Australian news, and some related international items

Pine Gap: peaceful protestors sentenced to fines, not gaol

Pine Gap protesters who entered top-secret Central Australia facility spared jail to avoid creating ‘martyr’

The group were charged under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act, which carries a maximum of seven years in prison.

One of the group members, Andy Paine, faced another two years for carrying a smartphone onto the base.

But Justice John Reeves fined the group a total of $15,500.

While sentencing the oldest member of the group, Jim Dowling, 62, Justice Reeves expressed concern that Dowling had committed 27 similar trespass offences since 1986.

“If I imprison you, I think that would be likely to make you a martyr to your cause, rather than to underscore the law breaking in which you were involved,” he said.

Dowling was fined $5,000 as one of five people who entered Pine Gap on September 29, 2016.

In that group, Margaret Pestorius was fined $3,500, Andy Paine fined $2,500, while Franz Dowling and Tim Webb were fined $1,250.

The group told the court they went to sing a lament which several members of the group had composed in memory of people they believed had been killed by US drone strikes, with help from Pine Gap.

Paul Christie was fined $2,000 for also entering Pine Gap in a separate crime on October 3, 2016.

In sentencing Christie, Justice Reeves said his offence was at the lowest possible end of the spectrum.

He said Christie was arrested while holding a rattle and some flowers, while praying.

I do not accept the Crown’s submission that your offences potentially struck at the heart of national security,” Justice Reeves told the group.

“Your activities posed no real threat to the Pine Gap facility.”

The two separate trials in the NT Supreme Court lasted two weeks, with the Crown briefing a senior counsel to prosecute the matters.


December 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

How Russia denies and deceives the world, following a nuclear accident

Nuclear Russia Scares The World (Again), Lobe Log, DECEMBER 5, 2017, by Tatyana Ivanova  An international scandal involving ruthenium-106 (Ru-106) contamination of the atmosphere in most European countries has revealed fundamental problems with the Russian nuclear industry. The Russian State Corporation (Rosatom) has denied the massive leak at its Ural reprocessing facility. Instead, it has withheld data and spread propaganda in the best Soviet tradition……

In this region of the Southern Urals, about 30 kilometers from these two polluted sites, there is only one potential large-scale polluter: the “Mayak” nuclear waste reprocessing plant. Accordingly, suspicion has fallen on it. Mayak is part of the Russian Rosatom State Corporation and is located at the closed secret town of Ozersk, in the Chelyabinsk district…….

If such a large scale release had happened in France, IRSN reports, inhabitants within a radius of several kilometers would have been evacuated and local food produced within tens of kilometers would have been declared unsafe for human consumption……….

Denial, Pressure, and Propaganda

As soon as information about the likely Russian origin of the ruthenium cloud over Europe appeared in the mass media, the Russian nuclear state corporation sprang into action to prevent any Russian investigation. Rosatom and then Mayak stated that their facilities couldn’t be a source of Ru-106 release and that the background radiation around them is normal. At the same time, they didn’t provide any specific data on Ru-106 concentrations in the air. Rosatom only made reference to its website, which is monitoring the gamma background.

A Russian regulatory agency “inspected” Mayak, and after only one day came to the hasty conclusion that there had been no accidents or events at the plant. Its public report contained only one number: the Ru-106 concentration in Bucharest that the IAEA had already published.

Some days later Russian pro-government mass media published a flurry of propaganda, denying that the contamination was of Russian origin and making fun of the journalists and citizens who wrote of a cover-up. Some of the Russian mass media disseminated false information that the release could have been caused by a downed American spy satellite or even an alien spaceship.

The most radical websites started a second wave of defamation against Nadezhda Kutepova, blaming her for espionage and intentional misinformation about Mayak. Some Russian officials blamed IRSN for issuing “false information” about the Russian trace, saying that the French regulator is competing with Rosatom.

Rosatom went further by publishing a poster on behalf of Ru-106 with the headline “Everyone accuses the little one” in the style of a propaganda cartoon for children. The poster states that Ru-106 is “small and good” and does not appear at nuclear waste reprocessing plants. Then the official Rosatom Facebook page invited journalists and bloggers to visit Mayak to “touch and smell” Ruthenium-106. They selected 16 people from 200 who expressed interest, stating that experts were not invited because they “already understand all the fictitiousness of the hype.”

At the same time, the Russian regulatory agency altered its published report, removing the words “extremely high concentrations of Ru-106” in reference to the villages around Mayak and reported instead that the levels did not exceed the limits. Last week a special commission including representatives of all the aforementioned Russian state organizations began another inspection of Mayak. The results have not yet been announced.

The situation is reminiscent of the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986, during the Soviet era. Indeed, the Mayak facility, which specializes in nuclear fuel reprocessing and the production of nuclear weapons materials, never really left the Soviet era. The enterprise avoids publishing any detailed figures on emissions In its environmental impact assessments. An iron veil of secrecy, as well as Rosatom’s influence over decision-makers at the highest level, protect it from the scrutiny of Russians and everybody else.

Tatyana Ivanova is a Belarusian journalist residing in the United States

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

Rise in thyroid cancer near New York’s nuclear reactor

Is This Nuclear Plant to Blame for Soaring Thyroid Cancer Rates in New York?, By Joseph Mangano, 5 Dec 17,

In the late 1970s, the rate of new thyroid cancer cases in four counties just north of New York City—Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties—was 22 percent below the U.S. rate. Today, it has soared to 53 percent above the national rate. New cases jumped from 51 to 412 per year. Large increases in thyroid cancer occurred for both males and females in each county.

That’s according to a new study I co-authored which was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection and presented at Columbia University.

This change may be a result of airborne emissions of radioactive iodine from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is located at the crossroads of those four counties and has been operating since the mid-’70s.Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer. Indian Point routinely releases more than 100 radioactive chemicals into the environment. These chemicals enter human bodies through breathing and the food chain, harming and killing healthy cells. One of these chemicals is radioactive iodine, which attacks and kills cells in the thyroid gland, raising the risk of cancer.

The new study calls for much more research on thyroid cancer patterns. According to the New York State cancer registry, the 1976-81 four-county thyroid cancer rate was 22 percent below the U.S. rate. Since then, thyroid cancer has increased across the U.S., but the local increase was much greater—rising to 53 percent above the U.S. rate from 2000-2014. That’s statistically significant.

“The statistical aberration of increased cancer rates should be a concern to us all,” said Peter Schwartz, a Rockland County businessman diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1986. “After Fukushima, it finally occurred to me that my thyroid cancer was connected to Indian Point.”

“I am concerned that radiation may have contributed to thyroid cancer in my family,” says Joanne DeVito, who spoke at the Columbia University event. She was diagnosed with the condition, as were each of her three daughters. “Our family has no history of thyroid disease, and doctors are at a loss to explain why this happened,” said DeVito. She now lives in Connecticut, but for many years lived close to Indian Point.

Little is known about thyroid cancer causes. Risk factors according to the Mayo Clinic include being female, genetic syndromes and exposure to ionizing radiation. Earlier studies found high rates of thyroid cancer in those treated with head and neck irradiation (which ceased in the 1950s), survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima/Nagasaki atomic bombs, and the 1986 Chernobyl and 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns.

A 1999 National Cancer Institute study concluded that as many as 212,000 Americans developed thyroid cancer from the above-ground nuclear weapons tests in Nevada. Radiation exposures from those test were considered low-dose. Above-ground testing was banned in a 1963 treaty.

From 1980 to 2014, the U.S. thyroid cancer incidence rate more than tripled for all ages, races and genders. Most scientific articles in the professional literature concluded that improved diagnosis cannot be the sole reason.

In a recent study in the journal Laryngoscope, researchers at Hershey Medical Center found local residents near the Three Mile Island plant diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the 1979 partial meltdown had a significantly lower proportion of the BRAFV600 mutation, which is not associated with radiation-induced thyroid cancer, compared to cases diagnosed before the accident and many years afterwards. The authors suggested the meltdown could have contributed to the disease.

Indian Point is located in Buchanan, New York, in northwest Westchester County. Its two functioning reactors began operating in 1973 and 1976. An agreement to close the plant by 2021 between Entergy (which owns and operates the plant) and New York State was reached in January of this year.

Joseph Mangano is the executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

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

Significant wins by the Greens for the nuclear free cause in South Australia

Mark Parnell MLC , Parliamentary Leader, Greens SA, 6 Dec 17, 

The last couple of sitting weeks of the year in State Parliament have been huge, and the Greens have had some significant wins

A win for democracy

My amendment to the South Australian Constitution to make it fairer to all parties and candidates passed both Houses of Parliament. Under the mis-leadingly named “fairness clause” in the Constitution, the boundaries of electorates were required to be rigged so that one of the two major parties would form a government.  This is despite the fact that a growing number of South Australians don’t vote for either of the old parties.

For elections beyond 2018, the review of electorate boundaries will have regard to population, one-vote-one-value, geography, communities of interest and other relevant factors but won’t be artificially rigged to favour the old parties.  The Greens have ensured that future elections will be more democratic and better reflect the will of the people of South Australia.

No more public money to spruik nukes

A big majority in Parliament passed my Greens Private Members Bill to prohibit the Government spending public money on spruiking the benefits of nuclear waste dumps in SA.  We won the campaign against the high level international nuclear waste dump but we still have the national dump proposed for the Flinders Ranges and Kimba.  Not only are these dumps illegal in SA, but now it is also illegal to use public money to encourage or finance nuclear waste dumps……..

Biodiversity can no longer be ignored

Another Greens’ Bill that passed last week ensures that biodiversity is properly considered in all planning decisions.

There is a real crisis in biodiversity in South Australia, which is under threat from many sides including loss of habitat and climate change. Whilst passing a law for a new State Biodiversity Planning Policy won’t fix the problem overnight, it sends an important message to State and Local Governments that they can’t ignore the natural environment when making decisions about development or rezoning land.

Can SA be 100% renewable?

Absolutely! Despite attempts by some opportunistic MPs to blame renewable energy for the Statewide electricity blackout last year and other weather-related outages, a Parliamentary Inquiry has found that renewable energy was not to blame.  What’s more, there is now a clear pathway to achieving 100% renewable energy in South Australia.  The key is to use wind and solar energy backed by batteries, pumped hydro and solar thermal storage.  This is achievable without compromising system reliability, security and affordability for consumers. With our State’s national leadership on renewables and our fantastic wind and solar resources, the future is looking bright. My report is at p.42 of the Committee’s Report.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | politics, South Australia | Leave a comment

Ipswich residents not all taken in by the pro nuclear hype

Community responds to calls for nuclear power generation by Hayden Johnson

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Opposition to nuclear, Queensland | Leave a comment

8 December: Australian Federal government intervention into Northern Territory (NT) Aboriginal communities

 ‘On Friday 8th December in Redfern,
Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) will host a public forum
– Human Rights: Where are they? Ten years of failed Intervention
– featuring two strong First Nations voices from the Northern Territory 
and other speakers from the eastern states.’


Aunty Elaine Kngwarraye Peckham, Apmereke-artweye of Mparntwe, NT

Laura Lyons, Wiradjuri Woman: Instrumental in assisting to form FIRE (Fighting In Resistance Equally) and was involved in setting up GMAR Sydney Branch (Grand Mothers Against Removals)

Sylvia Purrurle Neale, Eastern Arrernte

Greg Marks, International human rights law expert, specialising in Indigenous rights. Policy analyst, researcher and writer. Centre Associate, Indigenous Law Centre UNSW

Facilitator:  Jeff McMullen, journalist and film maker

Friday, 8 December 2017, 5.30 pm for 6 pm start

Redfern Community Centre, 29-53 Hugo Street Redfern

December 6, 2017 Posted by | ACTION | Leave a comment

“Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters,”

Kate Brown’s award-winning book, “Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters,” is a history of the Hanford plant and its Soviet doppelgänger, a plant in the Ural Mountains called Maiak. Brown points out that over the course of a few decades, the two nuclear sites spewed two times the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl explosion. Yet few Americans at the time, even those involved in plutonium production, realized this was going on or how dangerous it was.
Radioactive Waste And The Hidden Costs Of The Cold War Forbes, David Rainbow, Assistant Professor, Honors College, University of Houston, 4 Dec 17,  Hanford, a dusty decommissioned plutonium production site in eastern Washington state, is one of the most polluted places in the country. The disaster is part of the inheritance of the Cold War.

A few months ago, a 110-meter-long tunnel collapsed at the site, exposing an old rail line and eight rail cars filled with contaminated radioactive equipment. This open wound in the landscape, which was quickly covered over again, is a tiny part of an environmental and human health catastrophe that steadily unfolded there over four decades of plutonium production. Big Cold War fears justified big risks. Big, secretive, nuclear-sized risks.

Hanford and other toxic reminders of the Cold War should serve as a cautionary tale to those who have a say in mitigating geopolitical tensions today, as well as to those who promote nuclear energy as an environmentally sustainable source of electricityThe energy debate must balance the downside – not just the risk of a nuclear meltdown but also the lack of a permanent repository for the still-dangerous spent fuel rods – with the environmental benefits of a source of electricity that produces no greenhouse gases. People on both sides of the issue have a vested interest in how the current geopolitical tussling over nuclear weapons plays out……

Even if, as we all hope, the “new Cold War” never gets hot, escalating tensions can have seriously harmful effects at home. The radioactive cave-in at the Hanford site earlier this year should serve as a reminder of that. Continue reading

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

The significance of Antarctica as the world warms

Why remote Antarctica is so important in a warming world  The Conversation.Chris Fogwill, Professor of Glaciology and Palaeoclimatology, Keele UniversityChris Turney, Professor of Earth Sciences and Climate Change, UNSWZoe Robinson, Reader in Physical Geography and Sustainability/Director of Education for Sustainability, Keele University

“……..What was once thought to be a largely unchanging mass of snow and ice is anything but. Antarctica holds a staggering amount of water. The three ice sheets that cover the continent contain around 70% of our planet’s fresh water, all of which we now know to be vulnerable to warming air and oceans. If all the ice sheets were to melt, Antarctica would raise global sea levels by at least 56m.

Where, when, and how quickly they might melt is a major focus of research. No one is suggesting all the ice sheets will melt over the next century but, given their size, even small losses could have global repercussions. Possible scenarios are deeply concerning: in addition to rising sea levels, meltwater would slow down the world’s ocean circulation, while shifting wind belts may affect the climate in the southern hemisphere.

  1. In 2014, NASA reported that several major Antarctic ice streams, which hold enough water to trigger the equivalent of a one-and-a-half metre sea level rise, are now irreversibly in retreat. With more than 150m people exposed to the threat of sea level rise and sea levels now rising at a faster rate globally than any time in the past 3,000 years, these are sobering statistics for island nations and coastal cities worldwide.

    An immediate and acute threat

    Recent storm surges following hurricanes have demonstrated that rising sea levels are a future threat for densely populated regions such as Florida and New York. Meanwhile the threat for low-lying islands in areas such as the Pacific is immediate and acute.

  2. Multiple factors mean that the vulnerability to global sea level rise is geographically variable and unequal, while there are also regional differences in the extremity of sea level rise itself. At present, the consensus of the IPPC 2013 report suggests a rise of between 40 and 80cm over the next century, with Antarctica only contributing around 5cm of this. Recent projections, however, suggest that Antarctic contributions may be up to ten times higher.

    Studies also suggest that in a world 1.5-2°C warmer than today we will be locked into millennia of irreversible sea level rise, due to the slow response time of the Antarctic ice sheets to atmospheric and ocean warming.

    We may already be living in such a world. Recent evidence shows global temperatures are close to 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial times and, after the COP23 meeting in Bonn in November, it is apparent that keeping temperature rise within 2°C is unlikely.

  3. So we now need to reconsider future sea level projections given the potential global impact from Antarctica. Given that 93% of the heat from anthropogenic global warming has gone into the ocean, and these warming ocean waters are now meeting the floating margins of the Antarctic ice sheet, the potential for rapid ice sheet melt in a 2°C world is high.

    In polar regions, surface temperatures are projected to rise twice as fast as the global average, due to a phenomenon known as polar amplification. However, there is still hope to avoid this sword of Damocles, as studies suggest that a major reduction in greenhouse gases over the next decade would mean that irreversible sea level rise could be avoided. It is therefore crucial to reduce CO₂ levels now for the benefit of future generations, or adapt to a world in which more of our shorelines are significantly redrawn.

    This is both a scientific and societal issue. We have choices: technological innovations are providing new ways to reduce CO₂ emissions, and offer the reality of a low-carbon future. This may help minimise sea level rise from Antarctica and make mitigation a viable possibility.

    Given what rising sea levels could mean for human societies across the world, we must maintain our longstanding view of Antarctica as the most remote and isolated continent.

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

6 December REneweconomy News

  • 5B plans module pre-fab facility in Adelaide, “gigafactory” in Asia
    Australian solar plant innovators 5B have announced plans to set up a production facility in Adelaide, and potentially a “gigawatt” production line in Asia.
  • Burning coal for power “like burning dollar notes” in era of cheap solar
    Burning coal to generate electricity in era of solar at 1c/kWh makes as about as much economic sense as “burning dollar notes”, says leading researcher Martin Green.
  • Energy regulator smashes illusion of “cheap” coal power in NSW
    AER report absolves big generators of predatory bidding during demand peaks, but they hardly need to: The cost of “baseload” coal supply in NSW has jumped so high that there is no such thing as “cheap” coal generation.
  • Blockchain App that pays households to cut energy use wins Future Cities Hackathon
    Held at UTS, the hackathon brought together some of the best and brightest from the fields of sustainability, design and technology, the corporate and academic world, and the start-up community.
  • WOMADelaide announces the 2018 planet talks program
    WOMADelaide today announced the full program of speakers and presenters for The Planet Talks, its renowned series of political, social and planetary discussions hosted as part of the festival from March 10 – 12.
  • Enphase Energy roars into Indian market with the company’s largest solar installation in the Asia-Pacific region
    Occupying 67,000 square feet over six rooftops in multiple orientations, the landmark installation overcomes shading challenges to power a large, fast-moving consumer goods company.

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