Australian news, and some related international items

Climate and nuclear news to Sept 3rd

a-cat-CANNUCLEAR.  It is generally acknowledged that the risk of nuclear war is greater right now than it was at the height of the Cold War, and that includes the risk of a nuclear war started by accident.  Some “nuclear umbrella” States feel trapped by their nuclear weapons protection.

CLIMATE. It is also becoming acknowledged that the tipping point is approaching, might even be upon us already. Unprecedented pace of global climate change – NASA. $8.8 Trillion Climate Tab left for next generation, if climate “business as usual”.

Governments, media, the public still see these issues in terms of “national interest”, but haven’t made that necessary leap of understanding that demands a global  collaborative approach. Pope Francis gets it. So do those most sober and deliberative of scientists – geologists. At the  International Geological Congress in Cape Town, on 29th August, an official expert group recommended that a new geological epoch be defined – the Anthropocene epoch.  Human impact on Earth is so profound that the most recent epoch, the 12,000 year Holocene, must give way to an epoch defined by nuclear tests, environmental pollution, and changing climate. The most appropriate commencement marker would be the spread of radioactive elements from the nuclear bomb tests beginning in 1950s.


CLIMATE We Aussies are so mad keen to be TOPP, of anything. If we couldn’t top the gold medal tally at the Olympics, well, we’ve managed to top the list of the worst performer on climate change, in every category!. That”s the Australian score from Climate Transparency‘s comprehensive assessment of nations’ climate policies before the G20 summit in China.

The Turnbull government is celebrating this international leadership at the bottom, by gutting the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.   This will mean scuppering the solar power industry, and the loss of many jobs, including from CSIRO, and also a damper on the Australian Capital Territory‘s (ACT’s) world-leading push towards 100% renewable energy. Turnbull has also appointed Craig Kelly MP, an outspoken climate denialist, as  chairman of the backbench environment and energy committee, that advises the government on environment and energy policies.

Still, there are some silver linings. In ACT the Liberals are backing the ACT government’s renewable energy targets! The Victorian government is banning  unconventional gas exploration – fracking and CSG extraction. In South Australia, a State-commissioned report recommends a transport revolution that would cut greenhouse gas emissions, and supply thousands of jobs.

NUCLEAR.  South Australia It all fizzes along, with the government’s propaganda forums not always turning out quite the way they wanted. Intrepid souls are attending, and asking awkward questions. This site shows the progress at some forums.  The government arranged a secret one for schoolchildren and teachers – secret in order to protect them from anti nuclear activists, (such a dangerous species!)   Meanwhile the nuclear-free movement organises its own educational forums. 

Federal govt slashes safety checks at Ranger uranium mine. Uranium miner ERA forced to cut its assets value.

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Christina reviews | 1 Comment

Geothermal energy – not necessarily renewable, nor environmentally benign.

Dennis Matthews, 3 Sept 16 It’s important to understand that what companies such as Geodynamics, and organisations like the SA Centre for Geothermal Energy Research at Adelaide Uni have been trying to do is a special sort of geothermal energy, commonly known as “Hot Rocks”. This type of geothermal energy is not renewable in the normal sense of the word, and it is not environmentally benign.

Hot Rocks geothermal requires the expenditure of large amounts of energy to drill 5km underground and to pump liquid under pressure in order to fracture rocks (fracking) 5 km underground. for which it uses a large amount of water to do this.

geothermal energy hot rocks

In SA, where most of the hot rocks projects were being pursued, the eventual market for the electricity would have been mining companies especially uranium mines such as Roxby Downs and Beverley. This is no coincidence. The rocks are hot, not because of heat from the earths interior, but because they are radioactive.

By fracking the radioactive rocks and pumping water through them, radioactive radon gas is released and the water becomes radioactive through a host of radioactive isotopes that have built up over millions of years. In principle, during operation the water is not released to the environment but this is the ideal scenario. Accidents and maintenance work is highly likely to rel;lease radioactive water. The water used in fracking is not recycled. I assume it is put into tailings dams and allowed to evaporate leaving behind a concentrated radioactive waste. Often this occurs in areas, such as near the Cooper, which are subject to flash flooding.

Each hot rocks site has a very limited life (approx 20 years), because the rate of heat replacement is much less than the rate of extraction. This means that the project has to constantly move from one set of 5km holes and the exhausted holes will not be viable for “many hundreds of years”. This is not renewable energy. Growing trees for biomass is quicker. Solar is instantaneous in the sense that the sun is essentially an infinite source of energy; using solar energy in no way diminishes the amount available.

Despite several attempts, I was never able to get an answer on the energy payback time, or on greenhouse gas emissions and payback time, or water consumption. For the last 20 years these projects have been powered by govt subsidised diesel and have received very generous Govt funding, both State and Federal, including for the Centre for Geothermal Energy Research. Up to April 2010, public funding totalled approx $300 million.

When these projects were first proposed with backing from the SA mines and energy dept I publicly stated that they were economically and environmentally risky. I see no reason to now change that position.

September 3, 2016 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

Unions ready to oppose South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill on nuclear waste dump plans

Weatherill nuclear dreamUnions ready to dump on Jay Off the Record: SA’s home of political, business and legal gossip Advertiser September 2, 2016 POWERFUL forces within the Labor movement are bracing for an intense union campaign against Premier Jay Weatherill if he goes ahead with plans for a high-level nuclear waste dump.

Off the Record can reveal some are talking about a repeat of the union campaign against Mike Rann, which boiled over in 2010 when he needed a police escort through protesters at Labor’s state conference.

Labor figures have drawn our attention to Maritime Union of Australia state secretary Jamie Newlyn’s public backing of the No Dump Alliance, a broad coalition of environmentalists, indigenous groups and academics.

Newlyn, also SA Unions president, says on the group’s website that the MUA has “a long history of opposing expansion of the nuclear industry including nuclear waste dumps”.

“We fear that the economic assumptions pale in insignificance to the unknown safety and environmental implications of such plans,” says Newlyn.

Wharfies clearly would be required to unload any imported high-level waste, so the union’s support would be critical.

SA Unions vice-president (women) and nurses’ union state secretary Elizabeth Dabars also is backing the anti-dump campaigners, ambiguously declaring her union is pleased “to join the No Dump Alliance to actively participate in community debate on this very important issue for the South Australian community”.

Rann discovered, to his peril, the risks of putting off-side powerful union leaders, such as Australian Workers’ Union state secretary (now president)Wayne Hanson. The AWU, however, is said to be more onside with the dump, because of the potential for jobs and investment.

Perhaps Weatherill will have to worry about his hitherto smooth relations with the union movement being disrupted when he delivers, by the end of the year, the government’s response to the nuclear royal commission.

September 3, 2016 Posted by | politics, South Australia, wastes | Leave a comment

Danger of transporting nuclear wastes from one country to another

antnuke-relevantFury over “dangerous” nuclear flights from the Highlands to US, Aberdeen Press and Journal 2 September 2016 by Iain Ramage Road around Wick Airport will be regularly shut over the next 18 months so nuclear waste can be taken be flown to the US. Plans to transport highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Dounreay in Caithness to the US emerged late last year.

Airplane danger

Politicians and activists have condemned the move, warning that flying the material is excessively dangerous.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has remained silent on the issue, but an £18million upgrade of the airport was recently carried out to make it suitable for larger planes.

And, now Highland Council has published a road closure order which reveals minor routes around the airport will be closed over the coming months. The closures could happen at any time from today, and will last up to five hours each time.

A spokeswoman at Dounreay said she could neither confirm nor deny that nuclear waste from the redundant power station would be flown from Wick.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed earlier this year, after talks with President Obama, that it was the UK’s intention to transport uranium from Dounreay to the South Carolina. It will be swapped for other forms of uranium to be shipped to Europe which, it is believed, will be used in producing medical isotopes.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross SNP MP Paul Monaghan has described the deal to transport the waste by plane “morally reprehensible”.  And Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie last night said many people would be surprised to find out about the road closures – but that the disruption was nothing compared to the risks involved with flying the waste.

“Many will be astonished that it is considered appropriate to move, let alone fly, this waste material from Dounreay,” he said. “The local disruption is nothing compared to the risks any transit poses. This waste should be retained at Dounreay.”

The council’s local area leader Gillian Coghill said: “We were not briefed about this, which is absolutely shocking……….

Independent nuclear consultant John Large raised concerns about the transport of the material. He said if there was an accident it would involve an extremely vulnerable and potentially radiologically significant material. “The radiological consequences of even a relatively small amount of this material would be very serious,” he said.

“In terms of nuclear safety, the International Atomic Energy Agency recognises that the transportation of radioactive materials is the one at most risk and is most prone and vulnerable to terrorist attack.

“The risk in transport by aircraft is the fuel being engulfed in fire, the packages breaking down and the fuel igniting.”

Mr Large added that it was incumbent on Dounreay to provide sufficient information for the public to come to an informed judgement about the move. “It doesn’t matter whether the material is for civil or military stock, it presents the same risk,” he said.

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

30 mayors from megacities urge G20 climate change action

climate SOSSadiq Khan and megacity mayors urge G20 climate change action,

30 mayors from cities including London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, New York, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro call for rapid ratification of Paris climate deal,  London Mayor Sadiq Khan has joined forces with city leaders from around the world to call on governments to take urgent action on climate change.

Ahead of a meeting of the G20 group of leading nations in Hangzhou, China, 30 mayors from cities including London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, New York, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro called on national leaders to work with them to “build a low carbon, climate safe world”. Continue reading

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Krill Are Disappearing from Antarctic Waters

 marine-food-chainWhales, seals and penguins could be hurting as this tiny creature–fundamental to the food web–declines, Scientific American By Andrea ThompsonClimate Central on August 29, 2016 

They may be small, but krill—tiny, shrimp-like creatures—play a big role in the Antarctic food chain. As climate change warms the Southern Ocean and alters sea ice patterns, though, the area of Antarctic water suitable for krill to hatch and grow could drop precipitously, a new study finds. Continue reading

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Carbon neutral plan for Adelaide transport would supply 20,000 jobs

climate-change20,000 jobs tipped if Adelaide spends big on tram network, plug-in hybrid cars to be carbon-neutral city  September 2, 2016 A RADICAL plan to make Adelaide the world’s first carbon-neutral city could create more than 20,000 jobs, a State Government-commissioned report says.Engineering company Siemens has presented a range of options that could help Adelaide reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2025, including heavy investment in public transport to reduce private car use.

The report, released on Friday, says spending $4.9 billion on public transport infrastructure, including six new tram lines, could create 21,000 full-time equivalent jobs and reduce car use as a share of annual passenger kilometres by 20 per cent.

A less expensive option would be to create incentives for more drivers to use low-emission vehicles, including plug-in hybrid cars.

A $1.4 billion outlay would create 5600 full-time equivalent jobs but would provide a greater return on investment, reducing Adelaide’s transport-related emissions by up to 47 per cent.

“From a 50-50 split in 2015, emissions in the building sector will drop to 33 per cent, with 67 per cent of emissions accruing from transportation,” the report says. “The city will increasingly need to tackle its transport emissions to meet its targets.”

Incentives to encourage greater use of electric cars could include free public parking, exemptions from one-off purchase fees and the freedom to use dedicated bus lanes, all of which have been implemented in Norway. Electric car owners could also receive grants and streamlined permits to install their own charging stations or a reimbursement of energy recharging costs.

Premier Jay Weatherill said the report would add to the debate on ways to reduce emissions, adding that previous efforts to green the state had not constrained economic growth. “We’ve demonstrated that you can cut your emissions and at the same time grow your economy,” he told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia briefing. “These two things are not mutually exclusive.”

September 3, 2016 Posted by | efficiency, South Australia | Leave a comment

Tepco admits that Fukushima ice wall is not working, now damaged by typhoon

ice-wall-FukushimaIce Wall at Fukushima Daiichi damaged by recent typhoons in Japan Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has announced that the “ice wall” (formally known as the “Land-Side Impermeable Wall”) under construction at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has been critically affected by rainfall from recent typhoons that have melted parts of the ice structure, allowing new pathways for highly contaminated water to leak from the basements of the reactor buildings.

The “ice wall” is an underground wall of frozen dirt 100 feet deep and nearly a mile long designed by the utility to divert groundwater from entering the reactor buildings and mixing with the contaminated water therein.  The ice wall was built by installing 100 foot-long pipes into the ground at three-foot intervals and filling them with a supercooled brine solution.  The Japanese utility has had to admit that the $335 million wall of frozen soil and water is not working as designed.
TEPCO announced that contaminated water was able to escape from the reactor buildings through the gaps in the ice wall that had melted from the rainfall and likely reached the Pacific Ocean.

Tokyo Electric will attempt to repair the melted portions of the ice wall by adding additional refrigerant into the underground pipes.

TEPCO has had to repeatedly address issues with the ice wall project, including an announcement in the spring of 2016 that one of the sections had not yet fully frozen.

Experts have warned that the ice wall, being electrically powered, is just as susceptible to damage from natural disasters as the nuclear power plant itself.

“The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing. They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plant,” said Yoshinori Kitsutaka, a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University.

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Polarised views on climate change in USA now worse than ever

global warming has joined God, guns, gays, and abortion as core elements of Republican identity, and this will be hard to change.”

cartoon-Tom-Toro-Americans Now More Politically Polarized On Climate Change Than Ever Before, Analysis Finds  September 2016  This is a re-post from DeSmogBlog by Graham Readfearn

American voters and politicians are now more polarized than ever before across all aspects of climate change  — from the cause, to the science and the impacts — a major new analysis has found.

Campaigns funded by vested fossil fuel interests and pushed by a network of ideological think tanks, many linked to the oil billionaire Koch brothers, have helped to widen the gap, pushing Republican politicians, elites and voters away from action ongreenhouse gas emissions.

Tracking Gallup opinion poll surveys going back to 2001 and congress voting patterns from 1970 onwards, the analysis authors warn that as the November election approaches, Americans are faced with a stark political choice.

The analysis is published in the respected journal Environment and comes from sociologists Associate Professor Aaron McCright of Michigan State University, Professor Riley Dunlap of Oklahoma State University, and PhD researcher Jerrod Yarosh also at Oklahoma.

The researchers found the widest gaps between Democrats and Republicans come when they are asked about the causes of climate change and if the media exaggerates the seriousness of the issue. Continue reading

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pope Francis calls global action to save the environment

PopeThe Guardian view on Pope Francis: an unlikely voice for the environment, Guardian, 2 Sept 16  Editorial We need more than enlightened self interest to save the planet  It is less than a week since the International Geological Conference declared that we should recognise that we entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, in around 1950. The changes that we have made to the planet are now irreversible and their effects will continue for millennia to come. None the less, this may prove to be the shortest of all geological epochs, since there is no guarantee that humans, who made it, will survive the results of their own activity.

Not for the last 2.5bn years or so, since the cyanobacteria filled the earth’s atmosphere with free oxygen, poisonous to almost every other form of life at the time, has any one species had such an effect on the environment as we have done. But we are not bacteria. We are the only species capable of reflecting on our impact. We have moral agency. We can foresee the likely consequences of our actions, consider them, and then make choices. In relation to the environment, these choices have frequently been wrong and show little sign of being right in time to save us from very large and damaging climate change.

The problem is a classic one of game theory and it is one that liberal democracies are ill-fitted to handle. Trust and co-operation would lead to the best result for everyone, but each player or nation state will benefit more in the short term from a policy of selfishness and treachery. The shortness of electoral cycles in the rich world means that almost all governments need economic growth today, whatever the cost to be repaid with cruel interest in the future. That will be someone else’s problem, just as the effects of climate change now appear to be someone else’s problem, until these other people start fleeing war, starvation and disease and turn up at the edges of the richer world.

Climate change is a global problem, and it can only be countered by some kind of global consciousness and a sense of the common good that embraces the whole of humanity. This is where the efforts of the world religions become important. …….

Enter Pope Francis, who has swung the weight of his papacy behind the environmental movement in an unprecedented way. He is not alone. All of the organised world religions now have a strong environmental consciousness. All of them are affected. To be a world religion is by definition to have adherents among both the unimaginably poor and the unimaginably wealthy. However, Pope Francis has devoted considerable effort and political capital to the attempt to construct a coherent theory that can show how damage to our environment also harms us, and not just our hypothetical descendants. This really matters. Self-interest will only work to the common benefit if it is understood that we ourselves are mutually dependent creatures who harm ourselves when we harm one another…….

what his latest initiative imaginatively suggests. Care for the environment is henceforth to be considered by faithful Catholics as a “work of mercy” – what the outside world would call a charitable act. They are called to “a grateful contemplation of God’s world” as a spiritual discipline, but also to the kind of small, slightly inconvenient gestures like recycling, using public transport, or even just turning off unneeded lights, which by themselves are almost meaningless, but when practised by billions of people make a real and very necessary change.

All of these, he says, are to be understood as “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness”; and while the world undoubtedly needs huge and dramatic actions to break the cycle of exploitation and climate change, it also needs ordinary people to play their part with just such simple acts.

September 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Senate calls on Coalition to rule out financing Adani’s Carmichael coalmine

coal CarmichaelMine2Greens motion also calls on government to rule out publicly funding any of the mine’s associated infrastructure ~ Michael Slezak @MikeySlezak 1 September 2016

“The government is under increasing pressure to rule out public funding for Adani’s Carmichael coalmine, after the Senate passed a Greens motion calling on the Coalition to rule out financing the mine or any associated infrastructure.

“The government did not oppose the motion, so it was carried without a formal count on Thursday.

Larissa Waters, the Australian Greens deputy leader and mining spokesperson, said:

“Australia must not spend public money propping up a project that more than a dozen private banks have refused to finance, especially while this government is trying to cut $1bn from clean energy.” … ”


September 3, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment