Australian news, and some related international items

Time to question the authorities on the nuclear waste dump mess, the incompetence of ANSTO, and the ?inactive role of Kimba nuclear waste staff .

The decision in South Australia authorising the full disclosure of government  papers was made on the application of Rex Patrick by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal by its president who is a Supreme Court  judge and not by the Supreme Court as I wrongly stated.

The practical outcome of the decision is that interested parties should now ask various federal and state governments and district councils for full disclosure of all papers relating to the nuclear waste facility at Kimba .

It has been suggested that the federal government is proceeding with the facility and related aspects WITHOUT AUTHORITY in the hope that the composition of the Senate will change in its favour after the federal election but this seems to me a forlorn expectation particularly if the preceding state election in South Australia were to see a change in government to the Labor Party.

However the actions and conduct of the federal government as to the facility are still badly prepared by persons who are ignorant and inexperienced in this area – this is the view of many overseas experts who consider that Australia does not know or understand what is involved with regard to nuclear waste engineering .

The incompetency of ANSTO is best exemplified by lengthy and now somewhat outdated development of the SYNROC process and the continued technical difficulties and breakdowns with the nuclear medicine facility at Lucas Heights 

Interested parties should also be questioning what work is actually being done by the government’s personnel located at Kimba since there appears to be no new outcomes through their presence 

May 22, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Plutonium ”hot particles” are not as stable as we assumed. Research on contaminated landscape around Maralinga in outback South Australia

We sliced open radioactive particles from soil in South Australia and found they may be leaking plutonium

Barbara Etschmann, Research officer, Monash University

Joel Brugger, Professor of Synchrotron Geosciences, Monash University

Vanessa Wong, Associate Professor, Monash University

May 21, 2021 Almost 60 years after British nuclear tests ended, radioactive particles containing plutonium and uranium still contaminate the landscape around Maralinga in outback South Australia.

These “hot particles” are not as stable as we once assumed. Our research shows they are likely releasing tiny chunks of plutonium and uranium which can be easily transported in dust and water, inhaled by humans and wildlife and taken up by plants.

A British nuclear playground

After the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, other nations raced to build their own nuclear weapons. Britain was looking for locations to conduct its tests. When it approached the Australian government in the early 1950s, Australia was only too eager to agree.

Between 1952 and 1963, Britain detonated 12 nuclear bombs in Australia. There were three in the Montebello Islands off Western Australia, but most were in outback South Australia: two at Emu Field and seven at Maralinga.

Besides the full-scale nuclear detonations, there were hundreds of “subcritical” trials designed to test the performance and safety of nuclear weapons and their components. These trials usually involved blowing up nuclear devices with conventional explosives, or setting them on fire.

The subcritical tests released radioactive materials. The Vixen B trials alone (at the Taranaki test site at Maralinga) spread 22.2 kilograms of plutonium and more than 40 kilograms of uranium across the arid landscape. For comparison, the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki contained 6.4 kilograms of plutonium, while the one dropped on Hiroshima held 64 kilograms of uranium.

These tests resulted in long-lasting radioactive contamination of the environment. The full extent of the contamination was only realised in 1984, before the land was returned to its traditional owners, the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

Hot potatoes

Despite numerous cleanup efforts, residual plutonium and uranium remains at Maralinga. Most is present in the form of “hot particles”. These are tiny radioactive grains (much smaller than a millimetre) dispersed in the soil.

Plutonium is a radioactive element mostly made by humans, and the weapons-grade plutonium used in the British nuclear tests has a half life of 24,100 years. This means even 24,100 years after the Vixen B trials that ended in 1963, there will still be almost two Nagasaki bombs worth of plutonium spread around the Taranaki test site.

Plutonium emits alpha radiation that can damage DNA if it enters a body through eating, drinking or breathing.

In their original state, the plutonium and uranium particles are rather inactive. However, over time, when exposed to atmosphere, water, or microbes, they may weather and release plutonium and uranium in dust or rainstorms.

Until recently, we knew little about the internal makeup of these hot particles. This makes it very hard to accurately assess the environmental and health risks they pose.

Monash PhD student Megan Cook (the lead author on our new paper) took on this challenge. Her research aimed to identify how plutonium was deposited as it was carried by atmospheric currents following the nuclear tests (some of it travelled as far as Queensland!), the characteristics of the plutonium hot particles when they landed, and potential movement within the soil.

Nanotechnology to the rescue

Previous studies used the super intense X-rays generated by synchrotron light sources to map the distribution and oxidation state of plutonium inside the hot particles at the micrometre scale.

To get more detail, we used X-rays from the Diamond synchrotron near Oxford in the UK, a huge machine more than half a kilometre in circumference that produces light ten billion times brighter than the Sun in a particle accelerator.

Studying how the particles absorbed X-rays revealed they contained plutonium and uranium in several different states of oxidation – which affects how reactive and toxic they are. However, when we looked at the shadows the particles cast in X-ray light (or “X-ray diffraction”), we couldn’t interpret the results without knowing more about the different chemicals inside the particles.

To find out more, we used a machine at Monash University that can slice open tiny samples with a nanometre-wide beam of high-energy ions, then analyse the elements inside and make images of the interior. This is a bit like using a lightsaber to cut a rock, only at the tiniest of scales. This revealed in exquisite detail the complex array of materials and textures inside the particles.

Much of the plutonium and uranium is distributed in tiny particles sized between a few micrometres and a few nanometres, or dissolved in iron-aluminium alloys. We also discovered a plutonium-uranium-carbon compound that would be destroyed quickly in the presence of air, but which was held stable by the metallic alloy.

This complex physical and chemical structure of the particles suggests the particles formed by the cooling of droplets of molten metal from the explosion cloud.

In the end, it took a multidisciplinary team across three continents — including soil scientists, mineralogists, physicists, mineral engineers, synchrotron scientists, microscopists, and radiochemists — to reveal the nature of the Maralinga hot particles.

From fire to dust

Our results suggest natural chemical and physical processes in the outback environment may cause the slow release of plutonium from the hot particles over the long term. This release of plutonium is likely to be contributing to ongoing uptake of plutonium by wildlife at Maralinga.

Even under the semi-arid conditions of Maralinga, the hot particles slowly break down, liberating their deadly cargo. The lessons from the Maralinga particles are not limited to outback Australia. They are also useful in understanding particles generated from dirty bombs or released during subcritical nuclear incidents.

There have been a few documented instances of such incidents. These include the B-52 accidents that resulted in the conventional detonation of thermonuclear weapons near Palomares in Spain in 1966, and Thule in Greenland in 1968, and the explosion of an armed nuclear missile and subsequent fire at the McGuire Air Force Base in the USA in 1960.

Thousands of active nuclear weapons are still held by nations around the world today. The Maralinga legacy shows the world can ill afford incidents involving nuclear particles.

May 22, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia’s mining lobby exaggerates by $45 billion the taxes and royalties they pay

Mining lobby exaggerates taxes and royalties paid by $45 billion, Michaelo West Media, by Callum Foote | May 21, 2021,

The mining industry has exaggerated its contribution in taxes and royalties to Australian governments by an estimated $45 billion over the past 10 years. Callum Foote reports on the findings of an independent research project by Michael West Media.

The mining lobby and its “independent experts” from Deloitte Access Economics have routinely overcooked the contribution that mining companies make to Australia.

Michael West Media was commissioned to undertake an investigation into Australia’s mining royalty regime by the Neroli Colvin Foundation.

The report, A Fair Share?, found the mining lobby exaggerated by 19% its contribution to Australian government revenues through royalties and taxes for the period where government data has been made available, or an estimated $45 billion over the past decade.

The mining industry sold $2.1 trillion worth of Australian resources overseas in the past decade but Australian governments received less than a 10% return. The actual rate – 9.1% – covers royalty payments and taxes paid. If we consider only royalties, then the rate drops to 5.6% of the value of exported resources.

The mining industry regularly combines royalties and taxes but this is misleading when talking about its contribution to Australia.

Less than 10% of $2.1 trillion worth of Australian resources is perhaps not the “staggering” contribution as described by Resources Minister Keith Pitt earlier this week on the release of the latest Minerals Council report.

This is particularly the case given that the large mining houses are owned by foreign shareholders, so are the largest beneficiaries of Australia’s mineral wealth.

Michael West Media has found that, on average, mining companies make a 1654% revenue mark-up on Australian commodities………..

In Australia, all mineral commodities below the earth are owned by the Australian people. It is up to State and Federal governments to sell these commodities to mining companies that wish to extract and process them for selling. In accounting terms, royalties are deemed to be a “cost of goods sold”.

Just as a baker must buy raw flour from a mill and process it into bread to sell, royalties are the payment made by miners to the Australian people for the raw commodities that they then sell internationally.

Deloitte’s most recent report is more accurate than previous estimates of mining taxes and royalty payments. Michael West Media had contacted the firm for comment before it published this report because it was found that royalty and taxation figures were previously exaggerated by 33%, or $78 billion, for the period between 2010 and 2017………

The total export value of Australian commodities over the period, which is indicative of the revenue these companies have made from selling Australian resources overseas, is $2.1 trillion. This means that only 9.1% of the export revenue made by these companies has been paid to state and federal governments. …………….

May 22, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics | Leave a comment

Senator Rex Patrick challenges Scott Morrison’s special arrangement to protect his government from public scrutiny

Senator challenges cabinet secrecy,  The Saturday Paper 33 May 21,  Scott Morrison is using a special arrangement to keep the workings of his government secret, but independent senator Rex Patrick has launched a challenge to its legality. By Karen Middleton  Karen Middleton is The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent.

A special policy committee the prime minister uses to keep the workings of his government secret is being called into legal question as part of a challenge to the confidential status of national cabinet.

Independent senator Rex Patrick launched the challenge after the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet refused two freedom of information requests for access to national cabinet documents.

Appearing before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) this week, the Commonwealth argued that national cabinet’s workings must be secret because it is an offshoot of federal cabinet, which is governed by a confidentiality convention.

It argued that deciding how cabinet committees are formed and who joins them is in the prime minister’s “gift” alone.

The national cabinet arrangement relies on the controversial cabinet office policy committee that Morrison created upon becoming prime minister. He is its only permanent member. The one-man construct allows the prime minister to declare almost any gathering he attends to be a cabinet committee meeting, protecting it from public scrutiny.

When the tribunal’s Justice Richard White queried the mechanism purporting to give national cabinet confidential status, the government could provide no information.

“Is there anything else that tells me anything about the cabinet office policy committee?” Justice White asked counsel for the Commonwealth, Andrew Berger, QC, on Wednesday. “I’m not sure there is, Your Honour,” Berger replied.

Last year, Labor’s senate leader, Penny Wong, condemned the one-man committee as “an abuse” of process used to “cover up blatant political decision-making”.

Senator Patrick’s AAT challenge could also have implications for accessing information from other designated cabinet subcommittees and groups advising them.

The one-man construct allows the prime minister to declare almost any gathering he attends to be a cabinet committee meeting, protecting it from public scrutiny…………..

…………………………. After the hearing, Rex Patrick described national cabinet as “a last-minute idea dealt with at short notice, without its implementation or consequences being properly considered”.

“That’s apparent when looking back at the various media statements, the cobbling together of a new cabinet handbook and the evidence before the AAT,” he told The Saturday Paper.

Patrick said the legislated right to access information on intergovernmental communication had existed in Australia for almost 40 years, “subject only to a test of public harm”.

“Last year, Prime Minister Morrison took that right away,” he said. “He did not ask the parliament to change the law.”

Patrick said he was in a fight for transparency and responsible government. “And I’m in a fight to stop a prime minister unilaterally taking away a right that was given to me and all Australians, by the parliament.”

Whether Justice White agrees will be clear soon. He reserved his judgement and promised a quick decision.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 22, 2021 as “Cabinet of one”.

May 22, 2021 Posted by | - incidents, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics | Leave a comment

How Australia’s government is trying to create fossil funding agencies — RenewEconomy

Why is Australia’s government trying to transform clean energy agencies into fossil funding bodies? It marks a major global power shift. The post How Australia’s government is trying to create fossil funding agencies appeared first on RenewEconomy.

How Australia’s government is trying to create fossil funding agencies — RenewEconomy

May 22, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s “father of PV” says your next rooftop solar system might be tens of kilowatts — RenewEconomy

UNSW’s Martin Green says the average Australian solar household will soon be installing “tens of kilowatts” on their rooftops, as costs continue to fall. The post Australia’s “father of PV” says your next rooftop solar system might be tens of kilowatts appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Australia’s “father of PV” says your next rooftop solar system might be tens of kilowatts — RenewEconomy

May 22, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Morrison’s ‘unconstitutional’ crackdown on charities

Morrison’s ‘unconstitutional’ crackdown on charities 

Mike Seccombe, 21 May 21,

Sweeping new laws that could strip charities of their non-profit status for minor offences are intended to stifle protest, the sector warns……. (subscribers only)

May 22, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Scientists turn a blind eye to the fraud that is the ITER nuclear fusion project

ITER Is a Suicidal Plan That Would Discredit Nuclear Fusion, Scientist Says, Again, New Energy Times, By Steven B. Krivit, Dec. 5, 2020 A retired plasma physicist has given New Energy Times permission to republish critical letters he wrote about the ITER fusion reactor project many years ago. He has done this despite risks associated with publicly criticizing the international project.

Ernesto Mazzucato spent his entire career — from 1965 to 2014 — working at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory. Mazzucato continues to work on his own fusion concepts.He told us about pressure from some of his peers from 1996 to 2006 when he openly criticized the ITER project, but he asked us to withhold those details for fear that it would  interfere with his present access to resources and the ability to publish in peer-reviewed journals.

Mazzucato is the second retired fusion physicist from the Princeton laboratory with whom New Energy Times has spoken who is critical of ITER. The first was Mazzucato’s colleague, Daniel Jassby, who has been publishing critical articles about ITER on the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Web site.Jassby was the first scientist to provide New Energy Times with clear values for the ITER reactor power requirements, following our attempts to obtain this information directly from the ITER organization.

Mazzucato told New Energy Times that he “suffered dearly” shortly after Science magazine published his first critical comments in 1996.

I knew that speaking out was risky, but I had to say what was on my mind,” Mazzucato said. “I thought that ITER would ruin fusion, and I had spent all my life working on fusion. ITER was the wrong track.”Mazzucato told New Energy Times that, decades earlier, at the beginning of the discussions about the ITER concept, the conversation was purely about physics. The conversation soon shifted to the bait-and-switch scheme, as Nobel laureate Masatoshi Koshiba called it.

“The scientists were not talking about power production,” Mazzucato said, “but then slowly, the bureaucrats were put in charge of this project, and they started talking about a power gain, that ITER would produce 10 times more power than it would use.“But none of the scientists said anything. We all knew that the power values only applied to the particles, not the overall reactor.”These are the three letters Mazzucato provided.

1996 Mazzucato Letter to Science
In his first letter, Mazzucato responded to an article published in Science magazine by Andrew Lawler about the ITER projec

For the United States to concentrate its efforts on the construction of ITER, which by my estimates would require at least twice the $8 billion cited by Lawler, [Andrew Lawler, “U.S. Power Outage Won’t Dim ITER,” Science, Jan. 19, 1996, p. 282] would halt significant progress in domestic thermonuclear research.It is tantamount to a suicidal plan that would discredit nuclear fusion as an economically viable form of energy production………….

The construction of ITER, by absorbing all the available funds, would inevitably prevent development in these critical areas. From Lawler’s article, it appears that ITER finds its strongest support in a “wealthy and influential association of major corporations…..” This sounds like an ominous repetition of history, as our problems today with nuclear fission power plants originated when the nuclear industry decided to bring to prominence the first fission reactor concept that appeared to work. Similarly, the adoption of this probably faulty device would have catastrophic consequences for the development of nuclear fusion energy……………..

Turning a Blind Eye
Mazzucato is the first fusion scientist I know who a) noticed the discrepancy between ITER’s planned power values and the publicized power values and b) openly objected to the false claims its promoters were making about the promised power gain of the reactor. Nobel Prize winner Masatoshi Koshiba had also sounded the alarm sometime between 2001 and 2004, calling the ITER project a bait-and-switch trick.

Mazzucato told me that all of his colleagues knew that the bureaucrats in charge of the project were tricking the public. Assuming he’s right, then there are thousands of fusion experts who saw what was going on and did and said nothing about it. It’s not the first time in history that something terrible was happening in a community and was known as an open secret within that community. But it is the first time in modern history that something like this, on this scale, has happened in science.

By 2003, the deception was firmly established, as evident by Robert Stern’s statement in the New York Times on Jan. 31, 2003: “ITER would provide a record 500 megawatts of fusion power for at least 500 seconds, a little more than eight minutes, during each experiment. That would meet the power needs of about 140,000 homes.”

In reality, a fusion reactor designed with the parameters of ITER, if configured to convert its thermal output to electricity, wouldn’t be able to power a single light bulb.

Public statements like Stern’s, published without the authors’ knowledge that they were false, were the norm for more than two decades. Either no fusion scientists except Mazzucato and Koshiba read news accounts about ITER and realized what was happening, or the majority of fusion scientists saw that the “mistakes” significantly favored their field, and they turned — and continue to turn — a blind eye to what has now developed into the largest science fraud in modern history.

By 2003, the deception was firmly established, as evident by Robert Stern’s statement in the New York Times on Jan. 31, 2003: “ITER would provide a record 500 megawatts of fusion power for at least 500 seconds, a little more than eight minutes, during each experiment. That would meet the power needs of about 140,000 homes.”

Public statements like Stern’s, published without the authors’ knowledge that they were false, were the norm for more than two decades. Either no fusion scientists except Mazzucato and Koshiba read news accounts about ITER and realized what was happening, or the majority of fusion scientists saw that the “mistakes” significantly favored their field, and they turned — and continue to turn — a blind eye to what has now developed into the largest science fraud in modern history.

May 22, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We already have 95% of the technologies and know how to slash emissions, remove air pollution and provide energy security and jobs

No, we don’t need ‘miracle technologies’ to slash emissions — we already have 95 percent, The Hill 20th May 2021, Mark Jacobson: We have 95 percent of the technologies we need today and the know-how to get the rest to address both energy and non-energy emissions.

As such, no miracle technology, particularly carbon capture, direct air capture, modern bioenergy or modern nuclear power, is needed. By implementing only clean, renewable WWS energy and storage and implementing non-energy strategies, we will address not only climate, but also the 7 million annual air pollution deaths worldwide and energy insecurity.

None of the “miracle technologies” addresses all three. We and 17 other research groups have shown that we can do it with renewables alone worldwide and in the 50 United States. Such a transition reduces energy costs, and land requirements while creating jobs.

The key is to deploy, deploy, deploy existing clean, renewable, safe technologies as fast as possible.

U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry recently stated, “I am told by scientists that 50 percent of the reductions we have to make to get to net zero are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have.” This comment echoes recent statements by Bill Gates that solar, wind and batteries are not enough, so we need “miracle technologies” to decarbonize our global economy. They also mimic statements in a 2021 International Energy Agency report that, “in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase.” One might argue that, in all three cases, “new technologies” means improved existing technologies, such as improved
batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, etc.

However, hidden in the recent U.S. economic revitalization proposal is a call to fund CO2 capture and storage, CO2 direct air capture and small modular nuclear reactors. Similarly, Gates has funded and argued for these technologies plus modern bioenergy, and the IEA report explicitly proposes the use of all four technologies for a decarbonized world. Ironically, the IEA acknowledges, “all the technologies needed to achieve the necessary deep cuts in global emissions by 2030 already exist.” But astonishingly, they then say that those technologies and their improvements are not enough to reach 2050 goals.

May 22, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New research on the complexity of particles from plutonium resulting from British atomic bomb tests at Maralinga

Print allIn new windowPu particles from nuclear testing more complex than previously thought Plutonium particles from British nuclear testing in outback Australia more complex than previously thought, scientists warnMONASH UNIVERSITYResearch News   21 May 21

 More than 100 kg of highly toxic uranium (U) and plutonium (Pu) was dispersed in the form of tiny ‘hot’ radioactive particles after the British detonated nine atomic bombs in remote areas of South Australia, including Maralinga.Scientists say that these radioactive particles persist in soils to this day, more than 60 years after the detonations. Previously, we had limited understanding of how Pu was released from these “hot” particles into the environment for uptake by wildlife around Maralinga.

But now, a new study published today in Scientific Reports and led by Monash University researchers warns that the particles are actually more complex and varied than previously thought. This means that the processes which slowly release Pu into the environment are also much more complex and varied.

“The British detonated nine nuclear bombs and conducted hundreds of nuclear tests in outback South Australia between 1953 and 1963,” said lead study author Megan Cook, a PhD student from the Monash University School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment. “The resulting radioactive contamination and cover-up continues to haunt us.”

“The results of our study profoundly changes our understanding of the nature of hot particles at Maralinga – despite the fact that those were some of the best studied particles anywhere in the world,” said study co-author Associate Professor Vanessa Wong.

The research team used synchrotron radiation at the Diamond Light Source near Oxford, UK to decipher the physical and chemical make-up of the particles.

At Monash University they dissected some of the hot particles using a nano-sized ion beam, and further characterised the complex make-up of these particles down to the nano-size in exquisite details.

The researchers demonstrated that the complexity of the hot particles arose from the cooling of polymetallic melts from thousands of degrees Celsius in the explosion cloud during their formation.

“We found that the particles contained low-valence plutonium-uranium-carbon compounds that are typically highly reactive, yet, had been stabilised in the hot-particle matrix for nearly 60 years,” said corresponding author Dr Barbara Etschmann.

Between 1950 and 1988 alone there were more than 230 recorded nuclear weapon accidents, including at least 10 with documented release of radioactive particles into the environment. The risks of such incidents are only increasing as international treaties such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty were cancelled.

“Understanding the fate of hot particles in the unique setting of the Australian outback is critical for securing Australia in case of nuclear incidents in the region, and returning all the native land affected by the British tests to the traditional Anangu owners of the Maralinga Tjarutja lands,” said study co-author Professor Joël Brugger.

May 22, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, weapons and war | Leave a comment

May 21 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Is The IEA Report A Tipping Point For Oil Investing?” • The demise of oil and thermal coal won’t come from eco-activism or even directly from renewable energy – it will come when big banks decide to stop financing it, rendering it ‘unbankable.’ And big financial companies like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock were […]

May 21 Energy News — geoharvey

May 22, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment