Australian news, and some related international items

Media and nuclear – theme for March 2017

Today’s news media is a smorgasbord of online blogs,Facebook. Twitter, Youtube, Linked-In and a hundred other online sites. Oh, and yes, there are still some online, and even print, newspapers. You remember those last. They employed reputable investigative journalists, who did fact-checking about their news sources.

With journalists dropping off employment like flies, anyone can write anything – no fact-checking needed. It might be fabricated.  It ‘s likely to be biased and inaccurate.
The “old media” – newspapers, radio, TV have long been vulnerable to uncritically disseminating propaganda articles from industry. Even more so, now, as they struggle financially. Industry handouts are much cheaper than real  journalism. That situation is a boon to the nuclear lobby.
The “new media” is also a boon to the nuclear industry. They already pay lobbyists,Twitter and Facebook users, and especially Youtube-ers to daily spin out propaganda items by the hundreds. Nuclear lobbyists make use of “bots” to send  tweets in multiples, which actually come from just one software programme. At the same time, nuclear companies continue to produce glossy, expensive, sophisticated films and TV series. Their latest effort will hit the cinemas soon –  The New Fire.
As if this media revolution were not enough, the nuclear industry now receives a new bonus, the  rise of fascism, pioneered
by Donald Trump, and perhaps soon to hit Europe and other countries. With an uncanny and Goebbels-like ability to home in on the right places in the media landscape, Trump makes brilliant use of  Twitter. Doesn’t matter if his tweets are lies – they are regurgitated across the world, and believed in by many.
Like all dictators, Trump’s first attack is on the media. Any journalism that Trump doesn’t like is “Fake Press”.  Reputable credible news sources like CNN and New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Politico, the BBC, Huffington Post and BuzzFeed News. are now “enemies of the people” , and banned from White House media briefings. Instead, Trump
crony publications like Breitbart are welcomed.
What does this mean for the nuclear industry? Well. probably Trump-dominated media will be a positive for them. Let’s not forget, Donald Trump is in power, for now, under suffrance from the Republican Party on behalf of the richest industrialists.
What does it all mean for us, writers and readers who seek genuine information?
Judith Donath of CNN said it for me: “help promote a culture that reveres veracity. Check your sources before you post anything. Support newspapers and other organizations that do good, reliable reporting. Discourage people in your own community when they promote stories that feel good to you, but are, alas, untrue.

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Christina themes, media | Leave a comment

The week that has been in nuclear and climate news- Australia

I scratch around for good news. There is plenty, on the renewable energy scene. And this: CO2 emissions from energy remain flat for third year running.  Total number of global nuclear weapons has dropped.

Not so good news. Disaster looms over North Korea: how could this be stopped? US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, rejects negotiation with North Korea, and keeps journalists out. Tillerson considers a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.


CLIMATE and RENEWABLE ENERGY The week has been a bewildering cascade of news, views, and squabbles about energy. Best news – THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, longtime mouthpiece of the right-wing and fossil fuel lobbies – today pronounced Australia’s unstoppable transition to renewable energy. ! That came after: South Australia announcing  a new energy plan, a huge kerfuffle about gas, heaps of news about solar battery storage, and, finally, a desperate Snow job by Malcolm Turnbull.

The Turnbull magic trick is his plan for Snowy River pumped hydro power. That could work, in the longer term, a decade or so. However it smells more like Turnbull scrambling to cover up government failure to address immediate energy problems, and also to distract attention from Elon Musk’s offer to fix South Australia’s energy by solar and storage, within 100 days.

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) could require financial institutions to test climate risks’

Adani coal mine expansion plans. Queensland Premier backs this, despite strong opposition from Aboriginal landowners, and a delegation of other prominent Australians.


Aboriginal issues. Senate Inquiry told  Native Title amendments  will disenfranchise Traditional Owners.

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Australia’s unstoppable transition to renewable energy

The question is whether the Coalition really is prepared to do something about bringing electricity prices down, or just wants to keep talking rubbish about how renewables will drive them up.

Swing to renewables will be unstoppable, THE AUSTRALIAN, ALAN KOHLER 18 Mar 17 Out of the thick haze of energy politics, something clearly significant emerged this week.

The expansion of Snowy Hydro is a very surprising, genuine game-changer: it shifts the power balance in Australian policy decisively towards renewables. If the project happens, a big if, the last fossil fuel electricity generator in this country has already been built.

It was possible because Snowy Hydro is the acceptable face of renewable energy, allowing, a heroic, soaring prime ministerial doorstop: “These are big dreams in these mountains, real courage, a belief in the future, a confidence in Australia.”

But the important point is that the Coalition’s electricity solution no longer seems to involve “clean coal” or gas.

There’s still a long way to go — after all, Malcolm Turnbull announced only a feasibility study, and then appeared to confirm that it was a stunt by using the press release to one-up South Australia’s battery plan: “My energy storage is bigger than yours.”

So the whole thing could turn into a pointless pissing contest between hydro and solar/wind/batteries. In fact, let’s face it — it probably will.

But even if that happens, and even if energy policy descends once more into political farce, at least the thermal power oligopoly would be out of the game, no longer exerting its hold over policy with the aim of maintaining margins.

And that is the significance of this Snowy Hydro expansion: it marks the end of thermal power. From here the swing to renewables will be fast, unstoppable and eventually complete….. Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Negotiation the key to preventing military, nuclear, disaster on North Korea

How to stop a North Korean nuclear trainwreck, The Hill, The assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, is yet another bizarre episode in a string of reality TV events that is now commonplace in our public discourse.

It’s easy to get sucked into the intrigue, but it distracts from the big picture: The United States is in the middle of a slow-motion trainwreck with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and missile program. North Korea’s missile tests on Monday are just the latest alarm in what could spiral into a full-blown crisis.

We better start listening.

Unless we do something about it now, a “metal on metal” collision could be in the offing, marked by more North Korean tests and calls within Washington for military strikes to stop them.

Kim Jong Nam’s murder and the subsequent media circus obscure more crucial events: China’s decision last month to ban all coal imports from North Korea; the Feb. 11 test launch of a mobile, land-based, solid-fueled missile; and, critically, the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises happening this month, that almost  certainly sparked last weekend’s tests………

 we have no choice but to swallow a bitter pill. Using what little leverage and pressure we have, we must talk with the North Koreans at sufficiently high levels, something we haven’t done for some time.

But we must make these hard choices now — or they will be made for us.

Philip W. Yun is executive director of Ploughshares Fund, a San Francisco-based peace and security foundation. He previously served as senior adviser to the assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as a senior adviser to two U.S. coordinators for North Korea Policy: former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and former Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. Yun was a member of a government working group that managed U.S. policy and negotiations with North Korea under President Clinton and was part of the U.S. delegation that traveled to North Korea with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000.

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Malcolm Turnbull’s desperate Snow job – as he pushes a hydro power renewable energy solution

Turnbull’s desperation … is driven by the knowledge that his government will carry the can if the spiralling problems are not addressed. He also knows his options on electricity are limited by the powerful reactionary rump within his government.

Among other things, it [the Snowy pumped hydro scheme]  would make the government’s flirtation with funding a new “clean” coal plant – still being spruiked this week by Resources Minister Matt Canavan – much harder to justify……

plenty of questions remain unanswered. It is not clear how long the Snowy plan will take to get up – Turnbull says within four years, but the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has said this sort of project could take up to seven. It is not clear what it would cost, or who will pay for it. A feasibility study is yet to be completed. Its impact on the environment has not yet been assessed. We don’t know if its viability in a projected future climate with reduced river flows has been considered.

Is Malcolm Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 a breakthrough, a distraction or both?, The Age, 18 Mar Adam Morton  “…. Depending on who you listen to, Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme is a bold piece of nation-building by a Prime Minister who had found his mojo, or a cynically timed thought-bubble that is years away at best……

“I am a nation-building Prime Minister and this is a nation-building project,” he said …… Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson rejects any negotiation with North Korea

In Asia, on his first major trip overseas as secretary of state, Mr. Tillerson has been heavily scripted in his few public comments, and he has gone out of his way to make sure he is not subject to questions beyond highly controlled news conferences, at which his staff chooses the questioners. In a breach of past practice, he traveled without the usual State Department press corps, which has flown on the secretary’s plane for roughly half a century.

Rex Tillerson Rejects Talks With North Korea on Nuclear Program, NYT,  MARCH 17, 2017 SEOUL, South Korea — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ruled out on Friday opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level.

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Weatherill govt has tried to be constructive, but attacked unfairly by Turnbull govt

The government must fix this unconscionable energy mess – it owes us that much Guardian, Katharine Murphy, 17 Mar 17   “…Jay Weatherill’s ambush of Josh Frydenberg this week wasn’t pretty, but Canberra had it coming – now the government needs to step up “……Who could really blame the South Australian premier this week for saying screw you Canberra in two pretty spectacular ways – with a big package to boost the state’s energy self-sufficiency, and by crash-tackling Josh Frydenberg in a suburban garage in Adelaide?

It really wasn’t the high point of democratic representation, gotcha in the garage; kind of depressing, really – but the government in Canberra really had that one coming.

 The Weatherill government has tried to play a constructive role in the energy council, the state and federal decision-making body which sits under the Coag umbrella. They’ve done that for years, in fact you’d categorise their efforts as a leadership role undertaken while Canberra roiled, raged and regressed – so they really don’t deserve whipping boy status…….

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson considers pre-emptive attack on North Korea

Military action against North Korea ‘an option’, warns Rex Tillerson
US secretary of state says policy of strategic patience has ended due to threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme,
Guardian,  , 17 Mar 17 , A pre-emptive US military strike against North Korea may be necessary if the threat posed by its nuclear weapons programme reaches a level that “requires action”, the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has warned. Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Open Letter to Adani

 We ask you to abandon proposal to dig coal mine in Qld’s Galilee Basin  16 March 2017:

“Dear Mr Adani
“We are writing to respectfully ask you to abandon the Adani Group’s proposal to dig the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.
“We would like to put to you three reasons why this mine should never go ahead.

One, the Carmichael mine would be the biggest coal mine ever dug in Australia.
Once its coal is burnt, it will contribute more climate-changing pollution to the atmosphere
than the entire country of New Zealand does every year. …

Two, coal is a killer.
Coal is the biggest single cause of air pollution in Australia. …
Last month The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, published a report that described your company’s Carmichael mine proposal as a
“public health disaster”. …

Three, this mine proposal does not have wide public support in Australia
and does not have the support of the Traditional Owners of the land where the mine would be dug.
There are concerns about the impact the mine will have on groundwater resources and on nearby farmers who rely on this water for their livelihoods. …

We the undersigned – and we believe all Australians – would support and welcome moves by your company to invest further in renewable energy in Australia. … “

March 18, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Trump budget’s savage attack on the environment

Aside from the catastrophic impacts on public health and planetary survival, these Trump-Koch attacks on environmental protection and increased energy efficiency bode ill for a struggling U.S. economy. Germany, China and other global competitors are surging ahead with ecologically sound advanced technologies like high-speed rail, EV autos, PV cells, ultra-efficient wind turbines, solar farms, and highways guaranteed to leave America in the dust.

The “tycoon” President who promised full employment and prosperity is instead bringing an ill wind, darkened sun, and scorched planet.

Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop, The Progressiveby  March 17, 2017
Donald Trump’s first budget makes his antipathy to the environment clear—and his love for fossil fuels and nuclear power even clearer.

In addition to slashing funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, he also announced this week that he wants massive rollbacks in automotive fuel efficiency standards and billions in new investments in nuclear weapons and storage for commercial nuclear waste.

The administration’s budget cuts $2.4 billion from the EPA’s operating funds Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Plans for small nuclear reactors stalling in Britain

Bechtel pulls out of mini-nuclear development, Construction News, 17 MARCH, 2017 Bechtel is to pull out of small modular reactor development, the US engineering giant has confirmed. The company said it would no longer be attempting to create its own SMR reactor after it was unable to find investment for its programme, or a utility company that would provide a site.

Bechtel’s SMR aspirations were as part of mPower, a joint venture with energy giant Babcock & Wilcox…..

Bechtel will take itself out of the government’s SMR reactor design competition.

In March 2016 the government launched its £250m SMR competition which set out to identify the preferred reactor technology to be rolled out across the UK over the next 15 years. The Bechtel team was listed as one of the 33 parties to have made it past the first round of the competition, including engineering firms such as Atkins and contractors such as Costain.

Alongside firms such as Westinghouse and NuScale Power, the mPower JV was one of the companies capable of developing the technology after its reactor design was recommended for “further government investigation” by the National Nuclear Laboratory in 2014.

The competition has stalled ever since, with sources telling Construction News that they have been largely left in the dark by the government over the next steps……

March 18, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop Adani: Australian delegation release new poll,  attend Adani HQ mtg

‘Three quarters of Australians polled want Qld Premier and Mayors, on their trade mission to India,  to pursue Adani investment in solar not coal’
~ Australian Marine Conservation Society | AMCS
17 March 2017:

”   New poll shows three quarters of people believe Qld Premier & Regional Mayors, in India today, should pursue solar not coal.
Meeting between Adani HQ Senior Management and community delegation of Geoff Cousins AO, Qld farmer, tourism operator and reef campaigner.
With the hotly contested Third Test between India and Australia underway, former Cricket Captain Ian Chappell says renewable energy is the future. … ”

Ian and Greg Chappell call on Adani  to abandon Carmichael mine project
‘Former Australian test captains say opposition to mine in Australia could affect sporting ties with India, in letter directly appealing to Adani boss’

~ Joshua Robertson @jrojourno 16 March 2017:  ” … The Chappells, well-known through their sporting exploits in India where the Australian team is currently playing, joined 90 prominent Australians in the letter, which will be delivered to Adani’s head office on Thursday. … ”


March 18, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Virtual power plant achievable within 5 years – AGL Energy’s Andy Vesey

‘Virtual power plant’ is here, says AGL Energy’s Andy Vesey, AFR, 17 Mar 17 Home storage batteries will be cheap enough within five years to make the “virtual power plant” achievable, revolutionising energy and making investment in traditional plant harder to justify, AGL Energy chief executive Andy Vesey says.

Mr Vesey said that batteries would be about the same $3500 price that AGL is charging 1000 Adelaide householders for its virtual power plant trial, a fraction of the $16,000 full price of the Sunverge batteries used in the trial. They could pay themselves off in about five years.

“It’s coming,” he told an American Chamber of Commerce lunch. He said grid scale batteries proposed by Tesla and others already offer value in the right circumstances.

Virtual power plants – “behind the meter” energy resources such as batteries, solar panels, software and smart thermometers managing power-hungry appliances – are one way to ease pressure on the grid and help prevent blackouts such as those plaguing South Australia. ….

Mr Vesey said on Friday that adding storage to solar homes was like adding refrigeration to agriculture, changing the way consumers interact with the power grid and the investment equation for energy companies….

He said when you put 1000 rooftop solar households with batteries together and control them in the cloud “you fundamentally have a 5 megawatt peaking plant on the edge of the grid. It changes everything”. ……

March 18, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia, storage | Leave a comment

Seawater pumped hydro could help South Australia

Snowy Hydro gets a boost, but seawater hydro could help South Australia, ABC News, 17 Mar 17 The Conversation  By Roger Dargaville, University of Melbourne “………could this technology help to ease South Australia’s energy crisis?

The Melbourne Energy Institute (MEI) report on Pumped Hydro Opportunities identifies several potential seawater PHES locations in South Australia.

This includes a very promising site at the northern end of the Spencer Gulf, with significant elevation close to the coast and close to high-capacity transmission lines.

The Department of Defence manages this land, and discussions are ongoing as to how the project might be designed to not interfere with the department’s operations on the site. A win–win development is the primary design aim.

The MEI study suggests that PHES could be delivered at around $250 per kWh of storage.

This compares well with utility-scale lithium ion battery storage, which currently costs of the order of $800 per kWh, although recent announcements on Twitter from Elon Musk suggest this might be coming down towards $500 per kWh.

The Spencer Gulf site has the potential to provide at least 100 megawatts of dispatchable generation, effectively making the wind and solar generation in South Australia significantly more reliable.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will help fund a feasibility study into the technology, working with partners Energy Australia, Arup and MEI.

If the facility is ultimately built, it could become a key element in SA’s bid to avoid future power blackouts.

Dr Roger Dargaville is the Deputy Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute. He is an expert in energy systems and climate change.

Originally published in The Conversation

March 18, 2017 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

South Australia’s energy policy

Instead of the gas plant, Saddler wants to see the government back solar thermal with storage, even if existing proposals sit at a significantly higher price bracket, such as the $1.2 billion 170MW solar thermal tower proposal for Port Augusta

Renewables and South Australia’s power policy, The Saturday Paper, Max Opray , 18 Mar 17 “……Weatherill said the Frydenberg announcement of a reinvigorated Snowy Mountains hydro scheme showed the federal government was in a “white-knuckled panic” about energy policy. “It is a $2 billion admission that the national energy market has broken and there needs to be public investments to actually fix it up.”

And later, in the same answer: “It is a disgrace the way in which your government has treated our state.”

The showdown came after a week in which the Weatherill government had broken ranks with the National Electricity Market in declaring a “South Australia first” energy policy.

The state has endured a cursed run when it comes to keeping the lights on……

Most of these issues were not the fault of the South Australian energy grid’s high level of renewable energy penetration, but that hasn’t stopped the Turnbull government and other clean coal cheerleaders using the state as a cautionary tale about green energy.  Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment