Australian news, and some related international items

How Australia increases nuclear weapons proliferation risks

Australia has uranium export agreements in place with all of the five ‘declared’ nuclear weapons states – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK – although none of these countries take seriously their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation-Treaty to pursue nuclear disarmament.

IAEA safeguards inspections in the declared weapons states are voluntary and, in general, tokenistic.

Australia, along with the weapons states, boycotted recent negotiations on a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by the United Nations in early July.

Australia has fallen into the trap of bending over backwards to support its allies on an international scale, and subordinating non-proliferation objectives to the commercial interests of the (mostly foreign-owned) uranium companies operating in Australia.

Australia’s contribution to nuclear proliferation risks, Bridget Mitchell and Jim Green, 6 Sept 2017, Online Opinion   Once again, the world finds itself in a dangerous place as one mad-man explodes increasingly powerful nuclear weapons and another mad-man threatens North Korea with “fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

There appears to be no solution to the North Korean problem. Diplomacy, threats and sanctions have not been effective. Military intervention would likely result in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the 38th parallel ‒ with or without the use of nuclear weapons.

Australia isn’t to blame for the dangerous and escalating situation in North Korea but it’s worth reflecting on how we ‒ or more to the point, how successive governments ‒ have made the world a more dangerous place.

According to the World Nuclear Association, from the 1950s until the 1970s, Australia’s uranium was “primarily intended for US and UK weapons programs”. Although we no longer supply uranium for weapons production, Australia does contribute to proliferation risks. Continue reading

September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

A nuclear bomb: effects on each of Australia’s major cities

The good news for Australians and the world at large is that North Korea has no intention of using its nuclear arsenal.

North Korea has a very limited nuclear arsenal, and does not view Australia as a particularly worthy adversary. If they can reach Melbourne or Sydney, they could also reach the mainland United States, which would prove a more tempting target.

So even if Kim Jong-un were to push the button, it’s very unlikely the missiles will be aimed at Australia.

What North Korea’s nukes would do to Australia’s cities, By Nick Pearson, Sep 6, 2017 North Korea would be capable of killing tens of thousands of Australians instantly if they target one of our cities in a nuclear attack.

A 100 kiloton bomb was detonated under a mountain in North Korea over the weekend, and it would be capable of an extraordinary amount of damage if it targeted an urban area.

US academic Alex Wellerstein created a piece of software that estimates the scale of a nuclear attack on various locations.

At present only Darwin is potentially within the range of North Korea’s missiles. The regime also has not developed the technology to put a nuclear warhead on such a missile, so these estimations are at present, hypothetical.

The bomb tested by North Korea on Sunday would kill an estimated 126,000 people straight away if dropped in the heart of Sydney.

If the bomb landed in Pitt Street Mall, it would create a fireball wide enough to destroy state parliament, St Mary’s Cathedral, Wynyard Station and Town Hall.

The air blast radius would flatten just about every building in the CBD, stretching from Circular Quay to Elizabeth Bay.

A slower death from radiation poisoning would affect up to 90 percent of people in the wider blast radius stretching from Kirribilli to Balmain to the University of Sydney.

Victims from Newtown to Taronga Zoo would suffer third-degree burns as part of the thermal radiation radius.

But survival outside the blast zone is reliant on the strength and direction of the wind. Continue reading

September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA threatens Sweden because Sweden signed UN treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Mattis reportedly threatened Sweden with retaliation over signing a nuclear-weapons ban, Business Insider CHRISTOPHER WOODY, SEP 6, 2017 US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly warned Sweden of severe consequences if the country followed through on signing a UN treaty banning nuclear weapons.

September 6, 2017 Posted by | General News | 2 Comments

USA and South Korea increase the tensions on Korean Peninsula with powerful show of fire power

Allies seek to deploy aircraft carrier, strategic bomber in response to N.K. nuke test, Yonhap News, 2017-09- SEOUL, Sept. 4  — South Korea and the United States will seek to deploy a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, strategic bombers and other powerful assets to the Korean Peninsula as a response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test, Seoul’s defense ministry said Monday.

In its report to the National Assembly’s defense committee, the ministry also said that its military will stage a unilateral live-fire drill, which involves Taurus air-to-surface guided missiles mounted on its F-15K fighter jets, this month. The missile with a range of 500 kilometers is capable of launching precision strikes on the North’s key nuclear and missile facilities.

“We will push for the option of deploying strategic assets such as the U.S. carrier strike group and strategic bombers after consultation with the U.S.,” the ministry said.

The show-of-force measures were unveiled a day after Pyongyang conducted what it claims to be a test of a hydrogen bomb mountable onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, sharply raising military tensions.

At the parliamentary session, Defense Minister Song Young-moo said that during his recent talks with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, he demanded that the U.S. deploy its strategic assets to Korea on a “regular” basis. He made the demand, citing local politicians’ calls for the redeployment of U.S. tactical nukes.

But he dismissed the news report that he actually demanded the redeployment of the U.S. nuclear arsenal withdrawn from the peninsula in the early 1990s…….

September 6, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

John Quiggan demolishes foolish Minerals Council of Australia’s nuclear spin

The Minerals Council of Australia pushing zombie ideas, September 4th, 2017, John Quiggin,

Fighting zombies is a tiresome business. Even when you think you’ve finally killed them, they bounce back as often as not. But it has to be done, and there are some benefits. When you see a supposedly serious person or organization pushing zombie ideas, it’s an indication that nothing they put out should be presumed to be serious.

There can be few zombies more thoroughly undead than nuclear power in general, except for the idea that nuclear power is a sensible option for Australia. The strongly pro-nuclear SA Royal Commission demolished this zombie so thoroughly that it should have taken a decade at least to regenerate.

But here’s the Minerals Council of Australia, which has taken a break from promoting coal to push the idea thatAustralia needs a nuclear power industry and that the biggest obstacle is a legal prohibition imposed in 1998. The supporting “analysis” is riddled with absurdities, some of which have already been pointed out. I’ll give my own (incomplete) list over the fold

Most obviously, there’s the statement that 58 nuclear reactors are currently under construction. As anyone who’s been paying attention could tell them, that number was 66 not long ago. The decline reflects the abandonment of half-built projects like the VC Summer plant in North Carolina and the fact that some long overdue projects like Watts Bar, started back in 1973, have been completed, while new starts have slowed to a crawl.

That’s only going to accelerate. China currently has 23 plants under construction, but they haven’t approved a new one in eighteen months. Other countries with projects under construction, but no recent approvals include the US and France. Unless something changes, the completion of current projects will cut the number under construction in half within a few years.

Then there’s the claim that nuclear power is affordable. There’s no reference to the dismal record of the existing industry. Instead, the MCA is relying on vaporware

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are close to commercialisation in the US. A Nu-scale 50MWe SMR, for example, is projected to cost around US$250 million.10 Three of these would cost and produce around the same amount of power as the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere – and it would be reliable, synchronous, on-demand power

The reality is that the NuScale SMR doesn’t exist even as a prototype. Any estimate of the costs of such a reactor is purely speculative. The SA Royal Commission looked hard at SMRs and concluded they weren’t a viable option now or in the foreseeable future.

Showing patent bad faith, the MCA quotes the Royal Commission’s claims about the potential for a nuclear waste dump (an idea that has been abandoned) but ignores the more significant finding that nuclear power, including SMRs is hopelessly uneconomic for Australia.

Even more startling is the suggestion that we should follow the example of Canada which supposedly has a thriving nuclear industry. The reality is that nuclear power in Canada has been a failure, with massive cost overruns and frequent breakdowns. After spending at least a billion in subsidies, the Canadian government sold its nuclear energy business for a mere $15 million in 2011. It’s highly unlikely that Canada will ever build another nuclear plant.

Then there’s a reference to some real vaporware, notably including Transatomic a startup backed by Peter Theil. Google reveals that Transatomic had to back away from its inflated claims by a factor of more than 30. An honest mistake, apparently, but not promising as a basis for Australian energy policy.

Regardless of whether the prohibition on nuclear energy is lifted, it’s not going to happen in Australia, or most other countries. The real lesson from this episode is that any analysis coming out of the MCA should be treated with extreme scepticism. In particular, the next time an MCA spokesperson pops up to say that we need coal-fired power indefinitely into the future, remember their similar, and patently false, claims about nuclear power.

September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Australia’s defence forces to buy lethal drones from US nuclear weapons maker General Atomics?

Dan Monceaux Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia   3 September 2017.

General Atomics popped up in the news yesterday, but their name wasn’t mentioned in the news report I saw. Apparently, Australia’s defence forces are interested in acquiring Reaper drones with lethal capabilities.

General Atomics already has a presence in South Australia through their ownership of two uranium mining projects. Their subsidiary companies are Quasar Resources and Heathgate Resources- both operate in-situ leach operations in the Frome Basin area: at Four Mile and Beverley

September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull hold talks, as North Korea again threatens America

North Korea makes another threat to America as Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull hold talks, The West Australian , Claire Bickers, Sarah Blake in New York, wires 6 September 2017 Donald Trump’s phone call with Prime Minister Turnbull has been described as warm and constructive.

The two leaders have agreed North Korea poses a grave threat to regional stability and that it is time for the international community to act.

China’s role in putting pressure on Pyongyang to end its nuclear and missile testing program was discussed, along with the emerging threat of Islamic militants in the Philippines.

Earlier, Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said Australia and its allies sought to avoid a military conflict with North Korea “at all costs”.

The Minister will be travelling to Seoul today to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and to deliver the keynote address at a forum on regional and global security.

“We seek to pursue the sanctions process and to ensure that they are allowed to operate to their fullest effect to send the clearest possible message to the regime in North Korea that their behaviour is unacceptable,” she told ABC radio.

…… There has been speculation North Korea may be planning to fire an ICBM this weekend when the republic celebrates its foundation on September 9. Mr Turnbull told coalition MPs at a partyroom meeting on Tuesday that the action of North Korea was “reckless, dangerous and provocative”.

He echoed the US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley who said the regime seems to be “begging for a war”.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong will meet leaders in South Korea and Japan later in the month. Mr Shorten said he was pleased about the phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull.

“Australia must use its influence wherever possible to promote a peaceful resolution to this crisis, and I hope this phone call goes some way to achieving this,” Mr Shorten said.

Confirmation of the Oval Office phone call came late Tuesday, during a dramatic day of developments in the burgeoning nuclear crisis, as the Japanese government started planning for mass evacuations of nearly 60,000 citizens in South Korea…….



September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Dangerous transport of plutonium nuclear fuel in the North Korean missile influence area

Robin des Bois 30th Aug 2017, Within a few days, unless an accident occurs, the Pacific Egret will enter the North Korean missile influence area. The Pacific Egret carries 8 tons of MOX, a nuclear fuel made in France containing 8 to 10% of plutonium mixed with enriched uranium.

This civil bomb left the French port of Cherbourg on July 5, 2017. After having sailed down the Atlantic Ocean, passed off South Africa, crossed the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, the MOX is expected to be unloaded in the small private port of the Japanese nuclear power plant in Takahama, facing North Korea.

Once again, the French government, Areva and the Nuclear Safety Authority have taken the irresponsible risk of permitting and undertaking a nuclear expedition bound for an unsteady zone in all political, geological and climatic respects.

September 6, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

UK and Canada combining to develop non nuclear production of non-reactor supply of medical isotope technetium-99m (Tc-99m)

ARTMS Products Inc. partners with Alliance Medical to modernize, stabilize UK medical isotope supply chain May 16, 2017

ARTMS Products, Inc., a Vancouver-based medical technology company, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a strategic partnership with Alliance Medical to enable and demonstrate an alternative, non-reactor supply of technetium-99m (Tc-99m) within the United Kingdom. ARTMS will provide to Alliance the hardware, know-how, and proprietary consumables to gain regulatory marketing approval within the UK and subsequently implement commercial supply of accelerator-, or cyclotron-produced Tc-99m. This technology will enable a reduction in the reliance in the UK of foreign, subsidized, reactor-based medical isotope production; enhancing supply reliability and eliminating the use of enriched uranium as a source of life-saving medical isotopes.

Tc-99m is used in over 80% of all nuclear medicine imaging procedures in areas such as cardiology, oncology, and neurology. Typically sourced from an ageing fleet of global nuclear reactors, this important isotope has been subjected to significant supply disruptions in recent years. ARTMS’s technology to produce Tc-99m using medical cyclotrons is a viable alternative and forges a path to securing a safe, reliable, and environmentally sound supply of a critical medical isotope for the future. Continue reading

September 6, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

CSIRO a paid-up member of Minerals Council, which fights climate change action

Science agency stands in contrast to Australia’s biggest polluter, AGL, which parted ways with MCA over climate change, Guardian, Michael Slezak, 6 Sept 17, The Australian government’s science agency, the CSIRO, has paid tens of thousands of dollars to peak mining lobby group the Minerals Council of Australia, which fights against government action on climate change.

The CSIRO has been listed as an “associate member” of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) since at least 2004 and new documents obtained by the Australian Institute, under freedom of information laws, show that in 2017 the “annual subscription” for membership was just under $10,000.

The mining lobby plays a vocal role in Australian climate change policy debates and the positions it takes are on the extreme end of the spectrum and include pushing for more coal power stations to be built.

The CSIRO continues to be a member of the MCA despite even Australia’s biggest climate polluter, AGL, publicly parting ways with the Minerals Council of Australia in 2016, saying it did so because of the positions the MCA took on climate change.

“AGL’s positions on climate change and renewable energy differed from those held by the Minerals Council of Australia … and AGL has elected not to renew its membership,” the company said in its 2016 sustainability report.

CSIRO declined to answer specific questions about how long it had been a member, what the cost had been and what the CSIRO got in return for membership. A CSIRO spokesman instead gave a statement, published in full below. [on original] …….

CSIRO has come under fire in recent years for a perception it has not been giving fearless advice to the public and to government on climate-related issues. At the same time, the organisation has cracked down on employees who themselves seek to speak publicly on policy issues……

ohn Church, a world-leading climate scientist who was made redundant in the organisation’s 2016 job cuts and who was one of the disgruntled employees in the leaked emails, told the Guardian CSIRO’s membership of the MCA was in contradiction to its refusal to engage in policy debates.

“I would definitely say there was a conflict,” Church said. “CSIRO is putting itself in a position where it is implicitly supporting particular policy positions by being a member of the Minerals Council.

“They should not only be independent but be seen to be independent.”

A senior climate scientist still at the CSIRO told the Guardian that currently it is almost impossible for climate scientists there to speak publicly about policy…….

Other public organisations with associate membership of MCA include ANSTO Minerals and the University of Western Australia……ANSTO Minerals, part of the government-owned Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation is also an associate member of the Minerals Council and a spokesman said ANSTO was a member of the Uranium Forum of the MCA and also sits on the radiation protection working group…..

September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

South Australia’s Tesla big battery can stop the price gouging by Australia’s major energy players

How Tesla’s big battery can smash Australia’s energy cartel, REneweconomy, By Giles Parkinson on 4 September 2017  A series of reports from Australia’s Energy Regulator has illustrated how Australia’s big energy players have taken advantage of their market dominance to push up prices for critical grid services, and underline why South Australia was so keen to support the new Tesla big battery.

The Tesla battery, due to be installed by December 1, has been derided by the federal government as too small to do much and about as useful as a Big Banana or Big Pineapple.

But going by the AER reports, it could completely puncture the price gouging (which, we should point out, is perfectly legal according to the market rules) by major energy players that is costing consumers $60 million a year. Continue reading

September 6, 2017 Posted by | South Australia, storage | Leave a comment

September 1st More REneweconomy news


  • AEMO says fossil fuel failures, renewable investment delays biggest threat to grid
    AEMO says the biggest threat to Australia’s electricity supply is hotter temperatures, failure of large fossil fuel plants, and delays in investment in new wind and solar. Smart solutions such as demand management and storage will mean no need for new coal generators.
  • Graph of the day: South Australia’s “baseload” wind supply
    Wind energy has supplied a constant output of 1200MW over last three days in South Australia – just like “baseload”
  • Voters blame energy companies – and PM – for sky-high power prices
    More than four times as many people blame Malcolm Turnbull for sky-high power prices than renewable energy companies. That power campaign went well didn’t it!
   Coal city Newcastle prepares tender for 5MW solar farm

  • Eight companies short-listed to tender for job to develop, operate 5MW solar farm on former landfill site at Newcastle.
  • Community retailer Enova to buy and sell rooftop solar power
    NSW community-owned retailer to buy excess rooftop solar from customers, as well as from local community solar farms and gardens, to sell on to other customers who can’t generate solar themselves.
  • AEMO switches focus to dispatchable generation over baseload
    Energy market operator’s message on baseload generation is blunt: it’s struggling to compete and not well suited to the changes taking place. It’s time to modernise.
  • Graph of the Day: Green and gold on Australia’s grid
    Australia’s wind and solar energy resources should put on a bit of a show on same day as Coalition declares its attachment to coal.
  • CEFC backs leasing model to boost Australia’s EV uptake
    Clean Energy Finance Corp backs Macquarie Leasing program offering discounted finance for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and other low-carbon investments, including rooftop solar and battery storage.
  • Liddell: Climate change and air pollution medical negligence
    With an estimated 3000 deaths pa and many illnesses in Australia due to heart and lung disease from air pollution The Prime Minister’s proposal to keep open heavily polluting Liddell as the solution to his government’s failures in energy policy must be condemned.
    • Garnaut slams AEMC move to delay 5-minute settlement rule
      Energy rule-maker says it supports change to 5-minute settlement period, but wants it introduced gradually and not before July, 2021.
    • Coalition asks AGL to keep Liddell coal generator open extra 5 years
      Coalition wants AGL to keep 46-year old Liddell coal generator open another five years, despite AEMO saying there is no threat to security standards and best way to minimise is to have more renewables.

September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Analysis of the tiny number of climate denialist science papers finds that all of them are flawed

Those 3% of scientific papers that deny climate change? A review found them all flawed.  Katherine Ellen Foley, 5 Sept 17, It’s often said that of all the published scientific research on climate change, 97% of the papers conclude that global warming is real, problematic for the planet, and has been exacerbated by human activity.

But what about those 3% of papers that reach contrary conclusions? Some skeptics have suggested that the authors of studies indicating that climate change is not real, not harmful, or not man-made are bravely standing up for the truth, like maverick thinkers of the past. (Galileo is often invoked, though his fellow scientists mostly agreed with his conclusions—it was church leaders who tried to suppress them.)

Not so, according to a review published in the journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology. The researchers tried to replicate the results of those 3% of papers—a common way to test scientific studies—and found biased, faulty results. Continue reading

September 6, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Turnbull government encouraging mining, funds exploration

Turnbull invests $100m to secure mining investment, drive discoveries, The Age, 2 sept 17,  The Turnbull government will commit $100 million to secure private investment in greenfield mineral exploration across the country to drive a new wave of discoveries and restart the flagging mining sector in its west.

WA had been the biggest beneficiary of the once-in-a-century mining boom during the first decade of the 2000s and into the start of this decade, but has become the country’s worst-performing economy as mining investment abated…..

Speaking at the Western Australian Liberal Party conference in Perth on Saturday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced new tax incentives for junior exploration companies in a move he said would encourage investment and “risk taking”.

Turnbull said the new Junior Mineral Exploration Tax Credit (JMETC) would allow the tax losses in greenfield exploration companies to be distributed as a credit to Australian resident shareholders.

 “These tax incentives will encourage ‘junior explorers’ to take risks and to have a go at discovering the next large-scale mineral deposit,” Turnbull said……

September 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Florida bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma

Florida officials begin ordering evacuations as Hurricane Irma intensifies to a Category 5 storm, WP Post Nation   September 5 KEY WEST, Fla. — Another monster storm is hurtling closer to the United States, this time threatening Florida, where officials announced mandatory evacuations Tuesday in advance of what forecasters say could be the most powerful hurricane to strike the Atlantic coast in more than a decade.

Even as millions across Texas picked up the pieces after Hurricane Harvey, which battered that region with record-setting rain last week and was blamed for at least 60 deaths, Hurricane Irma gathered strength in the ocean, registering as a Category 5 with winds in excess of 180 miles per hour.

Concern centered particularly on the Florida Keys, a chain of islands at the southern tip of the state that is a tourist hot spot and home to more than 80,000 residents. It is in the direct path of the storm as currently forecast, leading local officials there to announce that the area would be under mandatory evacuation orders beginning Wednesday.

Fear also spread north into Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county with 2.7 million residents. Though the storm’s exact trajectory was still unknown, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez urged residents to stock up on food and water and warned that evacuation orders could follow in some areas. The county already planned to start evacuating those with special needs on Wednesday…….

September 6, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment