Australian news, and some related international items

Farmers, Traditional Owners fight radioactive waste dump

Farmers, Traditional Owners fight radioactive waste dump, Renfrey Clarke, Adelaide, September 8, 2020

In a marginal grain-growing district of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, construction for a national repository for Australia’s radioactive wastes will begin soon — or so the federal government hopes.

A 160-hectare tract of farmland has been purchased near the small town of Kimba and, as inducement to deliver support for the plan, local residents have been promised a $31 million “community development package.” A non-binding ballot conducted last November among residents of the Kimba District Council area recorded 62% in favour of the scheme.

But opponents of the dump remain active and vocal. As well as farmers and townsfolk concerned for their safety and for the “clean and green” reputation of the district’s produce, those against the plan include the Barngarla First Nations people, who hold native title over the area.

Critics argue that last year’s ballot sought the views of only a narrow section of the people affected. In particular, members of the Barngarla people, who do not live locally, are angry at being excluded.

The federal Coalition government, however, has not been deterred. In June, the House of Representatives passed a set of amendments to the legislation governing the scheme. These changes would strip opponents of the dump — including the Barngarla — of the right to mount legal challenges.

The amendments still have to pass through the Senate. But, confident of victory, in July the government set up the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency as part of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. With its base in Adelaide, and a satellite office in Kimba, the agency is to “lead the process to deliver” the waste dump.

Low and intermediate-level wastes

In volume terms, the great bulk of the radioactive waste currently produced in Australia results from nuclear medicine, and is considered low-level. These materials do not require shielding in handling or storage, but must be kept secure until the radioactivity has decayed to the point where they can safely go to landfill. At present, these wastes are stored at more than 100 sites around the country, mostly in hospitals or universities.

The amount of low-level waste created here each year is about 40 cubic metres, roughly three truckloads, suggesting that the need to collect these materials into a centralised store is questionable.

More than likely, the risks of shifting these wastes exceed those of keeping them where they are for the decades needed until their radioactivity falls to natural background levels.

There are also intermediate-level wastes. These accumulate at a rate of about five cubic metres a year, and are in a very different category. Highly dangerous, they require shielding, and must be kept secure for as long as 10,000 years. They consist almost entirely of spent nuclear fuel from the research reactor at Lucas Heights, near Sydney, returned after reprocessing in Europe and currently stored on the reactor premises.

The waste dump planned for the farm property Napandee, near Kimba, is meant to provide a permanent home for Australia’s low-level wastes — but not for the intermediate-level materials. The latter are to be held in above-ground canisters at the facility until permanent storage provisions have been made.

Will this “interim” storage turn out to be permanent?

Kimba is remote enough that the temptation will be great for governments to leave these dangerous, long-lasting materials there indefinitely.

Meanwhile, if the Napandee dump is to hold the intermediate-level wastes for only a few decades, where is the need to move these materials there at all? The store at Lucas Heights has room to hold the wastes for many years to come, while permanent disposal methods are being devised and tested. Simply keeping the materials on site would avoid the risks of multiple handling and long-distance transport.

Community rifts

In Kimba, the social rifts from years-long disagreements over the dump remain painful. Many local people look to the facility to sustain a town that is steadily declining as farmers are compelled to “get big or get out”, and as the regional population shrinks.

Farmer Heather Baldock, who supports the dump, lamented to a Senate committee hearing in August: “We lose students, youth, neighbours, friends, sporting club members, emergency service volunteers … We gain more empty houses and property for sale.”

The federal government has suggested that a total of 45 jobs will be created by the facility — a big boost for a town of barely 600 people. Many of these jobs, however, will likely be part–time, or will be performed on a fly-in-fly-out basis.

The $31 million community package will create excellent town amenities, but not a long–term basis for the local economy. It will not solve the worst problem confronting regions like northern Eyre Peninsula: global warming, which raises temperatures, reduces already sparse rainfall and sends farmers into crippling debt.Opponents of the dump, meanwhile, speak bitterly of the deceits by a government determined to impose its scheme regardless of local objections.

Farmer Peter Woolford, who heads the group No Radioactive Waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA, told the Senate hearing: “The path that the federal government has taken … has been a long road of propaganda, manipulation and promises without justification.”

The flow of information to the community, Woolford noted, has been tightly controlled and almost entirely narrated by the department. “No assistance, practical or financial, has been given to provide independent advice. Every speaker who has visited Kimba at the expense of the government has been a supporter of the proposal.”

Ballot manipulation

Opponents of the scheme are especially angry at the way the terms of last year’s ballot were manipulated. Rejecting a call for voting to be open to all residents within a 50-kilometre radius — a far more meaningful measure of the people for whom Kimba is the local hub — the government and the Kimba District Council insisted on the smaller area within the council boundaries. If the 50-kilometre boundary had applied, critics argue, the vote would have failed.

Particularly impressive has been the resolve of the Barngarla people to have their say in deciding the outcome. In 2018, the Barngarla fought and lost a court case against the district council, demanding to be included in the prospective ballot.

Excluded from the official vote, the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation organised its own independently-run ballot. This recorded a total of 83 members against the dump and zero in favour. A recent letter from the Barngarla to the federal resources minister stated: “The systematic racist behaviour by your government is a stain on the collective consciousness of this country.”

In any case, opponents of the dump ask why “community support” for the dump should be measured only by the views of a few hundred people. Why should the decision not be one for the whole population of South Australia — where indications are that the idea of hosting a radioactive waste dump is highly unpopular?

As Woolford pointed out, of 2789 submissions received in a public consultation 94.5% oppose the facility.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Professor Paul Rogers – a witness explaining how Julian Assange is to be extradited for POLITICAL REASONS

Julian Assange clearly political, says extradition trial witness,      JACQUELIN MAGNAY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT@jacquelinmagnay, THE TIMES, SEPTEMBER 10, 2020

Julian Assange’s nomination for the Senate during the 2013 federal­ election campaign and the establishment of the WikiLeaks political party the year before­ “clearly shows’’ the WikiLeaks founder has a political view and a libertarian standpoint, a witness has told the Old Bailey.

Professor Paul Rogers, the emeritus professor of peace studies at Bradford University, was called as a witness by Assange’s team to persuade the judge that Assange is being targeted for ­political means, and thus an extraditio­n to the US should not be permitted under the Anglo-US extradition treaty.

In day three of the court hearing where Assange, 49, is objecting to extradition to the US, Professor Rogers said in written testimony that Assange’s expresse­d views, opinions and activities demonstrate very clearly “political opinions”. He cited how Assange had formed the political party to contest­ the Australian general election and “central of this is his view to put far greater attention to human rights’’.

He added: “The clash of those opinions with those of successive US administrations, but in particular­ the present administration which has moved to prosecute him for publications made almost a decade ago, suggest that he is regarded primarily as a polit­ical opponent who must exper­ience the full wrath of government, even with suggestions of punishment by death made by senior officials including the current­ President.’’

But US prosecutor James Lewis QC said: “Assistant US Attorney­ Gordon D. Kromberg explicitly refutes that this is a political prosecution but rather an evidence-based prosecution.’’

In documents to the court, the prosecution says the inves­t­ig­ation into Assange had been ongoing before the Trump admin­istration came into office.

“Assange’s arguments are contradicted by judicial findings, made in the US District Court of the District of Columbia, that the investigation into the unauthorised disclosure of classified information on the WikiLeaks website remained ongoing when the present administration came into office,” the prosecution says.

Mr Lewis added: “If this was a political prosecution, wouldn’t you expect him to be prosecuted for publishing the collateral murder video?’’

He said Assange was being extradited to face charges relating to complicity in illegal acts to obtain or receive voluminous databases­ of classified inform­ation, his agreement and attempt­ to obtain classified information­ through computer hacking; and publishing certain classified documents that contained the unredacted names of innocent people who risked their safety and freedom to provide information to the United States and its allies, including local Afghan­s and Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents from repressive regimes.

Professor Rogers told the court the motivation of Assange and WikiLeaks was to achieve greater transparency and was political. The trial continues.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London. What can we expect?

What’s at stake at Julian Assange’s long-awaited extradition hearing?,    ABC 8 Sept 20, Julian Assange is fighting an attempt by the United States to extradite him to face charges on what it says was “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.

It marks the culmination of a nearly decade-long pursuit by US authorities of the Australian-born WikiLeaks founder over the publication of secret documents and files in 2010 and 2011.

Assange’s extradition hearing had initially begun in February but was delayed for several months, and the coronavirus pandemic added additional delays, meaning Assange has been kept on remand in Belmarsh prison in south-east London since last September.

As reported by Background Briefing, Assange’s defence team will attempt to persuade the court he is unfit to travel to the US to face trial, and that the attempt to send him there is essentially an abuse of process.

How did he get to this point?

WikiLeaks made international headlines in April 2010 when it published a classified US military video showing an Apache attack helicopter gunning down 11 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, on a street in Baghdad in 2007.

Later that year, WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of US military messages and cables, a leak that saw former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning jailed……..

Assange, 49, has always denied the allegations, saying they were part of a US plot to discredit him and eventually extradite him to the US, and the investigation was eventually dropped in 2017.

He remained holed up in the embassy for seven years until April 2019, when the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum and Metropolitan Police officers arrested him for failing to surrender to the court over an arrest warrant issued in 2012……..

In May 2019, Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching bail conditions, and during that time the US Justice Department brought 18 charges against him.

What is Assange accused of?

Assange is facing 17 charges relating to obtaining and disclosing classified information, and one charge concerning an alleged conspiracy to crack passwords on government servers.

The US alleges he conspired with Chelsea Manning to hack into US military computers to acquire the classified information published by WikiLeaks.

…… Assange maintains the information exposed abuses by the US military and that he was acting as a journalist and is therefore entitled to protection by the US’s First Amendment.

What can we expect from this hearing?

The court must examine a series of factors before any extradition can be granted, such as if the alleged crimes have equivalent offences in the UK and could lead to trial.

“It’s what’s called double criminality, in other words, whether the offences for which Assange is being sought in under US law are broadly being recognised under UK law,” Professor Don Rothwell, from the Australian National University, told Background Briefing.

Prosecutors have argued there is no doubt his actions would amount to offences under the UK’s Official Secrets Act.

If the court agrees, it must then consider how extradition would affect Assange’s health.

Previous court appearances this year have been delayed due to health issues, and his lawyers say his efforts to protect himself from US extradition and being stuck inside the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years had taken its toll.

If the court accepted it would be detrimental to his health, it could open up the possibility of protecting Assange in the UK under European human rights law.

The magistrate may also take issue with how the prosecutors are seeking to impose American law on what Mr Assange is alleged to have done outside of US territory.

“In this matter, US law is seeking to extend all the way, not only from the United States, but into the United Kingdom and into parts of Europe and basically impact upon the activities that Assange has undertaken associated with WikiLeaks over 10 years ago,” Professor Rothwell said…….

Assange’s legal team contends the US is seeking to prosecute Assange for political offences and that he is thereby exempt from extradition under the terms of the UK-US extradition treaty…….

What happens next?

The hearing is expected to last between three and four weeks, with any decision made likely to be appealed and go to a higher court, meaning the legal battle would likely drag into next year and possibly beyond that.

If Assange is eventually extradited to the United States and found guilty, he faces a maximum 175 years imprisonment for the 18 offences listed in the indictment.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

The nuclear stigma – some Kimba residents selling their assets before the nuclear dump sets sail?

Paul Waldon   Fight to Stop A Nuclear Waste Dump in South Australia , 8 Sept 20 
Painful to see when you don’t know if it’s Kimba’s pro or an anti nuclear dump dichotomy selling up their assets before the ship sinks. The town of Kimba poisoned by the kafkaesque promotion of a radioactive dump looks to be losing Eatts Hardware with Elders conducting an auction sale on the 18th of October.
The Nuclear Stigma not only eroding personal assets but also that of businesses belonging to both the people that have decried a radioactive dump for their town, plus those who care to embrace it but want to move on.
Oh yeah we have even seen a farmer come nuclear profiteer list a sizable parcel of land, which some people may say “he’s blazing a trail for a quick escape.”

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Australia’s nearly 2 $trillion costs by 2050 – if we continue climate change inaction

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says: Australia can be a ‘renewable energy superpower’

Australia can be a ‘renewable energy superpower’, Anthony Albanese declares
Labor leader sidesteps tension in his party around resources to call for embrace of clean energy,
Guardian, Katharine Murphy, political editor, 8 Sep 20 The federal Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, says the resources sector has been the backbone of the Australian economy for decades, but the nation’s “long-term future lies in renewable energy sources”.Stepping around tensions within his own ranks, Albanese will use a speech on Wednesday about regional development to note that resources exports will “continue to meet the demands of the rapidly growing nations of our region” even as the world transitions to a lower-carbon future.But the opposition leader says in the speech the task of the coming decades is to “position our nation to be a major player in the clean energy industries that continue to grow in importance over time”.

The Labor leader says if the policy settings are right “we can transform our nation into a renewable energy superpower”.

He says resources of lithium and other rare earths offer huge potential in a world that will become increasingly focused on the need for batteries to store energy. Albanese also identifies opportunities for regional development in bio-energy, including bio-mass generation and waste-to-energy.

n a speech to be delivered in the New South Wales coastal town of Coffs Harbour, Albanese will cite a report this week from the state’s chief scientist and engineer that envisages 17,000 jobs and $26bn would be added to annual growth from a domestic hydrogen industry.

The Labor leader will note that report was endorsed by the state’s environment minister, Matt Kean, but “the Morrison government appears to be blind to such opportunities”……..

Albanese’s speech on Wednesday lays out his thoughts on development opportunities for regional Australia. He insists the transition to renewable energy will create jobs in the regions.

He will argue the National party’s resistance to the energy transition is leaving them out of step with the communities they represent.

“The Nationals, who say they represent farmers, are now at odds with the National Farmers’ Federation, which recently embraced the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050,” the Labor leader says.

He says regional Australia and the investment sector are “moving beyond this do-nothing government”.

Albanese says only Labor can tackle energy policy “in a way that recognises the value of the current resources market while seeking out the massive opportunities in renewables”.

“The right plans will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in new industries, including in regional Australia whilst also reducing power prices”.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Lithium for renewable energy technologies – a Covid recovery way for Australia

How Australia’s ‘white gold’ could power the global electric vehicle revolution

Miners and environmentalists have reached an uneasy truce over lithium – both agree Australia should be mining more of this key ingredient in renewable energy batteries, by Max Opray

”……….On the one side, environmentalists are engaging with a resources sector they distrust to nudge it towards lithium, an element which is used in batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems due to its remarkably high energy density.

On the other, miners like Brown are suppressing scepticism of green causes to carve out a future in a world aiming to divest itself of fossil fuels.

Brown joined Altura Mining in 2009, and set about helping the small coal miner diversify into other resources as a way of hedging against headwinds facing the fossil fuel.

Lithium, hyped as the “white gold” of the 21st century, seemed a promising investment. But securing investors for Altura’s exploration tenements in the remote ochre deserts of the Pilbara proved challenging……..

Despite the urgency of the climate crisis, the attachment to coal runs deep for Australians like Brown, and leaving it behind wasn’t easy. ……..

The ‘white gold’ rush

Australia leads the world in lithium production and possesses an estimated 6.3m tons of lithium reserves.

The metal is fast becoming a geopolitical bargaining chip, as China, the US and other major powers jostle to secure access to an element expected to surge in demand as the global economy rapidly ramps up production of electric vehicles and renewable energy storage systems, not to mention lithium-ion mobile phone batteries.

The most common form of extraction in Australia is by crushing a hard rock called spodumene, and from that extracting lithium concentrate using a separation method that Brown says is similar to some coal processing systems.

Harry Fisher, senior consultant at business intelligence company CRU Group, believes the economic recovery from Covid-19 will be the moment the long-promised lithium rush finally gets underway.

“Governments continue to promote the merits of a ‘green recovery’, with EV subsidies being increased in Germany, France, UK and many others,” he says. “Policy is likely to continue to support demand.”

Australia has no formal green recovery plan, but Fisher suggests that might not matter if the rest of the world does.

Fisher forecasts that demand will grow to 830 kilotonnes by 2025, up from around 330 kilotonnes this year. In particular demand, Fisher says, is the spodumene that Australia specialises in…….

Altura will be a key supplier to Shanshan’s new lithium chemical plant in China, which plans to produce 25,000 tonnes per annum.

The deal came, says Brown, thanks to China’s two-year extension of state subsidies and tax breaks for electric vehicles until the end of 2022.

The subsidies were also cited by Pilbara Minerals, the operator of a neighbouring Pilgangoora lithium mine, as a reason for optimism.

Australia’s major competition in the global market is the “lithium triangle” of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, which extracts the metal out of the region’s salt lakes……..

Elsa Dominish, research principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, said the environmental impact of lithium mining is similar to other forms of hard rock mining.

She says Australia has an opportunity to establish the world’s best practice for lithium mining by monitoring water and energy use, management of waste, and impact on sacred cultural sites.

Dominish emphasises that lithium’s footprint pales in comparison to the impact of coal. “In addition to emissions … coal mining is one of the most damaging forms of mining considering health and environmental impacts, particularly respiratory impacts from exposure to coal dust,” she says…….

When Adam Bandt assumed the Greens leadership in February, he immediately went to work spruiking a Green New Deal.

Bandt had even planned to visit the Greenbushes Lithium Mine in south-west WA, the largest hard rock lithium operation in the world, to sell the message of transitioning coal miners into jobs in new energy metals. The trip was called off due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Miners have long moved to where the resources are, and Queensland and New South Wales coal workers might need to relocate to the Pilbara for new lithium mining gigs. In the case of Greenbushes however, there is a coal mining community right on its doorstep.

Unions and the Western Australian government are pushing for a planned Greenbushes expansion to employ coal workers from the nearby Collie mine and power plant, in a bid to secure a future for them as the local coal industry withers away.

Industry analysts, lithium miners, and green groups also agree on something else: simply digging the lithium out of the ground and exporting it with minimal processing is a wasted opportunity.

According to the Million Jobs Plan report, produced by climate thinktank Beyond Zero Emissions, Australia earns only 0.5% of the value of its exported lithium ore, with the remainder going to overseas companies that further refine it and manufacture lithium-ion batteries.

South Australia, home to Tesla’s Big Battery, is developing battery manufacturing capacity, and BZE argues Western Australia could invest in lithium refinement, battery component manufacture, and recycling, to contribute towards 100,000 new jobs nationally by 2025. The state is already host to several processing facility projects.

Heidi Lee, project lead for the Million Jobs Plan, says the Covid-19 shutdown is a generational opportunity for the Australian government to set signals to unlock investment, such as a new renewable energy target………..

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the economy but also presented a unique opportunity: to invest in climate action that creates jobs and stimulates investment, before it’s too late. The Green Recovery features talk to people on the frontline of Australia’s potential green recovery.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business | Leave a comment

Australia’s environmental scientists are being gagged

September 10, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Moorabool wind farm community fund distributes $125,000 to the local community — RenewEconomy

Goldwind Australia today announced the inaugural Moorabool North Community Fund grant distribution of $125,000 to 11 local community groups. The post Moorabool wind farm community fund distributes $125,000 to the local community appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Moorabool wind farm community fund distributes $125,000 to the local community — RenewEconomy

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Queensland seeks wind, solar and storage proposals to fill renewable energy zones — RenewEconomy

Queensland calls for registrations of interest in new renewable generation and storage projects in first formal step towards unlocking new renewable energy zones. The post Queensland seeks wind, solar and storage proposals to fill renewable energy zones appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Queensland seeks wind, solar and storage proposals to fill renewable energy zones — RenewEconomy

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

September 9 Energy News — geoharvey

Science and Technology: ¶ “Trickle Of Green Hydrogen Turns Into Flood Of Good News For Renewables” • Wind and solar developers are eyeballing green hydrogen as a pathway for future growth, and it looks like they won’t have to depend on the transportation sector for sole support. Hydrogen has many other uses, aside from being […]

September 9 Energy News — geoharvey

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Victoria’s biggest solar farm starts sending power to grid after long delays — RenewEconomy

The 256MW Kiamal solar farm – the biggest solar project in Victoria, and one of the most heavily delayed in the country – finally sending power to the grid. The post Victoria’s biggest solar farm starts sending power to grid after long delays appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Victoria’s biggest solar farm starts sending power to grid after long delays — RenewEconomy

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Latrobe Valley solar and battery project approved by Victoria planning minister — RenewEconomy

A 75MW solar farm and big battery planned for near Toongabbie in Victoria will go ahead after being waved through the approvals process by the state government. The post Latrobe Valley solar and battery project approved by Victoria planning minister appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Latrobe Valley solar and battery project approved by Victoria planning minister — RenewEconomy

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s gas plans could consume one quarter of world’s shrinking carbon budget — RenewEconomy

New report suggests developing Australia’s gas reserves could produce three times the annual carbon emissions of the entire world. The post Australia’s gas plans could consume one quarter of world’s shrinking carbon budget appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Australia’s gas plans could consume one quarter of world’s shrinking carbon budget — RenewEconomy

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment