Australian news, and some related international items

Bushfires – a serious danger to transporting nuclear wastes from Lucas Heights to Kimba

Transporting nuclear wastes across Australia in the age of bushfires, Independent Australia, By Noel Wauchope | IN 2020, the final decision on a site for Australia’s interim National Radioactive Waste Facility will be announced, said Resources Minister Matt Canavan on 13 December.

He added:  I will make a formal announcement early next year on the site-selection process.”

With bushfires raging, it might seem insensitive and non-topical to be worrying now about this coming announcement on a temporary nuclear waste site and the transport of nuclear wastes to it. But this is relevant and all too serious in the light of Australia’s climate crisis.

The U.S. National Academies Press compiled a lengthy and comprehensive report on risks of transporting nuclear wastes — they concluded that among various risks, the most serious and significant is fire:…..

Current bushfire danger areas include much of New South Wales, including the Lucas Heights area, North and coastal East Victoria and in South Australia the lower Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas. If nuclear wastes were to be transported across the continent, whether by land or by sea, from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney to Kimba in South Australia, they’d be travelling through much of these areas. Today, they’d be confronting very long duration, fully engulfing fires.

Do we know what route the nuclear wastes would be taking to Kimba, which is now presumed to be the Government’s choice for the waste dump? Does the Department of Industry Innovation and Science know? Does the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) know? Well, they might, but they’re not going to tell us.

We can depend on ANSTO’s consistent line on this :

‘In line with standard operational and security requirements, ANSTO will not comment on the port, routes or timing until after the transport is complete.’

That line is understandable of course, due to security considerations, including the danger of terrorism.

Spent nuclear fuel rods have been transported several times, from Lucas Heights to ports – mainly Port Kembla – in great secrecy and security. The reprocessed wastes are later returned from France or the UK with similar caution. Those secret late-night operations are worrying enough, but their risks seem almost insignificant when compared with the marathon journey envisaged in what is increasingly looking like a crackpot ANSTO scheme for the proposed distant Kimba interim nuclear dump. It is accepted that these temporary dumps are best located as near as practical to the point of production, as in the case of USA’s sites.

Australians, beset by the horror of extreme bushfires, can still perhaps count themselves as lucky in that, compared with wildfire regions in some countries, they do not yet have the compounding horror of radioactive contamination spread along with the ashes and smoke.

Fires in Russia have threatened its secret nuclear areas……

Many in America have long been aware of the transport danger:

The state of Nevada released a report in 2003 concluding that a steel-lead-steel cask would have failed after about six hours in the fire and a solid steel cask would have failed after about 11 to 12.5 hours. There would have been contamination over 32 square miles of the city and the contamination would have killed up to 28,000 people over 50 years.

The State of Wyoming is resisting hosting a nuclear waste dump, largely because of transportation risks as well as economic risks. In the UK, Somerset County Council rejects plans for transport of wastes through Somerset.

In the years 2016–2019, proposals for nuclear waste dumping in South Australia have been discussed by government and media as solely a South Australian concern. The present discussion about Kimba is being portrayed as just a Kimba community concern.

Yet, when the same kind of proposal was put forward in previous years, it was recognised as an issue for other states, too.

Most reporting on Australia’s bushfires has been excellent, with the exception of Murdoch media trying to downplay their seriousness. However, there has been no mention of the proximity of bushfires to Lucas Heights. As happened with the fires in 2018, this seems to be a taboo subject in the Australian media.

While it has never been a good idea to trek the Lucas Heights nuclear waste for thousands of kilometres across the continent – or halfway around it by sea – Australia’s new climate crisis has made it that much more dangerous. Is the bushfire apocalypse just a one-off? Or, more likely, is this nationwide danger the new normal?,13465

January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, Federal nuclear waste dump, safety | Leave a comment

Australia stuck in the climate spiral – producing pollution, burning from pollution

January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Australia needs to talk about, and plan for, our climate-changed future

 Catherine Ryland, an urban planner and a bushfire-resilience expert, would like to see more conversation around the idea of planned retreat—rebuilding in low-risk locations, reducing development in high-risk areas, and even relocating existing, unaffected communities, which she describes as the “biggest, bravest, boldest step.”

And there are floods—one-in-100-year floods have laid waste to Queensland twice in two years—and climate-change-related sea-level rise, which is predicted to be a significant issue for a nation whose population is concentrated in a narrow strip of land around its coastline.

January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Australia’s $multi-billion climate whammy: Ross Garnaut was right

January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – no solution to climate change

January 9, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Donald Trump sets the scene for a nuclear crisis in Iran

Trump risks nuclear crisis in Iran, The Hill, BY REBECCA KHEEL – 01/06/20  President Trump is increasingly facing the possibility of a nuclear crisis with Iran, as Tehran takes its biggest step back from the 2015 nuclear deal.Iran’s decision to stop adhering to limits in the Obama-era nuclear agreement comes just days after Trump authorized a drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, posing a major test of the Trump administration’s gambit to withdraw from the international accord.

While Iran hasn’t kicked out nuclear inspectors, and has even left open the possibility of coming back into compliance, experts say Sunday’s announcement by Tehran brings the deal closer to collapse than ever before…….

Iran had set an early January deadline for its next step away from the deal, even before last week’s U.S. strike in Baghdad killed Soleimani, the Quds Force leader. But his unexpected death has ratcheted up tensions between the United States and Iran, stoking fears about a military confrontation and making any step away from the nuclear deal now that much more fraught.

“The degree of their abandonment of the JCPOA may have come about as a result” of Soleimani’s death, Takeyh said, using the acronym for the official name of the deal.

On Sunday, Iran announced it would no longer adhere to the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment.

Trump responded to the news Monday by tweeting in all caps that “Iran will never have a nuclear weapon!”…..

Despite saying it was no longer bound by the deal’s limits, Iran did not immediately announce actions to increase its uranium enrichment and reiterated its pledge to come back into compliance with the deal if it gets sanctions relief. Iran also maintained that its nuclear program is not a weapons program.

Iran also said it would continue cooperating with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.

The IAEA said Monday its “inspectors continue to verify and monitor activities in the country.”….

January 9, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Australia just had its hottest, driest, year on record: Bureau of Meteorology

Australia has officially recorded its warmest, driest year on record: BoMAustralia has just sweated through its warmest and driest year on record. SBS, BY SONIA LAL  9 Jan 2020, The Bureau of Meteorology has declared 2019 the warmest and driest year on record for Australia.

The BoM made the call as part of its Annual Climate Statement, presented on Thursday morning, calling last year our hottest year with a mean temperature of 1.52 degrees Celsius above average.

Australia’s national average rainfall total was just 277mm – the lowest recorded ever.

The Bureau’s head of climate monitoring Dr Karl Braganza said the concerning signs pointed towards increased catastrophic fire weather. 

“For maximum temperatures, it was a larger departure. It was plus two degrees. So that is the first time we have seen an anomaly that’s two degrees above average and about half a degree warmer than the previous record,” he said.

“We also saw the six hottest days on record peaking at 41.9 and that is temperature averaged over the whole continent.

“I think we saw 11 such days where the national daily temperature went over 40 degrees this summer and that is really quite stark.”

Nation-wide, Australia is experiencing catastrophic bushfires conditions with dangerous blazes burning in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The BoM report said the link between the fires and record low rainfall and increased temperatures was clear.  We were lucky last summer that we didn’t get the sort of fire activity that we’ve seen this year. But this year we weren’t so lucky,” Dr Braganza said.

The report also revealed that evidence pointing to the unprecedented duration of this season’s bushfire became clear two years ago.

“So certainly the combination of extended drought, very low soil moistures in some regions, drier fuels, higher temperatures on most of the outlooks and no meaningful rainfall meant that we had quite early indications that the fire season was likely to be, or include, quite frequent severe fire weather,”  Dr Braganza said.

The National Farmers’ Federation said the record warm temperatures are severely impacting the livelihoods of farmers. ……

While it is still early in the new year, Dr Braganza said it is unlikely the weather conditions are going to improve.

“There’s nothing really indicating things will cool down too much over the next few months. We are starting to see some signs that the monsoon is starting to get active.

“At this point I think I’d optimistically say less dry rather than wet if that makes sense so I don’t think we’re seeing an indication that we’ll see significant above-average rainfall.”

He said the science is clear on a link between a warming climate and Australia’s bushfire season over the years.

University students for the Climate Justice group are set to protest on Friday to demand more action on climate change as the country continues to battle dangerous bushfire conditions. HTTPS://WWW.SBS.COM.AU/NEWS/AUSTRALIA-HAS-OFFICIALLY-RECORDED-ITS-WARMEST-DRIEST-YEAR-ON-RECORD-BOM

January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Murdoch media and climate change denial

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate, Critics see a concerted effort to shift blame, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change. NYT  By Damien Cave, Jan. 8, 2020  WOMBEYAN CAVES, Australia — Deep in the burning forests south of Sydney this week, volunteer firefighters were clearing a track through the woods, hoping to hold back a nearby blaze, when one of them shouted over the crunching of bulldozers.

“Don’t take photos of any trees coming down,” he said. “The greenies will get a hold of it, and it’ll all be over.”
 The idea that “greenies” or environmentalists would oppose measures to prevent fires from ravaging homes and lives is simply false. But the comment reflects a narrative that’s been promoted for months by conservative Australian media outlets, especially the influential newspapers and television stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.  And it’s far from the only Murdoch-fueled claim making the rounds.
His standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has also repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past — not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined.
And on Wednesday, Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.
It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain — shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.“It’s really reckless and extremely harmful,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University.
“It’s insidious because it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place.”
………  a search for “climate change” in the main Murdoch outlets mostly yields stories condemning protesters who demand more aggressive action from the government; editorials arguing against “radical climate change policy”; and opinion columns emphasizing the need for more backburning to control fires — if only the left-wing greenies would allow it to happen.The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard-reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so


January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, media | Leave a comment

Independent MP Zali Steggall calls on modern Liberals to support her proposed climate change bill

Zali Steggall urges ‘modern Liberals’ to support her proposed climate change bill: independent MP plans a ‘people-powered’ public campaign for a conscience vote similar to the one for same-sex marriage, Sarah Martin Chief political correspondent, Wed 8 Jan 2020  The independent MP Zali Steggall is calling on self-styled “modern Liberals” to support legislation to establish a new climate change framework, warning them to ignore the views of their constituents “at their peril”.

Steggall, who toppled Tony Abbott in the Sydney seat of Warringah at the May 2019 election, largely on a platform of climate change action, is finalising draft legislation for a “national climate change framework” that sets out a roadmap for Australia to transition to a decarbonised economy.

The legislation is modelled on the UK’s Climate Change Act, passed in 2008, and mirrors framework laws in place in New Zealand and Ireland. Germany and Fiji are considering similar draft legislation.

Steggall aims to begin consultation on the draft bill later this month, and wants to introduce legislation in March, backed by a public campaign calling for a conscience vote in parliament.

Steggall would not reveal full details of the planned public campaign, but said she hoped it would be a similar “people-powered” movement to the same-sex marriage campaign that successfully galvanised support for a yes vote.

“My goal is to make sure all the people worried about bushfires and climate change, and drought and planning and agriculture in regional areas, and air pollution in urban areas – that they all be aware that this is on the table, and that this is an opportunity,” Steggall told Guardian Australia.
She said so-called modern Liberals, such as Dave Sharma in Wentworth, Tim Wilson in Goldstein and Jason Falinski in Mackellar, should ensure they put the interests of their electorate first and consider crossing the floor if the government opposed the bill as expected……..
Under Steggall’s bill, a statutory long-term target of net zero emissions by 2050 would be set, requiring five-yearly economy-wide carbon budgets to meet the goal…..

Steggall has already begun talking to other independents about the legislation.

The Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie said she would support the bill, and called on moderate Liberals to do the same……

January 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

January 8 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “David Suzuki: A 2020 Vision For Climate Action” • Let’s hope 2020 marks the start of a year and decade when we finally take climate disruption as seriously as the evidence shows we must. We understand the problem and know how to deal with it. Many solutions exist and more are being developed, […]

via January 8 Energy News — geoharvey

January 9, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment