Australian news, and some related international items


Ranger-retention-dam The Environment Centre NT and the Australian Conservation Foundation have condemned the latest in a conga line of failures at Ranger uranium mine amid revelations that four uranium barrels were discovered abandoned in Darwin’s rural area today.

 Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) is currently under investigation for a serious operational breach following the recent unauthorised removal of a mine vehicle used in the controlled and contaminated area of the Ranger mine. This latest incident is further evidence of systemic failure at Ranger and highlights the need for an urgent review into the mine’s operations.

 “ERA has not only lost control of a vehicle and uranium barrels, they’ve also clearly lost the capacity for responsible management and effective operations”, said Lauren Mellor from the Environment Centre NT. “Uranium mining, with its risks to public health and safety and long-term environmental contamination must be subject of greater Federal government scrutiny – not less as Northern Territory Mines Minister Willem Westra Van Holthe suggested today”.

Environmentalists are calling for a full, public and independent review of the operations and impacts of Ranger. “These drums are literally warning drums about the serious regulatory problems at Ranger and their description matches ERA’s assurances – empty, weathered and fire damaged”, said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney. “ERA is currently undergoing an environmental assessment process for their proposed Ranger 3 Deeps underground mine and these systemic breaches should be a red light to Federal and Northern Territory Government assessors that ERA does not have either the capability or credibility to mine and export uranium safely and securely.”

“While there is still uncertainty as to the outcome of the investigation into ERA’s security breach, some things are crystal clear. It is clear that ERA has failed to control its operations on or off the Ranger mine, clear that the regulatory regime is deficient and clear that there is an urgent need for an open and independent review of Ranger.”

In 2011 it was confirmed that Australian uranium was inside the failed Fukushima nuclear reactor and the UN Secretary-General called on Australia to conduct an in-depth assessment of the net cost impact of the impacts of uranium mining on local communities and ecosystems. Environmentalists are calling for this assessment to now be urgently implemented.

“ERA is losing vehicles, barrels and credibility and the Northern Territory community is losing confidence and patience. It is time for the regulators and those who are meant to protect the community and country of Kakadu to get serious and get to work on closing the door to this toxic industry for good,” concluded Ms Mellor.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Northern Territory, safety, uranium | Leave a comment

Lost uranium drums show regulatory failure at Rio’s Ranger mine

Ranger-uranium-mine20 Nov 13, The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) is outraged by revelations that four uranium barrels from Ranger uranium mine have been located at Noonamah south of Darwin. It is understood that the NT Department of Health yesterday notified Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) of the drums and asked that they be removed. The drums have been returned to the Ranger mine within the bounds of Kakadu National Park for safe storage. This incident comes within weeks of another serious breach of radiation management at Ranger when a potentially contaminated vehicle left the Ranger site without authorisation

 GAC’s Chief Executive Officer Justin O’Brien said: “It is clear that the radiation control measures at the Ranger mine site have failed on multiple occasions. While we welcome the timely reporting of this issue by the company, ERA’s management of radiation is plainly inadequate.

“The Commonwealth Government must step in and ensure that this matter is taken seriously. To date the response by the Office of the Supervising Scientist (OSS) has been dismissive and woefully inadequate. Both the NT and Federal Governments must broaden their current investigations into the vehicle incident and examine the entire management of radiation at the Ranger mine.

“This is not a only a matter between the Mirarr and the mining company, there are significant questions of public health to be considered here. We expect these issues to be considered in a comprehensive investigation of these incidents.

“This revelation raises very serious concerns for the Mirarr Traditional Owners regarding the suggestion of further mining at Ranger,” Mr O’Brien concluded.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, safety, uranium | Leave a comment

World action is needed, in highly risky removal of Fukushima nuclear fuel rods

“Chernobyl Was Transparent Compared to Fukushima”: Harvey Wasserman on Ongoing Crisis TRUTH OUT, 19 November 2013  By Laura Flanders,  The operators of Japan’s devastated Fukushima nuclear plant have announced plans to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel from the site, in an unprecedented operation that began Monday November 18. Nuclear researcher Harvey Wasserman believes that the highly risky procedure, in fact, the entire plant needs to be taken out of the hands of the operators- Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO).

In this interview with GRITtv, Wasserman explains how the fuel rods at Reactor Number Four have been stored since the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima Daiichi Plant in March of 2011. They can’t heat up, be exposed to air or break without releasing deadly gas, but the cooling pool they’ve been resting in is leaky and potentially corroded by seawater and could never withstand another tremor or quake. The cooling pool is also 100 feet up.

“These rods have to be brought to the ground. It’s never been done under these kinds of circumstances,” says Wasserman. But as a 40-year activist in the field, Wasserman is especially concerned about the operators, TEPCO.

Harvey Wasserman: Risky Operation at Fukushima Demands World Action

“I believe we got better information from the Soviet Union about Chernobyl than we’re getting from TEPCO and the Japanese about Fukushima,” he told GRITtv.

A petition with more than 150,000 signatures was delivered to the United Nations earlier this November, calling for the world to take action. But who? As he points out, the International Atomic Energy Agency” has a mandate to promote nuclear power.”

What does all of this say about the prospect of safe nuclear power and the “new generation of plants” the Obama administration endorses? And what about the Tokyo Olympics? Wasserman’s answers aren’t reassuring.


November 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Northern Territory joining Queensland in wanting State, NOT FEDERAL, control of uranium environmental approvals

exclamation-Mines minister pushes Top End uranium projects ABC News, By Marty McCarthy 19 Nov 2013,  Northern Territory Mines Minister Willem Westra Van Holthe says he will meet his federal counterpart to discuss ways to streamline environmental approvals for uranium exploration.

The Federal Government has already drafted a bilateral agreement with the Queensland Government for more localised assessment of environmentally sensitive projects.

Mr Westra van Holthe says he will discuss ways in talks this week for the Territory to cut red and green tape, to encourage uranium projects in the Top End. “I will be pushing for the NT to have more say and more control over the process of uranium mining,” he said……

Greens Senator Larissa Waters has already raised concerns about the impact of changes to uranium approval processes.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Northern Territory, politics | Leave a comment

Australia’s role in wrecking the international climate talks

Parkinson-Report-Australia turns into ‘anti-climate’ force at Warsaw REneweconomy, By  on 19 November 2013It has taken just 7 days, but already the reputation of Australia as a constructive force in international climate policy has been completely trashed – both in terms of its domestic actions and in the wrecking ball tactics it has sent to Warsaw.

Australia is now seen as an “anti-climate” nation that is actively working against any consensus at these talks, as its domestic policies are translated onto the international stage. Continue reading

November 19, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Nuclear Clean-up at Fukushima could take 10,000 years

TV: Work at Fukushima plant to go on for 10,000 years? Nuclear Expert: “It’s longer than human history” (VIDEO

Arirang’s ‘Prime Talk’,, August 30, 2013

Dr. Suh Kune-yull, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Seoul National University: [Freezing the soil around Fukushima reactors] sounds more like a sci-fi story, science fiction. We call this permafrost — frosting the soil — for 50 years and as long as 10,000 years. It’s longer than human history, it’s just unrealistic.
Watch the broadcast here
Arirang’s ‘Prime Talk’, ’, August 30, 2013 (at 1:30 in):

Dr. Suh Kune-yull, Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Seoul National University: I call this permafrost which [is] really freezing the soil but to me sounds more like a science fiction because they have to be doing this for work at least 50 years and as long as 10,000 years. So I think they were probably going to give this up one of these months. […]

Watch the broadcast here

See also: Japan Professor: 1,000 years from now contaminated water from Fukushima may still be entering Pacific Ocean — It’s necessary to keep monitoring during that time

More: UC Berkeley Nuclear Professor: May be impossible to get Fukushima melted fuel — Work at site to go on for ‘thousands of years’ if not removed (AUDIO)

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ross Gittins’ apology to grandchildren on Australia’s climate change inaction

climate-changeClimate change: Dear grandchildren, I can only say sorry November 20, 2013 The Age,    The Sydney Morning Herald’s Economics Editor I don’t have grandchildren but I’m hoping for some, someday, so this column is for them. I want you to know that although, in the mid-teens of this century, Australians elected a government that wasn’t genuine in its commitment to combating the effects of climate change, and that even abolished the main instrument economists invented for that purpose, I never accepted this complacency……….

Abbott associated with outright climate-change deniers and said things that seemed to brand him as one of them, while always adding, sotto voce, that he accepted human-caused climate change and the need to do something about it.

Apart from attracting voters away from Labor and its frightening carbon tax, the result of making climate change an issue of party dispute was to give Liberal supporters a licence to stop worrying about climate change – if the leaders of my party aren’t worrying, why should I? – while providing a fig leaf for those Liberals who retained their concern……

economics-falseYou will find this hard to believe, but in the mid-teens, it was still common to think about ”the economy” in isolation from the natural environment which sustained it. Economists, business people and politicians had gone for two centuries largely ignoring the damage economic activity did to the environment.

The idea that, eventually, the environment would hit back and do great damage to the economy was one most people preferred not to think about. At the time, it was fashionable to bewail the lack of action to increase the economy’s productivity.

economics-true Few people joined dots to realise the climate was in the process of dealing a blow to our productivity, one that would significantly reduce the next generation’s living standards.

At the time, we rationalised our selfishness – our willingness to avoid a tiny drop in our standard of living at the expense of a big drop in our offspring’s – by telling ourselves half-truths and untruths about the global nature of climate change…..

Did I ever doubt that climate change represented by far the greatest threat to Australia’s future economic prosperity? Never. Should I have said this more often, rather than chasing a thousand economic will-o’-the-wisps? Yes.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

2013 the record year for carbon emissions

globe-warmingCarbon emissions most in history–most-in-history-20131119-2xtnh.html#ixzz2lDChdy76   November 20, 2013    Journalist at The Canberra Times. The world will release more carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels in 2013 than any other year in human history, putting it on track to reach 2C above pre-industrial times in 30 years.

That is the verdict of the Global Carbon Project’s annual carbon budget, a report card on carbon for the world, released on Wednesday.The report, put together by leading scientists, says worldwide carbon emissions caused by burning fossil fuels will reach 36billion tonnes in 2013, an unprecedented level. Continue reading

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Small nuclear power plants – a costly waste of public money

“Chernobyl Was Transparent Compared to Fukushima”: Harvey Wasserman on Ongoing Crisis TRUTH OUT, 19 November 2013   By Laura Flanders,  “……..LF: What about the next generation of nuclear power plants? Obama tells us there are two new ones in the works that will be better, safer, smaller, a whole different generation.

Harvey Wasserman:  It’s a myth. They are saying the same stuff about those nuclear plants that they said about the original ones, 50 years ago. It’s not going to happen. The money isn’t there; we’ve seen those technologies; they’ve failed. You know Bill Gates and Paul Allen from Microsoft put in a few 100 million dollars, pocket change to them; they will write it off of their taxes; they’ll spend and spend and spend public money; it’ll fail, and we’ll have to clean up the mess. The reality is that renewables do work; nuclear power is a disaster, and it will continue to be a disaster, and thankfully we have the Solartopian options in hand.


I was in Japan in the mid-70s. I actually wrote an article about Fukushima in 1977 in the progressive magazine, and everyone in Japan was saying, why are you building a nuclear plant in an earthquake-tsunami zone? TEPCO and the Japanese said, don’t worry it won’t happen, we can handle it. Now they are saying the same thing about a new generation of reactors. There is every reason not to believe them. …….

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rapid growth in signing of petition against “Solar Tax”

sign-thislogo-Solar-Citizens-Petition Protesting Australian ‘Sun Tax’ Hits 16,000 Signatures,,  A potential looming threat to charge solar households for being energy efficient and improving Australia’s clean energy infrastructure will face stiff opposition from many of the 1 million solar households in Australia.

Solar Citizens, a grassroots group fighting for the rights of Australian solar owners and supporters,launched the petition late last month and at the time of writing the initiative was rapidly approaching 17,000 signatures.

“This sun tax is outrageous – over 1 million families in Australia have made the move to solar to take control of their energy production and reduce their energy bills. It’s unfair that families who have done the right thing would be penalised in any way,” states part of the petition statement.

While the so-called “Sun Tax” is by no means set in stone – it’s just an ill-conceived idea from some corners; a spark fanned by mainstream media reporting – early action now by the group will send a very loud and clear signal to the government that such a move simply isn’t on.

“We’re aiming to collect 25,000 signatures on our ‘Don’t Tax the Sun’ petition by the end of November, in time for when we take the petition to Parliament in Canberra to show the strength of the solar community in Australia,” says Nick Taylor, Solar Citizens Campaigner.

Solar Citizens says big energy companies are threatened by the rapid uptake of solar as it is hitting their profits.
“That’s why these companies are using their political power to try and see every solar home hit with additional fees and charges just for connecting to the grid…in simple terms, they are recommending we tax the sun.”

While electricity pricing reform is certainly needed, national solar provider Energy Matters believes solar is part of the solution, not the problem. The company has offered a series of recommendations it considers would constitutereal and fair electricity pricing reform.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | General News | 1 Comment

Tony Abbott says “NO” to UN plan to help Pacific climate change victims

Abbott-fiddling-global-warmTony Abbott rejects Commonwealth climate change risk fund SMH, November 18, 2013  South Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media Colombo, Sri Lanka: Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rejected a proposal from the 53-nation Commonwealth to establish a new fund to help poor and island countries to combat climate change.

As an extraordinary Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting concluded in Colombo, Mr Abbott joined with Canada in rejecting a decision by the summit to push for a Green Capital Fund to help vulnerable island states and poor African countries address the effects of rising sea levels, prolonged droughts, or catastrophic weather incidents, caused by climate change.

The proposal is for Commonwealth countries to work within the UN climate change network to build the fund for small and poor countries to access.

But the final agreement from the 53 members of the Anglosphere Commonwealth noted that “Australia and Canada… indicated they could not support a Green Capital Fund at this time”.

One of the key themes of the summit was the plight of low-lying, and poor states who are especially vulnerable to climate change, but don’t have the money for adaptation.:

November 19, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Critical time as nuclear fuel removal underway at Fukushima reactor No 4

NHK: Fuel removal at Unit 4 underway — BBC: Concern casks not watertight, rods would contact air — WSJ: Exposure to air can cause sustained nuclear reaction — AFP: Tokyo evacuations if uncontrolled nuclear conflagration? AP: Rods contain plutonium, experts concerned quake to hit during process

NHK,, Nov. 18, 2013: The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun removing nuclear fuel from a storage pool at a damaged reactor building. Workers placed a special fuel transport container in the storage pool […] At around 3PM on Monday, the workers started to hoist the unused fuel units into the steel container […] debris in the pool of the Number 4 reactor building could obstruct the work. […] The removal work requires extreme caution, as any damage to the units could release high-level radiation.

WSJ, Nov. 18, 2013: “We plan to begin the removal process from around 3 pm today, and work until around 7 pm,” said Tepco spokesman Tsuyoshi Numajiri. […] The units are kept in a pool of cool water to prevent exposure to air, which can cause the radioactive material to heat up and could trigger a sustained nuclear reaction.

BBC,, Nov. 18, 2013: [It’s a critical issue] whether the casks remain watertight so the rods have no contact with air.

AFP,, Nov. 18, 2013: Each rod contains uranium and a small amount of plutonium. If they are exposed to the air […] they would start to heat up, a process that, left unchecked, could lead to a self-sustaining nuclear reaction – known as “criticality”. […] Sceptics say with so many unknowables in an operation that has never been attempted under these conditions, there is potential for a catastrophe. Government modelling in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima disaster […] suggested that an uncontrolled nuclear conflagration at Fukushima could start a chain reaction in other nearby nuclear plants. That worst-case scenario said a huge evacuation area could encompass a large part of greater Tokyo […]

AP,, Nov.18, 2013: […] [Experts] raised concern about a major earthquake hitting during the removal work. Japanese nuclear engineers were on Monday preparing to move uranium and plutonium fuel rods at Fukushima […] Experts have warned that slip-ups could quickly cause the situation to deteriorate. […]
Kyodo News, , Nov. 18, 2013: Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has said the work requires “great prudence” because the pools are strewn with small pieces of rubble […] “The fuel has to be handled very carefully. There is a need to make sure that a fuel assembly is not pulled out (from the fuel rack) by force when it gets stuck because of the rubble,” he said.

Watch NHK’s broadcast here

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Queensland, not the National government could control uranium and environment decisions

exclamation-Qld uranium mines could become state issue, 19 Nov 13 THE Queensland government could be given power to assess the impact of uranium mines in the state under proposed federal changes to environmental approvals.

The revelation emerged on Monday as the environment department was grilled by opposition and Greens senators about the federal government’s plan to create a “one-stop-shop” for environmental approvals.

The Queensland and NSW governments have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Abbott government over the plan, which aims to deliver faster approvals and eliminate regulatory duplication.

Opposition to the policy has been fierce, with critics claiming it will erode crucial environmental protections by handing federal powers to the states.

Australian Greens senator Larissa Waters on Monday quizzed officials from the environment department about whether the Commonwealth would retain power over nuclear activity under the proposed changes.

She said Environment Minister Greg Hunt had previously indicated nuclear activity would be “quarantined” under the changes, and asked if this was still the case.

Newly appointed department secretary Gordon de Brouwer told a Senate estimates committee that nuclear activity was “approved by the Commonwealth minister, and assessed under this agreement by the state”.

“So this does give away the assessment of uranium mining to Queensland?” Senator Waters asked about the proposed agreements.

“Yes, it allows the state to undertake those assessments, subject to the agreement,” Mr de Brouwer replied……

November 19, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

New, less safe, nuclear deal between Australia and India?

India-uranium1Nuclear deal: Australia’s uranium deal with India may include weaker monitoring safeguards ABC News, 19 Nov 13, By Stephanie March Australia’s agreement to sell uranium to India could include weaker monitoring safeguards than the nuclear deals Australia has with other countries.

A third round of nuclear cooperation agreement talks are due to take place later this month and both governments say they want the deal settled quickly.

In the past, Australia has required countries to which it sells uranium to track the material more closely than is required by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says the IAEA tracks aggregate quantities of uranium but does not monitor exactly where uranium sent to India from Australia ends up. “For example, if 100 tonnes goes into a civilian nuclear program and 90 tonnes of product comes out, they don’t know where the missing product was diverted from,” he said.

The ABC understands India says it does not have the capacity to provide additional monitoring beyond what is required by the IAEA.

Speaking in New Delhi, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, told the ABC she was reluctant to comment on the talks while they were underway.

“I am not going to get ahead of the negotiations and consider hypotheticals,” she said…… India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and only in recent years started taking steps to separate its military and civilian nuclear programs.

Last year, a report from the Indian auditor-general found the country’s nuclear safety regulator was weak and unable to properly monitor the industry.

Ms Bishop says Australia will support India joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia backs India joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group

exclamation-Australia supports India’s NSG membership, Live Mint 19 Nov 13 Julie Bishop says Australia’s decision acknowledges India’s emergence as a major producer and potential exporter of nuclear energy and technology  Elizabeth Roche New Delhi: In a sign that Australia’s new Liberal Party government headed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott intends to deepen a strategic partnership with India, Australia on Monday announced its support for India joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the global cartel that controls the sale of nuclear materials, Continue reading

November 19, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment