Australian news, and some related international items

13 May Nuclear and climate news for the past week

a-cat-CANSOUTH AUSTRALIA The Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission South Australia announced its recommendations – no surprises, just as this spurious Commission had planned from the beginning – South Australia will get mega wealthy by importing the world’s radioactive trash. Submissions to the Commission show up 10 things wrong with its case.

The Turnbull government will back this nuclear waste dump import plan. Labor is silent. Of course it’s not an election issue!

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill wasted no time in getting the ball rolling for this nuclear waste dump dream. He’s started a process of participatory democracy, though he doesn’t seem to understand the terms that he is using. Anyway, the kickoff is a so-called Citizens’ Jury (should be 12 people, but he’s choosing 50, or even 350)

However, the Citizens’ Jury or the Deliberative Poll (for larger numbers) could be a really useful democratic process, if it’s properly done.

Judging by the notoriously one-sided Nuclear Royal Commission, I expect this process to be another complete charade, run for the benefit of the nuclear lobby.

South Australian government officials are talking “informally” about BHP’s Olympic Dam as the site for the imported nuclear waste dump. However, BHP in its submission to the Royal Commission clearly states that it doesn’t want to have any involvement in storage or disposal of nuclear waste.

FEDERAL WASTE DUMP Federal radioactive waste dump  siting is far from a sure thing, on an Aboriginal culturally and archaelogically significant area, and the certainty of resistance by indigenous and non indigenous people.

CLIMATE. NASA scientist and European Space Agency dismayed at CSIRO climate research cuts. Climate Change Authority report recommending ‘a mandatory carbon price’ held back until after election.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Citizens’ Juries can be a valuable guide in nuclear decision-making

Jury (1)The role of Citizens’ Juries in decision-making on nuclear waste importation, Online opinion, By Noel Wauchope  13 May 2016 On May 10th South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announced the process by which the state will decide whether or not to host a global nuclear waste import industry, as recommended by the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

The first step will be to set up a “Citizens’ Jury” of 50 participants randomly selected from 25,000 invitees statewide, to be followed later by another one of 350 participants.

I think that Weatherill might have mistaken his terms here, as a Citizens’ Jury, by definition, means a group of 10 to 12 participants. The Weatherill plan sounds more like a “Deliberative Poll”, which involves a much larger group.

A properly constituted Citizens’ Jury can be a valuable process in participatory democracy. The group of 10 or 12 people serves as microcosm of the public. …… The process depends on having the oversight of a neutral but well informed advisory panel. Questions need to be framed in a way that does not risk influencing the response. Transparency is important, and complete audio or video recordings of all jury hearings should be publicly available, although the actual jury room deliberations should be private.

The citizen jury process can be an empowering one for the participants, and, as long as it is perceived to be fair and transparent, can be a valuable democratic option for assessing public opinion. It also has the advantage of being cost-effective.

The “Deliberative Poll” method is potentially another very useful form of participatory democracy. It is a lot more expensive, and more complicated. The biggest disadvantage of the Deliberative Poll method is probably its cost. Wikipedia notes:

Imagine how much money is needed to pay for the trips, the hotel and the food for each participant, hiring the research crew and moderators, booking a venue, etc. Additional costs can include paying for participants’ compensation so that people that are randomly selected can put aside their duties to attend the events (i.e. hiring someone to milk a participant’s cow and providing child care”

Some critics insist that funding for either of these processes should not come from on single body.

“Multiple sources of funding help to ensure that the jury’s organisers are not seen as having a financial interest in producing a verdict that supports the interests of a single funding body. To maximise the scrutiny they provide, the two or more funders should have somewhat opposing interests regarding the subject likely to be under discussion.”……

In Japan, in 2012, a Deliberative Poll formed the guide to government decision-making. The Japanese government used the Center for Deliberative Democracy’s Deliberative Polling method to both inform participants and allow them to influence policymakers about the public’s will with regard to energy production issues. As a direct result of the deliberative polling process, Japan’s national government pledged to have zero percent dependency on nuclear energy after 2030. (This decision was overturned by a later government).

The South Australian government’s decision to start with a participatory democracy process is a welcome one, provided that it is done fairly and properly. Neither a Citizens Jury nor a Deliberative Poll can be a substitute for a fully democratic process like a referendum, but either could be a valuable contributor to a wider process of decision making.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, South Australia, wastes | Leave a comment

South Australian govt will decide on nuclear waste import, but let citizens talk about it anyway

Ultimately it will be a decision for the Government to make, however this process will enable us to have an informed debate and gain a clear understanding of the community’s position on this important matter for our State’s future.
Weatherill glowPremier Jay Weatherill Thursday, 11 May 2016  Community views critical to our State’s nuclear future 
Letters to 25,000 randomly selected South Australians will be received in the post tomorrow inviting them to take part in the first Citizens’ Jury, part of a comprehensive state-wide program on our State’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.
The first Jury, involving approximately 50 people, will be asked to determine the key questions arising from the Royal Commission’s Final Report that South Australians should consider and discuss in the next phase of state-wide consultation.
 This Jury will meet over two weekends, on 25 and 26 June as well as 9 and 10 July, and members will be remunerated for their time.
Background This marks the first of three phases in the consultation process, following the release of the Final Report of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission:

Continue reading

May 13, 2016 Posted by | politics, reference, South Australia | Leave a comment

Olympic Dam for nuclear waste? BHP does not agree

text-cat-questionHave these people read BHP’s Submission to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission?

BHP clearly states that it doesn’t want to have any involvement in storage or disposal of nuclear waste: 

“Irrespective of whether storage or disposal is preferred, BHP Billiton considers that either option would be inconsistent with our core business of mining and the production of high quality copper and associated by-products at Olympic Dam.”   –

Olympic Dam mooted as nuke dump site The area around BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam site has been raised in informal discussions within government as a prospective site for a future high-level nuclear waste dump, InDaily can reveal. INDAILY, Tom Richardson, 12 May 15,   While a decision on whether to proceed with an international nuclear repository – as strongly recommended by this week’s Scarce Royal Commission final report – won’t be made until November at the earliest, it’s understood the viability of the Stuart Shelf region of the Gawler Craton, much of which is covered by the Olympic Dam indenture agreement, is “a question that’s been asked” in State Government circles.

The discussions also raised the prospect of an approach to Oz Minerals, whose Prominent Hill operation is around 130km northwest of Olympic Dam…….

It’s understood the Rann Government approached BHP in its first term to canvas using Olympic Dam for a low-level state repository, a suggestion the company declined.

It has since maintained that stance, unsurprisingly given the relatively low financial return of such an enterprise, saying in February that it had not been shortlisted for the national waste repository for low and intermediate level waste “and we expect this process to run its course”……

May 13, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia, wastes | Leave a comment

Radioactive waste management is a social justice and environmental issue.

Buried in Minister Frydenberg’s media release was a comment that “the government remains open to considering new expressions of interest for additional facility sites or locations”. With the dust and initial shock still settling for the South Australian mob, this sentence begins to stand out from the rest of the text.

text don't nuclear waste AustraliaRadioactive waste management is a social justice and environmental issue. Traditional Owners living remotely across Australia have repeatedly refused to allow their country to be used as a sacrifice zone.

Any responsible approach needs to start with a commitment to stop the production of more waste and the phase out of the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights. We need processes that will transcend election cycles in favour of respect for country and communities, both now and long into the future.

Until then, every attempt to dump the waste ‘out of site out of mind’ on unwilling communities will be met with fierce resistance.

Down The Radioactive Rabbit Hole: Questions Keep Mounting, New Matilda, By  on May 11, 2016 Adnyamathanha Elders are “shattered” that of the six sites shortlisted by the Federal Government for a national nuclear waste dump, the one on Wallerberdina Station in the Barndioota region of South Australia, is now the only one pegged for further assessment.

One Adnyamathanha woman Regina McKenzie, who is a direct neighbour to the nominated site, said the community is devastated, “like somebody had rang us up and told us somebody had passed away”. The Australian Conservation Foundation, too, are calling the proposal “disturbingly familiar to past failed federal approaches.”

The nominated site, leased as a pastoral property from the South Australian Government by ex-Liberal Senator Greg Chapman, is located next door to Yappala Station, which was declared an Indigenous Protected Area by the Federal Government in 2014.

There are many thousands of Aboriginal artefacts registered in the area, including an ancient Aboriginal skull fragment. The Adnyamathanha people have been meticulously mapping and registering the storylines and sites. The landscape is stunning, with Hookina Creek on the property framed by the iconic Flinders Ranges. Wilpena Pound is around 30 kilometres away…….. Continue reading

May 13, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL | Leave a comment

Global Nuclear Industry acknowledges that it is fighting for survival

NUCLEAR-INDUSTRY-FIGHTS-ONNEA head highlights challenges facing nuclear power  World Nuclear News 11 May 2016 William D. Magwood, IV, director general of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), highlighted some of the issues hindering the prospects of nuclear power at a two-day conference that started today at the organisation’s headquarters in Paris…….

“My life will not rise or fall on whether there’s a lot of new nuclear power plants being built or a few. What I think is important is that the choice is there. But I see issues preventing this,” Magwood told delegates at the conference titled Nuclear Energy’s Role in the 21st Century: Addressing the Challenge of Financing. The event was jointly organised by the NEA and the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC).

The IFNEC is a forum of states and organisations that share the common vision of the safe and secure development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes worldwide.

The conference has convened leading stakeholders from energy planning authorities, regulators and export credit agencies, as well as vendors, utilities, bankers, rating agencies and insurers, to identify key barriers and develop approaches to address the financing of nuclear projects.

Magwood told them: “I am ready to stand here today and declare that the markets are broken; they don’t work and don’t do what they are supposed to do. The time has come to recognise that we have a situation where large utilities are losing money and are almost on the verge of bankruptcy. When you have a situation in many markets where the only things that can be built are things that are subsidised, then we have a serious problem…….

he “big numbers” given for the cost of nuclear power plant projects often incorporate more than just the cost of building the reactor, he said, and might also include infrastructure costs and transmission assets…….

Cost and budget overruns at Olkiluoto 3 in Finland cannot be described as typical. “……..

A challenge with small modular reactors will be the need to sell “dozens, scores if not hundreds to make it work”, he said. “And if you’re selling them to more than one country, are you going to have to go through the entire regulatory process every time you go to a country. If you do that, you may end up making them uneconomic just by the fact that you have to spend huge amounts of money to get the licence.”……

“In the flux of great change, it can be difficult to finance even modest projects. Nuclear power plants are not modest projects; with total costs ranging from about €6 billion to €12 billion and total project implantation times reaching up to a decade, building a nuclear power plant is one of the most complex of all industrial sector undertakings. Therefore, as one might expect, financing nuclear power plants can often present significant challenges.”

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Environment groups slam NSW government attempts to generate interest in uranium trade.

logo Beyond NuclearThe future is renewable, not radioactive: Environment groups slam NSW government attempts to generate interest in uranium trade.

Environment groups have slammed attempts by the NSW government to talk up the potential for uranium exploration as well as coal seam gas to international investors.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that at a conference held in Toronto in March, Department of NSW Trade and Investment spruiked NSW as a ‘greenfields’ opportunity for uranium, citing areas in the central west around Broken Hill and the New England region as possible hotspots.

Beyond Nuclear Initiative coordinator Natalie Wasley said “Minister Roberts is going head first down a radioactive rabbit hole. The uranium industry is outdated and unsafe and it is flat lining economically.”

“When the uranium exploration moratorium was overturned in 2012, environment groups were joined by trade unions and medical organisations, as well as the state ALP and Greens parties to launch the NSW Uranium Free Charter. There has historically been strong opposition to uranium exploration and mining in NSW and this has not waned over time.”

“Attempts to open a uranium mining industry here will be challenged head on.”

Kerry Laws from Uranium Free NSW added: “NSW has the potential to be a leader in renewables, but the government is instead trying to drag the state back into the dirty dark ages of the uranium trade.”

“Minister Roberts and Premier Baird could give some substance to Turnbull’s innovation bandwagon, by exploring and mapping out renewable options, rather than resorting to an industry that both damages our land and creates by-products that remain toxic for 100,000 years.”

“The future is in regional, renewable industries.”

May 13, 2016 Posted by | New South Wales, opposition to nuclear, uranium | Leave a comment

How will the environment factor in the Federal Election campaign?

election Australia 2016Transition from dirty to clean energy a priority election issue
Paul Sinclair is campaign director for the Australian Conservation Foundation.  May 11, 2016 How will the environment factor in the Federal Election campaign?

If last week’s Budget was anything to go by, the Turnbull Government still favours the interests of polluters over the community.

Malcolm Turnbull’s first Budget follows the environmental neglect of his predecessor.

In fact, under the Turnbull Government, spending on the environment is forecast to fall by 17 per cent by 2019-2020.

Despite talking up the need to shift to a diversified economy, policy commitment supporting a transition away from coal and stimulating renewables or helping workers transition to a more energy-efficient future was absent from the Budget.

This is a great pity because we know the PM understands the science of climate change, and elsewhere political leaders are connecting the dots.

In  the past weeks Labor and Green party leaders have released climate policies that are miles ahead of where we were 12 months ago. Continue reading

May 13, 2016 Posted by | election 2016 | Leave a comment

Wind and hydro providing 100% renewable energy to Tasmania

Tasmania completely powered by renewable energy as rainfall boosts hydro dams  ABC News 12 May 16Tasmania is being completely powered by renewable energy for the first time this year, Hydro Tasmania says.

Key points:

  • Sustained rainfall fills dams by more than 3 per cent over 10 days
  • All diesel generators and gas power stations have been turned off
  • Rough weather hampers repairs to Basslink cable

The state has been in crisis for several months with dam levels at record lows after unprecedented dry weather…….

Hydro Tasmania CEO Stephen Davy said the state’s emergency diesel generators had been switched off through the week and the gas fired Tamar Valley Power Station was turned off yesterday.

“The past 10 days have been very positive,” he said.

“We’ve had more rain than predicted and our storages have risen strongly.

“There’s currently enough hydro and wind energy available to meet all Tasmanian demand.

“For the first time in months, our island is being powered solely by renewable energy.”…..

May 13, 2016 Posted by | energy, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Nuclear dump site for a culturally and archaeologically significant area!

Ancient Aboriginal skull bone found at proposed nuclear waste site 
A bone believed to be part of an ancient Aboriginal skull is sitting alongside thousands of Indigenous artefacts on the site of the proposed national nuclear waste facility in South Australia. NITV, By Laura Murphy-Oates Source: The Point 10 MAY 2016 “…..A 2011 report from the South Australian Forensic Science unit confirms that, ‘it is likely that the bone originated from an ancient Australian Aboriginal’, however it has not been tested for sex, age or date as yet.

This bone fragment may be a game changer for the Adnymathanha people, amidst rising tensions in the Flinders Ranges region over the proposed location of the national nuclear waste facility on Wallerberdina station.

The site was picked late last month by the Federal Government out of six properties voluntarily nominated around Australia for the long term storage of low level nuclear waste and temporary storage of intermediate level waste.

The facility will take up 100 hectares of the 6000-plus hectare property, but an exact location is yet to be determined.

While native title does not apply to the land –  which is crown land on a perpetual lease to former Liberal Senator Grant Chapman- state heritage protections still apply.

Regina Mckenzie lives on the property next door at Yappala station- one of just 72 sites nation-wide listed as an Indigenous protected area, due to its cultural and environmental significance.

She says that doesn’t stop at the fence line, with a 70 kilometre songline running right through the Wallerberdina property all the way down to Lake Torrens, with many sites yet to be recorded.

“We’ve got cave paintings in around the corner, and we’ve got archaeology and we’ve got rock carvings up there on that hill, we’ve got graves, we’ve got ancient graves,” says Regina.

“This is what I want to protect, our ancient people’s burials… and I don’t want nobody touching these people, it’s too important.”

A South Australian Department of State Development spokesperson confirmed that there are three Aboriginal sites that fall within the Barndioota nomination area- two cultural and one archaeological…livelihood.”…..

May 13, 2016 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia | Leave a comment

NASA scientist and European Space Agency dismayed at CSIRO climate research cuts

‘Dismay’: NASA scientist appeals to CSIRO not to cut global climate efforts, The Age, May 12, 2016   Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

 A top scientist from US space agency NASA has appealed to CSIRO to abandon plans to cut a key monitoring program that it says will undermine Australia and the world’s ability to monitor and predict climate change. Continue reading

May 13, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Global transition: energy internet, the ‘smart’ grid, solar energy and battery storage are converging

map solar south-australiaThe clean energy economy is coming – and there’s a lot to lose for those who can’t keep up

The energy internet, the ‘smart’ grid, solar energy and battery storage are converging and the economic benefits are clear, Guardian, Paul Ebert , 9 May 16 Change is coming to the energy landscape. A transition to a new energy economy is happening. In a country like Australia – awash with energy both under and above the ground – this transition could be rapid and profound. There is a lot to lose for those who can’t keep pace.

Last month the government committed $1bn to the Clean Energy Innovation Fund. The fund will have “the primary purpose of earning income or a profitable return” on debt and equity extended to renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-emissions technologies. While many will argue the right way for that money to be used, investment like this is well timed.

There are a number of converging technologies driving the transition. Their interaction will affect how we travel, how we live, the way our cities and houses are designed, our fuel supply and attitude to energy efficiency, and even how we interact.

One of the maturing technologies is solar.
Over the past five years, solar has become a big part of our energy world. The Australian energy market operator estimated last year that by 2023/24 the state of South Australia may, at times, have its entire electricity needs met by solar systems on mostly urban rooftops, without the aid of coal, gas or oil.  Continue reading

May 13, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Still time to avert catastrophic world temperature rise

global-warming1UN climate science chief: it’s not too late to avoid dangerous temperature rise
Hoesung Lee, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, voices hope in battle against 2C increase in warming but warns of ‘phenomenal’ costs,
Guardian,  , 11 May 16  The head of the United Nations climate science panel has declared it is still possible to avoid a dangerous 2C increase in global warming – despite more than a dozen record hot years since 2000. But the costs could be “phenomenal”, he said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Hoesung Lee, the leader of theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), defied the bleak outlook of climate scientists who warn the world is hurtling to a 2C rise far faster than anticipated.

Governments set 2C as the danger limit for global warming at the Paris climate conference last year – and agreed to work to limit warming to 1.5C.

Global average temperatures have already risen about 1C since the pre-industrial era because of warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. February’s hot temperatures stunned scientists, even after a string of record-breaking years.

But Lee insisted the 2C goal remained technically feasible, although it could become prohibitively expensive. “2C is achievable, and if we fail to act according to what the IPCC has been advising, the cost will rise phenomenally,” Lee said. “The sooner we act, we will be able to achieve 2C stabilisation cost-effectively,” he went on. “The longer we wait to take action, the cost will be a lot higher.”…….

Delaying until the middle of the century would be ruinously expensive. “If we fail to act properly, then the emissions reduction will have to double to something like 6% a year, which is unprecedented in any experience.” Even then, however, Lee refused to rule out the feasibility of the 2C goal. “It is achievable if there is a drastic change in the way of doing business,” he said.

Scientists have also said that the world’s carbon dioxide concentration is now on the brink of never again dipping below the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone, as two important measuring stations, at Cape Grim in Australia and Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, sit on the point of no return……..

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian Greens solar policy

greenssunGreens unveil solar policy  Georgie Burgess@georgieburgo May 13, 2016 The Australian Greens have released a policy that aims to encourage households to take up battery storage technology by introducing a 50 per cent refundable tax credit to assist with solar costs.

Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim said the policy would support the more than 26,000 Tasmanians that have solar capacity installed, with $54 million to gain.

Under the policy, people would get up to half the cost of their battery storage system covered, up to a maximum of $5000 in the first year of the program.

The program would run for five years and the amount of the credit would taper off to $1,500 by 2021, reflecting the projected decline in battery storage costs.

A grant scheme would also be available for those on low incomes.

It’s expected up to 1.2 million Australian homes could be supported over the five years of the program.

Together, small household systems in Tasmania are generating approximately 81.5 megawatts of power, with more than 12 per cent of households using rooftop solar.

“The Greens battery storage policy will support the 26,529 Tasmanian households that already have solar capacity installed and encourage thousands more to shift to battery storage,” Senator McKim said.

“Tasmanian households could gain over $54 million in support for battery storage.

“Unfortunately, the energy crisis has exposed Tasmania’s vulnerability and our over-reliance on Basslink importing dirty power from the Latrobe Valley.”

Senator McKim said the policy would be a game changer for the state’s energy security and increase Tasmania’s reputation as a centre of renewable energy.

“The Greens are the only party with the courage and vision to propose sustainable solutions for Tasmania’s energy security.”

Earlier this week, Greens energy spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said the feed-in tariff decision by the Economic Regulator to pay solar PV owners 6.6c per kilowatt hour “is a slap in the face for solar owners and the installation industry”.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

David Penberthy on Citizens’ Juries

David Penberthy: State Government fails test of reining in cost of living The Advertiser May 12, 2016 David PenberthyThe Advertiser THERE has been a degree of cynicism over Jay Weatherill’s announcement that not one but two citizens’ juries will deliberate on the wisdom on the proposed construction of a high-level nuclear waste facility in South Australia. While there is always a chance that the jury might advocate a dump designed with bicycle lanes and a small bar to accommodate outback hipsters, I’d be prepared to set my cynicism aside on this occasion.

The philosophy behind citizens’ juries is to provide greater public input into the decision-making process. Embracing a nuclear future is a big decision for the entire state, bringing with it safety and environmental concerns. Anything that gives the public a greater say in satisfying those concerns is a good thing……..

May 13, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment