Australian news, and some related international items

Fukushima reactor no. 2 – radiation too high even for robots to measure

Reactor 2 radiation too high for access March 29, 2012 73 sieverts laid to low water; level will even cripple robots By MINORU MATSUTANI Radiation inside the reactor 2 containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has reached a lethal 73 sieverts per hour and any attempt to send robots in to accurately gauge the situation will require them to have greater resistance than currently available, experts said Wednesday.

Exposure to 73 sieverts for a minute would cause nausea and seven minutes would cause death within a
month, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

The experts said the high radiation level is due to the shallow level of coolant water — 60 cm — in the containment vessel, which Tepco said in January was believed to be 4 meters deep. Tepco has only peeked inside the reactor 2 containment vessel. It has few clues as to the status of reactors 1 and 3, which also suffered meltdowns, because
there is no access to their insides.

The utility said the radiation level in the reactor 2 containment vessel is too high for robots, endoscopes and other devices to function properly. Spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said it will be necessary to develop devices resistant to high radiation.

High radiation can damage the circuitry of computer chips and degrade camera-captured images. For example, a series of Quince tracked robots designed to gather data inside reactors can properly function for only two or three hours during exposure to 73 sieverts, said Eiji Koyanagi, chief developer and vice director of the Future Robotics Technology
Center of Chiba Institute of Technology. That is unlikely to be enough for them to move around and collect
video data and water samples, reactor experts said. “Two or three hours would be too short. At least five or six hours would be necessary,” said Tsuyoshi Misawa, a reactor physics and engineering professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute.

The high radiation level can be explained by the low water level. Water acts to block radiation. “The shallowness of the water level is a surprise . . . the radiation level is awfully high,” Misawa said. While the water temperature is considered in a safe zone at about 50 degrees, it is unknown if the melted fuel is fully submerged, but Tepco said in November that computer simulations suggested the height of the melted fuel in reactor 2’s containment vessel is probably 20 to
40 cm, Tepco spokeswoman Ai Tanaka said.

Tepco has inserted an endoscope and a radiation meter, but not a robot, in the containment vessel. It is way too early to know how long Tepco will need to operate robots in the vessel because it is unknown what the devices will have to do, Tanaka said.

According to experts, even though high radiation in the containment vessel means additional trouble, it is not expected to further delay the decommissioning the three crippled reactors, a process Tepco said will take 40 years.

The experts noted, however, that removing the melted nuclear fuel from the bottom of the containment vessels will be extremely difficult….
Tepco has not been able to gauge the water depths and radiation levels of the containment vessels for reactors 1 and 3, as, unlike unit 2, there is no access.


March 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Renewable energy economics – sending shockwaves through fossil fuel lobby

Broader estimates produced by the International Energy Agency and the European Commission suggest that the final outcome of moving to renewables will be cost-neutral over the long term, and may even save money, but will likely cause a rise in costs over the short term because of new technologies and infrastructure investment.

More critically, it will also send shockwaves through the energy industry as economics of fossil fuel generators is undermined

In a renewable world, baseload generation is redundant, REneweconomy, By Giles Parkinson  29 March 2012 Energy Minister Martin Ferguson revealed the tenuous nature of his understanding of solar technologies in an interview on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report on Tuesday, referring to Solar Flagships projects as “solar baseload power.”

The Solar Flagships may be many things – big is one of them and possibly what Minister Ferguson meant. Or they may not be anything at all, given their problems in financing. But without storage one thing they certainly will not be is baseload. And even with storage, would solar ever work as baseload energy?

It is a common misconception, given that the energy grids for decades have been based on the principal of providing baseload energy, supplemented by peak-load power when demand is high. The question is often put: How could solar – or any other intermittent renewable ever be considered to be a source of baseload energy?

According to the latest study produced by experts at the UNSW, it may not need to. Continue reading

March 29, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Success of solar energy electricity prices is frightening power generator industries

Why power generators are terrified of solar by Giles Parkinson, of RenewEconomy, 28 March 12,  ”….. the merit order effect and the impact that solar is having on electricity prices in Germany; and why utilities there and elsewhere are desperate to try to rein in the growth of solar PV in Europe.

It may also explain why Australian generators are fighting so hard against the extension of feed-in tariffs in this country….. that solar PV is not just licking the cream off the profits of the fossil fuel generators — as happens in Australia with a more modest rollout of PV — it is in fact eating their entire cake….. Continue reading

March 29, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | | Leave a comment

Premier Campbell Newman to stop Queensland’s solar thermal energy program

Huge solar project in limbo as Newman pulls funding SMH, March 29, 2012   The first chance to test whether solar thermal energy can provide large-scale alternative power in Australia may be in doubt under the new LNP state government. The incoming Queensland government wants to pull out of an agreement formed by its predecessor to provide $75 million towards the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn solar research and power plant at Chinchilla, west
of Toowoomba, Premier Campbell Newman said yesterday.

The Solar Dawn project is set to be one of the largest of its kind in the world….. Solar Dawn is a 250 megawatt solar thermal project using sun-heated water in tubes to produce steam-driven energy, and is backed by the federal government and was supported by former Premier Anna Bligh. It is part of the federal government’s Solar Flagship Program. A similar project at Moree, in New South Wales, has received federal funding under the same program.
The University of Queensland has developed a $60 million research project to link to Solar Dawn.

UQ’s Professor Paul Meredith, the head of the university’s renewable energy research, said he was worried the LNP’s decision would damage what he thought was a worthwhile project and one that provided almost
400 jobs.

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Queensland, solar | | Leave a comment

Queensland Premier will demolish environmental funding programs

Australia: Queensland Premier axes environmental funds 28. MARCH 2012 PV Magazine,  BY: SHAMSIAH ALI-OETTINGER The new premier of Queensland Liberal National Party’s (LNP) Campbell Newman plans to axe the state’s climate change and renewable energy programs, including funds allocated for solar flagship programs. The Newman government is said to be planning the abolishment of eight of the former Labor government’s environmental funds, the 300 million Australian dollars (AUD) climate change fund and the AUD50 million renewable energy fund.

The other funds identified were the Queensland smart energy savings fund, the future growth fund, solar initiatives
package, waste avoidance and resource efficiency fund and the local government sustainable future fund. The FITs will however remain for Queensland’s home solar power systems at AUD0.44/kWh for surpluselectricity fed into the grids….

Victoria backs out too The state of Victoria also decided to back out of the 2020 20% emissions reduction target that was set by the Labor government. The conservatives supported this scheme when Labor was in power. The pressure mounted on the Victorian government from opponents such as Exxon Mobil.–queensland-premier-axes-environmental-funds_100006254/#ixzz1qXst4p48

March 29, 2012 Posted by | climate change - global warming, energy, politics, Queensland | | Leave a comment

Malaysia insisting that Australia agrees to accept Lynas radioactive wastes

Onus is on Lynas to get nod for waste shipment’, The Malaysian Star Reports by MARTIN CARVALHO, YUEN MEIKENG, RAHIMY RAHIM and TASHNY SUKUMARAN , 29 March 12,  THE onus of obtaining permission from the authorities to ship waste from the proposed rare earth plant in Gebeng, Pahang, to Australia lies with operators Lynas Corporation, said Science, Technology and Innovations Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximux Ongkili.

“There has been no official word from the authorities in Australia over the shipment (of the waste) and I have not received any formal communication,” he said at Parliament lobby.

Though helping facilitate Lynas’ investment in setting up the plant here, he noted there were conditions that the company must fulfil with the onus on them to obtain approval for waste shipment to Australia if the need arose. “We are not here for the purpose of just helping Lynas. We have set conditions and they must follow,” he said.

The Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s (AELB) imposed five conditions for the issuance of a temporary operating licence for the Lynas plant which includes locating a suitable site for a permanent disposal facility. “If Lynas cannot process the wastes here according to our standard or cannot find a permanent disposal site, then they have to seek a site outside this country…..

“Otherwise, I am not giving the licence as they have signed for that,” Ongkili repeatedly said…..  Ongkili said Lynas Corporation chose to have its rare earth plant in Malaysia because the cost to operate the facility here was 30% of that in Australia…..

March 29, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

In 1998 South Australian Aboriginals fought against plan for radioactive waste dump

Dumping on Traditional Owners: the ugly face of Australian racism  The Drum, Jim Green, 29 March 12 “…..A win for the Kungkas In 1998, the federal government announced its intention to build a national radioactive waste dump near Woomera in South Australia. Leading the battle against the dump were the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern South Australia. Many of the Kungkas personally suffered the impacts of the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga in the 1950s.

The Kungkas were sceptical about the government’s claim that radioactive waste destined for the Woomera dump was ‘safe’ – after all, the waste would be kept at the Lucas Heights reactor site south of Sydney if it was perfectly safe, or simply dumped in landfill.

The proposed dump generated such controversy in South Australia that the federal government secured the services of a public relations company. Correspondence between the company and the government was released under Freedom of Information laws. In one exchange, a government official asks the PR company to remove sand-dunes from a photo selected to adorn a brochure. The explanation provided by the government official was that: “Dunes are a sensitive area with respect to Aboriginal Heritage”. The sand-dunes were removed from the photo, only for the government official to ask if the horizon could be straightened up as well.

In July 2003, the federal government used the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 to seize land for the dump. Native Title rights and interests were extinguished at the stroke of a pen. This took place with no forewarning and no consultation with Aboriginal people.

The Kungkas continued to implore the federal government to ‘get their ears out of their pockets’, and after six long years the government did just that. In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election, with the dump issue biting politically, the government decided to cut its losses and abandon its plans for a dump in SA.

The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta wrote  in an open letter:

“People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

Toxic trade-off: dumping on Northern Territorians
The ears went straight back in the pockets the following year with the announcement that the government planned to establish a radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory.

A toxic trade-off of basic services for a radioactive waste dump has been part of this story from the start. Governments have systematically stripped back resources for remote Aboriginal communities, placing increased pressure on them to accept projects like the radioactive waste dump….

March 29, 2012 Posted by | aboriginal issues, history, South Australia | | Leave a comment

New South Wales Upper House passes uranium exploration legislation by 20 votes to 18

the Government had no mandate for uranium exploration……..Mr O’Farrell had declared to Parliament in August 2011 that the Government had no plans to allow uranium mining or exploration.

Uranium ban lifted by NSW Parliament, Herald Sun  AAP March 28, 2012 LEGISLATION to repeal a ban on uranium exploration has passed through the NSW Parliament, with MPs in the state’s Upper House supporting it by 20 votes to 18. The legislation passed through the Legislative Council unamended today, despite opposition from Greens and Labor

.. Separate legislation would be required to lift the NSW ban on uranium mining. Continue reading

March 29, 2012 Posted by | New South Wales, politics, uranium | Leave a comment

NSW’s new uranium Bill extinguishes need for consent from Land Councils, and excludes uranium from Aborignal Land Rights Act

Natalie Wasley, 29 March 12, New South Wales’ new Bill allowing fro uranium exploration alters a series of other legislation, including The Mining Act, Radiation Control Act, State Environment and Planning Act and Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

 Disgracefully, schedule five extinguishes the need for consent from a Land Council in the case of uranium projects- see below.
   Schedule 5 Amendment of Aboriginal Land Rights   Act 1983 No 42
Schedule 5 [1] defines uranium to include uranium minerals and uranium ores by adopting the definition of uranium to be inserted into the Mining Act 1992 by the proposed Act.
Schedule 5 [2] and [3] exclude uranium from provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 which would otherwise vest the uranium on lands vested in an Aboriginal Land Council in the Council or make certain mining operations subject to the consent of the Council.

March 29, 2012 Posted by | New South Wales, politics | Leave a comment

USA militarisation in Australia; drones might upset our Asian neighbours

There is increasing concern among strategic analysts and defence experts about what the growing US military presence on Australian territory might mean… the strengthening US presence in Australia appears to be drawing us into a potentially dangerous game of Chinese containment.

why [do] we want a big fleet of subs to contain and deter our largest trading partner ?

These Drones Will Irritate The NeighboursNew Matilda, By Ben Eltham, 29 March 12,  What’s our priority – trade with China or strategic links to the US? Reports of US surveillance drones in the Cocos Islands are raising some awkward questions about our ties in the region, writes Ben Eltham

First it was US Marines in Darwin. Then it was proposals for more US Navy ships to operate out of the HMAS Stirling naval base in Fremantle — including aircraft carriers and nuclear attack submarines. Now it’s USsurveillance drones in the Cocos Islands. America’s interest in Australia as a base for its south Asian and Indian Ocean operations appears to be growing…….

The object of that strategy, although few are prepared to talk too openly about it, is of course China. Continue reading

March 29, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Racism in Australia’s uranium mining industry

Dumping on Traditional Owners: the ugly face of Australian racism  The Drum, Jim Green, 29 March 12  “…….Uranium mining
The patterns of nuclear racism are also evident in Australia’s uranium mining industry. Racism in the mining industry typically involves some or all of the following tactics: ignoring the concerns of Traditional Owners insofar as the legal and political circumstances permit; divide-and-rule tactics; bribery; ‘humbugging’ Traditional Owners (exerting persistent, unwanted pressure); providing Traditional Owners with false or misleading information; and threats, most commonly legal threats.

To give one example, the 1982 South Australian Roxby Downs Indenture Act, which sets the legal framework for the operation of the Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine in South Australia, was amended in 2011 but it retains exemptions from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Traditional Owners were not even consulted. The SA government’s spokesperson in Parliament said :

“BHP were satisfied with the current arrangements and insisted on the continuation of these arrangements, and the government did not consult further than that.”

That disgraceful performance illustrates a broader pattern. Aboriginal land rights and heritage protections are feeble at the best of times. But the legal rights and protections are repeatedly stripped away whenever they get in the way of nuclear or mining interests.

Thus the Olympic Dam mine is largely exempt from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Legislation was passed specifically to exempt the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory from the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. Native Title rights were extinguished with the stroke of a pen to seize land for a radioactive waste dump in South Australia. And Aboriginal heritage laws and Aboriginal land rights are being trashed with the current push to dump in the Northern Territory.

The situation is scarcely any better than it was in the 1950s when the British were exploding nuclear bombs on Aboriginal land.

March 29, 2012 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia | | Leave a comment