Australian news, and some related international items

BHP and South Australian government keen to remove Federal oversight of environmental assessment

Sounds innocuous, doesn’t it?   –  “streamlining the environmental impact process” 

But, it’s exactly this process which threatens to hold up BHP Billiton digging the biggest man made hole in the world, and creating the biggest pile of radioactive waste in the world, while taking up the biggest amount of Australia’s groundwater.

You see, the current legal action against approval for the new Olympic Dam uranium mine hinges on the Federal environmental approval for the  mine to go ahead.

Of course BHP Billiton and its lackey South Australian Government would want all environmental control of such huge ventures to be limited to that lackey State.   Even though Olympic Dam’ s effects –   such as radioactive dust clouds will reach other States and State capital cities.

If Australia’s Federal Government abdicates from its power of environmental jurisdiction over mining, and other big enterprises, it will be open slather for any big corporation with a subservient State  Government. – Christina Macpherson

Premiers to slash green tape, inefficient climate schemes, Sydney Morning Herald, Lenore Taylor, Phillip Coorey April 12, 2012 Before today’s first pre-Council of Australian Governments meeting between business leaders, the Prime Minister and the premiers, the federal and state governments indicated the business push to streamline environmental approvals would be endorsed…..

In a joint submission for today’s meeting, the nation’s peak business and industry groups complained the environmental impact process, which involves separate state and federal government assessments, needed to be streamlined…..

The South Australian Labor Premier, Jay Weatherill, who, as the chairman of the Council for the Australian Federation, will represent the state and territory leaders at today’s meeting, welcomed the initiatives proposed by the business groups. He singled out as having ”great merit” the proposal to remove the state-federal jurisdiction from the environmental impact assessment process….

Twenty-six business leaders will attend the meeting, including business group heads and chief executives such as BHP’s Marius Kloppers, Cameron Clyne of the National Australia Bank and Westpac’s Gail Kelly. The business leaders will make recommendations to tomorrow’s COAG meeting. :

April 12, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Danger in Australia hosting USA military bases

If too closely aligned with the US, Australia will be associated with any mistakes. US actions, mounted from Australia, will implicate Australia. In the Cold War US joint intelligence facilities were a target for Soviet nuclear weapons……

Australia needs to be careful that it does not make inevitable the future that it should fear the most. Current decisions are being made without public debate or discussion. Once made they will be difficult to reverse.

We must not get too close to the US, BY: PETER LEAHY  The Australian April 12, 2012 “……. there can be too much of a good thing, especially if it involves putting unnecessary pressure on China. By substantially increasing its
close relationship with the US, Australia may unduly complicate its relationship with China. Care needs to be taken to ensure that Australia is not caught between the US, as security guarantor, and China as economic underwriter.

As a sovereign nation Australia should maintain the ability to say no to the US and separate itself from its actions. This will require careful thought and deft diplomacy……By agreeing to the US Marine Corps and potentially more extensive air and naval access requests, Australia has confirmed that it is firmly in the US security camp……. Continue reading

April 12, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s Energy Minister pushes for government spying on behalf of energy companies

Protests against coalmining so far have been peaceful. Resources and Energy Department briefings show that only four protests have interfered briefly with electricity generation.

ASIO eyes green groups, The Age, Philip Dorling, April 12, 2012 AUSTRALIA’S leading counter-terrorism agency has been providing intelligence to the federal government on environmental groups that campaign against coalmining.

Greens leader Bob Brown said yesterday it was ”intolerable that the Labor government was spying on conservation groups” and condemned the ”deployment of ASIO as a political weapon” against peaceful protests……

ASIO is exempt from freedom of information laws and is described on
its website as ”the only agency in the Australian intelligence community authorised in the normal course of its duties to undertake investigations into the activities of Australian persons”. Other FOI documents confirm that Mr Ferguson pressed then attorney-general Robert McClelland in September 2009 to see whether ”the
intelligence-gathering services of the Australian Federal Police” could be used to help energy companies handle increasing activity by coalmining protesters….. Continue reading

April 12, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, secrets and lies | , | Leave a comment

Decommissioning nuclear reactors: the never-ending cost

Turkish nuclear power – an unwarranted venture, Hurriyet Daily News, ERHUN KULA, 12 April 12 “……Studies in France (available from the author), the most nuclear dependent nation, reveal that nuclear energy is more expensive then hydro and fossil fuel powered units, even when the end cost of nuclear power plants – which is decommissioning and storing highly dangerous nuclear wastes in repositories for thousands of years – is ignored. The most expensive and risky problem with nuclear energy is the safe disposal of the radioactive waste. It has to be transported over long distances, stored and monitored over a very long period of time.

A few months ago the Mersin Akkuyu Nuclear Electricity Production Corporation commissioned an “independent” engineering company, DOKAY, to carry out an environmental impact assessment of the proposed nuclear power unit. In its over 100 page report, DOKAY provided a “pleasing” document to its sponsor. As for nuclear wastes – the end product – only a few sentences are reserved, which is quite outrageous.

There are more than 400 nuclear reactors operating in various countries. A nuclear power station has 35-40 years of operating life. After that it must be dismantled and the area must be cleaned up (the decommissioning process). But so far, no nuclear power station has been completely decommissioned in the world. It has been estimated that decommissioning could last about 50 years and it would cost more than the construction cost.

One of the earliest decommissioning efforts is taking place at Dounrey plant, on the northern tip of Scotland. It started more than 15 years ago and we need at least 30 years more to finish the job. After that, waste must be stored in nuclear graves (waste repositories) for thousands of years. United States regulations require the storage period to be at least 10,000 years.

The cost of decommissioning and waste storage will fall upon future generations at huge costs.   My American colleague, Prof. S. Frachette,  argues that large quantities of nuclear waste is likely to endanger the health, safety and civil liberties of generations yet to be born.

Professor Erhun Kula, from Istanbul’s Bahçesehir University, researched economic and moral aspects of nuclear power in the U.K., the United States and Sweden, and has published widely in this field.–an-unwarranted-venture.aspx?pageID=238&nID=18223&NewsCatID=396

April 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Greenpeace urges Germany to make sure that nuclear companies pay for decommissioning reactors

Germany open to nuclear shutdown fund – minister  Greenpeace calls for state to run nuclear dismantling fund

* Environment minister says Greenpeace proposal can be examined

* Major utilities reject idea

DUESSELDORF, Germany, April 11 (Reuters) Germany would consider ringfencing billions of euros to be put aside by utilities for disposing of radioactive waste, the environment minister said, to ensure decommissioning of the country’s nuclear power plants is completed decades from now. He was speaking on Wednesday in response to a call from environmental group Greenpeace that wants the government to administer some of the money earmarked for nuclear decommissioning.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision last year, following Japan’s nuclear plant disaster, to phase out nuclear power by 2022 has thrown big utilities on the defensive, weakening their finances and forcing them to rethink their business models.

Germany’s top four nuclear operators – E.ON, RWE , EnBW and Swedish’s Vattenfall – are footing the bill to dismantle the plants and dispose of radioactive waste. They have already made provisions of more than 30 billion euros ($39.3 billion).

Managing the disposal of waste will take decades after the last nuclear plant is due to shut in 2022 and Greenpeace fears that the companies may not be able to honour their obligations in the future or could try to wriggle out of them.

Parking the companies’ money in a separate state-run fund would protect German taxpayers should one or more of the firms become insolvent, Greenpeace said. “This is an idea that can be examined,” Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen told Reuters on Wednesday, adding it was clear that the operators of nuclear plants were responsible for dismantling them. “We need to look at whether a combined fund is a better solution than relying on individual responsibility,” he added.

Greenpeace has also called for provisions to be raised to 44 billion euros.

April 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment