Australian news, and some related international items

Yanakanai Ngarpala Yarta – Come Here to Our Country: Hawker’s first protest against nuclear waste + Camp Out 7-9 October 2016

handsoffAdnyamathanha Traditional Owners of the area slated for a national nuclear waste dump in South Australia, will host 50 people on country for “Yanakanai Ngarpala Yarta – Come Here to Our Country”, a 2-day camp.

The camp will conclude with Hawker’s first protest march against the proposed nuclear dump since the nearby property at Wallerberdina / Barndioota was shortlisted almost one year ago in November 2015.

“We want to keep the precious Flinders Ranges nuclear free. While opposition to the nuclear dump is not unanimous in Hawker, it is very strong… we will be gathering next Sunday to make that sentiment loud and clear,” said Hawker local Robert Webb.

The Yanakanai Ngarpala Yarta camp will host locals interested to learn more about the area’s cultural heritage as well as people from the United States, New Zealand, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Adnyamathanha woman Regina McKenzie said “I want everyone to come and meet the ancient land, to experience our living Adnyamathanha culture and understand why our homelands must not be desecrated by nuclear waste”.

The weekend of activities will include a visit to the sacred Hookina Spring, exploring the site near the proposed dump area where flooding destroyed a railway bridge and sunrise at the artefact-rich sand hills near Cotabena.

Sunday’s rally will hear from Adnyamathanha people, local members of the Flinders Local Action Group and the Conservation Council of SA.

“How can our women still sing our songs to our children when we have poison on our land? We don’t want that waste dump coming to our land,” concluded Regina McKenzie.

October 5, 2016 Posted by | ACTION | Leave a comment

5 October: America’s nuclear industry in grave trouble, 50 years after ‘we almost lost Detroit,

the real problem is that the nuclear industry lost its credibility almost at its inception, and has never recovered. It was hastily launched, endowed with the sort of government indulgence that breeds sloppiness, and has tried to conceal its faults through secrecy and legal bluster

50 years after ‘we almost lost Detroit,’ America’s nuclear power industry faces even graver doubts, LA Times, 5 Oct 16   Michael Hiltzik Contact Reporter  The history of nuclear power in the United States has been marked by numerous milestones, many of them bad — accidents, construction snafus, engineering incompetence, etc., etc. One anniversary of an incident that has cast a long shadow over the nuclear power industry’s claim for safety will be marked this week. On Oct. 5, 1966 — that’s 50 years ago Wednesday — Detroit Edison’s Fermi-1 nuclear plant suffered a partial meltdown, caused by a piece of floating shrapnel inside the container vessel.

One anniversary of an incident that has cast a long shadow over the nuclear power industry’s claim for safety will be marked this week. On Oct. 5, 1966 — that’s 50 years ago Wednesday — Detroit Edison’s Fermi-1 nuclear plant suffered a partial meltdown, caused by a piece of floating shrapnel inside the container vessel. Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Small USA town of Rowe struggles with burden of stranded spent nuclear fuel

Rowe Board of Selectmen chair Marilyn Wilson said the town over the summer heard from Illinois Republican Rep. Robert J. Dold concerning a bill that would help towns that host a “stranded spent nuclear fuel storage site.”

A plainclothes guard with an assault-style rifle stood at the front gate. Reporters were told to point their cameras away from the facility.

text-relevantRowe seeks federal compensation for hosting nuclear waste at former atomic power plant ROWE — Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Station shut down in 1992, and was demolished and decommissioned by 2007, but the fenced and isolated site on the upper Deerfield River still hosts 127 tons of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste in 16 concrete casks under 24-hour security.


The tiny town of Rowe is one of about a dozen communities nationwide affected by the presence of nuclear waste, but no longer benefiting economically from the presence of a functioning reactor.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and state Sen. Paul Mark (D-Peru) toured the site as guests of the Rowe Board of Selectmen. Mark is a member of the Yankee Rowe Spent Fuel Storage & Removal Citizens Advisory Committee. Neal, who represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, assured local officials that he supports bipartisan legislation in Washington that would compensate communities that are forced to store nuclear waste.

The “Interim Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Compensation Act” would seek up to $100 million for 13 towns ranging from Zion, Illinois to Wiscasset, Maine. Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Simple explanation of why the Australian government hates renewable energy

Wonder why the Coalition dislikes renewables so much? Malcolm Turnbull says he has lots of solar panels. But the Coalition’s hatred of renewable energy isn’t so much about personal views as about the cash.Bernard Keane Politics Editor


The lights were still out in South Australia while Coalition politicians, right up to and including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, were either directly blaming renewable energy for the blackout or attacking “aggressive” renewable energy targets for the infrastructure that collapsed. Turnbull was quick to point out he’s a personal fan of renewable energy given he has solar panels on the roof of his luxury Point Piper mansion. But as Michael says in The Godfather, “it’s not personal, Sonny, it’s strictly business”. This is where donations from energy and coal companies have gone in the last five years to the federal branches of the major parties.

Donors include such well-regarded firms as Linc Energy, now failed, bankrupt US coal miner Peabody, and Santos, currently trading at less than a quarter of its share price of two years ago when prime minister Tony Abbott and his senior minister attacked Australian National University for divesting in it.
Where did fossil fuel company donations in the lead-up to the federal election go? We won’t know until February due to our appalling, anti-democratic donation disclosure laws.

October 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

USA nuclear industry stalled, because of stranded wastes

text-relevantCompanies may ease nuclear waste backlog,, OCTOBER 4, 2016, Timothy Gardner. Reuters “…… The waste is now mostly held at power plants in dry cask storage or in spent fuel pools, said Moniz, a nuclear physicist who has run the department since 2013.

The US could start transferring that waste to interim sites, potentially including government and private strandeddisposal sites, in the middle of the next decade until a permanent solution is developed.

“We would like to have the authority for publicly owned and operated (storage) facilities. We are also very much interested in the possibility of pursuing private storage,” Moniz said in an interview about the nuclear issues the next administration will face after President Barack Obama leaves office….

some of his [Obama’s]  fellow Democrats have reservations about moving ahead with nuclear, which faces competition from natural gas, until the waste problem is solved.

Senator Diane Feinstein told Moniz at a recent congressional hearing she would not support new nuclear power projects unless the issue is dealt with.
Moniz said if companies take over storage, Congress will still need to act…….

Another thorny issue on nuclear waste has been an agreement with Russia to convert plutonium left over from the Cold War to nuclear plant fuel. Under the deal struck in 2000, each country is expected to convert 34 tons of the material into fuel pellets.

The federal government has spent about $US5 billion on a plant in South Carolina and associated facilities that would convert the material into MOX, or mixed-oxide pellets for reactors. But cost estimates for the project have soared, and now Moniz says the MOX method would cost up to $US50 billion over 50 years.

He wants the country to consider simply diluting the plutonium with inert materials and disposing the mix deep underground, such has been done for other nuclear materials in New Mexico…….

With many hurdles ahead on nuclear issues, speculation has grown on whether Moniz would remain in his role as energy secretary in the next administration….

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Washington Post investigates the human toll of graphite mining

Inhaling particulate matter can cause an array of health troubles, according to health experts, including heart attacks and respiratory ailments.

But it’s not just the air. The graphite plant discharges pollutants into local waters…


IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR  A trace of graphite is in consumer tech. In these Chinese villages, it’s everywhere.Washington Post, Story by Peter Whoriskey   Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez  Videos by Jorge Ribas   October 2, 2016 At night, the pollution around the village has an otherworldly, almost fairy-tale quality.

“The air sparkles,” said Zhang Tuling, a farmer in a village in far northeastern China. “When any bit of light hits the particles, they shine.”

By daylight, the particles are visible as a lustrous gray dust that settles on everything. It stunts the crops it blankets, begrimes laundry hung outside to dry and leaves grit on food. The village’s well water has become undrinkable, too.

Beside the family home is a plot that once grew saplings, but the trees died once the factory began operating, said Zhang’s husband, Yu Yuan.

“This is what we live with,” Zhang said, slowly waving an arm at the stumps.

Zhang and Yu live near a factory that produces graphite, a glittery substance that, while best known for filling pencils, has become an indispensable resource in the new millennium. It is an ingredient in lithium-ion batteries.

Smaller and more powerful than their predecessors, lithium batteries power smartphones and laptop computers and appear destined to become even more essential as companies make much larger ones to power electric cars.

The companies making those products promote the bright futuristic possibilities of the “clean” technology. But virtually all such batteries use graphite, and its cheap production in China, often under lax environmental controls, produces old-fashioned industrial pollution.

At five towns in two provinces of China, Washington Post journalists heard the same story from villagers living near graphite companies: sparkling night air, damaged crops, homes and belongings covered in soot, polluted drinking water — and government officials inclined to look the other way to benefit a major employer.

After leaving these Chinese mines and refiners, much of the graphite is sold to Samsung SDI, LG Chem and Panasonic — the three largest manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries. Those companies supply batteries to major consumer companies such as Samsung, LG, General Motors and Toyota.

Apple products use batteries made by those companies, too Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climate change, 1.5 Degree limit, and ‘negative emissions’

How to Think About 1.5 Degrees  Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE), Charles Sturt University  October 3, 2016  Astonishment was universal last December when the Paris Agreement on climate change included the aspiration to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, a much tougher target than the standard of 2 degrees, now seen as too risky.

It was a remarkable triumph for a long campaign by the small island states, proving that even tiny nations, armed with a powerful moral case, can change the world.

But what does a global aim of 1.5 degrees mean? Is it achievable? How much difference would it make? A conference at the University of Oxford two weeks ago brought together leading scientists to begin to answer these questions.

No one can give firm answers, but some surprising observations emerged at the conference. One thing is clear: given the vast quantity of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, with more still to come, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will require ‘negative emissions’. Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s nuclear lobbyists are very wrong about Gen IV ‘fast breeder’ nuclear reactors

India’s failed fast reactor program   India’s fast reactor program has been a failure……

Russia’s snail-paced program  Russia’s fast reactor program is the only one that could be described as anything other than an abject failure. But it hasn’t been a roaring success either……

China’s program going nowhere fast….. China might have one commercial-scale fast reactor by 2034 ‒ but probably won’t.

the [Australian] nuclear lobbyists’ game plan − making overblown claims about fast reactors and other Generation IV reactor concepts, pretending that they are near-term prospects, and being less than “abundantly clear” about the truth.

renew world 1

Nuclear: The slow death of fast reactors Jim Green, 5 Oct 2016, RenewEconomy,

Generation IV ‘fast breeder’ reactors have long been promoted by nuclear enthusiasts, writes Jim Green, but Japan’s decision to abandon the Monju fast reactor is another nail in the coffin for this failed technology.

Fast neutron reactors are “poised to become mainstream” according to the World Nuclear Association. The Association lists eight “current” fast reactors although three of them are not operating. That leaves just five fast reactors ‒ three of them experimental.

Fast reactors aren’t becoming mainstream. One after another country has abandoned the technology. Nuclear physicist Thomas Cochransummarises the history: “Fast reactor development programs failed in the: 1) United States; 2) France; 3) United Kingdom; 4) Germany; 5) Japan; 6) Italy; 7) Soviet Union/Russia 8) U.S. Navy and 9) the Soviet Navy. The program in India is showing no signs of success and the program in China is only at a very early stage of development.”

The latest setback was the decision of the Japanese government at an extraordinary Cabinet meeting on September 21 to abandon plans to restart the Monju fast breeder reactor. Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Official report available on South Australia’s blackout last week

text-Please-NoteDerek Abbott uploaded a file. No High Level International Nuclear Waste Dump in South Australia, 5 Oct 16 

Here’s the official report on what really happened during SA’s blackout last week and it had nothing to do with renewables. Basically grid infrastructure damage was done by the storm and safety switches tripped.

October 5, 2016 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

A NEW wave of wind farm developments is sweeping Victoria

WIND-FARMWind farm developments crank up across VictoriaPETER HUNT, The Weekly Times

UK company RES, which has built 5000 turbines worldwide, is building its latest wind farm on 17 Murra Warra farmers’ land, including Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke’s property.

Mr Jochinke, who will have six turbines built on his property, said it was a great to have all landholders working together on the project.

RES Murra Warra project manager Kevin Garthwaite said the company had chosen Murra Warra on the flat Wimmera plain because it was on a major transmission line, had “good” wind and was capable of generating more than 400 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply about 220,000 homes.

He said the project would employ 250-300 people during construction, with ongoing employment for 10-15 workers once completed.

“We’ve been really pleased with the level of community support,” Mr Garthwaite said. “If it goes through (the planning process) without a hitch we’d hope to start construction towards the end of 2017.”……..

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

Australian government’s energy policy now driven by One Nation

Turnbull liarHow One Nation has hijacked the government’s energy policy  Malcolm Roberts has congratulated the Prime Minister on coming around to his (wacky) way of thinking about renewable energy. We are all in deep trouble, writes economist John QuigginI’ve found the reaction of Malcolm Turnbull to the South Australia blackout too depressing to discuss, but I suppose it’s time to talk about it. Turnbull was depressing for three reasons.

First, there was the absurdity of failing to distinguish between transmission failures (pylons destroyed by storms) and intermittency. Reading the comments of Turnbull and others, it seemed as if the reasoning process was something like “wind bad for electricity system, so must cut back on wind power”. I gave up on expecting any substantive difference between Turnbull and Tony Abbott quite a while ago, but this silliness coming from the alleged “smartest guy in the room” was depressing.

Then there’s the substantive political content. Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg have already any ruled out kind of carbon price, even the emissions intensity mechanism proposed by the Climate Change Authority (of which I’m a member) as an evolution of Direct Action. When doing this, Frydenberg justified his position by saying that an energy transition, presumably to renewables, meant that the government’s targets were achievable. Now even this fig leaf has been stripped away.

Finally, and worst of all, it’s one more step in the capitulation of right-wing neoliberalism to the rising tide of tribalism. In the Liberal-National-One Nation coalition I described a month or so ago, it’s now clear that One Nation with its associated faction within the government (Cory Bernardi, George Christensen, Abbott and others) has the upper hand. ONP Senator Malcolm Roberts tweeted to Turnbull that it was “Good to see you coming around to One Nation’s position“, and he was spot on. Doubtless he’ll have many more occasions for similar tweets in the future.

The polls suggest that the public reaction to all this is unfavorable, but unfortunately it’s a few months too late. We’re stuck with this for another three years. *This article was originally published at John Quiggin’s blog

October 5, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Vic doubles down on batteries in renewables push

Victoria will prioritise batteries and other grid stabilising technologies in its ambitious renewable energy rollout….. (subscribers only)

October 5, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Solar energy producing more electricity than coal does, so far this year in UK

poster renewables not nuclearflag-UKA spokeswoman for the Solar Trade Association (STA) said: “This is a valuable milestone on the road to renewables overtaking fossil fuels. It is a testament to just how effective the British solar industry has been at installing clean and reliable power and at bringing down costs.”

Solar outstrips coal in past six months of UK electricity generation
More power came from solar panels than from Britain’s ageing coal stations from April to September this year, report shows,
Guardian, , 4 Oct 16, Electricity generated by solar panels on fields and homes outstripped Britain’s ageing coal power stations over the past six months in a historic first.

Climate change analysts Carbon Brief found more electricity came from the sun than coal from April to the end of September, in a report that highlighted the two technologies’ changing fortunes. Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ACT tells Coalition: get your story straight on renewable energy

Corbell will attend Friday’s meeting even though the ACT is in caretaker mode in preparation for an election on 15 October. He sought and was given an agreement by the Canberra Liberals to attend the discussion because in the ACT, the target of 100% renewables by 2020, is bipartisan policy.

Corbell said Liberals in the ACT had overcome their initial resistance to the scheme, and had now come to the view that renewable energy was “very popular, and it works” – creating jobs in the region.

Frydenberg, Josh climateJosh Frydenberg, who got the environment portfolio from Hunt in the post-election reshuffle, and has also assumed responsibility for energy policy, has signalled there will be no consideration of a change to the Coalition’s Direct Action scheme until a review scheduled for 2017.

Renewable energy: get your story straight, ACT tells Coalition

ACT’s deputy chief minister, Simon Corbell, says there is ‘inconsistency’ in federal government’s linking of South Australia blackout to renewables, 

 Malcolm Turnbull linked South Australia’s power blackout to the state’s use of renewable energy.  The Australian Capital Territory deputy chief minister, Simon Corbell, has urged the Turnbull government to get its story straight on renewable energy targets before Friday’s special meeting of energy ministers convened after power blackouts in South Australia.
Corbell, in an interview with Guardian Australia on Tuesday, said the former federal environment minister Greg Hunt, on the sidelines of global climate talks in Paris last December, had clearly urged the states to adopt reverse auctions, following the model developed successfully in the ACT to drive the uptake of renewable energy.

Hunt said in Paris the federal government was not proposing a change to the national renewable energy target, “but I have encouraged the states that if they want to do something extra, [they should] apply reverse auctions to the renewable energy target in the way the Australian Capital Territory has done”.

Now, Corbell said, the government had abruptly switched course, raising concerns about state-based renewable energy schemes following the South Australian blackouts. Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Graphite in modern technologies – a pollutant for mining communities in China

recycle-rare-earths-2Graphite is  a semimetal – as with lithium and other rare metals, it could be recycled, with good design for devices, rather than just dug up and eventually thrown away.

IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR  A trace of graphite is in consumer tech. In these Chinese villages, it’s everywhere. Washington Post, Story by Peter Whoriskey   Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez  Videos by Jorge Ribas   October 2, 2016   “……….IN THE AIR, IN THE WATER

Despite the name, only a small portion of a lithium-ion battery consists of lithium. Graphite is used to make the negative electrode and represents about 10 to 15 percent of the cost of a typical lithium-ion battery, according to analysts.

The demand for graphite has risen in parallel with the demand for more-powerful laptops, tablets and phones.

Ten years ago, for example, the battery of the best-selling Motorola Razr had a capacity of 680 milliamp-hours. Today, the batteries in the best-selling smartphones have three or four times that.

Lyu Guoliang, senior engineer at the graphite business association in Jixi, said the demand for graphite rose very rapidly in 2010, driven by the demand for lithium-ion batteries.

Graphite for batteries must be refined to high levels of purity, and the flakes must be reformed into tiny spherical or potato-like particles. This extra refining means that the refined graphite is worth 10 times as much as the raw material, said Lyu, and that made the business particularly attractive.

But without proper controls, mining and refining can cause pollution in two ways — by air and by water.

Graphite powder can quickly become airborne dust, drifting for miles. Without systems of tarps and fans to keep it under control, the resulting fine-particle pollution can cause an array of breathing difficulties, such as aggravating lung disease or reducing lung function, and has been linked to heart attacks in people with heart disease, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Graphite operations can also lead to pollution because their chemicals leak into local waters. According to industry sources, the purifying process, especially in China, is commonly done with acids, often hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic substance.

This method is cheaper than the one used in other countries, where the graphite is purified by “baking,” — that is, heating it up. Riddle, of Asbury Carbons, said refining graphite that way is better for the environment but adds about 15 percent to the price. He said that for the past 20 years his company has insisted on purchasing only graphite refined this way.

“We had hoped more companies and users would follow our lead, but this has not been the case,” Riddle said.

Tracing your battery’s graphite

The lithium-ion battery industry has a massively complicated supply chain. Each consumer company has dealt with multiple suppliers — and their suppliers have dealt with multiple suppliers. This shows some of the connections within the industry. See companies’ responses to Washington Post’s investigation.


The Chinese government has shown increasing concern about the nation’s environmental woes. Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment