Australian news, and some related international items

This week’s nuclear and climate news Australia

In our anglophone world, it doesn’t seem to matter that much, when floods  hit Asian countries. But USA?  That’s different. As I write, Hurricane Harvey is hitting Texas. Well, they’ve had hurricanes before, but climate change just makes them that much more severe.

I fear that we are all getting “nuclear-crisis-North-Korea-fatigue”. A pity, as North Korea and USA continue to ramp up the nuclear ante.


North Korea’s threats to Australia, as Australia backs USA war games in the Pacific.

Top-secret base Pine Gap might involve Australians in drone strikes on innocent civilians.

CLIMATE. As climate change intensifies, Australia’s farmers will be hard hit.  Australia’s coastal communities already vulnerable to climate change. Bundaberg MP insists that coastal communities must prepare for climate change.– A band of right-wing religious politicians are stopping climate action in Australia.  Dryness of vegetation in Sydney area adds risk to coming bushfire season.

Adani: Australian Conservation Foundation loses appeal against $16b Carmichael coal mine.– Aboriginal group considers appeal over Federal Court decision for lease to Adani coal project.  Anti Adani coal project movement continues, despite Court setback. Australia’s religious leaders unite to oppose Adani coal mine expansion. Bank calls for more transparency on Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility’s $5b loan scheme.  Adani to fight $12k fine for environmental breach.

NUCLEAR.  Western Australia Shire of Leonora keen to make money by hosting radioactive trash. South Australian govt’s pro nuclear propaganda campaign was expensive.    Non nuclear production of medical radioisotopes at South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. Safety concerns about Port Pirie’s former uranium plant site raised by Liberal candidate.


August 26, 2017 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Australia’s coastal communities already vulnerable to climate change

Flooding proved how vulnerable Coast is to climate change, Sunshine Coast Daily, Bill Hoffman | 26th Aug 2017 THE Sunshine Coast received a taste Monday night of the future normal for low-lying coastal communities everywhere when, in the middle of a drought-like winter, water flooded through storm water outlets and over the top of revetment walls and onto key streets across the region.


August 26, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Texas about to cop a powerful hurricane

Hurricane Harvey on verge of reaching Texas coast, could be ‘on par with Katrina The menacing Hurricane Harvey is on the verge of reaching Texas, bringing fierce winds and torrential rain to a wide swath of the state’s Gulf Coast and prompting tens of thousands of residents to flee inland in hopes of escaping its wrath.

Key points:

  • Hurricane makes landfall as Category four hurricane
  • Residents fleeing most powerful storm on US mainland since 2005
  • Locals told to take cover from wind, unprecedented flooding

The National Hurricane Centre said the eyewall of the dangerous category four storm has reached the Texas coast, suggesting that the eye of the storm will make landfall in the coming hours.

The system is packing winds of 215 kilometres per hour, and experts fear could be the most destructive since Katrina left 1,800 people dead in 2005.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has warned it could be “a very major disaster”, while US President Donald Trump made an early disaster declaration, unlocking federal funding.

Harvey is expected to generate storm surges along with prodigious amounts of rain. The resulting flooding, one expert said, could be “the depths of which we’ve never seen”.

Weather experts have warned areas of the state could be uninhabitable for weeks or months if Harvey is as bad as predicted.

Fuelled by warm Gulf of Mexico waters, Harvey grew from an unnamed storm to a life-threatening behemoth in just 56 hours, an incredibly fast intensification.

It is on track to make landfall at Rockport, a fishing-and-tourist town about 50 kilometres north-east of Corpus Christi. The National Hurricane Centre warned life-threatening storm surges could affect low-lying coastal areas.

“We know that we’ve got millions of people who are going to feel the impact of this storm,” spokesman and meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said.

“We really pray that people are listening to their emergency managers and get out of harm’s way.”

Thousands of people have fled, but many others stayed put, stocking up on food and water, and boarding up windows. Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios had a sombre message to anyone defying the orders to evacuate.

“We’re suggesting if people are going to stay here, mark their arm with a Sharpie pen with their name and Social Security number,” he said.

“We hate to talk about things like that.

“It’s not something we like to do but it’s the reality. People don’t listen.” Galveston-based storm surge expert Hal Needham of the private firm Marine Weather and Climate said forecasts indicated it was “becoming more and more likely that something really bad is going to happen”.

At least one researcher predicted heavy damage that would linger for months or longer.

It may also spawn tornadoes. Even after weakening, the system might spin out into the Gulf and regain strength before hitting Houston a second time as a tropical storm, forecasters said.

“In terms of economic impact, Harvey will probably be on par with Hurricane Katrina,” University of Miami senior hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said.

“The Houston area and Corpus Christi are going to be a mess for a long time.”

While Mr Trump encouraged “everyone in the path of Hurricane Harvey to heed the advice and orders of their local and state officials”. The heavy rain could turn many communities into “essentially islands” and leave them isolated for days, said Melissa Munguia, deputy emergency management coordinator for Nueces County.

“Essentially there’s absolutely nowhere for the water to go,” she said.

Galveston Bay, where normal rain runs off to, will already be elevated.

The heavy rain is expected to extend into Louisiana, driven by counter-clockwise winds that could carry water from the Gulf of Mexico far inland. The Texas Governor activated about 700 members of the state National Guard ahead of Harvey making landfall.

Harvey would be the first significant hurricane to hit Texas since Ike in September 2008 brought winds of 177 kilometres per hour to the Galveston and Houston areas, inflicting $US22 billion in damage.

It would be the first big storm along the middle Texas coast since Hurricane Claudette in 2003 caused $US180 million in damage.

August 26, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Alaska’s permafrost is starting to thaw

ALASKA’S PERMAFROST IS THAWING, Alaska’s permafrost, shown here in 2010 [on original] , is no longer permanent. It is starting to thaw. The loss of frozen ground in Arctic regions is a striking result of climate change. And it is also a cause of more warming to come.  By 2050, much of this frozen ground, a storehouse of ancient carbon, could be gone. NYT, AUG. 23, 2017 YUKON DELTA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Alaska — The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as other parts of the planet, and even here in sub-Arctic Alaska the rate of warming is high. Sea ice and wildlife habitat are disappearing; higher sea levels threaten coastal native villages.

August 26, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Safety concerns about Port Pirie’s former uranium plant site raised by Liberal candidate

Liberal candidate raises safety concerns about Pirie’s former uranium plant site, Port Pirie Recorder, 25 Aug 17,  Frome Liberal candidate Kendall Jackson is calling on the state government to restore the fence at the former Port Pirie Uranium and Rare Earth Treatment Plant and Tailings site.

She said the State Development Department was responsible for managing the area and was yet to release the Radiation and Environment Management Plan for the site.

This was expected to be released in the first half of this year.

“The government must publicly release its plans for the former uranium plant site,” Mrs Jackson said.

“Residents deserve to know what the government has planned for the site and why the report is taking so long to be publicly released…..

August 26, 2017 Posted by | safety, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Bundaberg MP insists that coastal communities must prepare for climate change.

MP says preparing for climate change is vital for the Bundaberg region, Jim Alouat | 26th Aug 2017 LOWER house insurance premiums could be on the cards if Bundaberg home owners take steps to embrace climate and weather-resilient designs.

August 26, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Thorium planned as fuel for ‘dirty bomb’ attack in Indonesia

Indonesian militants planned ‘dirty bomb’ attack – sources, Yahoo 7   By Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa, JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian militants planned to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb, security sources said, highlighting the rising ambitions of extremists to wreak destruction in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

But experts cast doubt on their expertise, equipment and chances of success.
The plot was foiled when police raided homes and arrested five suspects in Bandung, West Java, last week, the sources with direct knowledge of the plot said. After the raids, police spoke of a plan to explode a “chemical” bomb but provided no other details……

The three counter-terrorism sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the militants had hoped to transform low-grade radioactive Thorium 232 (Th-232) into deadly Uranium 233 (U-233).
The highly radioactive uranium would be combined with the powerful home-made explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) to create a “nuclear bomb”, according to an instruction manual used by the militants and reviewed by Reuters.
In fact, the device would be, at best, a radiological dispersal device or dirty bomb that could spray radioactive material when the conventional bomb exploded.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s national police, Inspector General Setyo Wasisto, declined to confirm or deny the plot to construct the device, but said it would have been more potent than the two bombs made from TATP that killed three police in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta in May.
“If this bomb was finished, it would have had a more destructive impact than the bomb made from ‘Mother of Satan’,” he said, using the nickname for TATP.
“It could burn anything and make it hard for people to breathe.”
Thorium-232 can be transformed into Uranium-233 but requires the Thorium to absorb a neutron, a process that needs powerful irradiation, generally from a nuclear reactor, according to three analysts contacted by Reuters and the website of the World Nuclear Association, which represents reactor vendors and nuclear engineers, among other industry stakeholders….

One senior Indonesian counter-terrorism source said the Bandung-based cell had bought a large amount of a household item and had begun to extract the Thorium. Reuters has chosen not to name the item.
“They needed three weeks. It was still only one week (into the process when police raided),” the source said…..

According to police, the suspected Bandung plotters were members of JAD and were considering targets like the presidential palace in Jakarta and police headquarters in Bandung and the capital….. (Reporting by Tom Allard and Agustinus Beo Da Costa Additional reporting by Stefanno Reinard; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie)

August 26, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Vanguard Group has urged companies to disclose how climate change could affect their business and asset valuations

Call for climate change risk disclosures, AUGUST 25, 2017 Ross Kerber, Reuters Vanguard Group has urged companies to disclose how climate change could affect their business and asset valuations, reflecting how the environment has become a priority for the investment industry.

August 26, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Adani: Australian Conservation Foundation loses appeal against $16b Carmichael coal mine 

The Age, By Ellie Sibson, 26 Aug 17, Environmentalists have lost another appeal against Adani’s $16 billion Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) lodged the appeal last year after an earlier court ruling endorsed the mine’s environmental approval.

The full bench of the Federal Court in Brisbane today dismissed the foundation’s arguments that the Federal Environment Minister had failed in his duty to consider the mine’s impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

ACF spokesman Paul Sinclair said they would continue their fight to stop the mine.

“Today’s decision is just another step in the most significant environmental campaign of our generation,” he said.

“[It] shows that our national environmental laws are broken and are not protecting the places we love, like the Great Barrier Reef.

“We depend on the passion, commitment and determination of the Australian people to stop the Adani mine.”

In June, Adani’s board gave final investment approval for the proposed coal mine, which would be the largest in Australia.

In a statement, Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the Government welcomed the decision…..

August 26, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

Book to read in this Trump era of nuclear threat and climate change

Worth reading in the Trump era: Nuclear nightmares, authoritarianism and climate change, The Conversation, MV Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia August 25, 2017 Editor’s note: The Conversation Canada asked our academic authors to share some recommended reading. In this instalment, MV Ramana, a nuclear physicist and disarmament expert who wrote about small nuclear reactors, looks at a mix of new and recent books on nuclear disaster, weapons, authoritarianism and climate change.

My Nuclear Nightmare  Leading Japan Through the Fukushima Disaster to a Nuclear-Free FutureBy Naoto Kan. Translated from Japanese by Jeffrey S. Irish. (Non-fiction. Hardcover, 2017. Cornell University Press.)………..Naoto Kan was the prime minister of Japan during this critical period [of the Fukushima nuclear disaster] and this book, published in Japanese in 2012 and newly available in English, offers his inside perspective of how events unfolded at the highest levels.

Kan reveals how little even powerful individuals and institutions like him and the government can do in the face of a major nuclear accident. If a society like Japan that is so well-prepared for natural disasters like earthquakes is unable to deal with a severe nuclear accident like Fukushima, there is little doubt that no country would have been able to do much better.

Kan’s account is testimony of the prevalence of the safety myth: the comforting but illusionary idea that technology can prevent nuclear accidents. Sadly, that myth continues to prevail not just in Japan but in most countries that are operating or constructing nuclear power plants.

Command and Control     Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of SafetyBy Eric Schlosser (Non-fiction. Paperback, 2014. Penguin.) ……..The Sept. 18, 1980, incident was just one of the many close calls involving nuclear weapons that the world has experienced. Going through these experiences, it’s hard to attribute the fact that there have been no accidental nuclear explosions to anything but blind luck.

Eric Schlosser, an award-winning American journalist and author, has produced a very readable account of accidents and near-misses, as well as the decades-long history of trying to control these risks through technological and institutional fixes.

Command and Control reminds us of the extraordinary danger posed by the large nuclear arsenals possessed by many countries around the world — most importantly, the United States and Russia…..

Unmaking the Bomb  A Fissile Material Approach to Nuclear Disarmament and NonproliferationBy Harold A. Feiveson, Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, Frank N. von Hippel (Non-fiction. Hardcover, 2014. MIT Press.)…….. In contrast to proposals for nuclear disarmament that focus on diplomacy and international relations, this book by four physicists at Princeton University (my former colleagues) offers a more technical road map for nuclear disarmament: Namely, through the control and elimination of highly enriched uranium and plutonium — the fissile materials that are the essential ingredients of all nuclear weapons.

The connection is laid out in the introduction of the book: “If we are to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons, we must deal with the dangers posed by the production, stockpiling, and use of fissile materials. Unmaking the bomb requires eliminating the fissile materials that make nuclear weapons possible.”…….

The Rise of Hindu Authoritarianism  Secular Claims, Communal Realities  By Achin Vanaik (Non-fiction. Hardcover, 2017. Verso Books.)

The last few years have seen victories by right wing, authoritarian political parties and leaders in multiple countries. The same phenomenon in India, the “world’s largest democracy,” should be — and is — cause for worry…….. The Rise of Hindu Authoritarianism not only explores in great detail the growing communalization of the political arena and civil society, it also delineates what an oppositional and transformative project might look like.

The Great Derangement Climate Change and the Unthinkable  By Amitav Ghosh (Non-fiction. Cloth, 2016. University of Chicago Press.)…… climate change has appeared only sparingly in the world of fiction and literature…..Reading this book makes it clear, at least to me, that climate change is not a problem that can be dealt with through some clever technological inventions or some neat-looking financial instrument, but will require us to fundamentally reshape our economic, political and international structures.

August 26, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

A band of right-wing religious politicians are stopping climate action in Australia

The fact is that the great majority of religious leaders – from the Pope to the Dalai Lama – share Pickard’s views about the urgency of addressing climate change.

Yet in this country the resistance to any meaningful action to ameliorate climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is led to a substantial degree by those politicians who claim Christian faith.

Last year released a list of the most implacable opponents to climate change action. At or near the top of the list were the following names: Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Kevin Andrews, Cory Bernardi, Eric Abetz, George Christensen and Zed Seselja. These politicians are bound together by their strong and frequently touted religious belief.

How the religious right stall climate actionWhile most religious leaders accept climate change, the Christian right in Australia and the US make scepticism a tenet of their politics. Saturday Paper, By Mike Seccombe. 26 Aug 17  It has been more than three years now since Stephen Pickard penned his letter to the religious believers among our federal parliamentarians, arguing the case for action on climate change. Continue reading

August 26, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

How much effect did climate change have on Hurricane Harvey

Did climate change make Hurricane Harvey worse? 25 Aug 17, As climatologist Katharine Hayhoe points out, seasonal hurricanes are a natural part of the weather system in the Gulf coast, and attributing the cause of a single storm entirely to climate change is currently an impossible task. “Once you get down to a small regional level, hurricanes are so rare and random that you would not be able to detect a robust trend even if there was one,” says John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas’ state climatologist.

But did climate change-driven factors make Hurricane Harvey more destructive?

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico have been warmer than average this year, with bathtub-like temperatures breaking heat records all last winter.

Researchers can point to a direct relationship between warmer water temperatures and an increase in tropical cyclone formations, but the link between warm water and hurricanes is less clear, in part because hurricanes require several other ingredients, like specific wind patterns, to form.

Climate change is definitely setting up conditions that are known to make storms more destructive, including heating up the oceans. “The warmer the Gulf water is, the greater the amount of moisture will be available” to fuel rainfall, Nielsen-Gammon says. Continue reading

August 26, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Aboriginal group considers appeal over Federal Court decision for lease to Adani coal project

Fed Court decision: Adani leases issued despite Traditional Owners’ express rejection
The Queensland State continues to authorise dispossession, August 25, 2017

“Responding to a Federal Court decision today, in one of the long running cases brought by Traditional Owners against the Adani mine, the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners  expressed their profound frustration with the way the native title and court processes have over-ridden their decision to reject an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani.

“The appeal against the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT),  which authorised the issuing of mining leases to Adani by the Queensland Government,  was dismissed.  The Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Representative Council are seeking  the advice of their senior counsel as to whether to pursue the matter in the High Court. …

Senior spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Adrian Burragubba, says:

“We have fought and will continue to fight for our right to say no to the destruction of our country
through mining and to have our rights properly recognised and respected by the State Government. …

““We now look to our trial in March 2018 which focuses on Adani’s fake ILUA.  We have three times voted No to Adani’s grubby deal. …

Youth spokesperson for the W&J Traditional Owners Council, Murrawah Johnson, says,

“Adani and the State Government didn’t ‘negotiate’ and  achieve the free, prior, informed consent of the W&J people.  Instead Adani, backed by the State Government and past NNTT decisions,  relied on the threat that they would compulsorily take our land. …

Legal representative in the case, Benedict Coyne, says,

“Our client is carefully considering the judgement, and prospects of  further appeal for special leave to the High Court of Australia.” … “

August 26, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

Climate change effects: Russian tanker crosses Arctic without icebreaker

Tanker becomes first to cross Arctic without icebreaker,   @CNNMoney, August 25, 2017:

Climate change is helping create new opportunities for shipping companies by melting the ice around the North Pole.

A Russian tanker carrying natural gas has become the first merchant ship to sail across the Arctic without the help of an icebreaker, finishing the journey in record time.

The ship, the Christophe de Margerie, traveled from Norway to South Korea in 19 days, about 30% quicker than the regular route through the Suez Canal, its Russian owner, Sovcomflot, said this week.

Every year, arctic ice naturally shrinks in the spring and summer before growing again during winter. But as global temperatures have risen, the old sea ice that lasts year after year has shrunk to its smallest level in three decades.

Thinner, younger sea ice — less than a year old — has become the majority across the Arctic. Young ice struggles to reach a thickness of 2 meters (6½ feet) during winter months and then is more likely to melt during the summer.

Related: Watch as old sea ice vanishes

It’s a huge concern. According to NASA, many global climate models predict that the Arctic will be ice-free for at least part of the year before the end of the 21st century. Some models predict an ice-free Arctic by midcentury. That would have a direct impact on weather patterns around the world.

The thinning ice also opens new paths for global trade, saving companies hundreds of thousands of dollars they would spend on longer journeys via more southerly routes.

“This is the paradox of climate change,” said Ben Ayliffe, a campaigner for Greenpeace. “The fossil fuels we’re burning are allowing access into areas that were previously protected by ice.” He expressed concern that increasing sea traffic in the inhospitable environment will bring new risks, such as a fuel spill that would be virtually impossible to clean up.

Shipping tankers making their way across the top of the world typically need to be accompaniedby massive, nuclear-powered Russian icebreakers to plow through patches of six-foot-thick ice.

But the Christophe de Margerie, named for a former CEO of French oil giant Total, is specially designed to sail independently through ice as thick as 2.1 meters (nearly 7 feet), its owner said.

That means it should be able to operate in the harsh Arctic waters year round rather than just the summer months.

Its recent journey ferrying liquified natural gas more than 2,000 nautical miles through ice as thick as 1.2 meters (4 feet) “demonstrates the economic potential of using the Northern Sea Route for large-capacity vessel transits,” Sovcomflot said.

August 26, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Anti Adani coal project movement continues, despite Court setback

Court setback for anti-Adani campaign  Margaret Gleeson, August 25, 2017

” … While further legal challenges in the High Court are still awaiting decision,  the movement in opposition to Adani is growing.  Protests have been held in recent weeks in Townsville and Brisbane  targetting Adani’s offices and those of likely contractor Downer.  Arrests were made.

“The campaign is currently organising a series of summits in  Queensland regional centres, Brisbane and Sydney  to plan the next steps in the campaign.  The focus so far has been on direct action.
This has successfully prevented Adani from securing financial support from the Big Four Banks.

” … as Adani continues to have the support of both the Coalition and Labor,  to defeat Adani and put an end to all new coalmines in Australia,  mass demonstrations will be needed along with  the lobbyingdirect action and legal tactics.”

August 26, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment