions and overrides from environmental and Aboriginal heritage protection laws that apply elsewhere in the state, including the Environmental Protection Act and the Natural Resources Act (which incorporates water management issues).

“The Indenture Act means that the Olympic Dam mine is not subject to the same environmental regulatory framework as other industrial projects in the state,’ explained Nectaria Calan of Friends of the Earth Adelaide. “Additionally, by allowing BHP to take water from the Great Artesian Basin for free, the South Australian government is essentially providing BHP with a massive subsidy,” she continued.

The water intake from the Great Artesian Basin has already had adverse impacts on the unique Mound Springs found near Lake Eyre, which are fed by the underlying Artesian Basin, and are sacred to the Arabunna people, the traditional owners of the area.

As part of the proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam mine, BHP Billiton proposes to increase its water consumption by an additional 200 million litres per day. Water intake from the Great Artesian Basin will increase to up to 42 million litres per day, with the remainder to come from a proposed desalination plant at Point Lowly. This amounts to over 100,000 litres of water per minute.

 “The vast water usage of uranium mines is often forgotten in the debate about uranium and nuclear energy. Here we are, in the driest state on the driest continent on earth, host to a mine which needs millions of litres of water each day. Due to the Indenture Act, we are essentially exporting our water overseas for free,” said Ms. Calan.

The Indenture Act is currently the subject of negotiations between BHP Billiton and the South Australian government. In the near future amendments will be introduced into parliament to extend the Indenture Act to the proposed expansion.

“The South Australian government is planning to allow the largest uranium mine in the world to go ahead with legal privileges that will allow BHP an impunity characteristic of some third world states,” said Ms. Calan. “The Indenture Act should be repealed completely, allowing BHP to be subject to the same laws as other corporations operating in the state.”

August 25, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, South Australia, uranium, water | , | Leave a comment

USA now officially seeking to send nuclear wastes back to uranium mining countries

Official: U.S. in Early Talks About Int’l Nuclear Leasing Arrangements, NYT. By HANNAH NORTHEY, August 23, 2011 Department of Energy officials have spent weeks trying to knock down reports that they have been interested in building a nuclear waste repository in Mongolia.

Now, the Obama administration is going a step further, disclosing that what DOE hopes to do is “lease” uranium from other countries, then return the spent fuel to the originating country.

A senior Obama administration official told Greenwire earlier this month that the government is in preliminary talks with several countries, including Mongolia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, about setting up commercial nuclear fuel leasing arrangements.

In one example of how a fuel leasing arrangement could work, countries with uranium reserves could mine, enrich and fabricate the material and lease it to reactor companies abroad. Spent nuclear fuel would then be sent back to the originating country, the official said.

Discussions have not touched upon what those countries would do with the waste, the official said, but the United States hopes to prevent proliferation by providing alternatives to domestic enrichment and reprocessing capabilities…..

the commercial nuclear fuel leasing arrangements the administration official discussed seem to be consistent with what some U.S. officials want to see for the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC), formerly the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.
The Obama administration scrapped parts of GNEP, which was part of the George W. Bush administration’s efforts to accelerate research and development on the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in reactors (ClimateWire, Dec. 24, 2009). The partnership was seeking to create “cradle-to-grave fuel services” under a regulated market for enriched uranium, which would allow a few large countries to supply smaller ones with enriched uranium to burn in reactors, sparing them the billions of dollars needed to build facilities for uranium processing and disposal (Greenwire, Oct. 26, 2010)……

August 25, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Hypocrisy of Country Liberal Party in Northern Territory, over uranium mining.

Gloves off in Angela Pamela uranium mine scrap ABC News, Jane Bardon and Lucy McNally, 23 Aug 11,  “…..The Country Liberals’ Robyn Lambley won the Araluen by-election last year while opposing development of the Angela Pamela uranium deposit after a backlash from Alice Springs residents.

The party has now changed its policy to say it will encourage all applications for uranium developments….

The Arid Land Environment Centre says neither party in the Territory can be trusted when it comes to the proposed Angela Pamela mine.

Opposition environment spokesman Peter Chandler took part in a debate in Alice Springs on the weekend and said the CLP would support a uranium mine there if it met environmental standards.

That prompted the Government to accuse the party of ignoring the community’s concerns on the issue.

Environment Centre spokesman Jimmy Cocking says a CLP government is more likely to approve a mine at the site, but he wouldn’t put it past the Labor party either.”In terms of policy outside of Angela Pamela they are both the same,” he said…

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Northern Territory, politics, uranium | Leave a comment

China: public health threatened by Fukushima radiation in seafoods

Excessive Radiation Found in Sea Organisms Near Japan’s Nuke Plant 2011-08-24     Xinhua       Web Editor: Guo  Biological samples taken from waters in the Western Pacific region east of Fukushima, Japan show excessive radiation levels, said a statement from China’s State Oceanic Administration on Wednesday.
The administration suggested that government agencies intensify radiation testing of marine products from the targeted waters to protect public health in China.

According to the statement, the levels of strontium-90, a radioactive isotope of strontium, found in squids are 29 times higher than the average background level of samples taken from China’s coastal waters.  This indicates that these waters have been clearly affected by radioactive material that leaked from the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima during the massive earthquake and tsunami disaster on March 11, the statement said.

The samples were also found to contain argentum-110m and cesium-134, which are normally difficult to detect in biological samples from China’s coastal waters, the statement said.

The administration sent professional personnel to these waters in June to monitor the impact of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, as well as its impact on China’s territorial waters.
During their 18-day voyage ending on July 4, the monitoring team collected air, water and biological samples from the target areas.

Radioactive cesium-137 and strontium-90 have been detected in all water samples while cesium-134 has been found in 94 percent of the samples, the statement said. The highest amounts of cesium-137 and strontium-90 in the samples were 300 times and 10 times, respectively, the amount of natural background radiation in China’s territorial waters

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Uranium company sells Australian projects

Uranex sells Australian uranium assets, Channel 9 News, 24 Aug 11,”……The Melbourne-based uranium explorer on Tuesday said the projects, including Thatcher Soak in Western Australia and Alligator Rivers in the Northern Territory, were being sold to a “Chinese based investment group”.

Uranex plans to focus on its uranium and coal assets in Tanzania, a spokesman said.

The deal is subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals including the Foreign Investment Review Board.

“We are confident the Australian uranium projects will successfully progress towards production and further opportunities will be created through our alliance,” Uranex managing director Matthew Gauci said in a statement.

The Chinese party holds the first right of refusal for the sale of any other Uranex tenements in Australia.

August 25, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Uranium market has become a ‘ghost town’ say analysts

Uranium Spot Market a ‘Ghost Town’ With No Price Change, Ux Says, Bloomberg, , By Jason Scott – Aug 22, 2011  Uranium spot prices, depressed by the nuclear crisis in Japan , were unchanged last week amid low trading volume, says Ux Consulting co.

Uranium-oxide concentrate for immediate delivery sold for $50.50 a pound in the seven days ended yesterday, the same as the previous week, Ux said in an e-mailed report today. That’s based on the most-competitive offer tracked by the Roswell, Georgia-based company.

The spot price for the nuclear fuel has declined 24 percent since the week before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station. The crisis prompted some nations to put their atomic power plans on hold.

“A number of market participants have indicated that recent market activity has been very limited,” Ux said in the report. “This lack of activity has been described as the market looking like a ghost town.”…

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cockburn City Council, Western Australia, shows how renewable energy and efficiency, can be done economically

Since 2001, the council has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by about 330,000 tonnes……

City of Cockburn climate change strategy leading by example, Science Network Western Australia , Chris Thomas, 24 August 2011  THE City of Cockburn has scored one of the 2011 National Awards for Local Government, recognising its work in climate change and sustainability. “Our energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects have resulted in reduced operating costs, reduced dependence on grid-supplied electricity and reduced vulnerability to electricity price increases.” —Ms Harrison.

The WA council first made a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 1996 and now spends $650,000 each year on renewable energy systems, research, new technology and community engagement. Continue reading

August 25, 2011 Posted by | energy, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Australian company Silex Sytems involved in dangerous nuclear technology

Security fears over laser-enriched uranium, New Scientist 23 August 2011 by Jeff Hecht It’s pretty hard to disguise the fact you are enriching uranium, whether for use in nuclear power stations or bombs. Now a method that uses lasers to complete the process could make it more efficient – and easier to hide.

General Electric and Hitachi are joining forces to build a laser facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, powerful enough to produce more than 1000 tonnes of enriched fuel every year….

The current approach was developed only 10 years ago by an Australian company called Silex.General Electric-Hitachi have now licensed Silex’s technology. The original process was hampered by inefficient lasers but the fact that GE-Hitachi are prepared to go ahead with a full-scale plant suggests they have developed a more efficient laser.

Why is the idea so controversial?

A key concern is that the high efficiency of a laser enrichment process would reduce energy requirements, allowing a uranium enrichment plant to be smaller and more distant from power sources. That would make it harder to detect using satellite imagery. Such a small plant could also be used to make enriched uranium for atomic bombs – with little chance of being spotted.

What happens next?

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is scheduled to review the proposal on 30 June 2012. If the NRC approves the plan, a joint venture called Global Laser Enrichment would build the plant in six stages, eventually reaching a capacity of 6 million work units, a standard measure of enrichment capacity. If the product was standard-grade reactor fuel, the facility could produce more than 1000 tonnes a year…..


August 25, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Call to urge inquiry in to Rupert Murdoch’s media monopoly in Australia

AVAAZ, 24 Aug 11, Prime Minister Gillard may finally be about to order an inquiry into Rupert Murdoch’s stranglehold on our media. If she does, it would serve as the next blow to Murdoch’s already crumbling global empire — and revitalize our media and democracy.

The PM may make her decision in the coming hours, but insiders say she is wobbling under direct pressure from Murdoch’s lobbyists. Powerful members of her cabinet have her ear and could shore up her support — but they need a huge push from the public to strengthen their hand and secure the PM’s commitment to a robust, far-reaching inquiry.

Let’s flood her cabinet members with calls today and give them the public mandate they need to take a strong stand and hold the PM steady in her decision. The next few hours are crucial to securing the inquiry we’ve pushed so hard for. Take a moment and call these numbers now — the talking points below will help guide you in what to say:

Kate Ellis: (02) 6277 7630
Tanya Plibersek: (02) 6277 7200
Anthony Albanese: (02) 6277 7680

August 25, 2011 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment