Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear news in Australia for the past week

It has been a seemingly quiet week in Australian nuclear news. But then, in the Australian media, it’s always a quiet nuclear week.  I have got  a bit of  a shock, in studying the media as a theme for September, that in fact – the norm for Australia is just to not know anything about nuclear issues. That’s how the nuclear lobby, government and mainstream media like it.

That doesn’t mean that nothing is going on.  Alas no. The nuke lobby keeps on. A whole lot of hype about the great future for uranium mining – (despite all the evidence to the contrary). Then there’s the subtle move for nuclear power in Australia.  For example, in today’s news Utility Products praises “low carbon”  (not necessarily renewable) energy.

–  “For non-renewable energy technologies, combined cycle gas and nuclear power are considered the cheapest and will stay cost competitive with the lower cost renewable technologies also up until 2050.” 

considered by whom?   I’d like to know.  On the less subtle pitch, Barry Brook continues his promotion of nuclear power for Australia, also despite evidence that this would be economically disastrous, as well as environmentally.

In Western Australia the great walk against uranium mining continues – the nuke lobby would never admit it, but such brave protests have their impact, as they did with Olympic Dam, too, in South Australia.  Lynas rare earths company is jubilant about getting a temporary operating license in Malaysia. But no mention of whether their radioactive waste plan is yet accepted by Malaysia.

In Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria the Liberal governments clamp down on renewable energy while in South Australia over 50% of electricity is being supplied currently, through wind energy.  The federal government disappoints in its backdown on closing down dirty coal plants.


September 7, 2012 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

The USA’s propaganda machine in action in Australian media

WikiLeaks cables show how Australia works with the US to get Iran, Green Left 6 Sept, 12, “……..Propaganda As well as efforts to contain discussions inside the conference, cables detail the “public diplomacy outreach” methods the US could employ to push its agenda outside the Conference. A cable said the US Deputy Chief of Mission in Canberra: “thought it might be good to produce a documentary laying out Iran’s history  of supporting Hizbollah and other terrorists, and then ask viewers to consider what it would mean to have a nuclear-armed Iran. Luck [Ambassador At-Large for Counterterrorism] agreed – so long as the USG itself did not make the documentary”.

In a later cable the US Embassy answered questions from the US government about “the most useful ways to convey the U.S. message on NPT issues to the Australian public”, such as the use of a Digital Video Conference (DVC): “The host government is firmly on board with USG policy and does not require further outreach, but think tanks, specific journalists and universities in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne could be targeted , particularly on the need to focus on the “crisis pillar” of the NPT, which is not disarmament, but nonproliferation. Another option would be to arrange a DVC just for journalists with an eye towards placement of articles based on the discussion.”

The Embassy went on to recommend: “Articles and editorial pieces by very senior US officials for our Office of Public Affairs to place in “The Australian,” “The Sydney Morning Herald,” “The Age,” “The Daily Telegraph” and the “Australian Financial Review,” among others. … While providing the U.S. record on disarmament, the articles should also highlight the need for noncompliant states to be put under the international spotlight during the Review Conference.”

In the end the US did come under sustained criticism for alleged non-compliance with the NPT at the 2005 RevCon, by the NAM states  and other delegates. However, a report by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting  said the US media was significantly more compliant than the NPT delegates and largely ignored the US’s “bad atoms”…..

September 7, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | Leave a comment

If Australian company Lynas thinks its Malaysian rare earths project is fine, it’s got another think coming

Protests Promised Over License for Malaysia Rare Earth Plant NYT, By LIZ GOOCH KUALA , 6 Sept, LUMPUR — Activists who have waged a lengthy campaign against a rare earth refinery in Malaysia refused to back down Thursday after the authorities gave the Australian company behind the project the green light to proceed.

One group has vowed to blockade the port in the Malaysian town of Kuantan, near the plant, if the company, Lynas, tries to import raw earth materials from Australia.

“We are prepared to paralyze the whole port until the raw materials leave our port,” said Wong Tack, chairman of the group, Himpunan Hijau. “The world will witness one of the biggest civil disobedience events in this nation.”…. Lynas said that it would address the “principal cause of the community anxiety” — what to do with the radioactive byproducts from the plant — by turning the material into “processed co-products” for use mainly in manufacturing, like materials for roads and buildings. The materials would be exported, the company said. The company’s statement did not say to which countries it might export the products……

activists are not satisfied that the plant, estimated to cost 2.5 billion ringgit, or $802 million, will be safe.

“We will not allow an ounce of raw material to reach our shores,” said Mr. Wong, adding that Himpunan Hijau would recruit “thousands of people” to block the port 24 hours a day when the raw earth material arrived.

“We need to send the strongest warning to Lynas — don’t even dream about operation. This is an all-out war,” he said.

Another group, Save Malaysia Stop Lynas, said it was considering filing for a court injunction to try to stop the plant from operating.

Tan Bun Teet, the group’s chairman, said Save Malaysia Stop Lynas had already obtained leave from the courts for a judicial review of both the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s approval of the temporary operating license and of the decision by the minister of science, technology and innovation not to revoke the license.

He insisted that the board should have waited for the outcome of those judicial reviews before issuing the license…… The committee’s findings — that Lynas should receive the license because it had fulfilled legal provisions and standards more stringent than international standards — were dismissed by activists who claimed the committee was an attempt to “whitewash” the issue.

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New temporary license for Lynas does not end the Malaysian rare eaths debate

Australia’s Lyn as rare-earths operations approved in Malaysia, despite anger, Bikyamasr  | 6 September 2012 |  “…..It came after months of delays after protests erupted demanding that the company be barred from operating in the country, with demonstrators citing radiation fears.

The new temporary license means the company will be able to transport rare-earths minerals as it prepares for the first production in Pahang in October. The company completed building the first phase of the plant in three months to June 30 and is continuing work on the expansion of the project, which is scheduled for completion early next year..

… Ongoing protests and attacks against the establishing of the rare earths facility have seen the Australian company go to court to force critics and villagers to be silenced, but the court in late July ruled that it would not end the debate over the safety of the plant. Continue reading

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian rare earths company Lynas is a political issue in Malaysia

 Malaysian Rare Earth Plant Approved  Asia Sentinel, 6 Sept 12,  “……The Australia-based Lynas operation has become a political football that has been kicked around for months between the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition and the government, with thousands of opponents turning up at rallies across the country. It has become a major test of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s attempts to woo international investment to the country.

Two protest groups have been given leave to challenge the decision by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry to allow the plant to go ahead. They told local media they would seek yet another injunction to stall the plant. However, Lynas officials were jubilant in Sydney and Perth in Western Australia, where a mountain of unprocessed ore has been building for months at the company’s Mount Weld mining facility….   no one would comment for the record, given the touchy political situation in Malaysia,…

The protesters say they fear that Malaysia’s inability to police its environmental laws could end up with the waste byproducts from the plant leaching into the water table or drifting into the atmosphere.
The issue has become so sensitive because a rare earth plant developed in the 1980s ended up contaminating air and groundwater at Bukit Merah near Ipoh. Several people were treated for various cancers because of the plant and later died. Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., which developed the plant, has spent an estimated US$100 million in the effort to clean up the environmental disaster.

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The horror of nuclear racism at America’s Savannah River nuclear bomb plant

Race and Radiation: The Equal Opportunity Killer at the Savannah River Site DC Bureau By ,  September 6th, 2012  The old Atomic Energy Commission did not give much thought to where they were going to put their new nuclear weapons processing plant in the 1950s other than it needed to be on the other side of the country from their World War II era facility in Hanford, Washington…..

At SRS, five reactors, two separation plants, thousands of miles of pipes and high level nuclear waste storage facilities were built on what amounts to a swamp with the worst earthquake fault in the South running under it. Towns were relocated and the orchards, hunting and fishing grounds that sustained the lives of poor residents were taken over by a country fighting a new kind of war – a cold war. The reactors were built five miles apart so if the Soviets attacked one, the others could survive and keep producing plutonium. Production wastes – deadly to humans – were buried in cardboard boxes in open trenches.

The ugliest of America’s nuclear weapons history is the cavalier way in which the old Atomic Energy Commission and later Department of Energy management allowed African American workers to be deliberately exposed to radiation at the sprawling Savannah River Site while sparing white workers from the same dangers. Continue reading

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Australia’s extraordinary wind energy peak – at 85% of the State’s electricity

Wind power peaks in SA Sep 6 2012 South Australia’s wind farms briefly provided 85 per cent of the state’s electricity during windy conditions this week, the Clean Energy Council says.

Policy director Russell Marsh said data from the Australian Energy Market Operator showed 55 per cent of all the electricity used by South Australians on Wednesday was generated by wind power.

But it said wind power peaked briefly at 85 per cent on Monday morning. “South Australia has proven once again that wind energy can generate real power and lots of it,” Mr Marsh said. “All this wind is putting South Australia well ahead of the curve on Australia’s 20 per cent renewable energy target.”

September 7, 2012 Posted by | South Australia, wind | Leave a comment

Terrorism danger to Pakistan’s nuclear facility

Nuclear safety   The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2012. The scenario drawn up by think-tanks in the US, of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into militant hands, may just be more real than we think. This, of course, is a terrifying thought. So far, the possibility of such an event has been dismissed at home — but the high-level security alert put in place around Dera Ghazi Khan and the large-scale nuclear facility there, engaged mainly in mining and processing uranium, should force us to think otherwise.

The local police chief of Dera Ghazi Khan, Chaudhry Saleem, has confirmed that a heavy contingent of police and army personnel has been placed around the facility after the ISI intercepted a telephone call suggesting an attack was planned on the site housing nuclear material. Experts point out that these kinds of conversations picked up by intelligence agencies have proved to be accurate in the past.

It is also a fact that just weeks ago, a daring attack was made on the Kamra air base, which also houses our nuclear assets. The ability of the militants to enter high-security facilities is terrifying. It appears that in the latest case, the attacks are intended to act as revenge for the death of Abdul Ghaffar Qaisarani, killed in an encounter with the Dera Ghazi Khan police some time ago. Information about Qaisarani’s whereabouts had apparently come after the capture of other terrorists.

What is alarming, though, is the fact that key nuclear installations are becoming definite targets of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Despite the death of Qaisarani, which weakened the TTP considerably in the area, it is said to have been able to regroup, and in some parts of southern Punjab, is stated to be growing stronger and more dangerous. This also raises questions about why more action was not taken in the past to defeat the TTP in Punjab and prevent the southern part of the province from becoming what many say is a safe haven for militants — no less so than the tribal areas in the north. It has become essential that we deal with the pockets where extremist groups gather. The possibility of nuclear weapons somehow falling into their hands is one we simply cannot afford. We appear to be getting closer to this horrific reality by the day.

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Obama’s goal for renewable energy, energy efficiency and green jobs

Renewable Energy Is Obama Goal for Next Term, Aide Says , Bloomberg, By Kasia Klimasinska – Sep 6, 2012 President Barack Obama ’s effort to develop renewable power sources and persuade Congress to adopt a long-term energy policy  will be priorities should he win a second term, his top climate and energy aide said.

Clean-energy programs and efficiency initiatives will be a focus for the president if he’s re-elected in November, Heather Zichal , Obama’s deputy assistant for energy and climate change, told reporters today in Washington .

“The big issue will remain engagement with Congress,” she said. “The president has talked continuously about the need for a long-term energy policy, and I think that will be something that he will obviously remain focused on in the second term.” As a candidate in 2008, Obama pledged to create 5 million green jobs over 10 years by investing in renewable sources such as solar and wind power. He promoted alternatives to fossil fuels as a way to cut U.S. dependence on imported fuel. The 2009 economic-stimulus plan spent a record $90 billion on clean energy, creating 225,000 green jobs after one year, according to the White House….

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian Capital Territory leads with big solar, AND decentralised solar energy

Canberra Goes Solar In A Big Way news_article&article_id=3371 by Energy Matters, 6 Sept 12,  Spanish company FRV has been awarded a project to develop a 20MW solar panel based electricity generation facility in the Australian Capital Territory.

The FRV Royalla Solar Farm will be constructed 23 kilometres south of Canberra’s CBD and will consist of approximately 83,000 solar panels – the largest facility of its kind to date in Australia. Royalla Solar Farm will generate enough electricity to supply the power needs of around 4,500 homes and avoid over half a million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions during its serviceable life.

Country Manager of FRV Australia said the project represents an important step in the company’s long term commitment in Australia. The Australian Solar Council welcomed the announcement by the A.C.T. Government.

“This is a landmark day for Big Solar in Australia”, said John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council.
“Australia’s clean energy future has arrived in Canberra…Solar is increasingly taking on coal-fired power on price.”

“Big solar plants will increasingly meet Australia’s peak power energy needs, and today’s announcement by the A.C.T. Government is a window into Australia’s solar future.”
Mr. Grimes also congratulated the ACT Government for “delivering Big Solar at low cost and at breakneck speed.”
ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the project would make Canberra the solar capital of Australia – and at a low cost. “The Government’s reverse auction process is about getting the cheapest price for the best amount of renewable energy generation, and today we’ve delivered on that,” he said.

Construction is due to begin in 2013 and is expected to be finished in 2014, subject to relevant approvals. FRV states it has fully developed more than 360 MW of renewables capacity globally and has participated in the development of over 2,750 MW at different stages.

Bidding for the ACT project occurred under a reverse auction model. According to RenewEconomy’s Giles Parkinson, reverse auctions are already being deployed successfully in some of the world’s biggest energy markets, including India.
In addition to support for Big Solar, the ACT also encourages home solar power through a feed in tariff incentive. Surplus electricity generated by home systems is purchased by ActewAGL Retail at the customer’s electricity tariff rate.

According to national solar solutions provider Energy Matters, a 3kW solar panel system installed in Canberra can generate a financial benefit of nearly $800 a year.

September 7, 2012 Posted by | ACT, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s Liberal States, especially Queensland, fight renewable energy

 Newman’s antipathy to green energy runs deep.

Campbell Newman’s war on green energy REneweconomy By    6 September 2012 It looks like the clean energy industry is going to have to go back to basics when dealing with the new conservative government in Queensland – just as it has had to do in Victoria, with that state’s Coalition government. Tomorrow, when the NSW Coalition government releases its renewable energy plan, it will learn if it will have to do the same there.

In Queensland, however, the industry is right back at first base. Not that it ever really left it: it is the one state that has hardly any large-scale renewable generation, apart from a series of biomass plants from sugar cane plantations and a single 12MW wind farm.

Premier Campbell Newman signalled his approach to renewables early in his term when he decided he didn’t want to put any state money into the Solar Dawn consortium, or any other renewable energy project  for that matter, and announced he would disband the state’s climate change and renewables program. His approach was that the if federal government had a carbon tax and a renewable energy target, then Canberra should pay for it. It wasn’t the state’s business.

That might sound fine on the stump, or in a sound bite on radio talkback, but it’s actually self-defeating. The law states that each electricity retailer must provide a certain amount of renewable energy to its customers, paid for by renewable energy certificates, and that includes Queensland utilities.

If they don’t build renewable energy in their own state, then that money will simply be spent on projects being built by the southerners – be it in NSW, Victoria or South Australia. Continue reading

September 7, 2012 Posted by | politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

South Australia’s wind energy bonanza

Wind accounts for 58% of energy use in South AustraliaBy  on 6 September 2012 It’s been another big week for wind production in South Australia – as another spring weather system with high winds makes wind energy the dominant force in local energy production.

According to figures pulled together by consultants Intelligent Energy Systems using data from the Australian Market Operator, wind energy produced accounted for 57.9 per cent of demand in the state on Tuesday, and followed up with 55 per cent of total demand on Wednesday……

exports from South Australia to other states. On Tuesday, the state was exporting almost all day, as the wind output was quite consistent. On Wednesday, it exported for most of the day and there  is a bit of pink at the top in the late afternoon to indicate coal imported from Victoria. (South Australia’s coal generators are in mothballs right now due to the impact of wind, and lower demand, and the carbon price)……


These one day graphs, of course, are just snapshots of an overall trend happening in the state, and across the National Electricity Market, that will only become more apparent as the amount of wind and solar installed in the country increases. Indeed drew Reidy, from IES says these days only rank as the 6th and 12th highest in terms of energy produced on a single day, and 5th and 6th in terms of percentage of demand. The highest day in terms of output was on August 17 this year, while the highest in terms of percentage of demand came in February 5, when wind accounted for 64.1 per cent of demand across the day.

The Clean Energy Council’s Russell March said it was proof that wind energy can generate real power – and lots of it. “This type of significant wind generation is common in South Australia,” he said. In 2011/12, according to AEMO data, wind produced 24 per cent of the state’s generation, overtaking coal. And, Russell noted, AEMO data shows that emissions from South Australia’s electricity sector have dropped every year since 2005/06, and have reduced by more than 27 per cent over the last five years.

“All this wind is putting SA way ahead of the curve on the national Renewable Energy Target, helping provide farmers and local business owners in regional areas with extra income. It also means that the state’s residents collectively have a lower carbon price bill, while getting fully compensated from the Federal Government under the scheme.” Indeed, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the state enjoyed not just by far the cleanest energy in the country, but also the cheapest, with average prices over the day at $43/MWh, compared to more than $52/MWh for NSW…..

September 7, 2012 Posted by | South Australia, wind | Leave a comment

Massive tuna fish caught – but is it radioactive?

Radiation tests for monster bluefin tuna  Weekly Times, September 7, 2012 SCIENTISTS are to test a monster bluefin tuna caught off New Zealand to see if it carries radioactivity from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

The 275kg tuna was caught by Victorian fisherman Paul Worsteling50km off the coast of Greymouth.
Mr Worsteling said he waited more than 30 hours to hook the fish, then another two hours to haul it on board.

This came after a year planning the trip to hook the fish.He said he was “blown away” when he saw the tuna, which took five men to haul aboard the boat.

The fish will now be tested for radiation to determine if it has been affected by the Fukushima reactor meltdown in Japan.
The waters around Japan are a spawning ground for bluefin tuna. Mr Wosterling, from the Mornington Peninsula, said the fish would be worth more than $700,000 in Japan, but as an amateur fisherman he couldn’t sell it….

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

University of New South Wales (UNSW)’s solar cell innovation

UNSW, Suntech Power and Hanwha Solar Partner to Improve Solar Cell Efficiency AZOcleantech,  September 6, 2012  By Gary Thomas Researchers at the School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have developed an advanced processing technology for enhancing the efficiency of silicon solar cells. SPREE has entered into a research partnership with Suntech Power and Hanwha Solar, twomajor silicon solar cell manufacturers.

Thin film The electric insulator in a solar cell is located between the aluminium back-plate and the silicon wafer. The newly developed technology involves “self-patterning” tiny metal contact regions into the electric insulator of a solar cell…..

September 7, 2012 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

USA was at first worried that Kevin Rudd as P.M might not toe the USA line

Another cause for US alarm was Rudd’s announcement in June 2008 of a new International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (the Evans Commission). Cables show the US was affronted by Rudd’s decision  to announce the Commission without telling them first……. By the time preparations for the 2010 RevCon began, Rudd government officials were echoing the line of their Howard-era predecessors.

The Israelis regarded Rudd as being a useful tool in the propaganda war against Iran

WikiLeaks cables show how Australia works with the US to get Iran, Green Left 6 Sept, 12, “……Kevin Rudd US-Australian relations on nuclear issues were complicated by Kevin Rudd’s rise to power in 2007. Labor had a longstanding policy of opposing nuclear cooperation with non-NPT signatories, which the US feared might jeopardise its planned civil nuclear agreement with India, a non-NPT state. The US needed Australia’s support to approve the deal in the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) , which sets guidelines for nuclear-related exports. It repeatedly raised the issue in meetings with Australian diplomats.

Early on there were signs that Labor’s policy could be dispensed with. While Rudd was still Opposition leader, the US Embassy reported that his foreign policy adviser, Peter Khalil : “Understood and accepted that renewed nuclear-power cooperation with India was a necessary price to pay for a closer relationship. Australia’s uranium industry could in fact benefit from renewed trade with India, he noted …” Continue reading

September 7, 2012 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment