Australian news, and some related international items

Australian Renewable Energy Agency helps kick off Queensland’s ‘Virtual solar plant’

text-people-power-solar‘Virtual solar plant’ in home trial in Queensland August 6, 2015 Angela Macdonald-Smith  Californian electricity storage developer Sunverge Energy has forged an alliance with Ergon Energy for a limited commercial rollout of its power systems in Queensland homes, with at least two similar deals with other Australian partners expected to follow later this year.

The partnership with the Queensland utility, which also involves US-listed solar panel provider SunPower, will tap into keen interest in battery storage among households in Australia, partly thanks to the huge popularity of rooftop solar.

The deal announced on Thursday involves installing SunPower solar panels and Sunverge energy storage systems in 33 homes in Toowoomba, Townsville and Cannonvale in a program that will receive $400,000 of funding by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The Sunverge systems include back-up power, a six-kilowatt inverter with 11.6 kilowatt-hours of energy and a sophisticated communications and control capability that allows the utility to control and collectively manage them to increase the efficiency of power supply on its grid. Continue reading

August 7, 2015 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Baby milk from Fukushima at risk of radiation: China sends back formula

The principle radioactive poison that is being tested for in Japanese foods is cesium-137. Unfortunately, there are also other deadly poisons that have been spewed in lesser amounts by Fukushima disaster. These include americium-241, plutonium-236, uranium-238, thorium-232 and the extremely dangerous isotope, strontium-90. All of these contaminants may also be found in food from Japan, including in baby formula.

Fukushima Baby Milk Formula Declared Unfit by China  August 5, 2015 –  BY JOHN LAFORGE Chinese authorities seized more than 881 pounds of baby milk formula that had been imported from Japan because it had been produced in areas known to be heavily contaminated with radioactive material emitted by three damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi complex. Continue reading

August 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climate Change Nightmares Are With Us Already

climate-changeThe Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here
The worst predicted impacts of climate change are starting to happen — and much faster than climate scientists expected,
Rolling Stone, By  August 5, 2015 Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. In Washington state’s Olympic National Park, the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory. London reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day ever recorded in the U.K.; The Guardian briefly had to pause its live blog of the heat wave because its computer servers overheated. In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.

On July 20th, James Hansen, the former NASA climatologist who brought climate change to the public’s attention in the summer of 1988, issued a bombshell: He and a team of climate scientists had identified a newly important feedback mechanism off the coast of Antarctica that suggests mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. The authors included this chilling warning: If emissions aren’t cut, “We conclude that multi-meter sea-level rise would become practically unavoidable. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea-level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”

Eric Rignot, a climate scientist at NASA and the University of California-Irvine and a co-author on Hansen’s study, said their new research doesn’t necessarily change the worst-case scenario on sea-level rise, it just makes it much more pressing to think about and discuss, especially among world leaders. In particular, says Rignot, the new research shows a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature — the previously agreed upon “safe” level of climate change — “would be a catastrophe for sea-level rise.”

Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, “This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”

Since storm systems and jet streams in the United States and Europe partially draw their energy from the difference in ocean temperatures, the implication of one patch of ocean cooling while the rest of the ocean warms is profound. Storms will get stronger, and sea-level rise will accelerate. Scientists like Hansen only expect extreme weather to get worse in the years to come, though Mann said it was still “unclear” whether recent severe winters on the East Coast are connected to the phenomenon.

ocean-heatingAnd yet, these aren’t even the most disturbing changes happening to the Earth’s biosphere that climate scientists are discovering this year.

For that, you have to look not at the rising sea levels but to what is actually happening within the oceans themselves.

Water temperatures this year in the North Pacific have never been this high for this long over such a large area — and it is already having a profound effect on marine life………


August 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time that Australia stood up to USA and voted for a nuclear weapons ban treaty

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has argued that a nuclear weapons ban treaty “would not provide a short cut to some sort of security nirvana”.  Of course it won’t; no one claims it will.  But what a nuclear weapons ban treaty will do is change our way of thinking about the bomb, and that is the critical step that’s needed.  It will establish a global norm of not only non-use but of nuclear weapons abolition, a standard to which all nations will be held responsible regardless of whether they sign on or not.

Australia’s reliance on US nuclear weapons and the “extended nuclear deterrence” they are said to provide (despite many unchallenged and dangerous assumptions about deterrence) is stated explicitly.  The 2013 defence white paper reiterated that, “As long as nuclear weapons exist, we rely on the nuclear forces of the United States to deter nuclear attack on Australia.” 

Perhaps we need more of that famous Anzac courage to stand up to our great Pacific ally on the big security issues, of which nuclear weapons are No 1.

Seventy years after Hiroshima momentum is building to ban nuclear weapons, The Age, August 5, 2015  Dr Sue Wareham  Unlike the saturation coverage that has focussed our attention on the events of April 25, 1915, two split-second events 30 years later are likely to be very  low-key in the national commemorative calendar, despite their profound ongoing significance.

They were, of course, the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, whose 70th anniversaries are now being marked.

These two bombs were responsible for over 200,000 deaths by the end of that year.  The “luckiest” among the victims died quickly; the rest succumbed slowly to multiple injuries, burns, radiation sickness and deprivation in a landscape where very few services remained.  Still the damage continues, with elevated cancer rates among the survivors.

Even in a war marked by inhumanity, this new weapon was recognised as one that brought unprecedented destructive capacity and risk.  Despite attempts to abolish them, including by the first ever UN resolution, their number grew, reaching a peak of around 70,000 in the 1980s.  ……..

after 70 years, the tide is turning.  Continue reading

August 7, 2015 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Homeless disabled men forced to work on Fukushima clean-up

fukushima-workersTV: Mentally disabled are working at Fukushima Daiichi, says journalist — Many men forced to go to plant — Homeless treated like ‘disposable people’ (VIDEO)

RT News, Nov. 20, 2013: Homeless men employed cleaning up the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, including those brought in by Japan’s yakuza gangsters, were not aware of the health risks they were taking and say their bosses treated them like “disposable people.” […] While some workers voluntarily agreed to take jobs on the nuclear clean-up project, many others simply didn’t have a choice […] many of the workers were brought into the nuclear plant by Japan’s organized crime syndicates, the yakuza. […] Although a special task force to keep organized crime out of the nuclear clean-up project has been set up, investigators say they need first-hand reports from those forced to work by the yakuza […]

Anonymous former Fukushima worker: We were given no insurance for health risks, no radiation meters even. We were treated like nothing, like disposable people — promised things, and then kicked us out when we received a large radiation dose.

Tomohiko Suzuki, journalist who worked at Fukushima plant
: The government called Tepco to take urgent action, Tepco relayed it to subcontractors — and they, eventually, as they had a shortage of available workers, called the Yakuza for help. […] They were given very general information about radiation and most were not even given radiation meters. They could have exposed themselves to large doses without even knowing it. Even the so-called Fukushima 50 […] at least three of them were enrolled by the yakuza.

Aleksey Yaroshevsky, RT: There are 25% more openings for jobs at Fukushima plant than applicants, according to government data. Gaps filled, says Suzuki, by the homeless, the desperately unemployed and even those with mental disabilities.

Watch the broadcast here

August 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Red Cross data reveals radiation-caused illnesses in thousands of Hiroshima survivors

Radiation-Warning1Hiroshima nuclear bomb 70th anniversary: New research shows thousands of survivors treated every year August 6, 2015  Reporter   

“…….New Red Cross data released on Thursday shows that even 70 years after the atomic blasts, Japanese hospitals treat thousands of survivors each year, mostly for cancer which has caused two-thirds of deaths. In the past 12 months, the Red Cross hospitals treated nearly 11,000 survivors.

The full impact of the blast on the survivors and their children who are now reaching 50 years of age, is still not fully known, Dr Masao Tomonaga, the director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital and a survivor told Fairfax Media this week.

As well as suffering higher rates of cancer, new research by the Red Cross hospitals showed survivors who had lived close to the epicentres were also 1.5 times more likely to suffer from heart attacks and angina.

“I couldn’t imagine (these results) before we started this research some 65 years ago (when the hospitals were built.) This means atomic bomb radiation is a life-long effect, with evidence of a life-long susceptibility to cancers, leukaemia and heart attacks,” Dr Tomonaga said.

Of the 16,000 nuclear weapons held today, 1800 are launch ready and any one would make Little Boy or Fat Man “look tiny” and wipe out a city like Sydney, said Robert Tickner, the CEO of the Australian Red Cross. No country or medical service could handle the immediate or long-term impacts, including the millions who would go hungry, Red Cross research has found.

Mr Tickner is calling on Australians and their leaders to support a ban on nuclear weapons for humanitarian reasons.

The author Junko Morimoto drawing as a young girl near what became the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.Photo: Junko Morimoto

“If the world has moved on biological and chemical weapons as illegal weapons of war, if we have moved on clusters, landmines and had conventions to tackle those to deal with them as a weapon of war, what madness is it that we have not taken a similar stand on nuclear weapons.They are the standout greatest threat to the planet,” he said.

Around 113 countries have now signed the Austrian Pledge to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons because of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences. The federal government hasn’t signed, but the ALP ‘s new party platform, amended at last month’s conference, agrees to “prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons is a humanitarian imperative.”…..

August 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Zealand says goodbye to coal power

fossil-fuel-industryflag-New-Zealandfrom The Age (print version) 7 Aug 15  New Zealand is saying goodbye to coal-fired power generation with Genesis Energy advising it will permanently shut its last two coal burning generators by December 2018, amid ample supplies of renewable energy generation and subdued demand…….

Genesis, which is dual listed in Wellington and Sydney, said the closure of the coal plants would move New Zealand closer to its 90% renewable energy target by 2025.

August 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment