Australian news, and some related international items

No insurance company would cover survivors of a nuclear strike – Northern Territory News

NT insurers won’t cover us for nuke strikes, CRAIG DUNLOP, NT News, April 29, 2017 SURVIVORS of a nuclear strike on Darwin would be left to rebuild civilisation without the help of any insurance payouts, insurance companies say.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | General News | 1 Comment

Pope Francis pushes for diplomatic solution to US dispute with North Korea

North Korea: Pope Francis pushes for diplomatic solution to US dispute with reclusive regime Pope Francis says a third country, such as Norway, should try to mediate the dispute between North Korea and Washington to cool a situation that has become “too hot” and poses the risk of nuclear devastation.

Pope Francis said he believed “a good part of humanity” would be destroyed in any widespread war.

Speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him back from Cairo, Pope Francis also said he was ready to meet US President Donald Trump when he is in Europe next month but that he was not aware that Washington had made a request for a meeting.

In answer to a question about the tensions between the US and North Korea, Pope Francis said the United Nations should re-assert its leadership in world diplomacy because it had become “too watered down”.

“I call on, and will call on, all leaders, as I have called on leaders of various places, to work to seek a solution to problems through the path of diplomacy,” he said about the North Korea crisis.

He spoke after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile shortly after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.

“There are so many facilitators in the world, there are mediators who offer themselves, such as Norway for example,” Pope Francis said.

“It [Norway] is always ready to help. That is just one but there are many. But the path is the path of negotiations, of a diplomatic solution.” Norway secretly negotiated an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians known as the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.

Pope Francis expressed his deep concern over the crisis, saying: “This question of missiles in [North] Korea has been brewing for more than a year but now it seems the situation has become has become too hot.

“We are talking about the future of humanity. Today, a widespread war would destroy — I would not say half of humanity — but a good part of humanity, and of culture, everything, everything.

“It would be terrible. I don’t think that humanity today would be able to withstand it.”

Mr Trump is due in Sicily late May for a meeting of the heads of the world’s richest nations.

The White House has not yet said if he would be stopping in Rome to meet the pope, which would be an unusual omission for a visiting head of state.

Asked if he would be meeting Mr Trump, the pope said he had not yet been informed if a request had been made, but added: “I receive every head of state who asks for an audience.”

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Port Augusta Mayor speaks at Parliament house rally for solar thermal power

Demonstrators rally for Port Augusta solar thermal power plant   April 30, 2017  MORE than 200 people turned out on the steps of Parliament House on Sunday, with their own makeshift solar panels, urging the State Government to back a solar thermal power plant at Port Augusta.

Decked with mirror panels to mimic solar panels, the demonstrators were led by Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson and former coal power station worker Gary Rowbottom.

The Federal Government has committed $110 million in funding through a loan for the project, but the State Government is yet to commit any money.

Mr Johnson said a power purchase plan from the government would make it viable and secure jobs for the Far North city. “Our community has pushed for solar thermal for years,” he said. “Now, it’s time for action from the State Government. Federal funding is now locked in for solar thermal in Port Augusta so it’s time for the Premier to make solar thermal a reality.

“Building solar thermal won’t just help Port Augusta, it will create manufacturing jobs for SA, regional jobs and balance our electricity grid with big storage.”

Mr Rowbottom said the project would provide much-needed stimulus for Port Augusta.  “This is Jay Weatherill and the SA Government’s chance to support our community for the long term, helping us build a new future and becoming the clean energy powerhouse of SA now the coal station has closed,” he said.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said solar thermal power was “absolutely in the mix” for the State Government going forward.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia | Leave a comment

Donald Trump might or might not, start a war with North Korea

Donald Trump on whether he could start war with North Korea: ‘I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see’ Answering a question about whether another nuclear test by North Korea would mean a military response by the US, Mr Trump appears to be undecided, The Independent, 1 May 17  Foster KlugKim Tong-Hyung Seoul President Donald Trump has said that he believes China’s president has been putting pressure on North Korea as it pursues its missile and nuclear weapons programmes – but when asked about whether another nuclear test would mean a military response from the US, Mr Trump said “I don’t know…we’ll see”.

In an interview with CBS programme Face the Nation Mr Trump said he won’t be happy if North Korea conducts a nuclear test and that he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping won’t be happy, either.

Asked if that means military action, Mr Trump responded: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”

………..Mr Trump has sent a nuclear-powered submarine and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to Korean waters and North Korea last week conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast. The U.S. and South Korea also started installing a missile defence system that is supposed to be partially operational within days and their two navies are staging joint military drills.

Residents in the village of Seongj, where the missile defence system is being installed, scuffled with police on Sunday. About 300 protesters faced off against 800 police and succeeded in blocking two US Army oil trucks from entering the site, local media reported. A few residents were injured or fainted from the scuffle and were transported to a hospital.

The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD), remains a controversial topic in South Korea and presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in even has vowed to reconsider the deployment if he wins a presidential election in May. He has said that the security benefits of THAAD would be offset by worsened relations with China, which is the country’s biggest trading partner and is opposed to its deployment.

Mr Trump raised eyebrows in South Korea last week when he said would make Seoul pay $1 billion for the missile defence system. Seoul’s presidential Blue House said on Sunday that White House National Security Adviser HR McMaster confirmed that the U.S. will not be seeking money for the system. ……

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Inexorable climate change as arctic ice disappears

The hard truth, however, is that the Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone. Efforts to mitigate global warming by cutting emissions remain essential. But the state of the Arctic shows that humans cannot simply undo climate change. They will have to adapt to it

The Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone On current trends, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by 2040 Apr 29th 2017

 THOSE who doubt the power of human beings to change Earth’s climate should look to the Arctic, and shiver. There is no need to pore over records of temperatures and atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations. The process is starkly visible in the shrinkage of the ice that covers the Arctic ocean. In the past 30 years, the minimum coverage of summer ice has fallen by half; its volume has fallen by three-quarters. On current trends, the Arctic ocean will be largely ice-free in summer by 2040.

Continue reading

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Political risk for Turnbull in pandering to Big Coal over Adani mine

Turnbull’s foolish gamble to pander to Big Fossil over Adani coal mine, SMH,  Crispin Hull , 1 May 17,  Is Malcolm Turnbull determined to lose the 2019 election? His statement this week that the government could underwrite the rail line for the Adani mine would have increased the anger among small businesses in the six reef seats. Continue reading

May 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

In South Africa, a big win for the nuclear-free movement

Big win for little folk in nuclear plant fight

29 April 2017 Sheree Bega, Johannesburg – Fighting Eskom’s proposed nuclear reactor has given Trudi Malan a lot of sleepless nights. Lucky, then, that she’s an insomniac.

It’s often late when Malan, who describes herself as a “believer in the power of civil society, environmental activists (and) African penguin propagandists” pores over nuclear-related documents.

And after 13 years interrogating Eskom’s plans for the plant at Thyspunt near St Francis Bay, there’s a lot of them. So far, the 49-year-old has packed 13 arch-lever files, she says, somewhat proudly.

For Malan, who leads the Thyspunt Alliance, a grouping of organisations fighting the project, this week’s sensational ruling in the Western High Court, blocking the government’s R1 trillion nuclear programme, is a victory for the “little guy”.

Malan says organisations like hers feel a sense of solidarity with the SA Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg which took the government to court two years ago to set aside nuclear agreements with Russia.

This week, Judge Lee Bozalek with Judge Elizabeth Baartman ruled that the secret tabling of intergovernmental agreements with Russia, the US and Korea were unconstitutional and unlawful and ruled that they be set aside.

“It does feel like a David and Goliath battle. We feel vindicated. We’ve been saying all along that due process had not been followed, not just with regard to this, but with the whole process against nuclear.

“It’s continuously the small organisations which have to engage with environmental lawyers just to make sure due process is followed.

“We’re up against big money. We see Dr Kelvin Kemm (chief of the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation) slating us because we’re environmentalists, not nuclear physicists, so we’re not allowed to say anything.

“Fighting this takes money and a hell of a lot of commitment to get to the truth. You have to stick to your guns. But the victory is kind of hollow because the road ahead of us is still so long.

“Our organisations are the small voices. We’re not even a pawn on the chessboard, we’re the floor the table is standing on. The chessboard is where the big guys are playing the game.”

Dr Piet Human of the NPO Save Bantamsklip, agrees.

Bantamsklip, near Gansbaai, is another site mooted for nuclear power station roll-out.

“We’re extremely happy with the court outcome but we have to recognise it’s still part of the process, which has now been postponed for a while.

“That’s part of our strategy as activists to cause friction and slow down processes. That’s what we did during apartheid – getting the state in court all the time. They’re little obstacles because we’re little people.

“The longer we can postpone their commitment to nuclear, the better. The world is changing. Everyone is pushing for renewable energy, and nuclear will vanish.”

Bantamsklip is the smallest of six floral kingdoms but boasts more than 9 200 species of fynbos. There are 22 Red Data listed species on the property.

“Our coastline is unique. This is a beautiful place and now you want to plonk down a big nuclear power station that could take 45 years to build. It will create havoc environmentally, socially and economically.

“The judgment shows people’s voices do matter. It just becomes unbearable for the government, that’s why they choose these remote places and that’s why it’s important for us to make a big noise.

“We’re like little birds that plump themselves up to make themselves look bigger.”

Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg says the court victory is part of a much bigger battle, while Liz McDaid, SAFCEI spokesperson, says the organisations “experienced delays and dirty tricks, but we persevered and now we have been vindicated”.

For Malan, the fight centres on saving “the heritage of the first nation – the Khoisan”.

“This is the coastal cradle of humankind and should not be used for nuclear development.

“One of the two judges in this case was Judge Baartman, and it’s very apt considering we’re in the Sarah Baartman municipality. Maybe there is some justice along the way.”

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Court ruling was a huge setback for the South African nuclear lobby

What Now For South Africa’s Nuclear Energy Plans? Any deals with Russia, the U.S. and South Korea are off and government must go back to the drawing board. Pieter du ToitDeputy Editor, HuffPost South Africa  26/04/2017 The official request for information (RFI) issued by Eskom for its nuclear build programme is off the table. What does this mean? That the government must completely start again when it comes to its nuclear energy plans for South Africa.

 Liz McDaid, of Earthlife Africa, one of the two applicants who asked the Western Cape High Court to set aside government’s nuclear plans, says the only option left to Eskom and government is to “go back to the drawing board”.
 “The entire nuclear procurement programme has been found to be unlawful. The whole thing has been stopped, which includes the RFI issued in December and which closes on Friday,” McDaid told HuffPost.

The nuclear procurement programme was moved from the department of energy in December and Eskom issued the RFI — a process whereby parties indicate their interest in tendering for the deal — just before Christmas.

Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith Communities Environment Institute (Safcei) asked the court to set the programme aside. The court found the entire programme to be “unlawful and unconstitutional” and that there was insufficient consultation…….

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Western Australian suburb Baldivis tops nation for solar rooftops

Baldivis tops nation for power from sun, 1 May 2017 The southern Perth postcode of Baldivis is Australia’s solar capital, with more than two-thirds of houses in the suburb generating their own power from the sun.

With electricity prices spiralling and a rush towards green energy, fresh figures show the rate of solar panel installations across Australia led by WA is gathering pace.

There are almost 230,000 households and small businesses with solar panels across WA after a massive 71 per cent increase in installations in past 10 months alone.

More than a quarter of WA homes have solar panels. But the figures show the rate of solar uptake in some suburbs is sky-high, with a staggering 69 per cent of households in Baldivis having a system.

According to the figures, from the Australia Photovoltaic Institute, there are 5765 “dwellings” in Baldivis and 3951 of them have solar panels — the highest rate of penetration in Australia.

It was a similar story in Byford, where 56 per cent of 3326 households had rooftop PV, as well as Rockingham, where uptake was 53 per cent.

The figures also show Mandurah, while having a lower penetration rate, had the second highest number of solar panel installations of any suburb in the country.

Of the 28,428 households in the southern centre, almost 10,000 had photovoltaic cells, behind only Bundaberg in Queensland, which had 10,529 systems. Australian Photovoltaic Institute chairman Renate Egan said it was remarkable that solar was so popular that in some suburbs the households without solar panels were outnumbered by those which did have them.

Warwick Johnston, an analyst with consultancy SunWiz, said WA trailed Queensland and NSW on installations.

“The biggest change has been WA leapfrogging Victoria into third place when it comes to the number of new solar installations,” Mr Johnston said.

The latest figures came as Energy Networks Australia — which represents grid operators such as Western Power — released a report showing the amount of solar power in WA was set to triple in the next 13 years.

It said using battery storage systems, electric cars and “smart homes” would also rise.

ENA boss John Bradley said more than 40 per cent of WA’s electricity was predicted to come from renewable sources by 2030 amid moves to de-carbonise the economy.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | solar, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Farmers want the Australian government to embrace solar energy

Farmers urge government to embrace solar for the future 30 Apr 2017, A year ago, my family acquired solar panels in a very unusual way. Our farm is located in Quirindi, northern NSW, in the heart of Australia’s food bowl.

We’ve never before experienced a run of 40-degree days like we had last summer. Being farmers we are at the mercy of the seasons, and in recent years we have experienced extremes in our weather – extended hot summer periods and increasingly variable rainfall.  It’s hard on our cows, it dries out the soil, stresses pastures and impacts the number of animals we can stock on the farm.

A few years back a concerned group of Christians called Common Grace crowdfunded enough money to buy solar panels for the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.  It was an attempt to raise awareness of the value and importance of sustainable energy.

But when this gift was rejected, Common Grace turned to the front lines of climate change in Australia and offered the panels to farmers, like me. My parents taught me the value of caring for the land, and so, I appreciate the clean energy from solar which allows me to use appliances during the day knowing I am having minimal impact on the environment.

My family spends less on electricity now and with the price of solar storage falling, we’ve got plans to go completely off the grid.

It’s frustrating that our government is failing to transition Australia to sustainable energy when we are out in the paddock already trying to adapt to the impacts of worsening droughts and heatwaves.

We must tackle climate change so we can pass on healthy farmlands to our children, and so farmers can continue to produce food and clothes for generations to come.

Being given the opportunity to go solar has been great. I just wish our government will now give it a go. Kirrily Blomfield was 2014 NSW farmer of the year.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | New South Wales, personal stories, solar | Leave a comment

Chernobyl nuclear site to become a solar farm

Solar Plant to Launch at Chernobyl Nuclear Site  VOA, Oksana Ligostova and Ruslan Deynychencko reported this story for VOA. Jonathan Evans adapted the report for Learning English. 27 Apr 17 Hai Do was the editor.Thirty years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Chernobyl is about to become a solar farm.

Officials in Ukraine plan to build a solar energy plant at the Chernobyl nuclear site. The announcement comes during the week of the 31st anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

The Chernobyl accident occurred on April 26, 1986. The incident would become the world’s worst nuclear accident. 32 people died and dozens of others suffered painful radiation burns.

Until recently, the government of Ukraine has largely ignored the area.

Ostap Semerak is Ukraine’s minister of ecology. He spoke with VOA about the planned solar project.

“Today, almost a year after we have started the work, I can announce the first private investment project working in the Chernobyl zone to build a small solar energy plant.”

Semerak says more than 50 national and international companies have expressed interest in building the solar plant. He adds that when completed, the project will produce about half the power produced by the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Federal Minister For Coal, Matt Canavan cause the Australian States “silly”

Canavan slams ‘silly’ states Minister says firms are being by punished by states’ moratoria on gas exploration, as poll shows majority support for bans, THE AUSTRALIAN, RACHEL BAXENDALE, 29 Apr 17,  Resources Minister Matthew Canavan says Australian businesses are being held back by the “silly decisions of state governments” who have placed moratoria on unconventional gas exploration, despite a new poll showing the majority of Australians support the bans.

More than twice as many Australians support moratoriums on fracking (56 per cent) as those who oppose them (20 per cent), according to an Australia Institute survey of 1420 people conducted over a week in March.

That majority in favour of bans on new unconventional gas extractions including hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was evident across all states.

The opposition to fracking also crossed party lines, with Labor, Liberal and minor party voters all expressing concern……

Australia Institute deputy director Ebony Bennett said industry demands to open more land to fracking were not about reducing energy prices but maximising profits.

“The current gas crisis and high gas prices are not an unintended consequence, but the result of linking Australia to the international gas market,” she said.

Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler said Labor had dragged the government kicking as screaming to its decision to place export restrictions on the gas companies.

“We’d seen for a couple of years that there was a potential supply crunch coming our way because of the LNG operations and that’s why we announced in 2015 that we thought a policy of a national interest test should be adopted,” he told Insiders.

“We were rubbished by Malcolm Turnbull. He called us irresponsible. That we would wreck investment.

“The Commonwealth absolutely needed to take action and we welcome the fact that Malcolm Turnbull finally came to that decision this week.”

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the government’s export restrictions would do nothing to reduce the cost of gas domestically.

“What we’ve had happen is our gas market opened up to the international market, the prices are set at the world price,” she said.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Federal Labor no longer supporting Adani coal mine

Federal Labor backtracking on support of Adani’s planned Carmichael coal mine, ABC News, 1 May 17 By political reporter Dan Conifer, Federal Labor is stepping back from its support of Adani’s proposed multi-billion-dollar Queensland coal project.

The Indian company is still to decide whether to proceed with its Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin.

Earlier this month, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten backed the project.

“I support the Adani coal mine so long as it stacks up. I hope it stacks up,” Mr Shorten said.

But Labor’s energy and environment spokesman Mark Butler today warned the development could hurt other coalmining areas……..

Westpac rules out lending to project

Westpac last week released a climate change policy stating it would only lend to projects involving higher-quality coal. The decision effectively ruled out financing the Adani development and any other ventures using coal from the Galilee Basin.

Mr Butler said the bank’s move was further proof “the economics of this project don’t stack up”.

“The demand for thermal coal exports around the world is in rapid decline,” he said.

“I think instead we should be thinking about other economic development and job opportunities for North Queensland.”

He said the Carmichael project would need a “miracle” to proceed.

Adani is seeking a $900 million taxpayer-subsidised loan for a rail line to the Abbot Point coal port.

According to Forbes’ rich list, group chairman Gautam Adani and his family are worth more than $8 billion.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Westpac in tune with Australians about climate. Government sadly out of touch

Westpac’s anti-coal stance exposes a Coalition out of sync with business and public on climate  Mark Kenny,  Obviously Westpac’s public ‘un-friending’ of new coal – for which you can read Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in the Galiliee Basin – is a body blow for a project whose backers are thinning by the day.

Westpac is the last of the big four Australian banks to bin Adani’s publicly toxic prospectus.

All are unmoved by the lure of ongoing coal profits, especially if it comes with ties to a venture that has become a byword for climate change denial.

Adani will continue to seek other financiers – including extraordinarily, the Australian taxpayer from whom it is telling Indian backers, it remains eligible for a $1 billion loan. This is despite the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund rules, which appear to render it ineligible.

With or without that welfare, the business case for new coal generally and the Adani mine in particular, looks to be ebbing. Fast.

Westpac’s decision is an environmental declaration of intent. But it is a coldly commercial one also that recognises what the Australian government defiantly rejects: coal’s day has passed.

Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan hit out strongly at the bank, suggesting it had succumbed to the inner-city politics of Sydney rather than the employment needs of the sunshine state. Remarkably, Canavan – cabinet minister – even advocated a boycott, counselling potential customers to back a bank that backs Queensland’s interests.

Doubtless there would be many Queenslanders upset by the Adani venture, not least the thousands already employed around the Great Barrier Reef.

Besides, Westpac is hardly going out on a limb. Try going to the AGL website. One of the nation’s biggest energy companies has announced a new campaign to end its association with coal entirely: “The reasons for getting out of coal are all around us” its homepage proclaims.

Privately, Malcolm Turnbull must surely be hoping the Adani thing just goes away.  The PM may be a progressive rationalist at heart but in his head there are other realities to balance. Party room realities like Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, and the Nationals, whose head-in-the-sand record on climate change has left farmers so exposed that even the National Farmers Federation now proposes a carbon price.

Paul Keating once described Turnbull as a cherry on a compost heap. The trouble with compost heaps is they tend to be stationary. This issue is anything but, and if you want proof, just follow the money.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

AEMO chief says its mandate remains reliability and “solar penetration will increase”

Reform not an ‘either or’: AEMO
The electricity operator’s new chief says its mandate remains reliability and “solar penetration will increase”. Mandate remains reliability in time of change: AEMO chief The Australian, ,Andrerw White, April 28, 2017 The new chief executive of the Australian Energy Market Operator Audrey Zibelman says reform of the electricity market is not “either or” choice between fossil fuels and renewable power and needs to focus on restoring the confidence of consumers amid a series of rolling crisis in the market.

Ms Zibelman said the market operator had to get “ahead of the game’” to ensure the energy networks were reliable at a time of technological change and consumer choice that was driving increasing use of renewable energy.

“We understand that the degree of solar penetration is going to increase,’’ Ms Zibelman told ABC Radio this morning.

“We need to ensure that the networks to deal with these increases in a way to secure reliability and that we are essentially really ahead of the game rather than always catching up as an enabler to consumers and that we are an enabler of the better economic outcomes for consumers.’’

Ms Zibelman, a New Yorker who replaced the late Matt Zema as AEMO chief executive last month, said policy questions such as calls for an emissions intensity scheme were the responsibility of politicians, rather than the market operator. But she said AEMO had to respond to technological changes and consumer choices that were taking place regardless of policy and ensure the reliability of the networks.

“The issue is not the either or — one is good and one is bad. The fact is that it (renewable energy) operates in a very different way and so we need to be moving towards how do we optimise the system around the resources that we are going to use so that we optimise the value of everything … and take advantage of low costs and the resources they need to be secure. That has been the focus.”

AEMO has come under increasing scrutiny after a series of power outages in South Australia — where its failure to order extra gas-fired power forced blackouts for 90,000 homes — since September and a scare in NSW in February…….

Ms Zibelman said gas exports had contributed to higher prices and that AEMO had previously warned about the scarcity of gas for te local market.

“That is not different to what has happened before this year with AEMO’s report … there was a recognition about scarcity and it is something frankly that has been talked about for a couple of years.

“ I think there is real attention to it this year and a recognition that has created a lot of uncertainty and been disconcerting for customers and that we need to take action to really regain the confidence of consumers in the market place.”

May 1, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment