Australian news, and some related international items

Uranium mining will leave Western Australian tax-payers with virtually permanent toxic pollution

Preventing tailings contamination even after a uranium mine has closed has proved impossible in every uranium mine in Australia to date there is no former Australian uranium mine that has been rehabilitated successfully — all are still radioactive no-go zones because of radionuclide dispersal from waste stockpiles and water seepage. We will be fooling ourselves if we think that “best practice” regulation can somehow contain tens of millions of tonnes of finely powdered carcinogenic wastes for thousands of years.

Uranium mine tailings leave an enduring toxic legacy Alison Xamon , June 8, 2012,  The Environmental Protection Authority’s approval of a uranium mine in Wiluna should concern all West Australians. This is no longer a theoretical discussion. Research shows a serious risk that uranium mining will cause long-term harm to WA communities. Uranium mining has caused a string of accidents across Australia and has proved impossible to regulate appropriately.

Yet the highly radioactive waste produced by uranium mines — known as uranium mine tailings — remain radioactive for thousands of years. The State Government has given a commitment to seek to regulate uranium mining through “world’s best practice”, including isolating uranium tailings for at least 10,000 years. This is a worthy commitment but it is unclear how it will be achieved, especially when it is apparent that no uranium site in Australia has successfully accomplished this for even 10 years.

The best regulations will not stop chronic radioactive waste seepage. Preventing tailings contamination even after a uranium mine has closed has proved impossible in every uranium mine in Australia to date, Continue reading


June 9, 2012 Posted by | environment, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Small scale, off-grid renewable energy for African and Islander nations

Africa: First African Renewable Energy Confab in Accra All Africa, BY AYUUREYISIYA KAPINI ATAFORI, 8 JUNE 2012 The first conference in Africa solely focused on off-grid renewable energy technologies will be held in Accra in October this year with a special look at applications in rural communities of developing countries.

Off-grid technology is extremely important throughout Africa with many of the continent?s inhabitants without access to the grid. …….A pioneering role in renewable energy development in Africa has been taken by Cape Verde. The West African islands have set a goal of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2020. Abrao Andrade Lopez, Director General of the Ministry of Industry and Energy, announced that the country was currently running a study to explore how to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy.

In a related development, decreasing dependency on oil imports encouraged 39 of the small island developing states (SIDS) in Africa, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific to meet in Barbados to work out energy efficiency plans.

Islands like Tonga and Tokelau plan to become fully energy independent by 2013, and others are following suit. The small island developing states are writing the stories of their future, said Veerle Vandeweerd, Director of Environment and Energy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Continue reading

June 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

World Ocean Day June 8, and the impact of Fukushima

 Fukushima radiation is showing up in tuna caught off the California coast. A new study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that bluefin tuna caught off America’s West Coast are carrying radiation from the nuclear power plant  in Fukushima badly damaged in a tsunami last year. Fortunately, the radiation is not at levels that would be harmful to humans…… Video bonus: It’s hard to find a better ambassador for the sea than Sylvia Earle, who’s been exploring the deep for more than 40 years. Here’s her TED talk  from a few years ago, but it’s more relevant than ever

Roiling in the Deep,, 8 June 12 “……  marine biologist Callum Roberts wrote in Newsweek,  “With an ever-accelerating tide of human impact, the oceans have changed more in the last 30 years than in all of human history before……. Since today is World Oceans Day,  here’s a rundown of 10 things we now know about the sea that we didn’t a year ago. Continue reading

June 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Economic viability of new giant Olympic Dam uranium mine is in question

BHP Could Net $6 Billion By Selling Olympic Dam Stake: Deutsche   WSJ,  By Robb M. Stewart, 8 June 12 With question marks hanging over the timing of BHP Billiton’s massive expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, could a sale of a minority stake to a strategic partner offer the answer?….. The expansion of Olympic Dam is one of three $10 billion-plus “mega” projects that BHP’s board is due to decide on by the end of the year.

But with costs in Australia and other countries escalating and commodities prices slumping, the thinking of many analysts is that approval for one or more projects will be deferred.

In a research report, Deutsche valued Olympic Dam after all five phases of its expansion at about $14 billion on a life-of-mine net present value. But the internal rate of return was a modest 11.3% due to the large upfront cost to develop an open pit at the mine site…..

June 9, 2012 Posted by | business, South Australia, uranium | | Leave a comment

BHP investors disillusioned with Olympic Dam uranium mine expansion plans

Sell stake in mine, BHP urged Olga Galacho , Herald Sun  June 09, 2012, BHP Billiton should cheer up its shareholders by undertaking a radical sale of 20 per cent of its copper-uranium Olympic Dam mine to a venture partner, broking
house Deutsche Bank suggested yesterday. Analyst Paul Young estimated such a deal could fetch about $6 billion, which the miner could use to fund the first part of its expansion plan for the South Australian mine and boost returns to shareholders.

But his counterpart at UBS, Glyn Lawcock slammed the idea, saying shareholders would be highly disappointed if BHP sold part of a tier-one asset….. BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers this week continued to stoke speculation that the miner might put the giant mine expansion on ice indefinitely..… Deutsche Bank believes investors are reflecting their disillusionment with the value of these long-term projects in the share market.

June 9, 2012 Posted by | business, South Australia, uranium | | Leave a comment

USA federal appeals court puts spanner in the works for new nuclear power plants

The New York attorney general’s office said the ruling means the NRC cannot license or relicense any nuclear power plant until it examines those risks. That process could take a couple of years, Geoff Fettus, an attorney who argued in court on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told

“The need for a new strategy is urgent,” the panel wrote in its report, “not just to address these damages and costs but because this generation has a fundamental, ethical obligation to avoid burdening future generations with the entire task of finding a safe, permanent solution for managing hazardous nuclear materials they had no part in creating.”

Nuclear headache: What to do with 65,000 tons of spent fuel,  By Miguel   In a blow to the nuclear energy industry, a federal appeals court on Friday threw out a rule allowing plants to store spent nuclear fuel onsite for decades after they’ve closed, and ordered regulators to study the risks involved with that storage — 65,000 tons now spread across the country, and growing at 2,000 tons a year.  

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission “apparently has no long-term plan other than hoping for a geologic repository,” the unanimous ruling stated . “If the government continues to fail in its quest to establish one, then SNF (spent nuclear fuel) will seemingly be stored on site at nuclear plants on a permanent basis. The Commission can and must assess the potential environmental effects of such a failure.” Nuclear plants have been storing spent fuel onsite for decades and the NRC recently said, barring a repository, they may continue to do so even after they shut down. Continue reading

June 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Call for moratorium on industrial development at Point Lowly, to save Giant Cuttlefish from extinction

CUTTLEFISH numbers at a key breeding ground in Spencer Gulf have plummeted, the Greens say. Greens state MP Mark Parnell said local divers at the Point Lowly site
have reported a huge drop in numbers during the current breeding season.

“This annual marine breeding spectacle is of worldwide significance, not to mention how important it is for the local tourism industry,” Mr Parnell said in a statement on Friday. He said the state government must conduct an immediate investigation
to determine the cause of the slump in numbers. “First step is commissioning some urgent research by marine scientists
to find out exactly what is going on,” he said.

“Next is a moratorium on all industrial development at Point Lowly until the cause of the decline is discovered.” Mr Parnell said the annual breeding of the giant Australian cuttlefish at Point Lowly is the world’s only known mass cuttlefish spawning
event. “The permanent loss of this annual breeding event would be devastating,” he said.

June 9, 2012 Posted by | environment, South Australia | | Leave a comment

Majority of industrialised countries have carbon pricing: Australia not alone in carbon tax

Australia not alone on carbon pricing: Combet, SMH, Adam Morton, June 9, 2012 CLIMATE Change Minister Greg Combet will today counter claims that Australia is acting alone on carbon pricing with an analysis that finds more than 50 jurisdictions will have emissions trading schemes in 2013.
The schemes cover a combined population of about 850 million, according to the analysis by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

They include 30 countries linked under the European Union carbon scheme, regional systems covering 10 US states, including California, and seven pilot schemes in Chinese provinces and cities. Mr Combet said the schemes would cover an estimated 30 per cent of the global economy, showing Australia was joining “the vast majority of the world’s industrialised economies in adopting a policy that reduces emissions in the most economically responsible way”…..
Several European countries, including Britain and Scandinavian nations, have higher prices than Australia on fossil fuel industries once domestic carbon taxes are factored in. Continue reading

June 9, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment