Australian news, and some related international items

Parliamentary Committee considering if Australia should be involved in making Generation IV nuclear reactors

The gift of the ‘GIF’: Generation IV International Forum, Independent Australia,  19 April 2017 The Turnbull Government has quietly signed Australia up to the GIF Framework Agreement for the development of Gen IV nuclear reactors and is currently conducting a Parliamentary Inquiry of which most of us are unaware, writes Noel Wauchope.

YOU HAVE probably never heard of the “GIF”.

I hadn’t, until just this week when by chance, I heard of the Parliament Inquiry into the Framework Agreement for International Collaboration on Research and Development of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems.

The Committee consists of nine Liberal MPs, six Labor and one Green.

That inquiry is being held now and the Committee calls, or more correctly, whispers, for submissions by 28 April 2017.

It is all about the GIF — Generation IV International Forum. The Australian Government signed up to this, in 2016, without any public discussion.

What is The Generation IV International Forum (GIF)?

An international collection of 14 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, the UK and the USA (original charter members, 2005); Switzerland, Euratom, China, Russia and Australia (signed later).

The World Nuclear Association describes the collection as countries for whom:

‘ … nuclear energy is significant now and also seen as vital for the future’.

What is the 2005 Framework Agreement AKA “the charter”?

According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework Agreement:

‘ … formally commits them [signatories] to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.’

Australia signed the charter on 22 June 2016 represented by Dr Adi Patterson, COE of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). — pending this Joint Standing Committee on Treaties review. ANSTO is to be the implementing agent.

When the Australian Government quietly signed up to the GIF, it made no commitment to any particular action towards developing new nuclear reactors.  Other countries – including Japan, Canada, France, South Korea – have committed to working on particular types of Generation IV reactors. Australia might be expected to not only fully sign up as a member of the charter but perhaps also to provide funding and resources to develop one or more types.

Australia’s signing of the GIF

Media reports indicate Australia made a bid, or approach, to join GIF. The active seeking out of such an agreement that is at odds with public opinion, at odds with the current government’s policy position on nuclear power and is inconsistent with Australian laws, which prohibit the use of this technology, is astounding…….

ANSTO makes a number of questionable assumptions about Australia joining in developing new nuclear reactors. For example, ANSTO claims that it would ‘further Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives’, and ‘further strengthen our claim as the most advanced nuclear country in SEAP’ and will position Australia to develop Generation IV reactors.

There are so many questions about — one hardly knows where to start:…….,10215#.WPbL2mlNX7g.twitter

April 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, technology | Leave a comment

Adani coal mine just does not make economic sense

Coal glut, cheaper renewables, Adani makes no sense at all,   As public angst over the prospective A$1 billion subsidy to coal magnate Guatam Adani hits fever pitch, a small company is modestly beavering away on another – more worthy – energy project in Far North Queensland.

Genex Power has turned the abandoned Kidston gold mine into a solar farm and pumped-hydro power storage project. Kidston will deliver 145MWh of renewable energy per year. This is enough to power 26,484 homes. In terms of reducing emissions, this is equivalent to taking 33,000 cars off Australian roads.

Like Adani, the Kidston project also got a leg-up from government. It won a grant of nearly A$9 million from ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and struck a deal with the state of Queensland to sell electricity for 20 years.

Unlike Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, however, the Kidston solar project has bankers and investors. Unlike Adani, whose labyrinthine corporate structure wends its way to the Cayman Islands, Genex is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, has a market value of A$70 million and is owned by small investors. When it delivers its first power in the next three months, it’s likely to pay tax on its profits.

The furore over Adani has so far centred on the putative subsidy for the rail line to cart the coal from the Galilee Basin to the coast. There is no rail line without a mine, however, and so the bigger question is: who is going to tip in the A$10 billion in project finance to build the mine?

Adani’s bankers have long fled the scene – not just for environmental reasons, but because the business case for building this, the world’s biggest new thermal coal mine, is sketchy.

The global seaborne coal market is in structural decline. There is a glut. Thermal coal futures prices are well below the spot price – and even at present spot prices, this is hardly a viable financial proposition…….

April 19, 2017 Posted by | business, Queensland | Leave a comment

In this world of war danger, could we negatively gear a nuclear bomb shelter?

Boomer Wondering If You Can Negatively Gear A Nuclear Bomb Shelter  SBS, By The Backburner 18 APR 2017  With the world seemingly being dragged increasingly closer to nuclear war, 59 year old Craig Richardson of Toorak is currently considering his ability to negatively gear an investment nuclear bomb shelter in Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

Mr Richardson told The Backburner he and wife Margaret are mulling over expanding their property portfolio, taking advantage of low interest rates along with the current political climate and the tensions between the US and North Korea.

“I saw on the news that North Korea has been conducting missile tests, and I turned to Margaret and said, Margaret, this could be a fantastic opportunity for us,” Mr Richardson explained.

“We don’t suppose a bomb shelter will attract a huge amount of rental income, so ideally we’d like to negatively gear the property. But we think it would be a superb investment in the long run, given the fact we all may be headed for imminent annihilation.”

“This is precisely how you get a leg up in the property market – seeing an opportunity and seizing it instead of complaining. The pessimistic youth of today might see nuclear war as a negative. Well, not myself and Margaret. The glass is always half full for us.”

April 19, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

We are about to choose Adani or Australia

If the world in 2077 is still burning as much coal as we are today, and the financial model of the Adani assumes it will, Australia as we know it – our wheatbelts, our reefs, our cities, and our lifestyles – will cease to exist.

We are about to choose Adani or Australia.

The argument against Adani achieves that rare distinction of finding purchase among all parts of society: patriots and cosmopolitans, environmentalists and economists, parochialists and internationalists, the job-hungry regions and the growth-hungry cities. We must all stop this affront to our nation. We must choose Australia.

Adani is not just another coalmine, it is a turning point for the nation  Hamish McKenzie

If the government approves this monstrous mine it will be committing environmental treason against every Australian who values our farmers, our coasts, our bush and our way of life. In an almost unbroken line from Monkey Mia, down across the Bight and then all the way up the other side to Mackay, the Australian coast is etched in various shades of brown. This is the historical precipitation map. Annual rainfall has dropped, it shows, across this enormous stretch of coastline, by as much as 100 millilitres since 1951.

In another map, concentric rings of increasingly angry red emanate from the centre of the continent. This one shows that, assuming we keep going as we are, the temperature in our country will increase by as much as 5C by the end of the century. Eight, if we’re unlucky.

This, by the way, is not the marketing material of some lefty environmental organisation. This is the product of thousands of the world’s top climate scientists, using some of the most sophisticated computer models ever built, to generate projections so fine-grained they simulate even the amount of moisture in every parcel of soil on the planet, and in the poles, the thickness of every chunk of sea ice.

These models give a glimpse of the Australia we are creating. Continue reading

April 19, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Adani’s coal will worsen the lives of India’s poorest   Harita Sridhar, Last week, I told my dad I was going to speak outside the Indian high commission at an anti-Adani rally against the proposed Carmichael mine. Soon after, he called me up and he was not happy.My parents are Indian migrants and I am a young, second-generation, Indian-Australian woman. My father reminded me that there are 300 million people living without electricity in India, and of the times we ourselves were without power in our ancestral village and our home in the coastal city of Visakhapatnam. Energy poverty is an obstacle to inclusive development in India, and difficult to empathise with here in Australia, where we generally have the privilege of energy security.

But the coal from Adani’s Carmichael mine is not the answer for those living without electricity. It will further pollute the air they breathe and the water they drink. It will cause dangerous climate change and extreme weather that always affects the poorest first. Australia’s coal will make their lives harder in the long run.

That’s why I decided to speak out. I believe that, if the Australian government or Adani were genuinely serious about extending our energy security to India, they would be generous with technology transfer, or provide untied funding to help India’s renewables sector grow. Instead, we face the potential construction of what would be Australia’s largest coal mine, and the prospect of irreversible environmental degradation to our climate, groundwater and the Great Barrier Reef.

Adani’s project is a terrible idea. The company has a record of serious environmental and human rights violations in several countries, including India I don’t trust it to keep the Australian environment safe.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is offering Adani $1 billion of public money as a subsidised loan for this project, though India doesn’t even want our coal! Just last week, India’s Energy Minister, Piyush Goyal, said India didn’t want to keep buying foreign coal and wanted instead to transition to a renewable-energy economy. This is the safer, cleaner and more sustainable solution to India’s energy deficit, and the only one that doesn’t harm the global environment.

Closer to home, more than two-thirds of Australians polled say they don’t want the mine to be built either. This year alone, more than 140 “Stop Adani” groups have formed, and the national Stop Adani roadshow sold out at every major city along the east coast, gathering about 4000 passionate people (500 in Canberra!) who are concerned about the mine and don’t want it to go ahead.

The Carmichael mine is bad for Australia, for India and for the global climate. The rest of the world is getting smarter about climate change and stepping away from coal. Australia shouldn’t embarrass itself by taking a huge step backwards.   Harita Sridhar is a Canberra student.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, personal stories | Leave a comment

Why it’s so important for North Korea to develop nuclear weapons

“At the end of the day, the North Koreans believe that their nuclear weapons are too foundational to their survival and to the survival of their regime.”

WITH the whole world staring daggers at North Korea, why is it so intent on harnessing the very weapon that could destroy it? Charis Chang, 18 Apr 17, 

Another factor that has added pressure to the situation is the political turmoil in South Korea.

The US made a deal with South Korea to place a powerful anti-missile system in the country that could intercept and destroy missiles fired from North Korea.

But this deal was placed under a cloud earlier this year when then-president Park Geun-hye was impeached for corruption and then removed from office.

The man seen as a frontrunner to replace her, Moon Jae-in, does not seem supportive of continuing with the deal, and said he wanted to review the decision. While the presidential race has since narrowed, if Moon was elected on May 9, it could weaken the US bargaining position.Moon has said he wants to met with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang as a priority over going to Washington, indicating he favours working with the dictator.

This may calm tensions in the area but could allow North Korea to continue developing its nuclear weapons.

With South Korea currently under interim leadership favourable to the US, Prof Blaxland said there was a “certain moment of opportunity” for the US to act.

Last month the US started installing its advanced missile defence system called THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) in South Korea, despite some saying it should wait until the presidential elections were held.

US President Donald Trump has also ordered a naval strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, to the region, though the vessels remain a long way from the peninsula………

CAN CHINA HELP?  Many countries have been looking to China to try and solve the impasse, saying it should exert its influence over North Korea to get it to fall in line. But Brad Glosserman said the belief the Chinese could force an outcome in Pyongyang was a mistake.

He pointed to the US relationship with Israel as an example, saying despite all that America does to help the Jewish state, it is unable to force Israel to do what it wants. “The problem with North Korea’s relationship with the world, is the North’s relationship with the US,” he said.

“What China believes is that if there is to be a resolution, it must be a resolution between Washington and Pyongyang. “Beijing’s only real role is to facilitate that task, the idea that they can put the screws on … and deliver North Korea is something that the Chinese don’t believe and I don’t believe.”


April 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

20,000 Pakistani Schools to Go Solar


Why isn’t Australia doing this? , 17 Apr 17About 20,000 schools in the province of Punjab in Pakistan will convert to solar power, according to government officials.

Punjab chief minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif reviewed the progress of the “Khadim-e-Punjab Ujala Programme” to install solar rooftop systems on the area’s schools at a recent meeting.

The project will kick off in Southern Punjab schools and expand in phases across the province, according to a local report.

The Asian Development Bank and France’s AFD Bank are backing the program, Cleantechnica reported. This is the first program of its kind in the country.

In Pakistan, nearly half of all residents are not connected to the national grid. Residents who are connected to the grid regularly experience rolling blackouts and power outages. And the problem is only expected to get worse in the coming years.

Renewable resources can help mitigate this growing energy crisis. Pakistan happens to be rich in solar, as the Express Tribune described:

“With eight to nine hours of sunshine per day, the climatic conditions in Pakistan are ideal for solar power generation. According to studies, Pakistan has 2.9 million megawatts of solar energy potential besides photovoltaic opportunities.

“According to figures provided by FAKT, Pakistan spends about $12 billion annually on the import of crude oil. Of this, 70 percent oil is used in generating power, which currently costs us Rs18 per unit. Shifting to solar energy can help reduce electricity costs down to Rs 6-8 per unit.”

Solar energy has made great strides in Pakistan in recent years. In February 2016, its parliament became the first national assembly in the world to be powered entirely by solar energy. The legislative body, known as the Majlis-e-Shoora, is in the capital city of Islamabad.

One of the world’s largest solar farms is currently under construction in Punjab. Developers of the 1,000-megawatt Quaid-i-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur have already added hundreds of megawatts of energy to the national grid.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where Americans’ tax money goes – the militarised budget

Where Your Taxes Go: The Militarized Budget On the other hand, there is another side of the US government: the government of tax breaks and tax cuts for the rich, the one that squanders as much on the military as the next seven countries combined.

Only 22 percent of military taxes go to US troops for pay and benefits. Meanwhile, nearly half of the military budget goes to a powerful group of multinational corporations that make billions in profits from US warmongering.

Take Lockheed Martin. As the federal government’s biggest military contractor, it received $36 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2015, amounting to 80 percent of its revenues from all sources.

And that’s just one contractor. In all, the Department of Defense handed out more than $297 billion in contracts in 2016….Events like the Syria bombing, and Trump’s election, tend to send stock prices for these companies soaring.

Where Your Dollars Are Going: Why Some Antiwar Activists Are Withholding Taxes, April 18, 2017, By Lindsay KoshgarianTruthout | News Analysis Among the marches, petitions and call-in campaigns that comprise much of the Trump resistance movement, one resistance tactic gets little attention: withholding taxes. As the US seems ready to slide into yet another Middle East war in Syria while preparing for massive cuts to government programs at home, what role does tax resistance play in opposing regressive and violent policies?

While being anti-tax is typically associated with conservatism, there is a small but longstanding tradition within the progressive movement of withholding taxes — specifically, war taxes. Continue reading

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

America pushes the world to the brink of war

Washington pushes world to brink of nuclear war, WSWS, 18 April 2017 The repeated statements by US Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials Monday that the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over and “all options are on the table” have laid bare the mounting threat that Washington will provoke a war on the Korean peninsula involving the use of nuclear weapons and the deaths of millions. Continue reading

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unsubsidized wind and solar now the cheapest source for new electric power – China leads

A major reason why installations increased, even though dollars invested fell, was a sharp reduction in capital costs for solar photovoltaics, onshore and offshore wind,” the report said.

At the same time, because of the drop in prices, last year, the overall investment in renewable energy plummeted 23% to $241.6 billion from the record established in 2015; it was the lowest total investment since 2013.

Investment in new renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuel generation in 2016, for the fifth successive year. The proportion of global electricity coming from renewable sources rose from 10.3% in 2015 to 11.3% in 2016, and prevented the emission of an estimated 1.7 gigatons of CO2.

Unsubsidized wind and solar now the cheapest source for new electric power Between 2015 and 2021, China is expected to install 40% of all worldwide wind energy and 36% of all solar, By  Senior Reporter, Computerworld | APR 17, 2017While investments in renewable energy slumped last year, a big drop in unsubsidized costs for new wind and solar power installations indicated that they remain popular energy alternatives. Continue reading

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Racial abuse at BHP mining site in Western Australia? Aboriginal woman takes legal action

Aboriginal woman launches legal action over alleged racial abuse at WA mining site BHP Billiton is facing legal action over alleged racial abuse at one of its mine sites in Western Australia. By  Ryan Emery 18 APR 2017 An Aboriginal woman has launched legal action against BHP Billiton after months of alleged racial abuse on a Western Australian mining site.

Continue reading

April 19, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, legal, Western Australia | Leave a comment

There’s An Army Of Indian Twitter Accounts Pushing Suspiciously Identical Pro-Mining Tweets

‘The accounts appear to post tweets with very specific talking points.’ Mark Di Stefano   BuzzFeed News Political Editor, Australia 17 April 2017: “Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull met with Indian mining boss Gautam Adani
last week over the future of a controversial coal project on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

“The Adani mining company is seeking a $900 million loan from Australian taxpayers for the project,
which would see the development of the biggest coal mine in Australia.

“There’s been intense opposition from environmental groups, who claim the Carmichael coal mine would increase global greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.

“When Adani met with Turnbull last week, the mining boss tweeted this picture  [on original] which showed the men with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

“But when the replies to the tweet started rolling in, it was clear that several were pushing a very specific talking point. … “

April 19, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

New South Wales becoming a quiet achiever in renewable energy

For a start, the NSW Coalition government now has one thing that the federal government no longer has – a long-term target (2050) to achieve zero net emissions for the state, including its electricity grid.

More than that, while it does not have its own state-based renewable energy target, it has high ambitions of its own that put it on a par with what has been achieved in South Australia, and what is being sought in Victoria, Queensland, and in the territories.

The Climate Change Fund Strategic Plan – unveiled as part of the NSW 2050 zero emissions target last October – openly canvasses a scenario where the state doubles its level of renewable energy to more than 10,000MW.

NSW could be dark horse of Australia’s renewable energy boom, REneweconomy, By  on 18 April 2017 Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg must feel a little friendless when he gets together with his state counterparts at the regular COAG energy meetings and looks around the room.

For a start, there are four Labor and Greens energy ministers – ACT (100 per cent by 2020), Victoria (40 per cent by 2025), and Queensland and Northern Territory (each 50 per cent by 2030) – with specific renewable energy targets far beyond the federal government

Then there is the new Labor energy minister in Western Australia, Ken Wyatt, who is yet to declare his hand, but who is likely to scupper the state subsidy for electricity which disguises the high cost of its fossil fuels. Renewables, and particularly rooftop solar, are likely to be the solution.

The Coalition states are not likely to be much help either. Tasmania wants a new Basslink so it can build more wind farms and export “baseload” renewables into the Victorian grid.

That leaves, NSW, the only mainland state or territory with a Coalition government and energy minister. It should be a strong ally – especially given that a year ago it was branded the worst place in Australia to invest in renewable energy. But appearances can be deceiving. Continue reading

April 19, 2017 Posted by | energy, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Bid for rare earths mining and processing in Australia


Is there any awareness in Australia of the dangers of toxic radioactive trash from rare earths mining and processing?

Next mining boom in Australia will be driven by tech metals for renewable energy and technologies ABC Rural By Babs McHugh, 17 Apr 17  The Australian mining industry is on the verge of a new mining boom based around so-called tech metals.

And as the race cranks up across the nation to find new deposits of rare earths and other metals, industry itself is calling for the development of a value-adding component……

The tech metals complex is made up of rare earths and other minerals and metals that are used in what is referred to as the new economy. They are essential to making high technology componentry such as mobile phones, solar cells and autonomous vehicles.They are also used to make the different kinds of batteries needed to store power from renewable sources, and new types of lightweight engines to replace traditional combustion engines……..

Rare earth hunters also want local value-adding industry There are 17 rare earth elements on the periodic table, falling into the heavy rare earths or light rare earths depending on their atomic weight.

Up until recently, all rare earths were mined and exported from China, which has had a stranglehold on the industry and its pricing. Given their global importance, the race is well and truly on to find more rare earth deposits, and Australia is a favoured hunting ground.

“They’re actually quite ubiquitous in the Earth’s crust,” Arafura Resources managing director Gavin Lockyer said.”Why they’re associated with the term rare is the fact that it’s rare to find them in an economically recoverable quantity.”

Australia the perfect place for processing Arafura Resources has done that with its Nolans Bore project 135 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.The find is considered significant, featuring a 56-million-tonne deposit with a 40-year mine life. It is full of neodymium and praseodymium, which is used to make magnets, the bulk of which are now sourced from China.

“We really think there’s much more value-add to be had by doing downstream processing, and Australia is the perfect place to do that. “We’ve got an existing regulatory environment that covers things like water usage, environmental aspects, air pollutants, transport and disposal. “There’s already a well-established regime and bureaucracy in place to regulate that, and we think it’s better to do that at the mine site where it all happens, rather than trying to do it offshore and making it somebody else’s problem……

April 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, rare earths | Leave a comment

Opposition in South Australia to $500 million solar and wind farm

Beetaloo Valley residents to fight against planned $500 million solar and wind farm by Neoen Erin Jones, Regional Reporter, The Advertiser April 17, 2017  SOUTHERN Flinders Ranges residents are vowing to stop a 50-turbine wind farm from ruining the landscape, fearing the project will be fast-tracked because of the state’s energy crisis.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | South Australia, wind | 1 Comment