Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear “Citizens’ Juries” and new South Australian campaign “Nu-Clear”

( an unfortunate title for the nuclear lobby – “Nu-Clear” –  all too close to the UK’s incisive anti-nuclear publication NuClear News )

South-Australia-nuclearCitizens’ juries to consider SA’s nuclear future, The Mandarin,   Citizens’ juries show potential as a way for governments to take the heat out of contentious issues, with evidence-informed consideration of contentious policy by regular people having the ability to reshape often staid debates.

So as South Australia is tossing up whether to create a nuclear waste dump to take spent fuel from around the world, the state government has decided to convene two citizens’ juries to consider the future of the nuclear fuel cycle in the state…….

Premier Jay Weatherill says the citizens’ jury deliberations will help South Australians have an “informed discussion” about the nuclear fuel cycle, based on the body of evidence presented in the royal commission report.

The work of the citizens’ juries and other consultation processes “will play a key role in informing the decisions we make”, he stated yesterday:

“I know that some people are worried about safety and the environment whilst others see the economic opportunities. This is why before the government decides, we want South Australians to understand the choices and to be able to put their perspective on this issue.”

Deliberations will begin next month, when a group of about 50 South Australians will be asked to identify the key questions that need to be considered during the debate.

Invitations will be sent this week to 25,000 randomly selected citizens seeking an expression of interest for their participation in the jury, with members selected by an independent, non-political organisation.

Later, in October, a second citizens’ jury of about 350 people will be convened to evaluate the feedback from the state-wide consultation and weigh up the choices and options on the important issues raised by the royal commission.

In November, this second jury will produce a report summarising the community’s position for the government to consider in its response to the royal commission’s report by the end of the year.

New agency to ‘facilitate’ debate

The government will introduce a range of other consultative measures to help it come to a decision.

An independent advisory board to guide the consultation process will soon be appointed, and a state government nuclear fuel cycle agency established to help facilitate the discussion.

A campaign titled “Nu-Clear” was launched on Tuesday to promote discussion and encourage people to explore the facts on the nuclear fuel cycle, with advertisements to be run on radio, television, print and social media.

Citizens are able to comment on the royal commission report on the state’s YourSAy consultation website.

The key questions identified by the citizens’ jury will guide a number of community consultation activities from July, which will include meetings held across the state, as well as social media engagement, information centres and a free call 1800 service.

A specific program of Aboriginal engagement will also be undertaken across SA with the guidance of Aboriginal community leaders.

May 16, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australia’s coming election: climate change policy to be a vote changer

election Australia 2016Election 2016: Climate change policy a vote winner for majority of Australians May 15, 2016  Breaking news reporter Strong climate change policy is a vote-changing matter for a majority of Australians, a new poll shows, establishing the issue as an important battleground one week into the election campaign.

According to the ReachTEL survey of 2400 people, conducted for a coalition of environmental groups, 64 per cent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a party seeking 100 per cent renewable energy in 20 years and 48 per cent said they would be more likely to support a party reducing Australia’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

The figures contrast with the Turnbull government’s avoidance of the topic. The Prime Minister did not mention climate change in his speech when kicking off the election campaign.

The Coalition’s policy is a 26-28 per cent cut on 2005 emission levels by 2030 through its multi-billion dollar emissions reduction fund and 23 per cent clean energy production by 2020.

Recently unveiled is Labor’s proposed 45 per cent cut on 2005 levels through emissions trading and restrictions on land clearing.

The Greens want a 63-82 per cent equivalent cut to emissions and 90 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

“The Prime Minister has spoken about the need to transition the economy from one dependent on mining. It is clear from this poll that an increasing number of Australians support that goal on climate change grounds,” Lyndon Schneiders, national director of the Wilderness Society, said.

“It is also clear that the vast majority of Australians recognise that we need new and powerful laws to manage that transition and to protect the places we love from the impacts of climate change.”

The poll also found:

  • 56.1 per cent of people would be more likely to support a party phasing out coal-fired power, compared to 27.2 per cent unchanged and 16.6 per cent who would be less supportive.
  • 66.9 per cent would be more likely to vote for a party that strengthens environmental laws protecting sites like the Great Barrier Reef, while 23.1 per cent are unaffected and 10 per cent would be less likely to support them.
  • 61.9 per cent of people agree that the burning of fossil fuels causes global warming and is destroying the Great Barrier Reef, while 23.2 per cent disagree and 14.9 per cent don’t know.

A squad of environment groups, including the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australian Conservation Foundation, GetUp! and Environment Victoria, are using the election to target 25 marginal seats with a doorknocking and publicity campaign on climate policy.

AYCC national director Kirsty Albion said the organisation is encouraging young people at universities and schools to enrol to vote “so that politicians start taking our future seriously and act on global warming”.

May 16, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, election 2016 | Leave a comment

NewDemocracy Foundation (NDF) will need to be seen to be impartial, on Nuclear Citizens’ Juries

Jury (1)Philip White, 16 May 16 Much of the debate about whether or not South Australia should host an international nuclear waste dump seems to take for granted that accepting the world’s high-level nuclear waste would be a financial bonanza for us all. But judging  from critical analysis by the Australia Institute, as well as from the sorry history of back-end nuclear fuel cycle projects elsewhere, this is far from certain.

The government says it will give randomly selected citizens an opportunity to deliberate about the pros and cons of the nuclear waste proposal using a method known as “Citizens Juries”. Let’s hope that any such Citizens Jury seeks out the best critical advice available, because if it does not, there is a grave danger that it will be dazzled by promises of a nuclear El Dorado and blinded to the huge risks involved.

One minimum criterion for such a Citizens Jury is that it be organised by a completely independent body whose commitment is to due process. The organising body must have no attachment whatsoever to a particular outcome and the government must keep right out of the process.

The NewDemocracy Foundation (NDF) has played a leading role in many previous Citizens Juries, including some held recently by the SA Government. There is a danger that as time goes by the relationship between NDF and the governments it works with could become too cosy. On an issue as controversial and entailing such huge risks as this, an independent expert monitoring panel should be established, including well-respected experts in the deliberative democracy field.

Of course the recommendations of Citizens Juries are not binding. They should be seen as one input into the wider democratic process. But amidst the intense lobbying currently being applied in favour of a nuclear waste dump, any recommendations for caution by a Citizens Jury should be taken very seriously.

May 16, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

ABC on election issues: climate way down, nuclear waste import doesn’t get a mention

election Australia 2016Election 2016: Where the parties stand on the big issues, ABC 15 May 16 


The environment has been one of the key battlegrounds in the past two elections, with Tony Abbott’s attack on Julia Gillard’s carbon tax at the heart of his election pitch in 2013.

Despite Malcolm Turnbull previous preference for an emissions trading scheme, which saw him rolled as leader in 2009, since becoming prime minister he has maintained the Government’s direct action policy.

The carbon tax that was designed to address climate change was seen as a key reason for the downfall of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government, and consequently, neither party wants to impose a fixed price on carbon.

Both sides of politics have come up with different ways of attempting to reduce emissions while protecting the public and big international companies from feeling too much financial pain.

Climate change

  • Both parties agree climate change is a threat and have committed to cutting Australia’s emissions by 5 per cent on 2005 levels by 2020. But from here they differ.
  • The Coalition’s goal is to cut by 26–28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. Labor wants to cut emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
  • Their strategies to address climate change also differ. The Coalition opted for a “direct action” approach in which $2.55 billion in taxes is paid to companies to undertake projects which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Labor wants to introduce two emissions trading schemes — one for electricity generators and one for big industry. Labor says neither is expected to have a large impact on consumer prices.

Renewable energy

  • The Coalition introduced the mandatory renewable energy target, which was then raised by Labor under Kevin Rudd.
  • The Government and Labor agreed to scale back the target last year, but the Opposition has announced it would seek to increase it again if elected.
  • The Coalition has promised more than 20 per cent of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020. Labor is aiming for 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. Continue reading

May 16, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, election 2016 | Leave a comment

Nuclear corporations will not be able to pay for the wastes that they cause

antnuke-relevantUS nuclear industry’s plan thanks to NRC: let taxpayers carry the can for nuke-reactor-deadclosed power plants, Ecologist Linda Pentz Gunter 13th May 2016   With five reactors closed in the last three years, the US nuclear industry is in shutdown mode, writes Linda Pentz Gunter – and that means big spending on decommissioning. But now the nuclear regulator is set to exempt owners from safety and emergency costs at their closed plants – allowing them to walk away from the costs and liabilities, and palm them onto taxpayers.

Aging and dangerous nuclear power plants are closing. This should be cause for celebration. We will all be safer now, right? Well, not exactly.

US nuclear power plant owners are currently pouring resources into efforts to circumvent the already virtually non-existent regulations for the dismantlement and decommissioning of permanently closed nuclear reactors.

And sad to say, many on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the industry’s ever compliant lapdog, are trotting happily by their side.

There is an occasional lone critic. NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran, observed that the“NRC does not currently have regulations specifically tailored for this transition from operations to decommissioning. As a result, licensees with reactors transitioning to decommissioning routinely seek exemptions from many of the regulations applicable to operating reactors.”

The inevitable result is that reactor owners will successfully avoid spending money now on decommissioning as they seek to delay beginning the actual cleanup work for the next half century and maybe longer. Later, when it comes time to finish the job, the owners – and the money – could well be long gone.

US reactor owners rely on ‘decommissioning trust fund’ investments to pay for decommissioning activities. But these are failing to accrue adequate funds to do the job. Many of the trusts are incurring annual losses on their investments.

In fact, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found the NRC’s financing formula for decommissioning trust funds to be fundamentally flawed, resulting in the utilities ability to accrue only 57% to 75% of the needed funds………

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Every Belgian to get anti-radiation pills (South Australians might need them, too, in future?)

EVERY BELGIAN GETSANTI-RADIATION PILLS IN CASE OF NUCLEAR EMERGENCIES, Who.What.Why. MAY 15, 2016 |  Just a week after denying Germany’s request to shut down two of its oldest nuclear reactors, the Belgian government decided to distribute anti-radiation pills to its entire population. Do the authorities know something about the safety of its aging nuclear plants that it isn’t sharing ?

The two reactors in question are 40 years old, and their pressure vessels have shown signs of metal degradation, raising concerns over their safety. Belgium still gets 50 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. Germany, in contrast, has decided to shut down all of its nuclear reactors and to focus on renewable energy.

The decision to distribute the pills, which are also known as iodine pills and protect the thyroid from radioactive poisoning in case of a disaster, shows how worried Belgian officials are — and for good reason. Nuclear safety is an illusion, as two high-profile cases have shown. The Chernobyl reactor explosion 30 years ago and the ensuing radioactive fallout killed thousands and left land the size of Rhode Island unusable…….

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Carolina does NOT want to be a global nuclear waste dump

antnuke-relevantNot only are tons of highly radioactive waste still stored at SRS, the federal government continues to ship nuclear material from foreign nations to the site

Don’t let SRS serve as nuclear dump site, Post & Courier, May 15 2016 Oscar-wastesThe U.S. Department of Energy made some serious promises to South Carolina when it needed a place to bring tons of highly radioactive plutonium back in 2002. And now the DOE wants to renege in nearly every way.

State officials are right to fight it all the way down the line. Continue reading

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Australian groups launch No Dump Alliance

SA groups launch No Dump Alliance in response to nuclear Royal Commission findings

logo No Dump Alliance

 WHAT: No Dump Alliance media launch

WHEN: Today, Monday 16 May, 2016

TIME: Midday

WHERE: Pilgrim Uniting Church, 12 Flinders Street, Adelaide

Following the recommendation of the Nuclear Royal Commission to pursue a high level nuclear waste dump in SA, Traditional Owners and representatives from health, union, faith, and conservation groups, and other prominent South Australians have responded by launching the ‘No Dump Alliance.’

These Groups have signed a Statement of Concern that focuses on the following key issues:

  • ·      Lack of respect for Traditional Owners
  • ·      The legacy for future generations
  • ·      Public health and environment impact
  • ·      Financial risks

For a copy of the statement and further information about the Alliance, go to: Continue reading

May 16, 2016 Posted by | ACTION | Leave a comment

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill sounding like an old style Liberal!

Weatherill,-JayJay Weatherill: governments lost the art of talking to people, The Mandarin by
 18.02.2016 Democracies get into trouble when the judgement of experts supplants listening to the people it is supposed to represent, says South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.

In an op-ed for DemocracyRenewal, Weatherill says the use of experts — “scientists, specialists in particular fields of knowledge and bureaucrats who come up with ‘rational’ answers to issues that they decide are the problem the community should think about” — is important, but if overzealous can disenfranchise people and create distrust in government……..

“Rather than being a threat to established institutions and reform, our Citizens’ Juries have demonstrated that the involvement of citizens in public decisions enables change and helps to restore faith in the political process. Independent evaluation has shown that the cynicism and suspicion people had felt towards government decreased as a result of being involved in the citizen jury process, with a strong interest in participating again.”

May 16, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

Research into genetic damage in children of nuclear test veterans

A total 562 Royal New Zealand Navy sailors served the British Nuclear Weapons Testing Programme in the Pacific in the 1950s. Nine times they were exposed to damaging levels of radiation.

A new study from Brunel University will undertake a chromosomal analysis of cells from UK nuclear test veterans and their children.

The best evidence New Zealand sailors have is from 2007, when a study by Massey University took samples from 50 veteran sailors from Operation Grapple. Researchers discovered they had suffered chromosome damage higher than that of clean-up workers at Chernobyl.

They linked it directly to the Pacific bomb testing, saying the result “is indicative of the veterans having incurred long term genetic damage as a consequence of performing their duties relating to Operation Grapple”.

Bikini-Atoll-bombResearch gives hope for nuclear test vets families CARLY THOMAS, May 15 2016

It all started with hydrogen bombs that lit up the Pacific with radiation.

Roy Sefton remembers it like it was yesterday.

Backs turned, goggles on, they waited for the countdown..”And right on cue there was this massive light that came through mine and everybody else’s hands, through the dark glasses, through the closed eyes and what I saw was an x -ray vision of my own hands,” he said.

Now, after decades of battling, New Zealand veterans who watched the blasts from the decks of the Navy ships hope they may finally be acknowledged for the effects the radiation had on them and their families. Continue reading

May 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2016 Earth getting hotter. CO2 levels above 400 ppm

Confirmed: Southern hemisphere CO2 level rises above symbolic 400 ppm milestone, [Excellent pictures, graphs, diagrams]  The Age May 15, 2016 – Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

NASA | A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2

A significant marker of rising global greenhouse gas emissions has been passed, with a key monitoring site on Tasmania’s north-west tip recording atmospheric carbon-dioxide exceeding 400 parts per million for the first time.

As foreshadowed by Fairfax Media last week, a baseline reading at the Cape Grim station that exceeded the 400-ppm mark of the primary gas driving global warming was imminent.

As it turned out, “the unfortunate milestone” was reached on Tuesday May 10 at 8am, local time, said Peter Krummel, who heads the CSIRO team analysing data from the most important site in the southern hemisphere.

Atmospheric readings from Cape Grim, along with two stations in Hawaii and Alaska, are closely watched as they date back decades and closely track a range of pollutants from ozone-depleting chemicals to the various greenhouse gases resulting from burning fossil fuels and clearing forests.

Mr Krummel said that while mostly symbolic, the 400-ppm reading “highlights the problem of rising emissions, which are increasing more rapidly than they used to be”.

A report out earlier this year from the World Meteorological Organization noted atmospheric readings of CO2 at the Mauna Loa site in Hawaii rose 3.05 ppm in 2015 alone – the biggest increase in the 56 years of research……

Climate scientists, such as David Karoly at Melbourne University, note that when other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are included, the situation is even bleaker.

The so-called carbon dioxide-equivalent level that takes in the full global warming impact is now about 485 ppm.

Both 2014 and 2015 were record hot years globally in data going back about 130 years. With the effect of a strong El Nino overlaying long-term trends, this year is likely to be even hotter after a scorching start.

May 16, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Will the government actually pay attention to findings of Citizens’ Juries?

Letting the people decide … but will government listen? The Mandarin, by  18.02.2016  If we now have the technology to allow citizens to vote directly on all issues, what job remains for public servants?

While new technology may provide new options to contribute, the really important thing is governmental willingness to actually listen, says Maria Katsonis, the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet’s director of equality.

Weatherill,-JayThe balance between citizen consultation and public service expertise in decision-making remains a hot debate, with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill warning last year that while expertise in policy is important, overzealous bureaucrats and politicians can disenfranchise citizens.

The internet is assisting government to attain opinions from people more easily than ever before. SA, for example, has embraced the use of citizen juries in policy formation through its youSAy portal — though as yet on only some issues. Finland has experimented with digitally crowdsourcing input into the policymaking process……

May 16, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

As sea levels rise fast, CSIRO sacks world sea level expert !

Global sea-level expert John Church made to walk the plank by CSIRO, SMH  May 14, 2016  “……Accelerating sea-level rises Dr Church’s achievements include developing sophisticated models linking sparse tidal gauge information around the world with satellite data to reveal how much sea levels are rising.

The current mission is retracing previous journeys along the 170 W longitude line to measure precisely how key parameters such as temperature, salinity and acidity are changing As Dr Church notes, including in a Nature paper published last month, sea-level increases are accelerating as a warming planet melts glaciers and swells oceans.

From increases of a few tenths of a millimetre annually in the 1000 years before about 1850, the rate jumped 1.7 mm on average in the 20th century. Since 1993, the rise has quickened to about 3 mm a year, he says.

Despite this trend, CSIRO will slash about half the climate staff – about 70 scientists – in its Oceans & Atmosphere division. New hires will be made in climate adaptation and mitigation, the agency promises but numbers cited so far are much smaller.

As with other CSIRO staff, Dr Church will get a chance to save his job. The sole scientist on board to be told of a pending redundancy, he was granted until June 16 – or three weeks after the voyage ends in Wellington, New Zealand – to argue his case.

Letter of support

Scientists from leading research agencies, such as NASA of the US and France’s CNES, have called for Dr Church’s group to be retained……..

‘Inconceivable to the world’

Rosemary Morrow, one of the letter’s authors, said CSIRO’s undermining of its oceans expertise “is just inconceivable to the rest of the world. Especially for a country at the crossroads of so many evolving climate modes – …of droughts and driving rains.”


Dr Church, who has been among the most outspoken scientists criticising the current round of CSIRO job cuts, was told one reason for his firing was the need to consolidate sea-level change into regional impacts.

“This is essentially a repetition of [chief executive] Larry Marshall’s incomplete, naive and misleading statements, except for a focus on my area of science,” he said.

“Any reading of the literature or of the most recent [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports would clearly indicate that the overriding uncertainty in sea level remains the amount and distribution of sea level rise,” he said.

Also mentioned was the cutback of external funds, including the Abbott government’s ending of the Australian Climate Change Science Program that had been funded from 1990 until June this year.

……….”Sea-level rise is a long term issue,” he says, noting that without emissions reductions, the world is committed to seas rising several metres over coming centuries.

May 16, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment