Australian news, and some related international items

Australia cannot ignore the problems of rare earths, and should develop recycling, as one answer

Recycling Rare Earths Stop Lynas, 11 July 12, “…….We know that human induced climate change is a fact. Solutions to cut carbon emissions include energy efficiency, hybrid cars and renewable technologies like wind power which all need rare earths. But it is a dangerous path we are on when we continue with the ‘business as usual’ moto – instead we must continue to challenge the influence of governments and corporations that do not take people’s needs into account by protecting human rights and the environment for future generations.

One partial solution to the negative impacts of rare earth mining and processing would be to reduce consumption and increase the reuse and recycling rates of rare earth elements. Currently the recycling rate for most rare earth metals is around 1% or less . Japan is exploring increased recycling of rare earths  fromelectronic waste . If the price of the final materials included the true social and environmental costs of rare earth mining, the incentive to recycle and dig up less would increase.

We must be concerned not only with how our use of rare earths contributes to their depletion, but also how pollution from the production, processing and use of rare earths should be considered in the context of our use – particularly because rare earths are recyclable. 

July 11, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

The anti uranium rally at Olympic Dam – an issue for all Australians, not just a fringe issue

BHP’s URANIUM FIEFDOM  , 11 July 2012, New Matilda   Olympic Dam has been plagued with faults – but is exempt from public scrutiny. The failure of government and business to ensure the mine’s safety is not a fringe issue, writes Jim Green

BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium and copper mine is a state within a state. It operates under a unique set of laws enshrined in the amended Roxby Downs Indenture Act. That would be unobjectionable except that the Indenture Act allows Olympic Dam wide-ranging exemptions from environmental laws, water management laws and Aboriginal Heritage laws — and for good measure it curtails the application of the Freedom of Information Act.

Hundreds of Australians are protesting the mine this weekend. Their overarching concern might be expressed as what sociologists call “political blockage” — official avenues of grievance resolution are closed so people take matters into their own hands….

 I’ll be at the Olympic Dam convergence for two main reasons. Firstly, out of solidarity with Traditional Owners who are ignored by BHP, ignored by the state and federal governments, and sometimes ignored even by their own people. BHP generously supports Reconcilitation Australia yet holds on tenaciously to its exemptions from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act — that sort of hypocrisy and cant needs to be exposed.

And secondly, I’ll be there because the domestic problems with Australia’s uranium industry are compounded by serious international problems. Australia has uranium export agreements with nuclear weapons states that have no intention of meeting their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty disarmament obligations; countries with a history of secret nuclear weapons research; countries that refuse to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; countries blocking progress on the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty; undemocratic, and secretive states with appalling human rights records.

Both major parties now support the abandonment of previous policies banning uranium exports to countries that have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The federal government is planning to allow uranium sales to a Middle Eastern dictatorship — the United Arab Emirates. The last time Australia went down that path was in late 1978 when the Fraser government was negotiating with the Shah of Iran — a few short months before his overthrow during the Iranian Revolution.

All of these uranium export agreements are accompanied by safeguards inspection regimes that are at best modest, sometimes tokenistic (e.g. China) and sometimes all but non-existent (e.g. Russia).

Those converging on the mine later this week reflect broader public concerns about uranium mining. Opinion polls are roughly divided on the topic; typically, polls find that a majority of Australians want existing uranium mines to be allowed to run their course but a majority want a ban on new uranium mines. A 2006 Newspoll found even a majority of Coalition voters wanted a ban on new uranium mines, as did more than three-quarters of Labor voters.

Recent polls indicate that two-thirds of Australians oppose uranium sales to nuclear weapons states and two-thirds oppose the plan to sell uranium to India — a country which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and is engaged in a nuclear arms race with Pakistan and China.

These are not fringe concerns.


July 11, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Opposition to nuclear, uranium | | Leave a comment

The recycling of rare earths

The Recycling Cost-Benefit Equation One of the benefits of recycling rare earth metals from batteries is that a supply of recycled lanthanum should be more reliable than relying on virgin Chinese sources. Recycling also uses less energy and
emits less carbon dioxide than mining. The economics are less firm, but Caffarey said there is a financial justification for recycling rare earths.

Recycling rare earth metals from batteries American Recycler News, by Mark Henricks, July 12, Toyota has sold nearly 3 million Prius hybrid-drive automobiles, each of which contains a battery pack that has more than 20 lbs. of an exotic metal called lanthanum. Lanthanum, like most of the 17 so-called rare earth elements, primarily comes from China, which has
recently tightened export quotas. Special properties of rare earth metals make them highly useful for batteries, magnets and electric motors, and China wants to reserve them for its domestic industries.

Tension between rising demand for lanthanum, which has been infrequently used in products before now, and uncertain supply has created growing interest in finding ways to recycle the millions of batteries that will be coming out of hybrid and plug-in electric cars using nickel-metal hydride batteries. There are plenty of precedents. Continue reading

July 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maritime Union of Australia to rally against proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty

MUA Stands With Traditional Owners To Oppose Nuclear Dump 11 July 12 The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is proud to host an anti-nuclear rally against the proposed nuclear dump site at Muckaty this Thursday in Darwin. The rally will be held at Stokes Hill Wharf and is expected to attract wide-ranging support, with a number of MUA officials from around Australia in attendance.

The rally will be held on the seven-year anniversary of Muckaty being selected as the site for a nuclear waste facility – which is still opposed by traditional owners, the NT community and community and environmental groups from around Australia.

“The MUA has been proud to support the traditional owners who are opposed to the construction of the proposed dump in their community,” said MUA NT Organiser Thomas Mayor.

“The MUA is also very concerned that our members would have to handle this waste when it enters the Port of Darwin, bound for Muckaty when the emergency response capabilities in Darwin do not exist for such a dangerous cargo. “The MUA will be attending the rally in force, and will continue to oppose the dump.” Muckaty was chosen as the site for Australia’s first nuclear waste facility by the Howard Government, and there has been consistent opposition from members of the community and the NT Government.

Members of the Warl-Manpa community have lived at Muckaty, near Tenant Creek for thousands of years. At a recent hearing at the Federal Court in Melbourne, traditional owners had hoped to have the date set to begin a formal hearing to try to have the decision overturned, but that decision has now been adjourned until November.

“It is a really frightening thought that local people won’t get a say about what’s stuck there, buried in their own lands,” said Mr Mayor.“As a community, we will be standing together to say that this plan is unacceptable.”

DETAILS OF THE RALLY: Stokes Hill Wharf, Darwin | 4pm | Thursday 12 July Media Contact: Thomas Mayor 0437 650 221

July 11, 2012 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Britain’s desperate hunt to solve its plutonium garbage problem

Christina’s note:  The Barry Brook and co nuclear lobby in South Australia are pushing for fast reactors such as PRISM to be set up in rural and regional Australia. 

Sellafield is where all storage of radioactive materials and nuclear reprocessing in the UK takes place. It was once at the heart of plutonium manufacturing for the British atomic weapons program. Despite the controversy that surrounds the plant, there are plans to build new reactors at Sellafield. The government has approved initial plans to build a fast PRISM reactor on the site. Most locals are against it. They want the UK government to commission a safety study into Sellafield’s effects on the health of the local population.

A study in the 1980’s found that over ten times the national average of childhood Leukaemia’s occurred near Sellafield. Thirty families tried to take the company who then ran the site to court and lost. “There has never been a proper investigation into the environmental impact of the plant and there should be.”

Sellafield: The dangers of Britain’s nuclear dustbin RT, 10 July, 2012 Britain’s nuclear industry is again the center of controversy. The UK has the biggest stockpile of Plutonium in the world, but there are no definite plans for how to get rid of it – and the delays are costing the UK taxpayer billions.
A record number of radioactive particles have been found on beaches near the Sellafield nuclear plant, in North West England. The authorities who run it admit it’s the most radioactive place in Western Europe but insist it’s safe. Continue reading

July 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Long range Holden Volt electric car and renewable energy

Holden Teams Up With Better Place to Offer Renewable Energy and Faster Charging for Volt 
MELBOURNE 10 July 2012Holden has today announced Better Place as its preferred partner for renewable energy and faster charging solutions for the long range Holden Volt electric car.

Better Place will develop a number of membership packages for Volt customers including the installation of a ‘Charge Spot’ unit at home or work, and zero emissions charging  provided through the purchase of renewable energy or 100% Government certified renewable energy certificates.

Holden Energy and Environment Director, Richard Marshall said offering customers faster charging and renewable energy solutions were important steps. Continue reading

July 11, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | 1 Comment

Solar power with energy storage will benefit Australian households, AND utility companies

 The partnership can actually benefit utilities too, though.

The residential systems (5 kW/20 kWh) will be available to the general residential marketplace in fall 2012, the company states. It will also be offering commercial and utility-scale energy storage systems.

Energy storage and solar join forces in Australia, REneweconomy, By Zachary Shahan   11 July 2012 Solar energy is getting cheaper and cheaper. It’s an excellent choice for homeowners around the world. It can cut electricity bills
dramatically and deliver up some pretty sweet long-term savings. But things get really exciting when you let it play with a cheap, home energy storage system. OK, I’m not sure if there’s a truly “cheap” system out there yet, but prices are falling for those as well, and a decent energy storage system with a solar power system is a match that utility companies probably don’t want to see.

Recent news is that energy storage company Greensmith Energy Management Systems has teamed up with South-Australian solar developer ZEN Energy Systems in the land down under.

“In the agreement, Greensmith will provide software licenses for its
Battery Operating System to ZEN, who will market and deliver a line of
energy storage products in Australia.”

This could be big news. Continue reading

July 11, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | | Leave a comment

Australian company selling solar technology in USA

Australian company signs U.S. solar PV contract Jul 10, 2012 Australia-based CBD Energy Limited, a diversified renewable energy company, has signed its first solar photovoltaic (PV) installation contract in the U.S. The project is a design, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to build a solar system for a school in New Jersey. Westinghouse Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: WEST) will partner with CBD’s EPC division to deliver the project.
The project is valued at $3.8 million and is expected to begin construction in mid-July. Construction is scheduled to take three months.

July 11, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Australia in transition, coal on the way out, solar on the way in

There are some companies which have been preparing for the introduction of this carbon price for quite some time. They have carried out a lot of refitting, so they now find themselves in a fairly good position.
On the other hand the dirtiest power stations, especially the lignite stations, are having problems re-financing their loans. The banks don’t think the business model will work anymore. In the federal state of Victoria, for instance, with the major city of Melbourne, some of these lignite-run plants have a question mark over their future in the medium term.

World’s top coal exporter braces for green future Deutsche Welle, 10 July 12,  Interview: Irene Quaile “……As in so many countries at the moment, the solar sector is also undergoing a transition process. It is moving away from the stage ofconstantly hunting for subsidies to becoming an industry that sees it can stand on its own two feet. Because of rising electricity prices, we are seeing that consumers are becoming more interested in producing their own power. And the pressure from China, which has led to a sharp drop in the price of modules, is making it increasingly attractive for consumers to opt for solar.
Australia has introduced a carbon emissions tax in a bid to combat climate change. Kristian Wolf, head of the German-Australian Chamber of Commerce says this will promote renewable energy in the coal exporting nation.
Deutsche Welle: The introduction of a carbon levy for the 500 biggest CO2 emitters has been very controversial. What was behind the opposition? Continue reading

July 11, 2012 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment