Australian news, and some related international items

To 14 January – the week in nuclear news Australia

International relations seem to become ever more complicated and risky. Donald Trump says ” I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un”. It is really hard to make sense out of Trump’s utterances, and the climate of “new media” makes that all the more difficult, and dangerous. Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster thinks it’s about time to bomb North Korea. 17 former nuclear launch officers warn Congress about Trump’s power to destroy.

 European powers urge US not to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal. If he did, it would certainly not help international efforts to persuade North Korea to cease its nuclear weapons drive.


Defence analysts suggesting that Australia might need nuclear weapons?

Latest pro nuclear push in Australia shows the split in the nuclear industry. Former Big Nuclear propagandist Ziggy Switkowski is back – now spruiking for Small Nukes. Minerals Council puts in its bid to overturn Australia’s laws prohibiting nuclear power.

Australian Government’s rather secretive plan to dump Lucas Heights nuclear waste on outback South Australia  Kimba Farmer Jeff Baldock looks to four times value of his land to host nuclear waste dump: others not so keen. New Corpse’s usually pro nuclear publication, Adelaide Now ran an opinion poll showing over 80% say “NO” to Kimba dump plan. Kimba town hopes to win top environmental award – but wants nuclear waste dump ? (Adelaide Now article and poll now removed from Internet)

Call to keep ANSTO’s deadly radioactive waste at Australia’s only accepted high grade nuclear waste dump, Lucas Heights.

Turnbull government’s duplicity on climate and greenhouse gas emissions.

Port Augusta area, South Australia,  to get world’s largest thermal solar plant.

January 12, 2018 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Latest pro nuclear push in Australia shows the split in the nuclear industry

When they resuscitate Ziggy Switkowski to promote nuclear, and when Anti-Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg comes out of his quiet environmental closet to promote nuclear  – you know that the nuclear lobby is having a serious attempt to persuade Australians.

Trouble is – the global nuclear lobby mightn’t be so happy about this.

They do pretend to be a professional, unified, competent force in the world. But not really. Small Nukes better shut up as Big Nukes will not tolerate them being successful, might  allow them in only as a foot in the door for Big Nukes

With giant companies like Toshiba, AREVA, EDF, China National Nuclear Corporation, Rosatom determinedly pushing their “conventional”nuclear reactors -there’s no likelihood that they are going to let new “little” nukes take over.  They tolerate the media acrobatics of the Small Modular Nuclear Reactor  companies – just as long as those companies claim (pretend) to be helping them.

In reality, there’s an absolute dispute between the two.

Australian politicians seem to be easily sucked in by the propaganda antics of the Small Nukes lobby –

January 12, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Christina reviews, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Former Big Nuclear propagandist Ziggy Switkowski is back – now spruiking for Small Nukes.

Australia has ‘missed the boat’ on nuclear power, SMH, Cole Latimer, 11 Jan 18, The Minerals Council of Australia has called for the country’s prohibition on nuclear power to be lifted. But both critics and supporters see little future for large-scale nuclear power in Australia’s energy mix.

The man who once famously called for 50 nuclear reactors across Australia, nuclear physicist and NBN chairman Ziggy Switkowski, says “the window for gigawatt-scale nuclear has closed”.

A lack of public support and any actual proposals for a nuclear plant had resulted in government inertia, he said on Thursday.

“Government won’t move until a real business case is presented and none has been, to my knowledge, and there aren’t votes in trying to lead the debate,” he said, adding that renewables were now a more economically viable choice. “With requirements for baseload capacity reducing, adding nuclear capacity one gigawatt at a time is hard to justify, especially as costs are now very high (in the range of $5 billion to $10 billion), development timelines are 15+ years, and solar with battery storage are winning the race.”

Warwick Grigor, the former chairman of Uranium King, mining analyst, and a director of uranium miner Peninsula Energy, agrees.

“I think nuclear energy is great, but we’ve missed the boat in Australia, no one is going down that path in the foreseeable future,” Mr Grigor told Fairfax Media.“When Fukushima [the 2011 nuclear accident in Japan] occurred, that was the closing of the door to our nuclear power possibilities.”

Mr Grigor sees battery technology, a market he has since entered, as a better alternative.

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney said talk of nuclear power was “a dangerous distraction” from the steps that needed to address the energy and climate challenges facing Australia.

Nuclear energy has been officially banned in Australia since 1998, with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s OPAL reactor at Lucas Heights, NSW, the only nuclear reactor in the country.

But the Minerals Council’s executive director for uranium, Daniel Zavattiero, said the nation had excluded a low-emissions energy source of which Australia has an abundant supply from the current debate.

“Maybe nuclear power might be something that is not needed, but an outright prohibition on it is not needed,” he said.

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg supported the Mineral Council’s stance. “There needs to be bipartisan support for nuclear power and that does not exist right now,” Mr Frydenberg said. “You would also need state-based support and that is not clear at this stage either.”…..

Mr Switkowski said smaller, modular nuclear reactors could play a part in the future energy mix, and could support regional centres.

An ANSTO spokesman told Fairfax Media these smaller plants could technically work in Australia.“If Australia did want to expand into nuclear energy technologies, there would be a number of options to consider in the future, including small modular reactors and Generation IV reactors, which could be feasible if the policy, economic settings and technology were right and public support was in place,” he said.

However, the country currently did not have enough skilled personnel to safely operate a nuclear energy industry, he said.

“The question of whether nuclear energy is technically or economically feasible is a different question to whether Australia should or should not have a nuclear energy program, the latter of which is a matter for policy makers and the people of Australia,” the spokesman said……..

January 12, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Renewed effort: USA Bill to compensate sick nuclear workers

Presumptive comp bill for nuclear site workers revived in Wash. state  Louise Esola1/11/2018 A bill that would cover cancer and other illnesses under presumption for former workers of the decommissioned Hanford nuclear site in Hanford, Washington, was revived by the Washington state House Rules Committee on Tuesday.

An earlier draft of H.B. 1723 passed tRehe state’s House in early March 2017 but failed to garner enough Senate interest, the spokesman for the bill’s sponsor State Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, told Business Insurance in April.

On Tuesday, another version of the bill, reintroduced to the House on Monday, was sent back to committee for a third reading, according to the latest update posted on the Washington State Legislature website Thursday.

The federally operated site, which has gone by several names since it opened in 1943, is known for having manufactured the plutonium used in one of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. It is also known for its workers’ illnesses, including various cancers.

The bill would establish presumption under the state’s workers compensation laws for workers who suffer from specific cancers, including leukemia, lung cancer, bone cancer, kidney cancer, lymphoma and other cancers affecting more than a dozen body parts, according to the latest draft.

January 12, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Donald Trump and the language of fascism

Challenging Trump’s Language of Fascism TruthOut  January 09, 2018By Henry A. GirouxTruthout | News Analysis   George Orwell warns us in his dystopian novel 1984 that authoritarianism begins with language. Words now operate as “Newspeak,” in which language is twisted in order to deceive, seduce and undermine the ability of people to think critically and freely. As authoritarianism gains in strength, the formative cultures that give rise to dissent become more embattled along with the public spaces and institutions that make conscious critical thought possible.

Words that speak to the truth, reveal injustices and provide informed critical analysis begin to disappear, making it all the more difficult, if not dangerous, to hold dominant power accountable. Notions of virtue, honor, respect and compassion are policed, and those who advocate them are punished.

I think it is fair to argue that Orwell’s nightmare vision of the future is no longer fiction. Under the regime of Donald Trump, the Ministry of Truth has become the Ministry of “Fake News,” and the language of “Newspeak” has multiple platforms and has morphed into a giant disimagination machinery of propaganda, violence, bigotry, hatred and war. With the advent of the Trump presidency, language is undergoing a shift in the United States: It now treats dissent, critical media and scientific evidence as a species of “fake news.” The administration also views the critical media as the “enemy of the American people.” In fact, Trump has repeated this view of the press so often that almost a third of Americans believe it and support government-imposed restrictions on the media, according to a Poynter survey. Language has become unmoored from critical reason, informed debate and the weight of scientific evidence, and is now being reconfigured within new relations of power tied to pageantry, political theater and a deep-seated anti-intellectualism, increasingly shaped by the widespread banality of celebrity culture, the celebration of ignorance over intelligence, a culture of rancid consumerism, and a corporate-controlled media that revels in commodification, spectacles of violence, the spirit of unchecked self-interest and a “survival of the fittest” ethos.

Under such circumstances, language has been emptied of substantive meaning and functions increasingly to lull large swaths of the American public into acquiescence, if not a willingness to accommodate and support a rancid “populism” and galloping authoritarianism. he language of civic literacy and democracy has given way to the language of saviors, decline, bigotry and hatred. One consequence is that matters of moral and political responsibility disappear, injustices proliferate and language functions as a tool of state repression. The Ministry of “Fake News” works incessantly to set limits on what is thinkable, claiming that reason, standards of evidence, consistency and logic no longer serve the truth, because the latter are crooked ideological devices used by enemies of the state. “Thought crimes” are now labeled as “fake news.”

The notion of truth is viewed by this president as a corrupt tool used by the critical media to question his dismissal of legal checks on his power — particularly his attacks on judges, courts, and any other governing institutions that will not promise him complete and unchecked loyalty.  For Trump, intimidation takes the place of unquestioned loyalty when he does not get his way, revealing a view of the presidency that is more about winning than about governing. One consequence is myriad practices in which Trump gleefully humiliates and punishes his critics, willfully engages in shameful acts of self-promotion and unapologetically enriches his financial coffers. ………

With the rise of casino capitalism, a “winner-take-all” ethos has made the United States a mean-spirited and iniquitous nation that has turned its back on the poor, underserved, and those considered racially and ethnically disposable. It is worth noting that in the last 40 years, we have witnessed an increasing dictatorship of finance capital and an increasing concentration of power and ownership regarding the rise and workings of the new media and mainstream cultural apparatuses. These powerful digital and traditional pedagogical apparatuses of the 21st century have turned people into consumers, and citizenship into a neoliberal obsession with self-interest and an empty notion of freedom. ……….

Analyzing the forces behind the election of Trump, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt provide a cogent commentary on the political and pedagogical power of an old and updated media landscape. They write:

Undoubtedly, Trump’s celebrity status played a role. But equally important was the changed media landscape…. By one estimate, the Twitter accounts of MSNBC, CNN, CBS, and NBC — four outlets that no one could accuse of pro-Trump leanings — mentioned Trump twice as often as Hillary Clinton. According to another study, Trump enjoyed up to $2 billion in free media coverage during the primary season. Trump didn’t need traditional Republican power brokers. The gatekeepers of the invisible primary weren’t merely invisible; by 2016, they were gone entirely.    

What is crucial to remember here, as Ruth Ben-Ghiat notes, is that fascism starts with words. Trump’s use of language and his manipulative use of the media as political theater echo earlier periods of propaganda, censorship and repression. Commenting on the Trump administration’s barring the Centers for Disease Control to use certain words, Ben-Ghiat writes:

The strongman knows that it starts with words…. That’s why those who study authoritarian regimes or have had the misfortune to live under one may find something deeply familiar about the Trump administration’s decision to bar officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using certain words (“vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based”). ….…… 

how language is used as a tool of state repression. Authoritarians have always used language policies to bring state power and their cults of personality to bear on everyday life………. Continue reading

January 12, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Poor outlook for uranium market, even if Trump allows more mines in Grand Canyon

Much has been written about the health and environmental hazards posed by uranium mining near the Grand Canyon; what’s missing is the economic side of the story.

For years, Phoenix New Times has heard that uranium mining in the area is not only environmentally irresponsible, but makes no economic sense. These critics include scientists, conservationists, local politicians, and even leaders in the nuclear power industry. They say that while intuitively, we might think that more mining would be good for the local economy, it turns out this isn’t the case.

Will Trump Dump on Grand Canyon? Experts Say Risk of Uranium Mining Not Worth Reward
MIRIAM WASSER Phoenix New Times JANUARY 11, 2018  “……… 
In 2012, President Barack Obama’s administration put a 20-year freeze (called a mineral withdrawal) on all new mining claims in 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon. A handful of mines with valid existing rights, like Canyon Mine, were grandfathered in and permitted to move ahead with operations.

The reason for the withdrawal was simple: Scientists didn’t know enough about the complex hydrology of the area to say whether mining could cause irreparable damage. And with the entire Grand Canyon ecosystem and tourism industry at stake — not to mention the Havasupai who live in the park and the millions of people who live downstream from the Colorado River — there was overwhelming public support for the decision.

Fast-forward to the present day, however, and there are signs that the moratorium may not survive Donald Trump’s presidency.

His administration has spent the last year systematically trying to undermine his predecessor’s environmental policies, an agenda that has included reducing regulations and opening up vast areas of public land for mining, drilling, and fracking.

In the case of uranium, “they’re just doing it because they can,” says Chris Mehl of Headwaters Economics, an independent nonprofit research group that studies western land management. “They’re offering an opportunity for a product that is at or near historic low prices”….

As any economist will tell you, sometimes it’s worth taking a big risk in order to get a big reward. But when it comes to reversing the 2012 withdrawal, the potential benefits seem small and the risks seem huge.

Much has been written about the health and environmental hazards posed by uranium mining near the Grand Canyon; what’s missing is the economic side of the story.

For years, Phoenix New Times has heard that uranium mining in the area is not only environmentally irresponsible, but makes no economic sense. These critics include scientists, conservationists, local politicians, and even leaders in the nuclear power industry. They say that while intuitively, we might think that more mining would be good for the local economy, it turns out this isn’t the case.

Given that the whole point of “revising” the withdrawal is to bolster domestic energy production to create jobs, secure energy independence, and help the economy, New Times decided to investigate the economics of uranium mining in the area.

To do this, we spoke with more than a dozen experts in fields like hard-rock mining, mineral economics, hydrology, environmental law, and nuclear power. We analyzed global uranium market trends and data, learned about unconventional mining techniques, and spoke with local politicians who are familiar with the northern Arizona economy.

We also consulted reports from various federal agencies, think tanks, trade groups, the Government Accountability Office, the World Nuclear Association, and the International Atomic Energy Association’s biennial report about the state of the global uranium market, The Uranium Red Book.

Tellingly, no expert or document made the argument that acquiring uranium from within the 2012 withdrawal is a matter of national security. No one said we needed it to keep the lights on now or in the foreseeable future. The world is flush with uranium that’s cheaper to mine and the U.S. Department of Energy has huge stockpiles of enriched and raw uranium that could be used in a pinch, we were told, again and again.

And finally, no one said that it would do much for the local economy. Some suggested that at best, it could create temporary jobs, though most felt that because of the stop-and-go nature of uranium mining, and the fears mining stokes about a radioactive accident, it would be more likely to cause harm than good.

“When people want to mine [uranium] in the U.S., I think, ‘Really?’ It’s generally not worth it,” says James Conca, a senior scientist at the energy consulting firm UFA Ventures Inc…….

January 12, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Adani’s mega mine: it’s not over yet

Julien Vincent

‘A couple of months ago, Adani looked set to defy
economic logic, popular opposition and
the urgent reality of climate change. …

‘All of a sudden there was a plausible – albeit absurd on many levels
– pathway that Adani might find to secure the billions of dollars
it needed for the Carmichael mine to proceed.

And then it all fell to pieces. …

‘After all, here we are at the start of 2018 still talking
about the prospect of allowing the largest thermal coal mine in Australia to proceed,
heavily subsidised by the taxpayer,
opposed by over 70 per cent of people who know about the project,
in a context of the thermal coal trade in structural decline
and in the middle of a climate crisis. …

‘Julien Vincent is the executive director of Market Forces’

Read more of Julien’s comprehensive and interesting analysis here:

January 12, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment