Australian news, and some related international items

When will Premier Weatherill admit that the nuclear bonanza is a really bad idea.

Margaret Beavis: Claims South Australia will make a fortune out of nuclear waste are just Weatherill,-Jay-wastesan illusion Margaret Beavis, The Advertiser September 13, 2016 THE acclaim around the pot of gold to be made importing nuclear waste into South Australia increasingly feels more like an illusion.There are so many invisible parts making up this story, it is probably only a matter of time before Premier Jay Weatherill finds the courage to say the nuclear bonanza is a really bad idea.

So what are these invisible items?

Firstly, there are no high level nuclear waste facilities anywhere in the world. None. Anywhere.

Both Germany’s efforts have leaked radiation into the water table, and they are currently spending billions pulling the waste out again.

WIPPIn Nevada, the US government has spent over US$10 billion building a site, only to find multiple problems including deliberately falsified data about the water table, and massive community opposition. It will never open. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico closed two years ago after a fire and later an explosion exposed 22 workers and contaminated the whole site. Official investigation found cost cutting, corner cutting and human error was to blame, with a “loss of safety culture”.

The high level nuclear sites in Sweden and Finland were described by the recent Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in South Australia as “successful”.

These locations have been researched for 40 years, and will not even start taking waste for at least another six years and, in the Swedish case, well over a decade. It is easy to succeed when there is no radioactive stuff to actually deal with.

 Secondly, the health impacts, so minimised by the Royal Commission, are real – and in the worst case potentially catastrophic.

body-rad1For the last forty years we have counselled pregnant women to avoid X-rays as we know their babies have much higher rates of leukemia.

Evidence from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from vast human trials literally involving hundreds of thousands of nuclear workers to research about Cat scans and nuclear heart scans, all point to significant harms with additional radiation.

There is no evidence of a safe lower dose; the higher the exposure the higher the risk.

And recent large research trial found rates of stroke and heart attack are also increased.

There is a good reason why countries want so badly to be rid of this material, which is toxic for over 100,000 years.

Thirdly, we have nowhere to put it.

The plan is to import it, and then find some poor remote community to take it.

The problem with that theory is that for almost twenty years the government has been looking for a site for Australia’s own intermediate level waste, without success.

handsoffAboriginal communities have been disproportionately targeted. We clearly already have more nuclear waste than we know what to do with.

Finally the promised billions, so pivotal to the whole proposal, are risky.

They have been modelled by a firm that works in this area and has potentially a strong vested interest in this venture going ahead

They have not allowed for potential competition, which would massively reduce the prices paid. They have included countries like Ukraine as clients, when Ukraine is looking into building its own facility at Chernobyl.

They have included countries like Bangladesh, which does not even have a reactor yet.

nukes-sad-And it has made assumptions about the viability of the nuclear power industry, when plants in places like the US are closing down as they cannot compete financially.

Nuclear waste facilities are very expensive to build, and historically costs inevitably blow out. For example, in the current French waste construction project costs have doubled in the last decade.

There has been no independent financial modelling done by the government, which is extraordinary given the enormous financial risks and the extraordinary time frames.

And the income to cover the clean up — decommissioning and other costs — does not start until 2042.

In essence, this proposal is startling in its optimism.

The likely outcome if it goes ahead is a whole lot of highly toxic radioactive waste lasting for 100,000 years in South Australia, and billions of taxpayers’ money spent trying to find a way that works to get rid of it.

If it is such a financial bonanza, many countries would be racing to do it.

The reality is that a royal commission, lots of clever marketing, 100 consultation sites and a couple of citizens’ juries still don’t make this a smart idea.

Margaret Beavis is president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War

September 14, 2016 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia | Leave a comment

Scientists can now define how ionising radiation causes cancer

This is the first time that scientists have been able to define the damage caused to DNA by ionising radiation.


highly-recommendedStudy reveals how ionising radiation damages DNA and causes cancer    September 12, 2016 For the first time, researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and their collaborators have been able to identify in human cancers two characteristic patterns of DNA damage caused by ionising radiation. These fingerprint patterns may now enable doctors to identify which tumours have been caused by radiation, and investigate if they should be treated differently.

Published in Nature Communications today, the results will also help to explain how radiation can cause cancer.

Ionising radiation, such as gamma rays, X-rays and radioactive particles can cause cancer by damaging DNA. However, how this happens, or how many tumours are caused by radiation damage has not been known. Continue reading

September 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is Australina government secretly planning nuclear submarines?

submarine,-nuclear-underwatDick Smith questions submarine project, says plans are ‘ludicrous’ and ‘we’re being conned’ 891 ABC Adelaide, 14 Sept 16

A group of prominent businessmen, including Dick Smith and John Singleton, have taken out a full-page ad in The Australian newspaper, suggesting the public is being conned over the submarine project.

French company DCNS won the $50 billion contract to build Australia’s next fleet of 12 submarines in Adelaide, which will replace the current Collins Class fleet. The company won the contract to build a modified version of its nuclear submarine, called the Shortfin Barracuda.

The Australian Government stipulated that the winning contract would need to use conventional power, ruling out larger, nuclear-powered submarines. The lead up to the submarine contract has involved election promises, business and political campaigns and lots of speculation.

Mr Smith said the re-designed version of the submarine would have to be converted to a diesel engine.

But he told 891 ABC Adelaide that was a ludicrous plan and he believed it would never happen.

“So the plan is for us to buy a nuclear submarine design and then convert it to a piston submarine,” he said. “Now no-one has ever done that in the world and in fact when I talk to submarine experts they say it is so ridiculous, so we’re being conned.”

Mr Smith said if the Government’s real agenda was to use nuclear technology, it should be up front about it……….

More details on subs project needed: Xenophon  South Australia Senator Nick Xenophon said more detail about the submarines project was needed…..Senator Xenophon said he was concerned about the lack of certainty surrounding the project.

September 14, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South Australian govrenment sucked in by the Small Modular Nuclear Reactor lobby?

SMRs AustraliaThe SA Government’s “Energy Market Transition Plan”, obtained by Freedom of Information request, has revealed that prospects for small modular nuclear reactor deployment in South Australia have been explored.
SA government probes nuclear option as Premier Jay Weatherill promises cheaper power
7News Adelaide  September 7th
7 News can reveal a top level report clearly indicates small scale nuclear reactors have been on the short term radar. Mike Smithson reports

September 14, 2016 Posted by | South Australia, technology | Leave a comment

Corruption in Canadian nuclear reactor company SNC Lavalin

corruptionflag-canadaLiberals, Conservatives reimburse illegal SNC-Lavalin donations, ROBERT FIFE AND DANIEL LEBLANC OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail, Sep. 08, 2016 The federal Liberal and Conservative parties were forced to reimburse the government after the commissioner of elections found they had received $117,803 in illegal donations from SNC-Lavalin’s political slush fund. Continue reading

September 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another corruption in science – by the sugar industry lobby


How the Sugar Lobby Skewed Health Research Archival documents reveal how the sugar industry secretly funded heart disease research by Harvard professors, Time, Alexandra Sifferlin @acsifferlin Sept. 12, 2016 The sugar industry has a long history of skewing nutrition science, a new report suggests. By combing through archival documents from the 1950s and 1960s, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), report that the sugar industry sponsored research that turned attention away from the sweetener’s link to heart disease and toward fat and cholesterol as the bigger culprits.

The documents the researchers reviewed in their report, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, included correspondence between the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) and nutrition professors at the Harvard School of Public Health. The letters discussed the SRF’s effort to respond to growing research linking sugar to coronary heart disease.

In 1954, SRF then-president Henry Hass gave a speech to the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists that highlighted opportunities for the sugar industry to expand by encouraging people to adopt a low-fat diet. He said:

“Leading nutritionists are pointing out the chemical connection between [Americans’] high-fat diet and the formation of cholesterol which partly plugs our arteries and capillaries, restricts the flow of blood, and causes high blood pressure and heart trouble… if you put [the middle-aged man] on a low-fat diet, it takes just five days for the blood cholesterol to get down to where it should be… If the carbohydrate industries were to recapture this 20 percent of the calories in the US diet (the difference between the 40 percent which fat has and the 20 percent which it ought to have) and if sugar maintained its present share of the carbohydrate market, this change would mean an increase in the per capita consumption of sugar more than a third with a tremendous improvement in general health.”

What appears to have happened next were efforts by the SRF to increase skepticism over sugar’s link to heart troubles. In 1967, an SRF-funded report led by Harvard nutrition professors was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The report reviewed the available evidence that linked various nutrients to heart disease and argued that epidemiological and animal studies that linked sugar with heart disease were limited, and suggested the available science wasn’t up to snuff. The review also highlighted studies that linked saturated fat to heart problems, without the same critiques. The review was published in the journal without disclosing the sugar industry’s funding or role in making the study happen in the first place. (Later, in 1984, the NEJM began requiring disclosure of conflicts of interest.)……….

It’s not the first time researchers have found links between sugar industry connections and nutrition science. The same team of UCSF researchers behind the new study previously used sugar industry documents to reveal how advocacy groups influenced federal cavity prevention recommendations.

“What struck me was that I thought the evidence the researchers summarized in the review was stronger and more consistent for a sugar effect [on coronary heart disease] than for a fat effect,” says study author Stanton Glantz of UCSF. “No matter how good the evidence was linking sugar to heart disease, there was something wrong with it. But for fat, the evidence was fine. They set up a false dichotomy.”

In an editorial published alongside new study, Marion Nestle, a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU, writes that the Harvard professors who conducted the review knew what the funders wanted and provided those findings. “Whether they did this deliberately, unconsciously, or because they genuinely believed saturated fat to be the greater threat is unknown,” Nestle writes. “But science is not supposed to work this way. The documents make this review seem more about public relations than science.”………

See infographic at

September 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An expert witness to the Nuclear Citizens Jury – sceptical of the “economic bonanza”

scrutiny-on-wastes-sa-bankruptThe price is a guess; there is no market price for accepting dumped waste at the present time.

The cost of shipping the waste to South Australia seems also to be a notional allowance in Appendix J ($0.20m/tonne heavy metal). Where this comes from is not obvious.

far from being a financial bonanza, as proposed by the Royal Commission, the project could make minimal returns, and be a real distraction from alternative paths to the economic future of the state

The SA economy, the nuclear waste dump and democracy  Richard Blandy  INDaily, 12 Sept 16   ANALYSIS  As TV messages encourage South Australians to become informed about a proposed nuclear waste dump, Richard Blandy argues the project could prove a distraction from exploring alternative solutions to the state’s economic challenges.

Several times in recent days I have seen a brief message on our TV in which a South Australian mother advises her small daughter that everyone must become informed about the proposed high-level nuclear waste dump in the state. Her daughter looks suitably mystified.

No doubt this is part of the exercise in citizens’ democracy that is currently underway to determine whether there is a “social licence” to proceed with such a dump. Other elements in this process include two meetings of citizens’ juries (one of which has already been held), as well as citizens’ information meetings.

The TV message could have come from the satirical 1970 movie The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, in which conman Rimmer (Peter Cook) eventually becomes British Prime Minister. …….

my experience of the first citizens’ jury, which I attended as an expert witness on July 9, was very positive. I was invited principally as a result of my InDaily articles opposing the dump.

There was one other expert economics witness present questioning the economics of the dump: Rod Campbell, research director of the Australia Institute in Canberra.

Several of the expert witnesses present who supported the economics of the dump had been involved in undertaking the economic/financial analysis for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

The citizens’ jury operated as a free-flowing discussion rather than with set pieces presented by the witnesses followed by questions from the jurors. The issues are difficult and technical, but the jurors were great. They made me think that if I am ever in deep trouble with the law, I will always opt for trial by jury.

The 54 South Australian citizens on the jury were sensible, common-sense people who asked pertinent questions. They quite properly insisted that the business case for the dump should be made watertight – or the dump abandoned. Continue reading

September 14, 2016 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia, wastes | Leave a comment

Discord in nuclear submarine lobby

Businessmen lobby for nuclear subs, SEPTEMBER 13, 2016 Australian Associated Press A group of Australian businessmen is lobbying for Australia’s next fleet of submarines to be nuclear-powered and supplied by another country, warning the current deal to build the vessels in Australia will “condemn our sailors to their graves”.


The group says it can’t understand the federal government’s decision to award a multi-billion deal to French supplier DCNS, which will be required to deliver 12 diesel-powered submarines for which there are no drawings and no plans…….

The businessmen, including Dick Smith, Gary Johnston of Jaycar Electronics and ad man John Singleton took out a full-page advertisement in The Australian slamming the move to go with French producer DCNS, suggesting buying off-the-shelf nuclear subs would be a better option……

It also questioned the economics of the decision, saying it would be cheaper to subsidise car industry jobs, if creating jobs was the desired outcome.

Mr Johnston said DCNS was being asked to build a diesel-powered version of what is essentially a nuclear-powered sub.

  “It’s a bit like trying to turn a cat into a dog. It’s crazy. Why would you do it?” he told Sky News.

“They haven’t got a drawing, they haven’t got a plan. Their current nuclear submarine, the Barracuda, is sitting on a slipway…..

September 14, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics | Leave a comment

Turnbull govt slashes half-a-billion dollars from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency,but doesn’t actually kill it

logo-ARENAAustralian Renewable Energy Agency saved but with reduced funding – experts react, The Conversation, September 13, 2016 The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has been granted a funding lifeline of A$800 million over the next five years, after the federal government and opposition came to an agreement that will save the agency.

ARENA had faced being wound down as a result of the government’s earlier proposal to strip A$1.3 billion from the agency. This was part of a wider package of measures designed to save the federal budget more than A$6 billion.

Renewable energy researchers had reacted with dismay to that proposal. An open letter to the government in defence of the agency attracted 190 signatures.

Below, our experts react to the news.

Nicky Ison, Senior Research Consultant, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney

Today the Coalition government and the Labor Party struck a deal to:

  • slash half-a-billion dollars from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency; and
  • save the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

These statements seem like a contradiction, but both are true. However, it is also true that the need to save ARENA exists because of the Coalition government’s efforts over the past three years to dismantle Australia’s renewable energy policy. If the benchmark is that we keep our existing renewable energy institutions, today was a win. However, if the benchmark is that we have institutions and policies that have sufficient funding and scope to tackle the policy challenges of climate change, our changing energy system and driving innovation, then today was a loss.

Andrew Blakers, Professor of Engineering, Australian National University

The Australian research community is pleased that the government’s proposal to debilitate ARENA by removing A$1.3 billion and ending its granting function will not go ahead. At the same time, we are disappointed that yet again ARENA is subject to huge funding cuts.

The fastest and surest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to accelerate the introduction of renewable energy into the electricity system. ARENA has focused heavily in this area (among others), covering the full gamut from support for early-stage research, through grants to young renewable energy companies, to acceleration of deployment of large-scale solar photovoltaic systems.

ARENA will need to heavily prune its activities to cope with a A$500 million budget cut. We look forward to restoration of ARENA funding, and to a concerted effort at the national level to move rapidly to 50-100% renewable electricity……

September 14, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | 1 Comment

Safety flaw casts fresh doubt on Hinkley reactor

flag-UK  EDF may have to cut output or walk away, The Times, Robin Pagnamenta, A nuclear power station being built in France using the same design earmarked for Hinkley Point in Somerset may have to restrict its output or could be abandoned because of the costs of correcting safety flaws, experts have warned.

France’s nuclear safety regulator, the ASN, is testing the strength of steel used in the reactor pressure vessel at the plant in Flamanville in Normandy.

Last year, it warned of “very serious anomalies”, including weak spots in the steel component which houses the reactor. An investigation is under way and a decision is expected next year.

The same design has been…(subscribers only)

September 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment