Australian news, and some related international items

Australia and nuclear weapons – theme for August 2020

Sad to say, but Australia, or at least the Australian government, is something of an international pariah  on the great issues of climate action, and nuclear disarmament.

In decades past, Australia took a leadership position on nuclear disarmament.   Not any more.The rot really set in with the dismissal of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister.   That whole thing remains shrouded in secrecy, but Whitlam wanted Australia’s government to know what was going on at Pine Gap, and opposed having a USA  secret spy and military operations base operating in Australia.  I believe that it was Whitlam’s stand about Pine Gap that was the underlying reason for his dismissal.

After Whitlam, Australian governments kowtowed to USA, and continue to do so. As with climate action, the Australian government continues to sabotage international disarmament efforts.  That’s why we have U.S. military bases as targets in this country, and some Liberal and National MPs itching to buy nuclear weapons from US.

On a positive note, however, Australians can be proud of the initiation of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, (ICAN) which was started by Australians, and won the Nobel Peace Prize.  This led to the United Nations Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, voted in by 122 nations, now ratified by 40.  It is an important start, removing any pretense that such weapons could be considered ethical.  There are now 28 Australian councils that call for the federal government to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons..

for page Andrew Wilkie

for International

for international – very good


July 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Christina themes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear power, far too slow to affect global heating – theme for July 20

In recent themes I wrote about nuclear power being in fact a big contributor to global warming,  and about how climate change will in fact finish off the nuclear industry.

But – let’s pretend that nuclear reactors really could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

TIME: To do that, 1500 one thousand megawatt-electric new reactors would be needed within a few years to displace a significant amount of carbon-emitting fossil generation.  A Massachusetts Institute of Technology Study on “The Future of Nuclear Power”   projected that a global growth scenario for as many as 1500 one thousand megawatt-electric new reactors would be needed to displace a significant amount of carbon-emitting fossil generation. Average 115 built per year would reduce our CO2 use by only 16%.

But the new flavour of the month is Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), which generate  from 50 to 200 megawatts. So the  world would need, quickly, to have a significant reduction of carbon emissions, i.e at least 7500 largish SMRs – or 30,000 smaller ones., (and these SMRs are already shown to be more costly than large ones,)

Meanwhile – if the nuclear “climate cure” were to be pursued, the enormous costs and efforts involved would take away from the clean, fast, and ever cheaper solutions of energy efficiency and renewable energy

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Christina themes, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Letter to Australia’s Senators – alarm over proposed National Radioactive Waste Amendment Bill

Dear Senator
When the National Radioactive Waste Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 comes before the senate in August 2020, I/we would like you to consider the serious nature of the information in this letter and to reject this Bill.

The proposed dump on a farm (Napandee) near Kimba SA has been promoted as a permanent low level waste (LLW) dump to be managed for 300 years, necessitated by nuclear medicine. This lie by omission has been repeated ad nauseam by the National Radioactive Waste Management Taskforce; government agencies tasked with dealing with the waste, namely ANSTO and ARPANSA; government ministers (state and federal); the local Liberal MHR Rowan Ramsay and business associations. This rationale for the dump has been directed to two very small rural communities, while the remainder of the state and the nation have been ignored, in spite of the repeated message that this is an issue of national significance. (The Australian Radioactive Waste Management Framework 2018 states
that the general public should be actively engaged in implementing its aims for nuclear waste disposal.)

Following the debacle of the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission 2015-2016 (RC) initiated by your colleague, then, Premier Jay Weatherill, its recommendation to more fully explore the possibility of SA becoming a dump for international high level waste (HLW) was rejected

Until then, the current national dump proposal (running in parallel with the RC and supported by it) had been overshadowed by public outrage over the RC’s recommendation re international waste. Most South Australians had no idea that, once again, SA was being primed as a dumping ground for
the nation’s waste.

In 2000, the SA Olson Liberal government enacted the Radioactive Waste (Prohibition) Act; later strengthened by the Rann Labor government, it was amended during 2015 because the RC was not in compliance with the Act! Following the conclusion of the RC, the Act was fully reinstated.

n spite of this, both Labor and Liberal state politicians overwhelmingly have remained mute, lacking the courage to either openly support the national dump plans or to criticise them. Their silence, their unwillingness to defend and uphold the Act is a betrayal of the South Australian public.

In claiming majority support for its dump plans in the Kimba vote, the federal government ignores its failure to include the Barngarla traditional owners, and the bitterly divided community which remains.

The federal government’s PR exercise has failed to satisfactorily explain the sources or composition of the waste planned for Napandee; for example the majority of the waste (by quantity) is currently stored at Woomera, much of it waiting for categorisation and repackaging, as the drums containing
it are in poor condition. This material is legacy waste; the result of research conducted during the Cold War, when Australia worked in close collaboration with UK’s nuclear weapons programme.
Currently there exists no facility at Woomera for repackaging this waste.

While endeavouring to maintain the justification for the national dump i.e. LLW waste necessitated by nuclear medicine, the planned temporary, above ground storage of reprocessed spent fuel and other sources of high level waste have been largely ignored. By labelling these wastes as intermediate level (ILW) the federal government has sought to downgrade the level of concern. IAEA advice for the final disposal of radioactive waste does not differentiate between ILW and HLW; so let us call reprocessed spent fuel for what it is – HLW.

One of the greatest concerns about the dump is the removal of HLW from temporary storage at Woomera, and in the case of reprocessed spent fuel or other high level isotopes, from temporary storage at Lucas Heights to another temporary storage site at Napandee, with NO plans for permanent disposal. Surely, this is not international best practice!

The packaging drums (TN81) for reprocessed spent fuel returning from France and the UK have an anticipated life of 40 years. Given that there are no long-term plans for this waste and that it is envisaged that management of its temporary storage could be for 100 years, it is, therefore, highly
probable that repackaging would be required. There are, however, no plans for providing repackaging facilities at Napandee.

Due to Australia’s relatively small quantities of HLW, the IAEA notes the difficulty we would face in developing a permanent, deep geological repository for its disposal. Given the lack of any long-term plan for this waste; the inability of any other country to permanently dispose of its intractable wastes; and the enthusiasm that still persists in some quarters for hosting an international waste dump, (including amongst the SA government’s top advisers) the IAEA’s comments should ring alarm

The nation’s HLW becoming stranded indefinitely at the Napandee site, where it could also become a stepping stone to an international waste dump, is not only a nightmarish scenario; it is a realistic possibility.

The federal government’s plans are deeply disturbing. The public has been kept in the dark, or entirely misled. I/We, therefore, request you consider this letter when voting on the forthcoming Bill.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL | Leave a comment

Hope for a nuclear weapons free world  

Hope for a nuclear weapons free world  Mick & Deborah Stacey, Ballina

The 16 July, 75 years ago, was the date of the first atomic weapons test code named ‘Trinity’, at Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA, (part of the Manhattan Project). This led to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the 6 and 9 August, and over 2000 additional tests worldwide, exposing people and nature to deadly toxic radioactive particles.

Today, there are over 13,890 nuclear weapons worldwide, all far more powerful than the ones used on Japan.

But there is hope, thanks to an Australian initiated campaign ICANW (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), we now have 40 countries, Botswana being the latest, that have ratified the treaty in the United Nations, with 10 more required to make nuclear weapons,  illegal under International Law.

Thanks to the dedicated people who work tirelessly to make this happen. We can help by making a donation at ICANW, and encouraging your council to sign up to the ICAN Cities Appeal. There are now 28  Australian councils signed up, Adelaide being the latest.

So if local Councils could take some time out from being developers, just like Ballina Council they could add their support.

There is no future in a world,  held to ransom by these horrendous weapons of mass destruction.

People should be appalled by the governments’ announcement to spend $270 billion on so called defence.    Love is the answer.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The climate emergency after the pandemic — John Quiggin

In an excess of zeal, I’m planning an Australia-specific book (working title, Australia after the Apocalypse: rebuilding a livable future) which will deal with the social, cultural and economic implications of the bushfire and pandemic catastrophes. This will complement The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic which will be global in its scope, but more narrow…

The climate emergency after the pandemic — John Quiggin

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coronavirus is a big threat: global heating is bigger

July 18, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Doubts on the independence of the reiew of Australia’s national environmental laws

Frustration grows over delayed release of review into Australia’s environmental laws
‘Questions naturally arise’ about review’s independence, environmental group says,
Guardian,   Lisa Cox   17 Jul 20, Environment groups are increasingly anxious and frustrated as they wait for the release of an interim report from a review of Australia’s national environmental laws.

The review’s chair, the former competition watchdog head Graeme Samuel, handed his report to the environment minister, Sussan Ley, almost three weeks ago.

It had been due for release shortly after that but the government pushed back its publication, which is now expected sometime next week.

“When the review was announced, Minister Ley was very clear that this was meant to be an independent report. But when the report is delayed by government, questions naturally arise about how independent that process is,” said Suzanne Milthorpe, the national environmental law campaign manager at the Wilderness Society.

“If they are serious about this, they should release it so that all Australians can see and engage with the findings of this report.”

The review of Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is a once-in-a-decade statutory requirement. It has the potential to shape policy for the next 10 years in an area that is highly politicised.

The interim report and its recommendations will inform the next period of public consultation before Samuel delivers a final report in October.

In submissions to the review, environmental and industry groups have put forward proposals that involve the development of national environmental standards.

They agree Australia’s environment is in decline, but they hold different views on what a set of national standards might look like.

Industry continues to advocate for reductions in environmental regulation, while conservationists have called for stronger protection and an independent national environmental authority.

Just this week, Australia’s oil and gas lobby, APPEA, called for regulatory reform, and in particular the cutting of so-called environmental “green tape”, to support economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. …..

James Trezise of the Australian Conservation Foundation said a recent national audit office report that examined the assessment and approval of projects under the act had identified serious failures in governance.

That included findings that the government had been ineffective in managing risks to the environment and had failed to ensure developers were meeting the environmental conditions of their project approvals.

Trezise said reforms were needed to ensure Australia’s laws were better focused on delivering outcomes for the environment and that one way of achieving that was “through setting clear national standards” for environmental protection…….

James Trezise of the Australian Conservation Foundation said a recent national audit office report that examined the assessment and approval of projects under the act had identified serious failures in governance.

That included findings that the government had been ineffective in managing risks to the environment and had failed to ensure developers were meeting the environmental conditions of their project approvals.

Trezise said reforms were needed to ensure Australia’s laws were better focused on delivering outcomes for the environment and that one way of achieving that was “through setting clear national standards” for environmental protection………

July 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Australia wants to build a huge concrete runway in Antarctica. Here’s why that’s a bad idea

Australia wants to build a huge concrete runway in Antarctica. Here’s why that’s a bad idea, The Conversation 
July 17, 2020  Shaun Brooks, University Associate, University of Tasmania, Julia JabourAdjunct Senior Lecturer, University of Tasmania    A ustralia wants to build a 2.7-kilometre concrete runway in Antarctica, the world’s biggest natural reserve. The plan, if approved, would have the largest footprint of any project in the continent’s history………

Australia: an environmental leader?

Australia has traditionally been considered an environmental leader in Antarctica. For example, in 1989 under the Hawke government, it urged the world to abandon a mining convention in favour of a new deal to ban mining on the continent.

Australia’s 20 Year Action Plan promotes “leadership in environmental stewardship in Antarctica”, pledging to “minimise the environmental impact of Australia’s activities”.

But the aerodrome proposal appears at odds with that goal. It would cover 2.2 square kilometres, increasing the total “disturbance footprint” of all nations on the continent by 40%. It would also mean Australia has the biggest footprint of any nation, overtaking the United States.

Within this footprint, environmental effects will also be intense. Construction will require more than three million cubic metres of earthworks – levelling 60 vertical metres of hills and valleys along the length of the runway. This will inevitably cause dust emissions – on the windiest continent on Earth – and the effect of this on plants and animals in Antarctica is poorly understood.

Wilson’s storm petrels that nest at the site will be displaced. Native lichens, fungi and algae will be destroyed, and irreparable damage is expected at adjacent lakes.

Weddell seals breed within 500 metres of the proposed runway site. Federal environment officials recognise the dust from construction and subsequent noise from low flying aircraft have the potential to disturb these breeding colonies.

The proposed area is also important breeding habitat for Adélie penguins. Eight breeding sites in the region are listed as “important bird areas”. Federal environment officials state the penguins are likely to be impacted by human disturbance, dust, and noise from construction of the runway, with particular concern for oil spills and aircraft operations.

The summer population at Davis Station will need to almost double from 120 to 250 during construction. This will require new, permanent infrastructure and increase the station’s fuel and water consumption, and sewage discharged into the environment……..

July 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

Testing of nuclear weapons has been a disaster for America

July 18, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment