Australian news, and some related international items

A new book argues that Australia will need nuclear weapons

Nuclear arsenal must be on Australia’s agenda, argues defence expert, SMH, By Harriet Alexander, July 1, 2019  Australia can no longer rely on the United States to protect it in Asia and should consider developing its own nuclear weapons for the event that China becomes hostile, former defence strategist and security analyst Hugh White argues in a controversial new book.

Professor White argues in How to Defend Australia the assumption that the United States would protect the nation against any attack by a major power, which has underpinned Australian defence policy since the Cold War, is no longer true as China emerges as the dominant power in Asia.

For Australia to be self-reliant, it would need to boost defence spending from 2 per cent to 3.5 per cent of GDP – or $30 billion – and consider the “difficult and uncomfortable” question of developing its own nuclear capability, said Professor White, a professor in strategic studies at the Australian National University……..

Although most think tanks and strategic policy institutes in the United States continued to assert that dominance in Asia was a strategic priority, America’s global leadership has not figured as a priority for President Donald Trump nor for the contenders to the Democrat nomination, Professor White said. ……

Professor White said Australia should only consider defensive weapons such as submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

“We need to be extremely careful about how we talk about this and very conscious of the extraordinary cost to us of acquiring nuclear weapons,” Professor White said.

“It would make us less secure in some ways, that’s why in some ways I think it’s appalling.”

The last prime minister to canvass the development of nuclear weapons in Australia was Robert Menzies in the 1960s.

Professor White, a former deputy secretary for strategy and intelligence with the Department of Defence, was dismissed as alarmist when he first foreshadowed in 2010 the demise of American influence in Asia. But the Lowy Institute’s international security program director Sam Roggeveen said he had since been proved correct.

Mr Roggeveen said the regional complications of Australia developing nuclear weapons would be huge, with Indonesia probably having to follow suit, but the logic was inescapable.

“If we ever completely decouple from the [US] alliance then it’s hard to see how we could essentially maintain our independence against China’s coercion if we didn’t have nuclear weapons,” Mr Roggeveen said.

The bipartisan political consensus on Australian defence policy is opposed to the development of nuclear weapons, and the domestic shipbuilding program would leave Australia “hopelessly vulnerable” if it ever came to a fight with China, Mr Roggeveen said.

“According to White, we are locking in a defence force for a generation that will be totally unsuited to the world we are entering,” he wrote in a book review for The Interpreter. “That’s the scandal.”

The Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, said: “Australia stands by its Non-Proliferation Treaty pledge, as a non-nuclear weapon state, not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons.”

La Trobe Asia executive director Euan Graham said the US alliance was more resilient than Professor White described and China had shown no signs of aggression, but he agreed Australia should think about developing its nuclear capability.

“We’re talking about 15 to 20 years acquisition timeframe and the security environment that we’re facing will almost certainly be more severe then that it is now,” Dr Graham said.

“I think Australia has to be thinking about what will be  be required to move to a nuclear weapon posture because that can’t happen overnight.”

July 2, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Los Angeles’ cheap solar + battery-storage project spells doom for nuclear power

New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear, Forbes, Jeff McMahon ,2 July 19. Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin.Later this month the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners is expected to approve a 25-year contract that will serve 7 percent of the city’s electricity demand at 1.997¢/kwh for solar energy and 1.3¢ for power from batteries.

“This is the lowest solar-photovoltaic price in the United States,” said James Barner, the agency’s manager for strategic initiatives, “and it is the largest and lowest-cost solar and high-capacity battery-storage project in the U.S. and we believe in the world today. So this is, I believe, truly revolutionary in the industry.”

It’s half the estimated cost of power from a new natural gas plant.

Mark Z. Jacobson, the Stanford professor who developed roadmaps for transitioning 139 countries to 100 percent renewables, hailed the development on Twitter Friday, saying, “Goodnight #naturalgas, goodnight #coal, goodnight #nuclear.”

The anti-nuclear activist Arnie Gunderson, who predicted storage prices under 2¢/kwh four years ago on the night Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Powerpack, noted Saturday that his 2015 prediction was too high. He too said, “Goodbye coal, nukes, gas!”………..–battery-price-crushes-fossil-fuels-buries-nuclear/#59a3e2355971

July 2, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Climate change increases heat waves across Europe

‘Worst is still to come’: Sizzling Europe battles wildfires, health risks, New records are being set as Europe swelters, sparking forest fires – and debates over public nudity.  SBS News, 29 June 19, Wildfires raged across Catalonia and French authorities stepped up restrictions on water use and driving in cities as swathes of western Europe remained in the grip of an intense heatwave.Temperatures climbed towards 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of northern Spain and southern France, driving many people to seek relief in the sea, rivers, lakes, fountains and swimming pools.

Grid operator RTE said French electricity demand on Thursday was close to a summer record seen two years ago, as people turned on fans and coolers to full blast for relief from the scorching temperatures……….

The stifling heat has elsewhere prompted traffic restrictions in France and fanned debate in Germany over public nudity as sweltering residents stripped off. …….

Exceptional for arriving so early in summer, the heatwave will on Thursday and Friday likely send thermometers above 40 degrees in France, Spain and Greece.

In Spain, hundreds of firefighters and soldiers, backed by water-dropping aircraft, battled on Wednesday to put out a wind-fuelled forest fire that erupted in Torre del Espanol in the northeastern region of Catalonia…….

Scientists warn that global warming linked to human fossil fuel use could make such scorchers more frequent.

“Global temperatures are increasing due to climate change,” said Len Shaffrey, professor of climate science at the University of Reading.

“The global rise in temperatures means the probability that an extreme heatwave will occur is also increasing.”………

European heatwave could be the norm in a climate change affected world……..


July 2, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Bonn climate talks: Key outcomes from the June 2019 conference — RenewEconomy

With a “rulebook” for the Paris Agreement largely settled, the focus was on hammering out some contentious issues and laying the groundwork for the upcoming COP25. The post Bonn climate talks: Key outcomes from the June 2019 conference appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Bonn climate talks: Key outcomes from the June 2019 conference — RenewEconomy

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The continuing saga of the stalled negotiations between Trump and Kim

Keeping Up With the Plot of the Trump-Kim Nuclear Show, Bloomberg, By Jon Herskovitz and Youkyung Lee, July 1, 2019Three meetings between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea resulted in no concrete plans to end Pyongyang’s atomic ambitions. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have toned down hostile rhetoric since they first shook hands in Singapore in June 2018. They were cordial even after their second summit broke down in Hanoi in February, and took an historic stroll together into North Korea four months later. All the while, Pyongyang’s nuclear program quietly advanced as U.S.-backed sanctions choked its moribund economy. The two countries can’t agree on what the denuclearization of North Korea means and what rewards should be given, if any, in response to Pyongyang’s moves toward disarmament. But Trump has invited Kim to the White House, while a top aide to Kim has touted the “mysteriously wonderful” chemistry between the two leaders.

1. What have they agreed to?

The first summit resulted in a bare-bones declaration that contained four main items: To normalize ties between the U.S. and North Korea, formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, repatriate U.S. war remains and — crucially — “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” But “work toward” is undefined. It’s also unclear whether the U.S. nuclear umbrella over South Korea is included. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says that Kim accepted the “final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.” North Korea points out the agreement referred to the entire peninsula and insists U.S. weapons must go at the same time, or it would be left vulnerable to attack. A meeting between Kim and Trump within the Demilitarized Zone in June 2019 led to an agreement to resume working-level talks that could iron out details of any deal.

2. What does the U.S. want?

To start, the U.S. wants North Korea to provide an inventory of weapons, facilities and fissile material it has produced. Kim’s regime calls that akin to asking for a “target list.” Further steps would include inspections, closing facilities and destroying weapons, and even surrendering nuclear material, according to proliferation experts. Past talks have faltered on the question of inspections and verification.

3. What does North Korea want?

Kim wants “corresponding measures,” or immediate rewards, for any steps his regime makes. In a televised New Year’s address, Kim threatened to take a “new path” if Washington didn’t relax crippling economic sanctions

He signaled that any deal might require weakening the U.S.-South Korean alliance, urging Seoul not to resume military exercises with the American side. And he made clear that he believed the denuclearization pledge includes “strategic assets” such as America’s nuclear-capable planes and warships. But his language was less bellicose than past years, possibly reflecting his limited options.

4. What has North Korea offered?

In Hanoi, North Korea offered to shut down parts of its Yongbyon nuclear complex, which has served as the crown jewel of its atomic program, in return for sanctions relief. The aging facility about 60 miles north of Pyongyang was once the main source of its fissile material, turning out roughly enough plutonium each year for one atomic bomb. But North Korea has since turned to uranium enrichment for weapons. Still, Yongbyon remains its main atomic research facility and a complete closure would affect its nuclear program……..

July 2, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

White House denies report of a ‘nuclear freeze’ agreement with North Korea

John Bolton shoots down report of ‘nuclear freeze’ agreement with North Korea
White House adviser dismisses reports of a ‘freeze’ of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Politico, 
By QUINT FORGEY 7/1/19, 
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton on Monday dismissed reports that the administration is considering agreeing to a “freeze” of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal as opposed to a more comprehensive denuclearization pact.

Prior to U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting Sunday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — where Trump became the first sitting commander-in-chief to step into the isolated  communist state — the New York Times reported that administration officials have been mulling a deal with Pyongyang to halt production of new nuclear material as a way to kickstart a new round of talks with Kim’s regime.

But the head of  Trump’s National Security Council slammed the Times story, writing online that “there should be consequences” for its publishing. Bolton did not specify whether it was the Times or whoever its source was that should face those consequences.

“I read this NYT story with curiosity. Neither the NSC staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to ‘settle for a nuclear freeze by North Korea,’” Bolton tweeted, describing the report as “a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the President.”……

The North Korean government has been especially critical of Bolton throughout Trump’s yearlong crusade to broker an arms agreement with Pyongyang, with a foreign ministry spokesman branding the hawkish former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as a “warmonger” and “defective human product” in May.

July 2, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Iran confirms that it has breached the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile

Iran says nuclear stockpile limit breached, Perth Now,  AAPNews Corp Australia Network July 2, 2019

Iran has breached the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile set in a 2015 deal with major powers, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, defying a warning by European cosignatories to stick to the deal despite US sanctions.

Mr Zarif confirmed to the ISNA news agency that Iran had exceeded the relevant limit of 300kg of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), but Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Iran’s steps to decrease its commitments to the nuclear deal were “reversible”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that its inspectors were verifying whether Iran had accumulated more enriched uranium than allowed……….

After talks on Friday in Vienna, Iran said European countries had offered too little in the way of trade assistance to persuade it to back off from its plan to breach the limit, a riposte to US President Donald Trump’s decision last year to quit the deal and reimpose economic sanctions.

Mr Mousavi urged them on Monday to step up their efforts. “Time is running out for them to save the deal,” state TV quoted Mr Mousavi as saying. The deal between Iran and six world powers lifted most international sanctions against Iran in return for restrictions on its nuclear work aimed at extending the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, from roughly two-three months to a year.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, including generating power. Its regional adversary Israel, which Iran does not recognise, says the program presents it with an existential threat. ……

Mr Trump has called for negotiations with Iran with “no preconditions”, but Tehran has ruled out talks until the United States returns to the nuclear pact and drops its sanctions.


July 2, 2019 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

States doing heavy lifting on renewables, but NSW and Queensland lag behind — RenewEconomy

Green Energy Markets counts 10,000MW of new renewables under construction in Australia – thanks largely to state government policies – but the bigger states lag behind the pace. The post States doing heavy lifting on renewables, but NSW and Queensland lag behind appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via States doing heavy lifting on renewables, but NSW and Queensland lag behind — RenewEconomy

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

July 1 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “The Green New Climate Deal” • The GND is wildly popular with the Democratic Party base, but much of the leadership has been influenced by large fossil fuel industry contributions. The Sunrise movement has made headway on this, recruiting over 100 members of congress and most presidential candidates to support the GND. [Common […]

via July 1 Energy News — geoharvey

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rooftop solar rebate reopens to “pent-up” demand in Victoria — RenewEconomy

More than 1000 applications flood in as Victoria’s $1.3bn Solar Homes rebate kicks off in earnest. Batteries are on offer too – but just 200 from now to November. The post Rooftop solar rebate reopens to “pent-up” demand in Victoria appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Rooftop solar rebate reopens to “pent-up” demand in Victoria — RenewEconomy

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coal price forecasts: Why we wouldn’t be building a coal power plant anywhere — RenewEconomy

While thermal coal prices continue to be driven by Asian power demand, any investment would be a real grudge investment – as the economics won’t be good. The post Coal price forecasts: Why we wouldn’t be building a coal power plant anywhere appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Coal price forecasts: Why we wouldn’t be building a coal power plant anywhere — RenewEconomy

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time to stop ignoring the climate threat to world heritage — RenewEconomy

The World Heritage list comprises more than 1,000 of our planet’s most important natural and cultural heritage sites – and they are increasingly vulnerable to climate change. The post Time to stop ignoring the climate threat to world heritage appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Time to stop ignoring the climate threat to world heritage — RenewEconomy

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Lal Lal wind farm’s Yendon section now connected to Victoria grid — RenewEconomy

Part of the massive Victorian wind farm that will help supply Australian packaging giant Orora with 80% renewables is now sending power to the grid. The post Lal Lal wind farm’s Yendon section now connected to Victoria grid appeared first on RenewEconomy.

via Lal Lal wind farm’s Yendon section now connected to Victoria grid — RenewEconomy

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment