Australian news, and some related international items

South Australia’s nuclear waste dump money mirage

Real juries hear both the Prosecution and Defence cases in open court. What I fear is that my fellow citizens selected for citizen’s jury duty will get to read and hear only what the State Government wants them to read and hear, so that they will give Premier Weatherill the “social licence” he wants in order to proceed with the dump.

South Australians do not need to mortgage their descendants’ future by building a high level nuclear dump in order to make ends meet. The alleged riches that the dump has been claimed to bring are a mirage, but the long-term risks are not.

South Australia mirage

How a high-level nuclear waste dump could lose money June 7 2016  The economic case for a high level nuclear waste facility in South Australia is far from convincing, writes Richard Blandy. 

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission delivered its report early in May. I submitted my InDaily article on the Royal Commission’s tentative findings to the inquiry for its consideration. I received no acknowledgement, but I know that the article was discussed within the royal commission’s processes. It does not appear to have had any substantive effect on the report.

Having read the relevant sections of the report, I continue to believe that South Australia should not use part of its land mass as a dump for highly radioactive used fuel from overseas nuclear reactors (sp-called “high level waste”) which, in the royal commission’s own words, “requires isolation from the environment for many hundreds of thousands of years”.

The only reason why most South Australians would give a high level nuclear waste dump even a second’s thought is because it is being sold to them as a financial bonanza – a no-risk economic lifeline to a state down on its luck. Something for nothing.

In the summary of its report, the royal commission says that a high level waste dump “could generate more than $100 billion income in excess of expenditure over the 120-year life of the project (or $51 billion discounted at 4 per cent)”. Note that the report says “could”, not “would”.

But, in Appendix J, the report says that “applying a commercial pre-tax discount rate of 10 per cent the net present value of profits to the State would amount to $11.5 billion”. This is a big reduction from the headline number in the summary of $100 billion. Continue reading

June 8, 2016 Posted by | business, NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia, wastes | 1 Comment

Rushing the South Australian nuclear waste discussion will be a failure

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINRoyal commission engagement expert says nuclear opportunities will disappear if decision is rushed June 8, 2016 Luke Griffiths The Advertiser THE person responsible for the Nuclear Royal Commission’s regional engagement says that if community consultation is rushed to meet political deadlines, the whole process will fall over.

Jon Bok, a former stakeholder engagement adviser to Santos, visited more than 50 SA communities over the course of 12 months. He told attendees at an Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy uranium conference in Adelaide yesterday that if the State Government is to develop a high-level nuclear waste repository, the “fundamental threshold issue of safety has to be addressed”.

“For many people, it’s going to take a long time to get from where they are now to have a sufficient level of trust and confidence in government and industry that this can actually be done safely and taken forward,” he said.

Resistance remained strong in many areas, which Mr Bok said can be attributed in part to legacy issues that include the British government’s nuclear tests in Maralinga and issues at Radium Hill uranium mine in the state’s far east.

Royal Commission head Kevin Scarce delivered his final report to Premier Jay Weatherill in early May. His key finding was that a high-level waste storage facility would generate economic benefits in excess of $250 billion and that its development should be pursued by the State Government.

Mr Weatherill has since established a consultation and response agency, overseen by an advisory board, and a citizens’ jury to facilitate further community feedback.

He told Parliament on May 17 that, guided by the outcomes of this engagement, he will provide the Government’s response to the Commission’s report by the end of the year.

While unwilling to criticise the Government, Mr Bok said a timeline must not be set on the education of “dubious and curious” residents.

“There’s simply not going to be enough information in the public domain to make a yes or no decision in the next 12-18 months,” he said.

“The Government wants to be in a position to know where to take this by the end of the year, which is a very short time frame. But all of the international evidence suggests that rushing this process will lead to failure — it cannot be rushed. Continue reading

June 8, 2016 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

Lack of trust in government over nuclear waste dumping – USA

“You would probably need a referendum where citizens can actually vote to embrace a repository in their community,” “The vote would have to be closer to 100 percent than a simple majority.”

antnuke-relevantNuclear waste storage plan a matter of trust

Forum participants question regulators’ commitment to safety 

BOSTON — Can federal energy officials be trusted to put together an interim storage plan for nuclear waste that provides adequate protection for the population and the environment?

That question was repeatedly asked by those who attended last week’s Boston forum organized by the Department of Energy to get public input on its plan for “consent-based siting” of facilities to temporarily store the 75,000 metric tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors until a permanent repository is built.

Continue reading

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

USA objections to government nuclear industry promotion

antnuke-relevantNuclear Activists Speak Out During Dept. of Energy Tour over Nuclear Waste JUNE 07, 2016 

The Department of Energy is conducting an eight-city national tour aimed at gathering public feedback on the issue of where to store nuclear waste. The agency has launched a so-called consent-based siting model to determine where to store spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. At a hearing in Boston Thursday, Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear raised objections to the process.

Paul Gunter: “How does the public in the affected community build trust when the Department of Energy itself is a promotional agency doing the bidding of the nuclear industry by direct promotion, and that the whole process going forward to date has lacked consent? There’s never been consent with regard to generation of nuclear waste.”

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Australia’s wine, food, tourism industries at risk

South Australia Watcher, 8 June 16 Both the federal government and the royal commission are insistent that both the national and international dump proposals will not harm SA’s clean green image. But what evidence have they used to make those claims?  Even in the unlikely event that the waste can be stored perfectly safely with no accidents or terrorism, there is still our global reputation as the destination for the world’s worst waste to be concerned about.

“Perception is reality”.

I certainly hope our agriculture, wine, food and tourism businesses are able to have serious input into this irrevocable decision as well as ordinary citizens and Traditional Owners..

June 8, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Warning on threat posed by nuclear waste plan to South Australia’s clean agriculture image

South Australia nuclear toiletAgriculture and Water Resources Assistant Minister Anne Ruston warns SA nuke plan mustn’t come at expense of clean, green image, The Advertiser, June 7, 2016 FEDERAL Agriculture and Water Resources Assistant Minister Anne Ruston has warned concerns about the country’s international reputation for exporting clean and green food must be addressed before proposals for nuclear waste storage in the state could be approved.

Senator Ruston today appeared for the Liberals at an Adelaide City Council debate of candidates for the federal seat of Adelaide, after her party’s David Colovic declined to appear……..

Senator Ruston said the Coalition was open to considering the prospect of nuclear waste in SA, but stressed it should not come at the cost of the state’s reputation for premium produce. “I am the assistant minister for agriculture and water resources. I believe that SA, but also the whole of Australia, has a competitive advantage in the international marketplace because we’re clean, we’re green and we’re safe,” she told the audience…….

Xenophon, NickNick Xenophon Team candidate Joe Hill said the state should vote before approval was given.

“Certainly glad that we’re having a discussion around this and remain open-minded.

“We do support a referendum because of the magnitude and significance of this,” he said.

Speaking on FIVEaa radio this morning, Labor Leader Bill Shorten said: “Consultations around that have got a long way to go, so I’m going to concentrate on winning the election and prioritising jobs rather than get into that debate at this point.”……

June 8, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

Finland’s costly nuclear tomb

Finland to bury nuclear waste for 100,000 years in world’s costliest tomb ABC News 7 June 16 Deep underground on a lush green island, Finland is preparing to bury its highly-radioactive nuclear waste for 100,000 years — sealing it up and maybe even throwing away the key.

waste cavern Germany

Tiny Olkiluoto island, off Finland’s west coast, will become home to the world’s costliest and longest-lasting burial ground, a network of tunnels called Onkalo — Finnish for “The Hollow”.

Countries have been wrestling with what to do with nuclear power’s dangerous by-products since the first plants were built in the 1950s.

Most nations keep the waste above ground in temporary storage facilities, but Onkalo is the first attempt to bury it for good.

Starting in 2020, Finland plans to stow around 5,000 tonnes of nuclear waste in the tunnels, more than 420 metres below the Earth’s surface.

Already home to one of Finland’s two nuclear power plants, Olkiluoto is now the site of a tunnelling project set to cost up to 3.5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) to build and operate until the 2120s, when the vaults will be sealed for good……

At present, Onkalo consists of a twisting five-kilometre tunnel with three shafts for staff and ventilation. Eventually the nuclear warren will stretch 42 kilometres….

Spent nuclear rods will be placed in iron casts, then sealed into thick copper canisters and lowered into the tunnels.

Each capsule will be surrounded with a buffer made of bentonite, a type of clay that will protect them from any shuddering in the surrounding rock and help stop water from seeping in.

Clay blocks and more bentonite will fill the tunnels before they are sealed up.

The method was developed in Sweden where a similar project is under way, and Posiva insists it is safe.

But opponents of nuclear power, such as Greenpeace, have raised concern about potential radioactive leaks.

“Nuclear waste has already been created and therefore something has to be done about it,” said the environmental group’s Finnish spokesman Juha Aromaa.

“But certain unsolved risk factors need to be investigated further.”

Looking 100,000 years into the future
Environmental groups are questioning the risks of the ambitious nuclear waste storage plan
Planning the nuclear graveyard involves asking the impossible — how can we know what this little island will be like in 100,000 years? And who will be living there?

To put the timeframe into perspective: 100,000 years ago Finland was partly covered by ice, Neanderthals were roaming Europe and Homo Sapiens were starting to move from Africa to the Middle East……..’s-costliest-tomb/7488588

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Young Japanese woman cuts through the silence on Fukushima nuclear-caused cancers

Japanese woman breaks silence on Fukushima-related cancer CBS News , AP June 7, 2016, KORIYAMA, Japan — She’s 21, has thyroid cancer, and wants people in her prefecture in northeastern Japan to get screened for it. That statement might not seem provocative, but her prefecture is Fukushima, and of the 173 young people with confirmed or suspected cases since the 2011 nuclear meltdowns there, she is the first to speak out.

That near-silence highlights the fear Fukushima thyroid-cancer patients have about being the “nail that sticks out,” and thus getting hammered.

The thyroid-cancer rate in the northern Japanese prefecture is many times higher than what is generally found, particularly among children, but the Japanese government says more cases are popping up because of rigorous screening, not the radiation that spewed from Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant

To be seen as challenging that view carries consequences in this rigidly harmony-oriented society. Even just having cancer that might be related to radiation carries a stigma in the only country to be hit with atomic bombs.

“There aren’t many people like me who will openly speak out,” said the young woman, who requested anonymity because of fears about harassment. “That’s why I’m speaking out so others can feel the same. I can speak out because I’m the kind of person who believes things will be OK.”

She has a quick disarming smile and silky black hair. She wears flip-flops. She speaks passionately about her new job as a nursery school teacher. But she also has deep fears: Will she be able to get married? Will her children be healthy?

She suffers from the only disease that the medical community, including the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, has acknowledged is clearly related to the radioactive iodine that spewed into the surrounding areas after the only nuclear disaster worse than Fukushima’s, the 1986 explosion and fire at Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Though international reviews of Fukushima have predicted that cancer rates will not rise as a result of the meltdowns there, some researchers believe the prefecture’s high thyroid-cancer rate is related to the accident……..

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fukushima children: 14 new child thyroid cancer cases

thyroid-cancer-papillaryflag-japanFukushima medical survey confirms 14 new child thyroid cancer cases    Jun, 2016 The number of child thyroid cancers discovered in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has reached 131, with the latest panel review adding 14 to the list of those suffering from the deadly disease, along with dozens of new suspected cases.
After the latest review of the ongoing second round of medical checkups conducted on almost 300,000 children who were aged 18 or younger at the time of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011, the prefecture-run program announced that a total 131 people have now been diagnosed with thyroid cancer

Some 30 thyroid cancer cases were added to the radiation victims toll following the second round of checkups that began in April 2014. A further 27 people are suspected of having the disease. Previous numbers disclosed in February showed that 16 patients suffered from cancer.

In the latest announcement, scientists also say that a child who was less than five-years-old at the time of the tragedy had also been diagnosed with cancer. The new figures of those confirmed or suspected to have thyroid cancer have tumors ranging from 5.3 mm to 35.6 mm.

The first thyroid cancer detection round studying minors was conducted in Japan between 2011 to 2014 and discovered 101 people with thyroid cancer. With the latest numbers, the new toll stands at 131, while another 41 are suspected of suffering from radiation exposure, Japan Times reports.

“Concerns have been growing among Fukushima residents with the increase in the number of cancer patients. We’d like to further conduct an in-depth study,” said Hokuto Hoshi, head of the panel and a senior member of the Fukushima Medical Association……

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry gets prohibitively expensive

Escalating costs of nuclear power: too risky for Australia?, Independent Australia, 7 June 2016The nuclear industry worldwide faces an escalating battle to keep ageing reactors running as about a quarter of components and computer systems become obsoletePaul Brown from Climate News Network reports.

LIFE EXTENSIONS to nuclear plants in Europe and North America are repeatedly being granted by safety regulators. But, according to nuclear plant owners, 25% of parts are now obsolete, so keeping the reactors going is becoming an increasing problem as components wear out

This is the background to the Nuclear Power Plant Optimisation Summit being held in Brussels Tuesday and Wednesday this week, when 150 of the world’s top nuclear executives will share experience on how to keep their stations open.

In theory, it makes economic sense to keep running a nuclear reactor well beyond its original design life, so long as it does not pose safety problems. With the capital cost of building the reactor written off decades earlier, profits can be substantial if the running costs can be kept low.

Life extensions

In France, where 75% of electricity supply comes from 58 reactors, the government announced in February that it was prepared to raise the limit on the life of reactors from 40 to 50 years.

Also in February, two reactors in the UK that began generating in 1983 and are due to close in 2019 had their lives extended to 2024. Two others commissioned in 1988 will now work on until 2030. In all four cases, the owner can apply for further life extensions after that.

But nuclear power plants built across the world in the 1970s and 80s rely on computer technology and components now long out of production. Replacing worn-out parts is becoming a serious problem, causing an increasing number of unplanned and expensive shutdowns while components are updated.

Finding people with the expertise to operate obsolete equipment is a problem as experienced staff retire……

In Europe, there is little chance of replacing the obsolescent fleet with new plant. Perhaps the starkest example is France, with its 58 ageing reactors. It is building only one new replacement reactor.

This plant, at Flamanville in Normandy, should already be in operation, but is years late and three times over budget. Plans to build others have been shelved……,9079

June 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First a propaganda push for nuclear waste importing, then one for nuclear submarines

Federal election 2016: nuclear-powered subs needs discussion, PETER JENNINGS, THE AUSTRALIAN, JUNE 7 “……..Readers will ­appreciate the irony of Australia selecting the French-designed Shortfin Barracuda — a nuclear submarine that will be adapted to conventional propulsion……….

[2016 white paper] –

“During the long life of the new submarines, the rapid rate of technological change and ongoing evolution of Australia’s strategic circumstances will continue. As part of the rolling acquisition program, a review based on strategic circumstances at the time, and ­developments in submarine technology, will be conducted in the late 2020s to consider whether the configuration of the submarines remains suitable or whether consideration of other specifications should commence.”

This could be hinting that ­nuclear propulsion may be considered a decade or more from now. However, no Australian government in the 2030s or later will be in a position to adopt nuclear propulsion unless earlier decisions have been taken to prepare the ground for such a major development…….

After the 2016 election, the government should start to scope out what steps might sensibly be taken to create a realistic option for ­nuclear propulsion at the end of the 2020s. A key part of this strategy should be to have an open discussion with the Australian people explaining the basis for the submarine design decision. Government should consider the following steps:

1. Commission an expert panel to evaluate the necessary steps to position for a nuclear propulsion ­option. The panel should produce a public discussion paper setting out the challenges, risks, opportunities, financial cost and industry requirements necessary to support this technology. Continue reading

June 8, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, South Australia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Totally Renewable Yackandandah leading Victorian town to 100% renewable energy

Victoria-sunny.psdA Yack attack on climate in Yackandandah,  TUCKED away in a picturesque nook of Victoria’s North East is a small town doing big things.June 7, 2016

RIAHN SMITHThe Weekly Times

Yackandandah — home to between 700 and 2200 people, depending on where you draw the town border — is one of dozens of communities across the country leading the way on renewable energy.

Its goal is ambitious: to be 100 per cent reliant on renewable energy sources by 2022.

At the helm is Matthew Charles-Jones, an environmental education teacher and former university lecturer who runs an education and accommodation facility at Falls Creek.

He’s a co-chair of Totally Renewable Yackandandah, or TRY as it is more familiarly known, a committee of about half a dozen passionate locals promoting the renewable energy message……

Although Matthew is quick to clarify the 100 per cent target is TRY’s goal and not the official town plan, if the yellow cardboard yaks popping up across the district are any indication, plenty of locals are signing up to the vision.

The Australian PV Institute tracks solar power installations across the country. Its most recent data shows 249 dwellings within the 3749 postcode (taking in Yackandah and Bruarong, a hamlet about 13km south) are producing their own solar energy, about 35 per cent of a combined 700 homes.

This, says Matthew, is up from 24 per cent when TRY entered the scene.

Yackandandah Health, a facility that provides aged care as well as a host of primary health services, was one of the first organisations to take up the mantle.

It has installed 348 solar panels to provide 90kW of power and reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 115 tonnes — in real terms, the equivalent of taking 23 cars permanently off the road.

The system, which produces about a quarter of their electricity consumption, is also expected to save the non-profit, community-owned organisation $1 million over the next 25 years…….

While it is not uncommon for town-folk to be perceived as more progressive than their farming neighbours, around Yackandandah, farmers are also jumping on the bandwagon…….

Firm believers in solar energy’s ability to give a financial return to home and business owners, the TRY committee has established a “perpetual energy fund” to help further ease the cost concern, offering loans for people to install solar systems and then make repayments with the savings off their electricity bill.

It’s an initiative designed to fill the gap left by changes to Australian energy policy that have put solar energy, and renewables in general, on the back burner.

“We need such a massive amount of change in this sector and for me, our traditional institutions aren’t doing enough about it,” Matthew says.

“Around the world countries, communities and business are investing heavily in renewable energy but because there hasn’t been a clear, enduring policy in Australia and in that absence, investment in renewable energy collapsed…….

Yackandandah is not alone.

Matthew estimates there are nearly 80 communities across Victoria leading the way in renewable and community energy.

Closest to home is Newstead, a small town about a 15-minute drive from Castlemaine in central Victoria. Six years ago it announced its goal to be Australia’s first 100 per cent renewable energy town by 2021.

“They’re doing remarkable work,” says Matthew, while noting the town has been helped along by significant financial input from the Victorian Government…….

June 8, 2016 Posted by | solar, Victoria | Leave a comment

Climate change – huge responsibility for banks and insurance firms in property sales

Banks and insurers have huge responsibility when people are buying property in a time of climate change, Online Opinion 

By Kate Mackenzie -, 6 June 2016
“……..In Australia, banks require you to have home insurance before approving a mortgage. Yet they do not check, in subsequent years, whether you are still insured.Our research identified only one example of the banking sector formally addressing their role in relation to housing at risk of extreme weather. In response to a government issues paper following the 2011 floods, banks denied they were at risk themselves, or should play a part in reducing risk through means such as annually checking insurance coverage of mortgagors.

Yet, in climate-related disclosure statements, most big banks acknowledge risk from increasing natural disasters due to climate change affecting their mortgage books. In recent years, some have had to provision for bad debts related to big floods. So far these have been small amounts, but as natural disasters become more problematic, will that always be the case?

The last thing anyone wants is a sudden plunge in house prices in a particular region. Yet it seems inevitable that some housing in vulnerable areas will be repriced. There is anecdotal evidence of this happening already in North Queensland.

To avoid hardship and loss to individuals, we need a concerted effort from all levels of government and all private sector stakeholders, to address the problem.

This is where banks come in. They are an unrivalled player in our economy – constituting the biggest sector of the share market. The big four banks hold about 80 per cent of all mortgages – and their relationships tend to last many years, allowing plenty of opportunity to inform their customers

There is also a social responsibility dimension to the banks’ roles. Contrary to what you might think, not all these exposed home-owners are the wealthy owners of sea-fronted mansions. A big bank might be able to write off a $70 million loss here or there when a flood or other hazard strikes. Individual Australians aren’t so lucky if their single biggest asset takes a hit.

It’s time banks began integrating climate-related risk into their assessment processes – to make good, responsible decisions when granting mortgages and especially financing property developments. As lenders for property purchases, they have the potential to press for good public policy in this regard — and to work towards a good outcome together with stakeholders from civil society and from other parts of the private sector.

Buying and owning a home in a world of climate change heightens the responsibilities of all related players – banks, insurers and governments – at all levels. All play a crucial role. All need to lift their game.

June 8, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment