Australian news, and some related international items

Black lives DO matter, but not apparently, to ANSTO and Australia’s nuclear lobby

The systematic racist behaviour by your Government is a stain on the collective consciousness of this country.’

the Senate Inquiry Committee decided not to hold a hearing in SA. Instead it will be a phone/video hearing — a disappointing decision for those far more at ease in face-to-face meetings even if most of the Senators involved were themselves on video.

Much at stake for Barngarla Country, Country,  Michele Madigan, 28 July 2020

    In the present world wide climate of Black Lives Matter when some governments/states are changing significant processes for the betterment of all, how is our own country fronting up when it comes to competing interests regarding land and culture? ‘Quite badly’ is the assessment that comes to mind in examining Barngarla Peoples’ recent reply to the Department of Resources, the federal department charged by government with the establishment of the national radioactive waste dump/facility (NRWMF).

Their letter of reply, publicly released July 23rd lays it down:

‘As you would likely be aware the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (Human Rights Committee) has confirmed, in their Human Rights Scrutiny Report — Report 4 of April 2020, that the proposal to place a NRWMF at Napandee is a violation of the Barngarla People’s Human Rights. This is clearly the case, given just some of the matters below…?’

The letter goes on to list how, as Traditional Owners, they were refused the right to vote, forcing them to organise their own official ballot with its unanimous ‘no’ vote which was then ‘entirely ignored by the Minister.’

Shamefully, the Barngarla further identify the final determination of government to crush First Nations and any other group seeking to use the democratic processes of the nation: ‘Those terrible failures in process would have been subject to judicial oversight had the Minister made a declaration under section14 of the existing National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (Cth). However, being fully aware of this, the Minister is now seeking to remove the Barngarla People’s legal rights to judicial review by using Parliament to legislate the location directly.’

Yes, the gloves are certainly off in the long running saga of the federal government’s latest effort to offload the nation’s nuclear waste — this time on Barngarla Country.

The Coalition seems to be banking on the certainty that everyone’s energy about national matters is focused on the Covid-19 emergency. The Guardian reports the plan to rush through new conservation laws even before even Prof. Graeme Samuel’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) final report is written:

‘The EPBC Act Interim Report (released July 21st) ) unsurprisingly includes the reprimand that the federal government’s framework environment legislation ‘reflects an overall culture of tokenism and symbolism, rather than one of genuine inclusion of Indigenous Australians’.

At the same time, with the Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Act 2020 yet to pass the Senate, on 21st July Resources Minister Pitt announced his own kind of pre-emptive strike. His joint media release announced a ‘new agency to safely and securely manage Australia’s radioactive waste’ by the establishment of ‘a dedicated agency’ based in Adelaide which will be ‘responsible for all functions of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility including engagement with the Kimba community.’

This is notwithstanding that the Senate Inquiry Committee is presently examining the actual issue and so of course Senators have not yet voted on the Bill, which confirms the selection of the Nappanee site in SA’s Kimba, Eyre Peninsula. The Minister’s apparent certainty of the outcome by announcing a ‘dedicated agency’ responsible for the entire matter, seems to take no account of these inconvenient facts. Is the Senate seen as irrelevant?

The bill itself narrowly passed the House of Representatives last month with opposition from Labor, the Greens and most of the Independents to whom it was clear that the rights of the Traditional Owners and other groups similarly opposed had been cast aside. MPs were aware that the process attempts to create a serious precedent. As Dave Sweeney ACF summarises: ‘the Parliament precluding the Courts.’

It is possible to turn around injustice: the Human Rights Committee’s report cited above was unanimous and was endorsed by Liberal and National Party members. With the Senate vote perhaps in September, it is to be hoped that federal Labor with its key South Australian Senators like Penny Wong and Don Farrell will follow the precedent set by their Lower House colleagues.

As well as the Greens, there are those other Senate crossbenchers who support farming communities. In the Kimba district and more widely in SA’s entire Eyre Peninsula, there are food producers disturbed by threats, whether by image or actuality, to their food production — the safety of which is more important than ever in these COVID-19 times.

A week out from the long awaited July 28th public hearing, the Senate Inquiry Committee decided not to hold a hearing in SA. Instead it will be a phone/video hearing — a disappointing decision for those far more at ease in face-to-face meetings even if most of the Senators involved were themselves on video.

But the Barngarla are clear. After refusing the funds offered to ironically ‘support their cultural heritage’ comes their letter’s devastating conclusion: ‘Your email indicates that the Government wants “to form a long term relationship with the Barngarla community based on mutual respect”. This is clearly an insincere statement given the complete violation of our rights to date. …The systematic racist behaviour by your Government is a stain on the collective consciousness of this country.’

There’s a long way to go for the Coalition to change from ‘its business as usual’ performance in this as in many other matters. We can all play our part, however, in encouraging Senators to stop another sizable wind back in the nation’s democratic processes. If the Senate defeats this Radioactive Waste Management Bill then the Barngarla and others can, as in any democratic country, take to court the minister’s processes.

There is much at stake.

July 28, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Notes on Barry Wakelin, speaking to the Senate Inquiry on Napandee nuclear waste dump plan

28 July 20,Barry Wakelin.  from Kimba S.A. :   I  have sent 3 submissions. The issue is of great concern  to the community. The planned radioactive wastes include 3 cubic metres of  Synroc wastes.  The issue is of Intermediate Wastes.  The Napandee plan  – Trying to deal with  something that nobody else wants.
I am concerned at removal of ability for judicial  review. The ILW seems to be a stumbling block.  The abolition of the words “radioactive wastes” in favour of “controlled substances”.   In 30 years time the volume of Intermediate Level Wastes (ILW) is said to be small. But we do not hear about plans for the reduction of nuclear wastes.
Senator Gallacher brought up the subject of  medical radioactive wastes -” we  transport 10,000 doses a week without mishap”
Wakelin.  What is the difference between medical wastes and ILW.  We were advised that without a Kimba dump, nuclear medicine would not be available in Australia.  There are many alternative places for lLW that are not on agricultural land.  The Government’s own adviser says that nuclear waste would be a corporate disaster for BHP.
Sen Gallacher.    In a democracy we must accept the over 50% of Kimba community were supportive
Wakelin.  It was a propaganda war in Kimba. It’s about 0.02 of South Aust community who voted for the dump.  Atually ony 54% of Kimba.  $2 million was put to Kimba before the vote Up to$3 millionn for this little parcel of land. Queensland woud have required  a referendum for such a  decision.
Why couldn’t we have a South Australian vote,as Queensland would have?
The waste facility is not a drought saver.   Put the agricultural revenue beside the  waste revenue, agricultural revenue would be much greater
There has been much support for the movement opposing the waste facility, movement led by Peter Woolford –  400 members  “No Nuclear Waste on Agricultural Land”.  There’s strong feeling across the State.  Our polling shows 70% of South Australians do not want this waste at Kimba .    We’re about not adding risks to risks already for export industry.
When it comes to jobs, it is 45 supposed waste jobs as against 150 jobs in agriculture.
South Australian Premier is quiet  about  this matter. South Australian law  prohibits nuclear waste dumping.  I can’t comment on Liberal Party matters.  I ave been criticised for being  supportive of the plan for a dump at  Woomera.    If you look at the costs, you could do alternatives for ILW.   The best site is not Kimba.  This is a short term plan -at Kimba  – only30 years. That is the government’s present position.  I would support Woomera as the planned site.
 Farmers tend not to look for handouts, not to be bribeable.   We’ve put in money ourselves for the “No” campaign.  The corporate world has offered us not one cent.
Much money from the  tax-payer has been given to the “Yes”  case

July 28, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

A student is suing the government over the financial risks of climate change

‘A wake-up call’: why this student is suing the government over the financial risks of climate change, The Conversation
July 27, 2020  Jacqueline Peel Professor of Environmental and Climate Law, University of Melbourne, Rebekkah Markey-Towler, Research assistant, University of MelbourneAs the world warms, the value of “safe” investments might be at risk from inadequate climate change policies. This prospect is raised by a world-first climate change case, filed in the federal court last week.

Katta O’Donnell – a 23-year-old law student from Melbourne – is suing the Australian government for failing to disclose climate change risks to investors in Australia’s sovereign bonds.

Sovereign bonds involve loans of money from investors to governments for a set period at a fixed interest rate. They’re usually thought to be the safest form of investment. For example, many Australians are invested in sovereign bonds through their superannuation funds.

But as climate change presents major risks to our economy as well as the environment, O’Donnell’s claim is a wake-up call to the government that it can no longer bury its head in the sand when it comes to this vulnerability.

O’Donnell’s arguments

O’Donnell argues Australia’s poor climate policies – ranked among the lowest in the industrialised world – put the economy at risk from climate change. She says climate-related risks should be properly disclosed in information documents to sovereign bond investors.

O’Donnell’s claim alleges that by failing to disclose this information, the federal government breaches its legal duty. It alleges the government has engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, and government officials breached their duty of care and diligence.

This is a standard similar to that owed by Australian company directors. Analysis from leading barristers indicates that directors who fail to consider climate risks could be found liable for breaching their duty of care and diligence.

O’Donnell argues government officials providing information to investors in sovereign bonds should meet the same benchmark.

Climate change as a financial risk….…

July 28, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, legal | Leave a comment

The huge, expensive, problematic dismantling of the San Onofre nuclear reactor

San Onofre Decommissioning Update Monday, July 27, 2020, By Alison St John  Work continues to dismantle the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which provided San Diego with 20% of its electricity until 2012 when it shut down prematurely, due to a radiation leak. The process of decommissioning the plant is more controversial than its 44 years in operation. The question is whether the high-level nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years, can be safely disposed of?

Rob Nikolewski, energy reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune, has been following the progress of decommissioning and storing the radioactive waste.

Nikolewski said one very large chunk classified as low-level nuclear waste has already been transported to a storage site near Clive, Utah. The 770-ton reactor vessel was shipped by rail and a convoy of eight trucks across over 400 miles to its destination. Millions more pounds of low-level waste will be broken down into smaller pieces and transported to Clive, where the private company Energy Solutions has a licensed repository.

However the high-level waste — hundreds of spent fuel rods — remains on-site, since the federal government has failed to approve a long- term storage site for the nation’s high-level nuclear waste. Southern California Edison, which owns the plant, has nearly finished transferring canisters of highly radioactive spent fuel rods into over 70 concrete bunkers next to the beach.

Earlier this month the California Coastal Commission approved Edison’s permit for the decommissioning, including removing the cooling pools which originally held the stored spent fuel rods. The Commissioners reserved the right to review the permit in 15 years and if there is evidence of cracking or other problems such as sea-level rise that threaten the integrity of the canisters, the permit holder could be required to move them.

San Diego Congressman Mike Levin is concerned about the safety of the site, which is in his district and has millions of people living within 50 miles. Levin convened a task force that met for a year and recently came out with a report. One recommendation is that since the federal government has not approved a long-term storage site for high-level nuclear waste, the state of California should take more responsibility for how the nuclear waste is disposed of.

Nikolewski said he has not seen any evidence of state officials stepping forward to hold the companies accountable. He said federal law may need to be changed to allow for that.

The distinctive twin domes that are visible from the Interstate 5 will be removed sometime between 2025 and 2027, and decommissioning the plant, including removal of the low-level nuclear waste, should be complete within 6 to 8 years. The high-level waste will remain indefinitely, in bunkers near the beach.

July 28, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment