Australian news, and some related international items

Monitoring South Australia’s Nuclear Citizens’ Jury

Citizens' Jury scrutinyI have not been watching today’s  Citizens’ Jury Two Livestreaming and Video.  However, these sessions are available for viewing. I saw at the agenda – See the agenda here – that the gathering was to be opened by Premier Jay Weatherill, and Kevin Scarce, former chief of the Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission.

Unlike may other critics of the nuclear industry, I have some faith in the process. I did think that DemocracyCo ran the first Citizens’ Jury meetings well, and the jury members asked intelligent questions.  The problems were:

  1. The whole premise was not really a jury situation in any sense. The jury were told that they were not to make a decision (the essential brief of any real jury). They were told to produce a ‘Summary of the Nuclear Fuel cycle Royal Commission’s Report.
  2. The witnesses were not always well informed, and some were both ignorant and biased. They were chosen at an early stage by the jury members, who clearly did not then have access to  impartial and well informed experts.
  3.  Members of the Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission were far too prominently present and vocal. Greg War and Chad Jacobi made sure to dazzle all with their pro nuclear knowledge, whenever it looked as if criticism of the nuclear industry was coming up.

This new Citizens’ Jury has been given a loaded question to consider:

“Under what circumstances, if any, could South Australia pursue the opportunity to store and dispose of nuclear waste from other countries?”

So – much as I admire DemocracyCo’s the group management efforts, and real attempts at fairness, I am not optimistic about the outcome of this Citizens’ Jury 2.  I think it will boil down to another delaying tactic by the Weatherill government, to keep the State guessing – while behind the scenes, the nuclear lobby gets on with its preparations for nuclear waste importing to south Australia.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, politics, South Australia | 1 Comment

No exit strategy for nuclear power stations- waste problem was not even considered

abbott-derekDerek Abbott no high level international nuclear waste dump in south australia, 8 Oct 16   Thought for the day: The nuclear industry started in 1956 under the assumption that the period it takes for a nuclear station to retire will allow plenty of time to work out where to put decommissioned nuclear stations and fuel waste. Hello? Sixty years have gone by, dozens of nuclear stations have closed down with nowhere to go and we are spewing out 10,000 tonnes of spent high-level nuclear fuel waste every year.

The original assumption back in 1956 has been proven false. So let’s stop building nuclear stations in the world, as there clearly is no exit strategy.

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

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz’s remarkable faith in nuclear power

South Australian blackout: Eric Abetz says door should remain open on nuclear power, ABC AM  By Richard Baines , 8 Oct 16 Australia should revisit the possibility of more nuclear power after South Australia’s blackout, senior Liberal Eric Abetz says…….Senator Abetz said one potential power source was being overlooked.

“We should be opening the door to considering nuclear power,” he said…….


Storage no longer an issue: Abetz A major problem has always been public concerns about storing nuclear waste. Senator Abetz said global technology had evolved, and it was safe to store the waste.

“The waste product would be at a minimum, and what’s more we’ve got the stability of a land mass which is geologically stable, is secure, and would enable us to secure it quite safely,” he said……..

Senator Abetz said the recent problems in South Australia proved a different approach to energy supply was needed.

“With great respect to solar power and wind power, they cannot and will not provide secure base load and that has now been shown in South Australia in a manner that is devastating,” he said……..

October 8, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Renewable energy transition is the future, whether Turnbull likes it or not

poster renewables not nuclearThe electricity storage revolution now underway is charcterised by increasing storage capacity and continuously falling battery prices. Two outcomes of this storage revolution are that it will:

  1. have the effect of making renewable energy available 24/7 and cheaper than electricity produced by coal fired power stations. The latter will cease to operate as they are replaced at an accelerating rate by solar and wind generation, and
  2. enable improved grid management, permitting electricity generators to buy and sell energy at optimum prices with price determined by demand, rather than supply.

Turnbull climate 2 facedWhether the Turnbull government likes it or not, these developments are already underway. They are bringing about change in the cost of and way in which electricity is produced, stored and used. These developments make it possible for the government to solve the budget problem it faces – by progressively withdrawing the subsidies it currently pays fossil fuel producers and applying them to budget deficit reduction.

Coal is on a one-way trip to oblivion as an energy source, whether subsidized or not.

The need for renewable electricity  By Mike Pope –, 7 October 2016 In response to the September State-wide loss of electricity in South Australia (SA), the Australian Prime Minister (Malcolm Turnbull) and Environment Minister (Josh Frydenberg) both blamed that event on a severe climate event. Both attempted to conflate the loss of power with the rate SA had adopted renewable energy (40%), particularly generated by wind, resulting in closure of all coal-fired power stations in that State.

They asserted this left SA with inadequate back-up for its overly rapid adoption of renewable energy and that the outage should be seen as a salutary wake up call for retention of fossil fuelled electricity generation. Mr. Turnbull went further, declaring that the SA power failure demonstrated the need to retain use of coal as an energy source, pointing to the importance of coal mining, employing 10,000 people and earning the country important income.

He went on to criticize the renewable energy targets of Queensland (50% by 2030) and Victoria (40% by 2025), describing both as ideologically driven and incapable of being achieved without risking the loss of energy experienced by SA. He described State targets as grossly in excess of Commonwealth emissions targets of 26-28% by 2030. He had asked his Environment Minister to negotiate with all States to ensure that their targets were consistent with achieving the Commonwealth Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 23% by 2020.

For the Turnbull Government there are 3 problems: (1) Unless Queensland and Victoria meet their targets, the Commonwealth RET is unlikely to be achieved. (2) Climate conditions in Australia, particularly the southern half, are likely to become more extreme, more often. (3) Commonwealth emissions target (26%-28% below 2005 emissions by 2030) may not be achieved or provide a fair, effective, contribution to achieving an average global temperature of no more than 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average by 2100. These things matter. Continue reading

October 8, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | 1 Comment

Uranium mining companies desperate to survive, but no improved market in sight

burial.uranium-industryDesperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound, Reuters, By Geert De Clercq 7 OCT 16  LONDON   “……..BULGING INVENTORIES  Mining executives partly blame the slump on their customers’ wait-and-see attitude, as utilities believe that the uranium market’s over-capacity will persist for years and see no need to rebuild their dwindling stockpiles.

Demand for uranium is determined by the number of nuclear plants in operation worldwide, but supply and demand are disjointed by huge stocks and uranium’s long production cycle……..

In the five years before Fukushima, utilities worldwide bought about 200 million pounds of uranium per year, he said. Although Japan’s consumption averaged only around 25 million pounds per year, when it closed its reactors demand was cut far further, falling by half. European and U.S. utilities saw that the market was over-supplied and reduced inventories, buying less.

Mining firm Energy Fuels estimates global uranium stocks held by utilities, miners and governments are now at around 1 billion pounds. That is down from a peak around 2.5 billion pounds in 1990, but still many years’ worth of consumption.

Despite the plunge in uranium prices after the 2008 financial crisis and again after Fukushima, uranium production has doubled from 80-90 million pounds in the mid-1990s to about 160 million pounds last year, according to Energy Fuels data……


With so much new supply, and demand sliding, prices have fallen to a level where most uranium miners operate at a loss.

“At today’s spot prices, the primary uranium mining industry is not sustainable,” US uranium producer Energy Fuels COO Mark Chalmers told the World Nuclear Association’s London conference last month.

He added that many legacy long-term supply contracts will expire in 2017-18, which will force many mines to close or throttle back even further than they already have.

Miners like Canada’s Cameco, France’s Areva and the uranium arms of global mining companies have closed or mothballed several mines and deferred new projects in order to cut back supply.

Paladin – the world’s second-largest independent pure-play uranium miner after Cameco and the seventh or eighth-largest globally – has production capacity of 8 million pounds of yellowcake uranium but produced just 4.9 million pounds last year at its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia.

Molyneux said the firm will produce about 4 million pounds this year and will cut output further to about 3.5 million pounds next year if prices do not recover.

Paladin suspended production at its 2.3 million pounds per year capacity Kayelekera mine in northern Malawi in 2014 but maintains equipment so it can resume when prices recover.

Meanwhile it is trying to further reduce its debt, which already fell from $1.2 billion five years ago to $362 million.

Paladin has agreed to sell 24 pct of Langer Heinrich to the China National Nuclear Company and plans to use the expected proceeds of 175 million dollars to further reduce debt.

Bigger peer Cameco in April suspended production at its Rabbit Lake, Canada mine while also curtailing output across its U.S. operations, saying market conditions could not support the operating and capital costs needed to sustain production.

Cameco marketing head Tim Gabruch told the WNA conference that “desperate times call for desperate measures”.

Supply adjustments and producer discipline had not yet been sufficient to counter the loss of demand, he said.”As difficult as those decisions have been, we recognize that those actions may not be enough.”(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Peter Graff)

October 8, 2016 Posted by | business, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Virtual reality film “Collisions” tells one Aboriginal man’s story of Maralinga nuclear bombing

Aboriginal man’s story of Maralinga nuclear bomb survival told with virtual reality By Alex Mann  ABC News, 7 Oct 16 In an unlikely collision of cultures, state-of-the-art 3D film technology is bringing an Aboriginal man’s unique tale of nuclear bomb survival to audiences across Australia.

In the 1950s Nyarri Morgan was a young man, walking and hunting in South Australia’s northern deserts. His dramatic first contact with whites came when he witnessed a nuclear bomb explosion at the British testing site at Maralinga.

Now, as an old man, and with the help of director Lynette Wallworth and some technology, he is sharing his story in a film called Collisions that is screening in selected venues around Australia.

“It happened in a desert where people assumed there were very few people [and] there was not much life and not much to be lost,” Wallworth said.

“Every one of those assumptions was wrong.”

‘People still have that poison today’  As the radioactive dust fell, Mr Morgan walked an ancient trade route at the edge of the test site. He had no idea of what he was witnessing.

In making the film, Wallworth asked Mr Morgan what he thought he was seeing. “He said, ‘We thought it was the spirit of our gods rising up to speak with us’,” she said. “[He said] ‘then we saw the spirit had made all the kangaroos fall down on the ground as a gift to us of easy hunting so we took those kangaroos and we ate them and people were sick and then the spirit left’.”

Mr Morgan is sharing his story, in his words, so it won’t ever be forgotten. “After the explosion the fallout went north,” Mr Morgan said. “Powder, white powder killed a lot of kangaroos [and] spinifex [grass]. Water was on fire, that’s what we saw.”

Mr Morgan said water “died” but that he and the two men he was with drank the water, even though it was still hot. “The smoke went into our noses, and other people still have that poison today,” he said.

“We all poisoned, in the heart, in the blood and other people that were much closer they didn’t live very long, they died, a whole lot of them.”     ‘In virtual reality everything becomes personal’………..

October 8, 2016 Posted by | aboriginal issues, culture, history, South Australia | Leave a comment

Florida prepared for Hurricane Matthew’s potential threat to nuclear reactors

nuke-&-seaLSafety fears as Hurricane Matthew hits TWO nuclear reactors: Storm also sweeps past heads Cape Canaveral and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort Hurricane Matthew started hitting Florida early this morning with heavy rain and strong winds 

The hurricane raised fears for two nuclear reactors, Cape Canaveral and Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort
Experts say there is very little risk of a repeat of the Fukushima accident in Japan in 2011
Daily Mail. By CHRIS SUMMERS FOR MAILONLINE The storm arrived on shore on Friday north of Palm Beach County, which has a population of 1.4 million people, and the National Hurricane Center predicted it would push along the Interstate 95 corridor towards Jacksonville.

The St Lucie nuclear reactor was right in the storm’s path while Turkey Point in southern Florida was also affected by high winds.

The Department of Energy said: ‘Some reactors were shut as a precaution to protect equipment from the storm; others were forced to shut down or reduce power output due to damage to plant facilities or transmission infrastructure serving the plant.’………

The strongest winds of 120 mph were just offshore, but Matthew’s wrath still menaced more than 500 miles of coastline and 26 million Americans.

Government officials declared a state of emergency in several states in an effort to plan ahead since the deadly Category Three storm is expected to wreak havoc with its 120mph winds.

Two million people across the Southeast have been warned to flee inland as tens of millions along 500 miles of coastline battened down the hatches. ……..

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

Oxfam and poor countries call on rich countries to help developing nations affected by climate chnage

Oxfam called on countries to target 35% of funding by 2020, and 50% by 2025. “The share is not only too low, it is also declining. It was 21% in 2013. No share or specific amount has been agreed for vulnerable countries in the Paris agreement,” the spokeswoman said

Poor countries urge fast action on Paris deal to stop catastrophic warming
Kiribati 15As the climate agreement is ratified, developing nations warn that money pledged is still nowhere near enough to adapt to expected sea level rises,
Guardian, , 7 Oct 16, UN back-slapping for the record speed at which the Paris agreement on climate change has been ratified this week has been tempered by the reality that the new treaty will not stop catastrophic warming as it stands, and that the money so far pledged by rich countries is nowhere near enough to allow developing countries to adapt to expected sea level rises and more extreme weather. Continue reading

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

Legal challenge to Adani’s Abbot Point plans in Queensland’s Supreme Court

coal CarmichaelMine2Adani’s Abbot Point plans face court challenge,SMH , 7 Oct 16   Whitsunday residents are bound for court in a bid to show the Queensland government failed the environment when it approved a port expansion for Adani’s new mega-coal mine.

Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping say dredging required for Adani’s expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, north of Bowen, could do untold environmental harm and the mine itself will fuel global warming and endanger the reef.

Lawyers for the group will appear in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on Friday, arguing Queensland’s environment department failed to properly assess the port project before it gave Adani the go ahead.

The expansion is needed to ship coal from Adani’s planned $16 billion Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin…….

The action group’s case will be heart in the Supreme Court in Brisbane from 10am (AEST).

October 8, 2016 Posted by | climate change - global warming, legal, Queensland | Leave a comment

Federal government opposition to States’ renewable energy target, as ACT election nears

Politicians pulling funny faces as winds change Richard Denniss, SMH, 7 Oct 16  After 16 months of inaction the first of two new wind farms have just been commissioned as a result of the ACT’s 100 per cent renewable energy target. Bizarrely, as the nation’s energy ministers met on Friday to discuss the need to “harmonise” the differing state government approaches to renewable energy policy, it is only the ambitious and unilateral action of the ACT government that is driving any actual investment in the Australian wind industry.

Continue reading

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

No new nuclear stations should be built: world must face up to the waste legacy

book-legacy-of-nuclear-powerthe focus should be on managing it where it is rather than a premature search for new places and possibly new communities for deep disposal. The problem we already have is difficult enough and will only be compounded if new reactors are built extending the time-scales for implementation for very long, unknowable periods in the future. The burden of the existing legacy is unavoidable; we should not entertain having to deal with the avoidable wastes of a new build programme………

This article previews a new book by Andrew Blowers, The Legacy of Nuclear Power, Routledge, 2016, isbn 9780415869997. It is published at a critical time when the future of nuclear energy is high on the political agenda across the world. With the political focus on whether to build new nuclear power stations, this important book is a timely reminder that nuclear energy comes with a legacy of radioactive waste and clean-up that will be a burden on communities and generations far into the future.

The Legacy of Nuclear Power,This fascinating short article on four nuclear communities tellingly demonstrates why radioactive waste is a moral issue and explains what the priorities for its management should be.   Routledge, By Andy Blowers. 7 Oct 16 

“………..Finding a Solution

It is in places like Hanford, La Hague and Sellafield that the nuclear legacy has accumulated and which face the problem of managing it now and for generations to come. There is a recognised obligation, stated in principle by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that the legacy shall be managed in ‘such a way that will not impose undue burdens on future generations’ (IAEA, Principle 5). Much of this effort to find a final solution has been focused on deep geological disposal, removing the problem altogether by burying it deep underground. Yet, this solution is controversial since some radionuclides remain harmful for thousands of years and over infinitely long time-scales the uncertainties about safety and security of engineered barriers and geological containment in a repository become incommensurable……….

Seeking and securing disposal sites which is the contemporary approach, has in most countries thus far proved a slow, tedious and unsuccessful process. Successive attempts to secure political or social blessing for a site near Sellafield have failed and in Germany the resistance of Gorleben has been legendary. The history of trying to find sites for a repository for radioactive wastes is littered with examples where, to transcribe a biblical expression, many sites have been called but few chosen. The idea of the accumulating legacy of nuclear wastes from existing nuclear programmes being neatly and routinely packaged and transferred to a welcoming and pristine repository there to be entombed for ever is, with rare exceptions, little more than a distant prospect …….. Continue reading

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

Kazakhstan’s legacy of radioactive trash

The Nazarbayev government, lacking financial resources, has done very little to address the security problems at Semipalatinsk and has not spent a penny to clean up the area.
map-semipalatinsk-kazahkstanThe continuing danger of Semipalatinsk 6 OCTOBER 2016 Magdalena Stawkowski   During the Cold War, the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site in Kazakhstan was the Soviet Union’s primary nuclear weapons testing ground. Between 1949 and 1989, more than 450 nuclear bombs were exploded above and below ground on its once secret, 7,000-square-mile territory. In the post-Soviet period,Kazakhstan has attracted much international praise for its “extraordinary leadership” and “courage” in closing Semipalatinsk, for giving up its nuclear weapons stockpile, and for helping to create a nuclear weapon free zone in Central Asia. Kazakhstan has also been celebrated for having an extraordinary record in advancing nuclear security and thus was judged to be perfectly suited to host an international fuel bank for low-enriched uranium. The Obama administration has described Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, as “really one of the model leaders in the world” on non-proliferation and nuclear safety issues.

These commendations are perhaps overly enthusiastic. They exaggerate Kazakhstan’s commitment to nuclear safety; actually, Kazakhstan’s leadership has done little to address pressing humanitarian issues at Semipalatinsk, failing to provide adequate funding for environmental clean up and adequate security for the site itself. How can the world talk about nuclear safety in Kazakhstan when it is the only place on Earth where thousands of people still live in and around an atomic test site? How can there be safety, when residual radioactivity and environmental damage are a normal part of life for people who live there? Nuclear security should mean more than the physical protection of nuclear materials. Nuclear security must also mean the physical protection of individual citizens from radioactivity. Continue reading

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

The whole sorry UK Hinkley nuclear saga ignores the legacy of radioactive wastes

There’s been the usual evasion and wilful dishonesty on the part of both EdF and the Government as to exactly how the costs of managing that waste over the projected 30-year lifetime of Hinkley Point will be paid for. In the first instance, how best should EdFbe required to accrue for a sufficient share of revenue to cover those costs arising during the reactor’s lifetime – and then for decades/centuries beyond that once HinkleyPoint has stopped generating?

This is such a huge issue – financially and morally. The sums of money involved in treating, storing and finally disposing of nuclear waste are eye-watering, and if they were properly factored into the day-to-day operating costs of all nuclear power stations, it would make the whole ludicrous edifice finally topple over.

this is not just a managerially incompetent, technologically redundant, financially bankrupt and wilfully dishonest industry – it is inherently immoral.

WASTES-1The Hinkley Horror Story: Don’t Mention the Waste! I haven’t been able to bring myself to write anything about Hinkley Point since the UK Government gave the go-ahead on 15th September. I suppose I’ve lived for so long with the inevitability of this insane project being approved, at some point, notwithstanding the endless delays, that I wasn’t particularly surprised when it happened. Just a weird mixture of resigned, weary and enraged.

Deep down, I still don’t believe that Hinkley Point will ever be completed. I’ve no doubt work will start in one or two years’ time (just as soon as a mountain of continuing problems at EdF’s project at Flamanville have either been resolved or permanently buried), but it won’t be long before the inherent ‘unconstructability’ of this particular reactor design (the EPR) sees exactly the same inevitable delays and cost overruns kick in – and keep on kicking in from that point on.

And somewhere along the way, there’s an equally strong likelihood of EdF/Areva going bust – or having its role comprehensively redefined by the French Government so that it focusses solely on managing upgrades in the French reactor fleet and dealing with all the legacy issues.

And those legacy issues are vast. As they are for all nuclear operators all around the world. Which is the main reason, I suspect, why hardly anyone has been talking about what’s been agreed in terms of dealing with all the new nuclear waste that would be generated by Hinkley Point. Continue reading

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