Australian news, and some related international items

Federal election candidates oblivious about the South Australian nuclear waste plan

Liberal Labor election 16Nuclear waste importing: The taboo election topic, Independent USA election 2016
Australia  29 June 2016
An international nuclear waste dump is planned for South Australia but it is hardly mentioned in the lead up to the federal election. Noel Wauchope approached the candidates to see where they stand.

THE MAJOR PARTIES have each shrunk their thinking down to a couple of themes.

Occasionally, there’s a little burst from Labor about climate change, to which Turnbull might respond with a few motherhood statements on that subject.

But the one that nobody touches is nuclear waste importing.

The South Australian Labor Government is spending an enormous amount of money, time and effort, towards starting the world’s first commercial nuclear waste importing business. They plan to make a decision on this later this year — a decision that will impact the whole of Australia.

Whether you think about ports for receiving radioactive wastes or road or rail transport to the South Australian waste facility, or other issues, such as safety, the terrorism risk, Australian agriculture’s clean green reputation, it is pretty clear that this is a matter of national importance.

I’ve now found that Australian federal politicians, outside of South Australia, are pretty much oblivious of this extraordinary plan, unprecedented in the world, to invite in global nuclear waste.  Continue reading

June 29, 2016 Posted by | election 2016 | Leave a comment

Nigel Carney analyses intrinsic flaws in the Nuclear Royal Commission

highly-recommendedSA NUCLEAR BRIEFING Nigel Carney, June 16, 2016   “…… the issue South Australians are currently facing in the low level waste site selection process has always been a state and federal alliance, no mere coincidence of need…….

The Commission has been criticized widely as being a political stunt, not an independent Commission but rather a rubber stamp. The findings of the Commission released in May 2016 tend to support this view. The report itself presents evidence against its own findings. We are reminded that the Radium Hill mine and Port Pirie treatment plant remain as unresolved radioactive sites. The Commission finds:

‘The failure to consider the environment in the planning, operating and decommissioning of these facilities has resulted in ongoing management challenges….Although subsequent assessments of both sites show they do not pose a serious radiological risk to the health of visitors to the sites the state government is required to continue to monitor and manage potential environmental contamination’  (Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Findings May 2016)

Why then, the public may ask, would a Commission which acknowledges the failure of government to manage the legacy of the nuclear fuel cycle suggest the state has the capability of managing the world’s nuclear waste? Continue reading

June 29, 2016 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, reference, South Australia | Leave a comment

Voter support for Climate Action is now high, but Turnbull and Shorten don’t care

Australia's politiciansTurnbull and Shorten ignoring voters on coal and climate, Canberra Times,   June 28 2016 Sarah Gill

Here are two statistics to ponder as we prepare to head to the polls this weekend: voter support for action on climate change has surged to historically high levels since the last election and; four fifths of usbelieve neither of the major parties actually gives a toss.

Polling released by the Climate Institute last week reveals that 72 per cent of us are worried about global warming, and that while only 17 per cent think the Coalition’s climate policies are credible, the plausibility of Labor’s response is ahead by just a whisker, at a paltry 20 per cent.

And, really, is it any wonder? While the Coalition and the ALP have emission-reduction targets – neither of which, it must be said, will avoid dangerous global warming – the policy detail underpinning them is woefully inadequate. It’s like trying to build the Eiffel Tower with a box of matchsticks.

After a decade of flip-flopping on climate policy, the electorate, it seems, has wised up. We’re not buying Labor’s pledge of an “orderly” closure of coal-fired power stations – remember how well that went last time? – any more than Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s enthusiasm for the Coalition’s Emissions Reduction Fund which, as everyone knows, is about as effective as an ashtray on a motorbike. …….

If you thought Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg was on thin ice spruiking the benefits of coal for the third world – asserting, I kid you not, that coal will reduce air pollution – then the Australian coal lobby recently dispensed with reason altogether by claiming, in the wake of the Paris climate agreement, that “coal will play a part in reducing emissions globally”……..

Let’s not forget that in the lead up to the last election, the Coalition snared $1.8 million from companies in favour of a carbon price repeal. Mining industry executives – who are drawn, with disturbing regularity, from the ranks of former politicians and political staffers – would, no doubt, be similarly disgruntled. ……

The world’s largest privately-owned coal producer, Peabody Energy, may have recently filed for bankruptcy protection amid a slump in global demand and tighter environmental regulation, but our political leaders are resolutely peddling a narrative on the merits of Australian coal that could have been drafted by the Minerals Council of Australia. Who knows, maybe it was?

June 29, 2016 Posted by | election 2016 | Leave a comment

Politics and the Nuclear Waste Importing Plan

Risks, ethics and consent: Australia shouldn’t become the world’s nuclear wasteland, The Conversation, ,  Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, UNSW Australia, June 28, 2016 

In a country that is divided about nuclear power and where the annual economic value of uranium exports is a modest A$622 million (roughly equal to Australia’s cheese exports), the origin of the nuclear waste proposal is puzzling and inevitably involves speculation.

BHP-on-Aust-govtHowever, one could suggest the political influence of BHP-Billiton, owner of Olympic Dam in South Australia, Australia’s largest uranium mine and the second-largest in the world, and Rio Tinto, owner of the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory.

A global nuclear waste site would lock future generations of Australians into an industry that is dangerous and very expensive. It’s unlikely to gain social consent from Indigenous Australians, or indeed the majority of all Australians. Given the risks, it would be wise not to proceed.

June 29, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

The (anti-nuclear) Lizard dances in Adelaide

Lizards-revenge1Zombie dance protest against nuclear industry, in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall   By Claire Campbell Anti-nuclear campaigners dressed as “zombie mine workers” have taken their message to shoppers in Adelaide’s busy Rundle Mall.

Dancing to the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, they rallied against nuclear energy use in Australia and a planned expansion of the outback Olympic Dam uranium mine near Roxby Downs.

Protestor Izzy Brown said South Australia needed to reject proposals that it expand its role in the nuclear fuel cycle. “We’re trying to raise awareness about the dangers of radiation, especially as South Australia is facing an expansion of the nuclear industry,” she said.

“There’s a threat of a national and international waste dump, Roxby wants to expand its uranium mining as well. “So we wanted to get out on the streets of Adelaide. The flash mob is just one small piece of a very big artistic theatrical theme.”

The protest group, the Desert Liberation Front, has dubbed its latest campaign, The Lizard Bites Back. An earlier protest at Olympic Dam four years ago saw police and protesters clash as some broke through a perimeter fence of the mine.

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Opposition to nuclear, South Australia | Leave a comment

Brexit, Climate Change, and Inter-generational theft

The inter-generational theft of Brexit and climate change, Skeptical Science,  27 June 2016 by dana1981

In last week’s Brexit vote results, there was a tremendous divide between age groups. 73% of voters under the age of 25 voted to remain in the EU, while about 58% over the age of 45 voted to leave.

This generational gap is among the many parallels between Brexit and climate change. A 2014 poll found that 74% of Americans under the age of 30 support government policies to cut carbon pollution, as compared to just 58% of respondents over the age of 40, and 52% over the age of 65.

Inter-generational theft

The problem is of course that younger generations will have to live with the consequences of the decisions we make today for much longer than older generations. Older generations in developed countries prospered as a result of the burning of fossil fuels for seemingly cheap energy. Continue reading

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Risky Economics of South Australia’s Nuclear Waste Importing Plan

Diesendorf-MarkRisks, ethics and consent: Australia shouldn’t become the world’s nuclear wasteland, The Conversation, ,  Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, UNSW Australia, June 28, 2016 Last month the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission recommended that the state government develop a business venture to store a large fraction of the world’s high- and intermediate-level nuclear power station wastes in South Australia. It proposes to do this by first building an interim above-ground store, to be followed by permanent underground repository.

But the commission’s recommendation is based on several debatable assumptions, including:

  • an economic analysis that purports to show huge profits with negligible commercial risk
  • the notion that social consent could be gained by “careful, considered and detailed technical work”
  • the argument that Australia, as a net exporter of energy, has an ethical responsibility to help other countries lower their carbon emissions by means of nuclear power.

I have analysed critically these and other assumptions of the royal commission in a scholarly paper published in the international journal Energy Research and Social Science.

Risky economics

The commission’s economic analysis rests on the heroic assumption that customers would, upon delivery of their nuclear wastes to South Australia, pay up-front for both interim above-ground storage andpermanent underground storage. This would be up to 17 years before the underground repository has actually been built. The estimated total payment would be about A$1.75 million per tonne of heavy metal (tHM) for storing possibly 138,000 tHM in total.

However, this ignores the huge financial risk to the government and taxpayers in the following scenario: the SA government builds the initial facilities – port, underground research and an interim above-ground storage – at a cost of about A$3 billion. Commencing in year 11, customers deliver their nuclear wastes in dry casks, but pay initially only for the costs of interim storage of the casks, declining to pay for geological storage until the underground repository has been built and becomes operational in year 28.

Despite the royal commission’s claim that the government would not develop the project under these conditions, the government could be influenced to accept the wastes by pressure, both positive and negative, from overseas governments, multinational corporations and/or internal politics.

Then, after a large quantity of nuclear waste has been placed into interim storage in SA, the government might not proceed with the geological storage, costing an extra A$38 billion, for technical, political or financial reasons.

A similar situation occurred in the United States with the termination of funding for the Yucca Mountain repository after US$13.5 billion had already been spent.

In this scenario, SA would be locked into managing a large number of dry casks, designed only for interim storage and located above ground, which will gradually erode and leak their dangerous contents over several decades. The physical hazards and the corresponding financial burden on future generations of all Australians would be substantial.

In this scenario, it would also be risky for customers who relied upon it and so failed to provide their own domestic geological repository………

June 29, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia | Leave a comment

Brexit vote – finishing off UK’s Hinkley nuclear plan?

text Hinkley cancelledflag-UKBrexit vote is ‘final nail in the coffin’ for £18billion Hinkley Point nuclear power station plans, says energy expert

Brexit vote could spell end for long-delayed Hinkley power station project
Energy expert Dr Paul Dorfman voiced concerns about £18billion scheme
He said French-owned EDF ‘extremely unlikely’ to invest in current climate
Dorfman said there were too many political uncertainties for the company

By STEPHANIE LINNING and SAM TONKIN FOR MAILONLINE, 29 June 2016 The UK’s Brexit vote is the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for an £18billion project to build a new power station at Hinkley Point, a leading energy expert says.

Dr Paul Dorfman, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Energy Institute, University College London, said EDF, a majority French-owned company, is ‘extremely unlikely’ to invest given the current economic climate.

The long-delayed project was due to have Hinkley Point power station producing 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity by 2017. But, if built, the earliest date it could now start doing so is 2025.

Even that looks a remote possibility according to Dr Dorfman, who told MailOnline Brexit was ‘the final nail in the coffin’ for Hinkley Point.

He said: ‘It gives everybody the chance to slip out without losing any more face.

‘How is France going to invest in the UK if the UK is no longer part of the union?

‘Not only that but the French nuclear industry has huge financial problems and unions are screaming that they don’t want it [Hinkley Point].’

Dr Dorfman, a member of the European Nuclear Energy Forum, also believes the knock-on effect would see plans for a third reactor at Sizewell power station in Suffolk ditched too.

‘If Hinkley fails, which it will do, then Sizewell will go the same way.’ he said. ‘That will have serious implications for the UK energy industry.’……..

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Queensland approves all environmental activity applicants despite ‘disqualifying events’ ‘An independent review has raised se

rious questions about the system for registering people and companies for sensitive environmental activities in Queensland.
Key points:
– Applicants were approved despite leaving questions unanswered, missing documents
– Environmental lawyer describes the process as “sloppy”
– The Environment Department says it helps applicants fix applications
The ABC can reveal that not a single applicant has been denied “suitable operator” status
since the system was brought in three years ago, despite instances of missing paperwork,
inadequate information, and applications containing “disqualifying events”.’
‘Concerns over #Adani port expansion prompted review … 
Background check ‘ignores foreign offences’ … ‘
Exclusive by the National Reporting Team’s Mark Willacy | ABC News

June 29, 2016 Posted by | politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

Social Consent and South Australia’s Nuclear Waste Import Plan

Risks, ethics and consent: Australia shouldn’t become the world’s nuclear wasteland, The Conversation, ,  Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, UNSW Australia, June 28, 2016 

“…….Aware that Australians are divided on the nuclear industry, the royal commission acknowledges that gaining “social consent warrants much greater attention than the technical issues during planning and development”.

Then, on the same page of its report, it postulates that community support could be gained by “careful, considered and detailed technical work”. It thus creates the false impression that all social and ethical concerns can be reduced to technical issues.

Ultimately, gaining social consent is a socio-political struggle that draws only slightly on research and education on science, technology and economics. This is demonstrated by current debate in Australia on climate science, in which citizens are influenced by a print media that in many cases is biased towards denial, and a Coalition government that contains several vocal climate sceptics

Indigenous Australians have successfully opposed for 20 years an above-ground dump for low-level national nuclear waste on their land at Muckaty in the Northern Territory. Indigenous communities are already mobilising, together with environmentalists, to resist very strongly any development of intermediate- and high-level repositories in South Australia. The social impacts of a low-level waste dump are bad enough, but would be dwarfed by the social, physical and financial impacts of a high-level waste repository…….”

June 29, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, opposition to nuclear, politics | Leave a comment

Canberra’s community- owned solar farm to be largest in Australia

text-community-energy‘Largest community-owned’ solar farm in Australia taking root in Canberra vineyard June 28, 2016  Canberra Times reporter There are two reasons Canberra’s David Osmond puts his money into solar panels rather than stockpiling it in the bank.

“The returns are better plus it’s going towards a cause I’m very passionate about,” he said.

The latest solar project Mr Osmond will invest in will be the largest community-owned solar farm in Australia – and it will be right here in Canberra.

Mr Osmond is one of the first investors in the SolarShare Community Energy Majura Solar Farm, a $3 million solar plant that, when built, will generate enough electricity to power 250 Canberra homes.

SolarShare project leader Lawrence McIntosh said more than 5000 solar panels will be mounted on three hectares leased from the Mount Majura Vineyard, producing 1.9GWh of electricity each year.

“Wine grapes are best grown on slopes, which leaves the flatter land at the bottom of the valley with not much interest for grape growing but great for a solar project,” he said.

While only 5 per cent of the size of the Royalla Solar Farm south of Canberra, this one will be owned by the community, investors pledging $50 to $10,000 each towards its construction and maintenance.

About 400 people have registered as investors so far and more are being welcomed, Mr McIntosh said.

The flagship farm is predicted to earn more than $360,000 a year in revenue from selling electricity to the energy networks, its profits shared among the project’s investors…….

June 29, 2016 Posted by | ACT, solar | Leave a comment

Australian SILEX laser uranium enrichment process has weapon sproliferation danger

Laser uranium enrichment technology may create new proliferation risks, Science Daily, June 27, 2016 Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

A new laser-based uranium enrichment technology may provide a hard-to-detect pathway to nuclear weapons production, according to a forthcoming paper in the journalScience & Global Security by Ryan Snyder, a physicist with Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.
One example of this new third-generation laser enrichment technique may be the separation of isotopes by laser excitation (SILEX) process which was originally developed in Australia and licensed in 2012 for commercial-scale deployment in the United States to the Global Laser Enrichment consortium led by General Electric-Hitachi. Research on the relevant laser systems is also currently ongoing in Russia, India and China.

The paper explains the basic physics of the new uranium separation concept, which relies on the selective laser excitation and condensation repression of uranium-235 in a gas. It also estimates the key laser performance requirements and possible operating parameters for a single enrichment unit and how a cascade of such units could be arranged into an enrichment plant able to produce weapon-grade highly enriched uranium.

Using plausible assumptions, the paper shows how a covert laser enrichment plant sized to make one bomb’s worth of weapon-grade material a year could use less space and energy than a similar scale plant based on almost all current centrifuge designs, the most efficient enrichment technology in use today. The results suggest a direct impact on detection methods that use size or energy use as plant footprints……..

June 29, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Yes Virginia, Solar Power CAN get space probe to Jupiter

Juno spacecraft demonstrates viability of solar power in deep space, Enformable, Karl Grossman 27 Jun 2016 What NASA insisted for decades could not be­a spacecraft using solar energy rather than nuclear power going beyond the orbit of Mars­will be proven false next Monday, July 4th, Independence Day, when the solar-energized Juno space probe arrives at Jupiter.NASA had maintained that to provide on-board power and heat on spacecraft in deep space, plutonium-powered systems were required­despite the disaster if there were an accident on launch or in a fall back to Earth and the plutonium was released. I broke the story 30 years ago about how the next mission of NASA’s ill-fated Challenger shuttle was to involve lofting a plutonium-powered space probe and I have been reporting in articles, books and on television on the nuclear-in-space issue ever since.

If the Challenger accident did not happen in January 1986 but the shuttle exploded on its next scheduled mission, in May 1986, with the plutonium-powered space probe in its cargo bay, the impacts could have been enormous. Plutonium is the most lethal of all radioactive substances.

Still, when NASA re-scheduled the two plutonium-powered missions it had planned for 1986­one the Galileo mission to Jupiter­it not only publicly declared that plutonium systems to provide on-board power for space probes in deep space were necessary but swore to that in court.

Opponents of the Galileo mission brought suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. in 1989 seeking to stop the nuclear-energized Galileo shot because of its public health danger in the event of an accident, and they pressed NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the availability of a safe energy alternative.  NASA and DOE officials swore that only nuclear power would do that far out in space, that solar energy could not be harvested beyond the orbit of Mars.

And now comes NASA’s own Juno spacecraft energized by solar energy functioning in deep space. Indeed, NASA acknowledges, “This is the first time in history a spacecraft is using solar power so far out in space.”……

“Just like here on Earth there is a tug-of-war going on between those who wish to promote life-giving solar power and those who want nukes. That same battle for nuclear domination is being taken into the heavens by an industry that wants more profit­no matter the consequences. The Global Network will continue to organize around the space nuclear power issue by building a global constituency opposed to the risky and unnecessary nukes in space program.” –  Gagnon, coordinator of The Global Network —Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

With solar-energized Juno’s arrival at Jupiter, this Independence Day should mark a blow for independence from dangerous nuclear power above our heads in space.

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Ethics of the Nuclear Waste Import Plan

Ethics - nuclear 1Risks, ethics and consent: Australia shouldn’t become the world’s nuclear wasteland. The Conversation, ,  Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, UNSW Australia, June 28, 2016 

“……..One of the assumptions underlying the royal commission’s ethical argument is that nuclear power will continue to be a low-carbon energy source.

However, the life-cycle CO₂ emissions from conventional nuclear power will increase greatly as high-grade uranium ore is used up and low-grade ore is mined and milled with fossil fuels. This limitation could be avoided only if mining and milling are done with renewable energy or if new fuel is produced in fast breeder reactors, but neither of these options appears likely on a commercial scale within the next 20 years.

Second, the royal commission assumes that those countries that lack sufficient indigenous renewable energy cannot be supplied by trade of renewable electricity via transmission lines or renewable liquid and gaseous fuels delivered by tanker. After all, countries that lack fossil fuels or uranium are supplied by sea trade.

Third, it assumes that it is ethically a good thing to foster the expansion of an energy technology that has risks with huge potential adverse impacts, possibly comparable in magnitude to those of global climate change.

The risk with the highest impacts could be its contribution to the proliferation of nuclear weapons (for details see the Nuclear Weapon Archive and chapter 6 of Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change) and hence the likelihood of nuclear war that could cause a nuclear winter……..

June 29, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | Leave a comment