Australian news, and some related international items

The Lowy Institute’s nuclear revivalist meeting

nuclear-panelTwo years after Fukushima: a tale of two symposiums, Noel Wauchope,  Independent Australia 12 April 13, “….. Symposium Two: The Lowy Institute’s nuclear revivalist meeting  

SOON AFTER Caldicott New York symposium, the Lowy Institute for International Policy put on a panel of its own to discuss nuclear power. Apparently, anything the USA can do, Australia can do better! Or perhaps worse.

The Lowy Institute’s March panel discussion topic was Asia’s nuclear future after Fukushima. The role of nuclear industry. The panel was composed of leaders of Australia’s nuclear industry — Michael Angwin, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Uranium Association, John Borshoff, CEO of Paladin Energy and Dr Selena Ng, Regional Director South East Asia and Oceanea, AREVA. The chairman was John Carlson, former Director General, Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office

I like enthusiasm and optimism, however, this panel went beyond enthusiasm. I tell you — it was like a religious revival meeting. And I think that’s just what it was. Just like a pastor exhorting a tiny remnant congregation, there seemed to be a more than  a hint of underlying desperation, combined with that touching faith in the Second Coming.

There was unanimous agreement on the inevitable booming future of nuclear power, especially in South East Asia. Yet, between the lines, we heard from Michael Angwin that

“…public perceptions of nuclear industry are now  less confident than before in the short term, but my expectation is that will return to confidence in the long term.”

He also admitted:
“We know that people take a negative view of nuclear industry — see it as remote from them, and as the creature of big government and big industry”…….

However, faith in the nuclear industry’s future being a given, all speakers moved on to three secondary themes, which were:

  • the problem of the media
  • the need for public education
  • the safety of the nuclear industry…..

All said worthy things about the need for safety measures in nuclear reactors. But not a word about the cost issues involved. At the New York symposium, David Lochbaum estimated these as likely to be simply unaffordable.

Indeed, John Borshoff turned Fukusima into a positive:

The Fukushima emergency demonstrates the resilience of nuclear technology”

The panel completely ignored the crisis in nuclear in the USAUK and Japan over nuclear waste disposal — which has paralysed the nuclear industry there.

They demonstrated their lack of interest in, and probably complete ignorance of, radiation issues.  Radiation was mentioned just once, by John Borshoff, speaking about Fukushima:

“No deaths have occurred. There were some releases of radioactivity. It is doubtful if this will be [sic] cause harm in the medium or long term.”

Angwin stressed that

“…what we know from studies done at Chernobyl — the  major risk of psychological health risk [sic], caused by fear of radiation.”

The cause of the Fukushima meltdowns was ascribed to the tsunami — yet latest evidence indicates  that in fact the earthquake was the initial cause, not the tsunami. But, anyway, nobody seemed particularly interested in Fukushima any more, as long as the media continues to put it on the back burner — that seems to be all that matters…. What struck me most of all was that the other speakers [except Dr Ng] showed no interest whatever in examining the after effects of Fukushima and questions about its future. I found their statements on this both puzzling and worrying…….

Dr Ng spoke of the nuclear industry’s previous attitude of complacency – now shaken up by Fukushima – towards more vigilance about safety.

Listening to Australia’s nuclear “expert panel”, it seems that complacency still reigns. What a contrast to the professionally organised, meticulously referenced symposium in New York!

April 12, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Report on the New York symposium on the effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident

Two years after Fukushima: a tale of two symposiums Independent Australia 12 April 13With news today that Fukushima has sprung another radioactive leak, Noel Wauchope reports on two very different nuclear symposiums held last month. 

Symposium One:  The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident JUST OVER two years ago, Independent Australia was first to break the news of the real urgency of the Fukushima nuclear accident

Governments, corporations, and mainstream media would have us believe that the Fukushima crisis is resolved — now for nuclear/uranium business as usual. It’s all over, really

But is it?

On March 11th  and 12th, on the two year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident, some 400 people gathered at of the New York Academy of Medicine to hear 20 prestigious speakers discuss the meaning of this event for Japan and for the world.

I don’t think that there has ever been an international gathering quite like this, with at so many highly qualified speakers discussing the meaning of a critical world event. So, I was a bit disappointed to find myself to be the only Australian there — apart from symposium co-ordinator, the eminent Dr Helen Caldicott.

The professionalism of this event was apparent — from the historic venue, The New York Academy of Medicine, to the calibre of the speakers, the organisation of the event, and the seriousness of the 400 or so participants……..

Japan’s former Prime Minister Naoto Kan opened the symposium by video. The seriousness of the Fukushima situation was explained by Dr Hisaku Sakiyama and diplomat Akio Matsumura. The Japanese presence and support for this event was strongly evident. A group of concerned Japanese mothers, spoke at an informal lunch-time meeting……

A huge welcome was given to Dr Alexei Yablokov, Russian environmental researcher, who in 2009 first revealed to the world the magnitude of the health effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (the Establishment didn’t like this). He and Dr Wladimir Wertelecki  focussed on research areas ignored by the world’s scientific and health authorities: the effects of internal emitters of radiation — the radionucleides that are breathed in, or ingested, and lodge inside the body.

Both Yablokov and Wertelecki stressed the impacts on women, on foetuses, infants and children. Dr Werterlecki’s outstanding research on congenital malformations deserves a presentation all on its own. Alas, no space here to do justice to his account of the 10 year Ukraine program Omni-Net Ukraine Birth Defects Prevention Program. But, having listened to these speakers, one is left in no doubt that women and infants are in the greatest need of protection from ionising radiation. And also that the accepted radiation standards — based on an adult man, are a joke. This imbalance, the neglect of focus on the vulnerability of women, was emphasised by Mary Olson in discussing  “Gender Matters in the Atomic Age”……..

While radiation was the main theme of the symposium, the second day shifted the focus to America’s nuclear waste problem……

David Freeman assessed nuclear power and climate change as “the most horrible threats that mankind faces”.  With two years having passed now, since the Fukushima accident, media, business and governments will no doubt tend to ignore its effects.

The impact of this symposium will go well beyond March 2013 because of the impression made on the participants, and because the lectures, documents and graphic illustrations  are available online  at Nuclear Free Planet. They  will also appear as a film Cinema Forum Fukushima and in book form.

The New York lectures will continue to play an important role in keeping the nuclear danger in front of the public……

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is John Howard lying about the reasons for going to war in Iraq?

Howard-coffinHoward ignored official advice on Iraq’s weapons and chose war SMH, April 12, 2013 Margaret Swieringa  Former prime minister John Howard’s justification this week on why we went to war against Iraq in 2003 obfuscates some issues.

I was the secretary to the federal parliamentary intelligence committee from 2002 until 2007. It was then called the ASIO, ASIS and Defence Signals Directorate committee – which drafted the report Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Howard refers to this committee in his speech justifying our involvement in the war.

The reason there was so much argument about the existence of such weapons before the war in Iraq 10 years ago was that to go to war on any other pretext would have been a breach of international law. As Howard said at the time: ”I couldn’t justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime. I’ve never advocated that. Central to the threat is Iraq’s possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of nuclear capability.”

So the question is what the government knew or was told about that capability and whether the government ”lied” about the danger that Iraq posed. At the time, Howard and his ministers asserted that the threat to the world from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was both great and immediate. On February 4, 2003, he said Saddam Hussein had an ”arsenal” and a ”stockpile” and the ”illegal importation of proscribed goods ha[s] increased dramatically in the past few years”. ”Iraq had a massive program for developing offensive biological weapons – one of the largest and most advanced in the world.”……

None of the government’s arguments were supported by the intelligence presented to it by its own agencies. None of these arguments were true.

Howard this week quoted the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, but his quotation is selective to the point of being misleading.

What was the nature of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction provided to the government? The parliamentary inquiry reported on the intelligence in detail. It gathered information from the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessment. It said:

1. The scale of threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier.

2. Under sanctions that prevailed at the time, Iraq’s military capability remained limited and the country’s infrastructure was still in decline.

3. The nuclear program was unlikely to be far advanced. Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material.

4. Iraq had no ballistic missiles that could reach the US. Most if not all of the few SCUDS that were hidden away were likely to be in poor condition……

The committee concluded the ”case made by the government was that Iraq possessed WMD in large quantities and posed a grave and unacceptable threat to the region and the world, particularly as there was a danger that Iraq’s WMD might be passed to terrorist organisations.

”This is not the picture that emerges from an examination of all the assessments provided to the committee by Australia’s two analytical agencies.”

Howard would claim, no doubt, that he took his views from overseas dossiers. But all that intelligence was considered by Australian agencies when forming their views….. Read more:



April 12, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Solar power in Tasmania is an endangered species!

map-Tasmania-solarA Call To Save Solar In Tasmania   11 April 13, An alliance of householders, community groups and businesses including Energy Matters have called on the Tasmanian government  to safeguard the state’s renewable energy future.

“The government is rushing headlong into arrangements for the privatisation of Aurora’s retailing of electricity, including putting legislation to Parliament this week, but has been conspicuously non-committal on the future of feed in tariffs,” said Jack Gilding, spokesperson for the group.

Earlier this week we reported Tasmania’s feed in tariff is one of the most generous active programs in the nation – a 1 for 1 arrangement – but it’s a program without a set duration. This has led to growing concern the incentive could be slashed when Aurora Energy is replaced by private companies in 2014.
Such a change could affect 10,000 households in Tasmania that have already installed solar PV systems and have a dramatic impact on the state’s renewable energy sector.

“It’s not just about solar panels on houses,” said Mr Gilding. “Tasmania has the potential to be the renewable energy powerhouse of Australia. Changes to the electricity market could be an opportunity to harness the potential for many Tasmanians to be producers, not just consumers of electricity. Households, communities, farmers and businesses are keen to invest in these opportunities, but the government needs to provide a supportive policy environment.”

The group is calling for a public consultation and review process that sets a fair price for solar and other small renewable energy technologies; with “fair” being more than the wholesale price of electricity as it does not take into account the many additional benefits of distributed generation.

The group is also seeking guarantees existing tariff arrangements will continue for people who have already installed solar PV systems and those who order before new arrangements are finalised.

Further details can be viewed and a petition signed on the Save Solar Tasmania web site.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | solar, Tasmania | Leave a comment

The Institute of Public Affairs has a radical plan for Australia

logo-IPA-wolfSo what, exactly, is on this think tank’s wish list?

  • Public broadcasting – gone. The ABC to be broken up and sold off, SBS to be fully privatised.
  • Corporations to be allowed to make secret payments to political parties.
  • Medicare gone for most Australians.
  • A return to WorkChoices, just by another name.
  • The clean energy fund and the renewable energy target – scrapped.
  • Funding for sport and arts – including the Australian Institute of Sport – axed. Same for science, with the CSIRO to be privatised.

GetUp! to date on the IPA’s radical plans for Australia  11 April 13, Tony Abbott has said ‘Yes’ to many of the IPA’s 75 radical policies to transform Australia — but which ones? Progressive thinktank GetUp! is concerned, writes Graham Jackson

Not-for-profit community campaigner GetUp! is another independent group highlighting the stark contrast between the Institute of Public Affairs recent indulgent dinner and the austerity plans it has for Australia. With Margaret Thatcher’s death and legacy currently in the news, GetUp’s recent email to its members (reproduced in part below) provides a timely reminder that arrogant Thatcherism is still alive and well. Call it whatever name you like, but the IPA ‘vision’ for Australia is a dog eat dog world. The alternative vision embraces the idea of community. What kind of country do we want? September 14 will provide the answer. Continue reading

April 12, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media | Leave a comment

France kept secret the upsetting report on costs for a nuclear disaster

plants-downFrench Nuclear Disaster Scenario Was So Bad The Government Kept It Secret 15 MARCH 2013   Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl in 1986 or Fukushima No. 1 in 2011, are, we’re incessantly told, very rare, and their probability of occurring infinitesimal.

But when they do occur, they get costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with cost estimates for an accident in France, kept them secret.

But now the report was leaked to the French magazine, Le Journal de Dimanche. Turns out, the upper end of the cost spectrum of an accident at the nuclear power plant at Dampierre, in the Department of Loiret in north-central France, amounted to over three times the country’s GDP.

Hence, the need to keep it secret. Continue reading

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The world will pay a price for ignoring Fukushima radiation

Radiation-Warning1Fukushima is currently releasing up to 93 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium into the ocean each day. How much radiation is that? A quick calculation shows that Chernobyl released around ten thousand times more radioactive cesium each day during the reactor fire. But the Chernobyl fire only lasted 10 days … and the Fukushima release has been ongoing for more than 2 years so far.

Indeed, Fukushima has already spewed much more radioactive cesium and iodine 131 than Chernobyl. The amount of radioactive cesium released by Fukushima was some 20-30 times higher than initially admitted.

Fukushima also pumped out huge amounts of radioactive iodine 129 – which has a half-life of 15.7 million years.
Fukushima has also dumped up to 900 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium-90 – which is a powerful internal emitter which mimics calcium and collects in our bones – into the ocean..

Radiation Is Not On People’s Radar, Dr. Mark Sircus, Activist Post, 9 April 13,  In publishing Atomic Suicide Drs. Walter and Lao Russell united with Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s 1957 appeal to the world to end nuclear tests, and in fact any and all use of radioactive elements. In this prophetic book, the Russells explain clearly that with radioactive elements unleashed into our atmosphere, the human race is heading for catastrophe. Giving detailed scientific evidence, they warn that ‘to fail to consider the nature of radioactive elements and their consequences would be a folly for which humanity would have to pay a terrible price.’ Continue reading

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wind energy cheaper than gas. Solar catching up

Solar In Australia Will Be Competitive With Gas In 2015 or 2016, by Energy Matters, 11 April 134

Australia’s exports of gas will push up domestic prices, says New Energy Finances (BNEF). Wind energy is already cheaper than new gas for electricity generation – and solar isn’t far behind…..

April 12, 2013 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment