Australian news, and some related international items

Australia: nuclear, climate, pollution news this week

Sometimes, it seems  a bit ridiculous to single out the nuclear danger, or the climate danger, from all the other insults that human beings are throwing at the planet. Wars and violence are bad enough, but the overall big killer now is pollution especially where it’s combined with poverty.  It’s surely time to take a global view of our punished biosphere. It’s affecting us, and the biggest organisms, and the smallest  – as with the massive decline in flying insects.

Anyway – to nuclear news. Apart from the ever dangling sword of Damocles situation of North Korea, the news for the so-called peaceful nuclear industry is pretty bleak. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2017 has just been released, and even in China things are crook.



South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission – South Australian Greens leader Mark Parnell pointed out that it should always have been a National issue, not just a South Australian one, and that the Commission’s advisers were overwhelmingly from the nuclear lobby. In South Australian Parliament, Greens aim to restore Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act.– Business South Australia – a strident pro nuclear lobbyist -ruled to not be a ‘charity’ – still a strident voice for the nuclear lobby.

ANSTO calls High Level Nuclear Waste – “Intermediate Level” – fooling the public –Sick-making propaganda spin, as ANSTO pays rural South Australians to visit Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

90 organisations join ICAN in calling for the government to sign and ratify the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty.

News Corpse relates Cory Bernardi’s misleading statements on thorium nuclear power.

CLIMATE. Bureau of Meteorology predicts 3 warmer than usual months for Australia. Fossil fuel lobby now dictates Australia’s energy policy: Energy Security Board instructed to ignore Paris climate commitments.– Bob Brown: High Court decision ensures free speech against environmentally polluting companies, like Adani.

Coal and Adani mine project.

ENERGY. Survey shows that Turnbull, Frydenberg and Abbott’s electorates back 50% renewables target. Victoria’s Renewable Energy Target now becomes law.   Solar energy: from day one Australian business solar projects pay for themselves. More at


October 27, 2017 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

What High Court ruling means for climate, renewables

Joyce out, Canavan in, Roberts out – What High Court ruling means for climate, renewables, By Sophie Vorrath on 27 October 2017 Australia’s deputy prime minister and leader of the National Party, Barnaby Joyce, is headed for a by-election, after the High Court ruled him ineligible to hold his seat due to his dual Australia-New Zealand citizenship.

The ruling – which has also disqualified fellow “citizenship 7” members, Nationals Deputy Fiona Nash, Greens Senator Scottt Ludlam, Greens Deputy Larissa Waters, and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party senator, Malcolm Roberts – leaves the Turnbull government without its one seat majority in the House of Representatives. At least until the result of the December by-election.

But what does it mean for the clean energy and climate policy debate in Australia?

For starters, the Court’s decision removes Parliament’s chief flat-earther, in Malcolm Roberts – although he is not the only federal parliamentarian to deny climate change (see Fiona Nash, below).

On energy, Roberts – like Hanson’s One Nation – is broadly anti-renewables and pro-fossil fuels. He notably anointed the Turnbull government’s National Energy Guarantee as both “atrocious”, but also in line with the his party’s desire for the RET to be scrapped and its support of “clean coal.”

 In terms of Joyce, the decision temporarily removes one of the fossil fuel lobby’s favourite sons. Last month, he issued a rousing call to arms to Australia’s mining and resources industry, warning that if they lost the fight for new coal-fired power generation to the “fatuous economics” of renewable energy and green groups.

In a speech to the Minerals Week Seminar, the deputy PM painted a picture of a nation under attack from a sort of economy destroying “green peril” that would shut down coal power plants, kill coal exports and – of course – turn the lights out.

“Around about January, ladies and gentlemen, families are going to come back from holiday, mum and dad are going to go back to work, mum’s going to turn on the air conditioner, get the kids ready for school, school’s going to turn on the power, and if we don’t watch out, the lights are going to go out,” Joyce said.

“And this will be a salutary lesson on how economics really work. A salutary lesson against the fatuous economics that’s being peddled.

(“In the) Galilee Basin, we are in the fight of our lives trying to open up a mechanism that will create wealth for this nation. Total insanity!” he said. “What’s one of our biggest exports, or our biggest export? Coal. And what are we making the argument against? That we should use coal. It’s absurd. …I just don’t get it.”

Joyce also doesn’t get climate science, and like his compatriot, Fiona Nash, is skeptical about the research credentials of global warming. Look….I just – I’m always skeptical of the idea that the way that anybody’s going to change the climate – and I’m driving in this morning and we’re driving through a frost – is with bureaucrats and taxes,” he told conservative commentator and noted climate denier Andrew Bolt in an interview in 2015.

“All that does is….it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I make you feel guilty so I can get your money and put it in my pocket and send reports backwards and forth to one another,” he said.

But Joyce may not be gone for long. The by-election is expected to be held very soon, probably December 2, and Joyce is expected to win,

And Joyce’s brief absence should be countered by the safe return of Matt Canavan, the Queensland Nationals Senator who, along with SA independent Nick Xenophon, was cleared by the High Court, despite having dual Italian citizenship. The Court ruled that Canavan did not know about his Italian citizenship, and so could not have taken all reasonable measures to renounce it.

Canavan, who has already been reinstated as the federal minister for resources and northern Australia, was recently dubbed the “minister for the mining sector”, after his heartfelt farewell to the sector when the citizenship scandal first reared its ugly head in July and he stepped aside.

“It has been such an honour to represent the Australian mining sector over the past year,” he wrote on Facebook. “From the small, gambling explorers and prospectors to the large, world-beating multi-nationals, the industry provides rich and diverse experiences that can take you to the smallest towns of outback Australia to the biggest cities in the world.”

The note sparked instant outrage from readers, who noted Canavan was “supposed to represent the people of Queensland, and not private mining companies.” We will see whether his priorities have changed any when he returns to work.

The disqualification of Nationals Senator number three – and deputy leader of that party – NSW Fiona Nash (minister for regional development) could be chalked up as a small win for climate policy. Nash, like Joyce, is skeptical about the science, telling Sky News last year “I don’t think it is certainly necessarily settled.”

To Malcolm Roberts, it is farewell, after just one year in Parliament. During this short period of time, Roberts has distinguished himself by repeatedly denying the human influence on climate change; by introducing a hoax “conceptual penis” research paper to Parliament in an effort to undermine the validity of peer reviewed science; and asked Chief Scientist Alan Finkel if it was important for scientists to have an open mind, to which Finkel responded: “yes, but not so much that your brain leaks out.”

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Roberts said he was sad to leave federal parliament, but accepted the High Court decision entirely. Probably because it’s not based on science. Roberts will now run for the seat of Ipswich – the “heart of One Nation” – in Queensland state politics.

One Nation, meanwhile, still holds four seats in federal parliament. Next in line for Roberts’ seat is Fraser Anning – a publican from the Queensland coal region of Gladstone, who attracted just 19 first preference votes last year. His stance on renewables and climate is not immediately clear – neither his Facebook page nor his One Nation profile were accessible at the time of publication – but he is a fan of a good conspiracy theory.

For the Turnbull government, it is a blow, and an embarrassment, whether the PM likes to admit it or not.

n an upbeat address to reporters on Friday afternoon, Turnbull said the Coalition had remained focused on the business of government pending the Court’s decision, and pointed to his National Energy Guarantee as evidence of that. Never mind that the NEG has been widely derided as non-policy; at best an outline of one possible framework among many.

Turnbull even took the opportunity to do some energy politicking, telling reporters “we all know that Labor’s (energy policy) would see prices rising as far as the eye can see.”

Tony Windsor, who has confirmed he will not be contesting the by-election, said one of the main things that kept him interested in federal politics was the “discgraceful” short-term politics Coalition members like Abbott and Joyce, who supported climate and energy policies that “do nothing” to solve the problems of the future.

And he also noted that, despite Joyce’s position as the front runner for New England, the by-election would open up a key seat to other candidates, who could campaign on some of the key, long0-term political issues that he felt the Turnbull government had fudged.

“The government has a majority of one,” he told the ABC on Friday afternoon. “Now that ‘one’ is going to be out of town for a while. … so if people want to get up there and talk about the significant issues that affect New England, I’ll be right up there supporting them,” Windsor said.

October 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Honour warded to Soviet submarine officer who averted nuclear war

Soviet submarine officer who averted nuclear war honoured with prize

Vasili Arkhipov, who prevented escalation of the cold war by refusing to launch a nuclear torpedo against US forces, is to be awarded new ‘Future of Life’ prize A senior officer of a Soviet submarine who averted the outbreak of nuclear conflict during the cold war is to be honoured with a new prize, 55 years to the day after his heroic actions averted global catastrophe.

On 27 October 1962, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov was on board the Soviet submarine B-59 near Cuba when the US forces began dropping non-lethal depth charges. While the action was designed to encourage the Soviet submarines to surface, the crew of B-59 had been incommunicado and so were unaware of the intention. They thought they were witnessing the beginning of a third world war.

Trapped in the sweltering submarine – the air-conditioning was no longer working – the crew feared death. But, unknown to the US forces, they had a special weapon in their arsenal: a ten kilotonne nuclear torpedo. What’s more, the officers had permission to launch it without waiting for approval from Moscow.

Two of the vessel’s senior officers – including the captain, Valentin Savitsky – wanted to launch the missile. According to a report from the US National Security Archive, Savitsky exclaimed: “We’re gonna blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all – we will not become the shame of the fleet.”

But there was an important caveat: all three senior officers on board had to agree to deploy the weapon. As a result, the situation in the control room played out very differently. Arkhipov refused to sanction the launch of the weapon and calmed the captain down. The torpedo was never fired.

 Had it been launched, the fate of the world would have been very different: the attack would probably have started a nuclear war which would have caused global devastation, with unimaginable numbers of civilian deaths.

“The lesson from this is that a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world,’’ Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, told the Boston Globe in 2002, following a conference in which the details of the situation were explored.

Now, 55 years after he averted nuclear war and 19 years after his death, Arkhipov is to be honoured, with his family the first recipients of a new award.

The prize, dubbed the “Future of Life award” is the brainchild of the Future of Life Insitute – a US-based organisation whose goal is to tackle threats to humanity and whose advisory board includes such luminaries as Elon Musk, the astronomer royal Prof Martin Rees, and actor Morgan Freeman.

“The Future of Life award is a prize awarded for a heroic act that has greatly benefited humankind, done despite personal risk and without being rewarded at the time,” said Max Tegmark, professor of physics at MIT and leader of the Future of Life Institute.

Speaking to Tegmark, Arkhipov’s daughter Elena Andriukova said the family were grateful for the prize, and its recognition of Arkhipov’s actions.

“He always thought that he did what he had to do and never considered his actions as heroism. He acted like a man who knew what kind of disasters can come from radiation,” she said. “He did his part for the future so that everyone can live on our planet.”

The $50,000 prize will be presented to Arkhipov’s grandson, Sergei, and Andriukova at the Institute of Engineering and Technology on Friday evening.

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the Nobel peace prize-winning organisation, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said Arkhipov’s actions were a reminder of how the world had teetered on the brink of disaster. “Arkhipov’s story shows how close to nuclear catastrophe we have been in the past,” she said.

The timing of the award, Fihn added, is apt. “As the risk of nuclear war is on the rise right now, all states must urgently join the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons to prevent such catastrophe.”

Dr Jonathan Colman, an expert on the Cuban missile crisis at the University of Central Lancashire, agreed that the award was fitting.

“While accounts differ about what went on on board the B-59, it is clear that Arkhipov and the crew operated under conditions of extreme tension and physical hardship. Once the nuclear threshold had been crossed, it is hard to imagine that the genie could have been put back into the bottle,” he said.

“President Kennedy had been very worried about the possibility of a clash between American warships and Soviet submarines in the Caribbean, and it is absolutely clear that his fears were justified,” Colman added, noting that certain decisions at the operational level were out of his control. “Ultimately, it was luck as much as management that ensured that the missile crisis ended without the most dreadful consequences.”

October 27, 2017 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Climate change’s wide raging effects on health

How climate change affects the building blocks for health, The Conversation, In August last year, a third of the residents of the North Island township Havelock North fell acutely ill with gastroenteritis after their water was contaminated with campylobacter.

Following a long dry spell, the heaviest daily rainfall in more than ten years had washed the pathogenic organism from sheep faeces into the aquifer that supplies the town’s drinking water. The Havelock North supply, like many in rain-rich New Zealand, was not treated with chlorine or other disinfectants, and this was the country’s largest ever reported outbreak of waterborne disease.

This is just one example of how climate change may affect our health, according to a report released by the Royal Society of New Zealand today.

Prerequisites for good health

It turns out that the Goldilocks rule – “not too hot, not too cold” – applies to more than porridge. There have been many reports, such as those published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Lancet Commission on Climate Change, that detail how aspects of human physical and mental are effected by a changing climate.

There is an optimum climate, related usually to what is most common or familiar. Deviations, especially if substantial and rapid, are risky.

The building block metaphor is apt. It is unlikely that climate change will undermine health in new and unexpected ways. Instead we expect it to act as a threat multiplier. Where there are weaknesses in the foundations of public health, rapid changes in temperatures, rainfall and sea levels will magnify damaging effects.

Direct and indirect effects Continue reading

October 27, 2017 Posted by | General News | 1 Comment

Weird award for crummy Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission agency

Dumped nuclear consultation wins international kudos The abandoned community engagement program for South Australia’s doomed nuclear repository has won a brace of international awards in an ironic footnote to the waste dump debate. In Daily, Tom Richardson @tomrichardson. 27 Oct 17 ” ….  Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Consultation and Response Agency launched in the middle of 2016    was tasked with visiting communities to “explain the Royal Commission’s report and gather important feedback”, with sessions featuring interactive displays, models, videos and fact sheets, “as well as having members of the Response Agency team on hand to answer questions and take community responses”.
A separate specific indigenous engagement program was also undertaken.
The Response Agency was quietly wound up earlier this year, with the Opposition subsequently criticising its budget expenditure

Freedom of Information documents released to the Opposition in August and handed to the Advertiser showed the agency’s budget blew out by $400,000 to $7.6 million, with a $182,580 catering bill coming in for particular criticism.

The agency also spent $185,477 for media monitoring, $1.04 million for photography, audio-visual and production, $152,373 for local accommodation, $256,771 for international and domestic travel, and $1.08 million on contractors.

Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas said at the time that “taxpayers should be concerned about how their money was spent chasing the Weatherill Government’s nuclear thought bubble’’.

But in a bittersweet finale for the disbanded response agency, it scooped some significant gongs at last week’s International Association for Public Participation 2017 Core Values Awards.

…….The nuclear response agency’s Aboriginal Engagement Program was named “Project of the Year” and also won the awards’ “Indigenous” category, while the broader Community Engagement Program picked up a high commendation in the “Planning” category…….

Ironically, a lack of indigenous support became a major stumbling block for Jay Weatherill’s nuclear vision, with the Premier forced to concede a power of veto to Aboriginal communities before walking away from the plan altogether earlier this year.

Weatherill told InDaily in a statement: “This was the largest consultation program in our state’s history, and I’m pleased the work that went into this project has been recognised with this award.”

But opponents of the waste dump plan were less impressed, with Greens MLC Mark Parnell calling the consultation “a one-sided, biased process that tried valiantly, but ultimately failed to convince South Australians of the merits of an international nuclear waste dump”.

“It does not deserve an award,” he told InDaily.


October 27, 2017 Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australian Productivity Commission (hardly radicals!) wants clean energy target

What the National Energy Guarantee lacks though is a formal clean energy target, which, in the absence of a carbon pricing scheme, would at least be a market-based mechanism that provides incentives for low emissions and renewable generation.

the report concludes that advocates of coal-fired generating capacity who oppose carbon pricing are doing themselves a disservice, as investors are unlikely to commit to the investment needed, given future regulatory risks.

 Report throws book at ‘energy mess’ saying governments must get serious on carbon emissions, Paul Syvret, The Courier-Mail, October 28, 2017 

THE Australian Productivity Commission – the Federal Government’s economic advisory body that recommended cuts to weekend penalty rates – is not renowned as a hotbed of left-wing activism.

On Tuesday Treasurer Scott Morrison released the first of the commission’s five-year reviews, using the document as a platform to mount a case for continuing economic reforms to lift Australia’s productivity rate.

The ideas in the 1200-page document – ranging across the full spectrum of the Australian economy – should have dominated debate at a time when the Government is trying to wrest back control of the political agenda.

The Michaelia Cash trainwreck put paid to that, despite Morrison’s best efforts to warn that “the price of a generation of Australians growing up without ever having known a recession is that reform comes more stubbornly and incrementally”.

What Morrison didn’t highlight though was Chapter 5 of the Productivity Commission report, titled “Fixing the energy mess”.

In this section, the commission says Australian governments “must stop the piecemeal and stop-start approach to emission reduction and adopt a proper vehicle for reducing carbon emissions that puts a single effective price on carbon”. Continue reading

October 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

28 October REneweconomy news

  • Graph of the Day: Negative prices in windy South Australia
    South Australia electricity prices plunge into negative territory.
  • A coal-based grid in 2030 will make Australia un-competitive
    Builder of world’s first wind, solar and battery storage project in Queensland says renewables will beat even existing coal within a few years, and relying on a coal and gas fired grid in 2030 will make the Australian economy uncompetitive.
  • Climate peace in our time?
    Pressure could mount to set a significantly tighter emissions target for the electricity sector – which does not bode well for a climate truce.
  • Solar-powered Sion completes successful test-drive tour
    Sono Motors is approaching the end of a successful test drive tour of its new Sion all-electric vehicle.
  • Victoria big solar pipeline adds two new projects
    A 120MW solar project is being proposed for Glenrowan by ESCO Pacific, and planning approval secured for 30MW project in the Gannawarra Shire.
  • World-first “solar train” about to be launched in Byron Bay
    A world-first “solar train”, including Kokam batteries and flexible panels supplied by solar pioneer Zhengrong Shi, is about to make its debut in Byron Bay.
  • The NEG: No guarantee of success
    Far from being a “solution” to Australia’s power sector ills, the NEG, in its current state, raises as many questions as it purports to answer.

October 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment