Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear trash – a tale of two Sydney suburbs

Hunters Hill

Radioactive trash – a tale of two Sydney suburbs, By Noel Wauchope, May 26, 2021

Australia is relatively clear of nuclear reprocessing waste problems. But the Sydney suburbs of Hunters Hill and Barden Ridge have radioactive wastes from uranium processing which have been sitting there for decades. A bill is now before the Senate addressing the issue.

Australia does have radioactive waste problems in the lingering concerns over historic atomic bomb test sites in South Australia., and in both the functioning and the closed uranium mines. But there is only one uranium-processing facility producing radioactive wastes, the Opal nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney.

Now, Federal and State governments are making decisions on the disposal of these wastes. But there is still uncertainty and lack of public information on just how [or whether] these decisions will be carried out. For example, there’s no detail on transport routes, dates etc.

There are significant differences between the situations of the two suburbs. Perhaps the most significant one is that at Barden Ridge, the nearby Opal nuclear research reactor will be continuing to produce nuclear wastes for the foreseeable future, whereas the Hunters Hill wastes are set for final and permanent removal. Hunters Hill residents have been worried about this for over a century. For Barden Ridge, it has been been recognised as a problem for a much shorter time.

2021 looks like being a watershed year for both.

Hunters Hill.

n 1911, radium was a valuable commodity, and was processed was processed at Hunters Hill, Some 2,000 tonnes of uranium ore were transported from Radium Hill in South Australia, to extract the radium. Several tonnes of uranium oxide were left, and also thorium 230, which itself decays to form more radium and is therefore dangerous for thousands of years. The project closed in 1915. From then on, it was a saga of mistakes and failed attempts to clean up this remaining debris. There was a tin smelter there until 1964.

Then the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC, now ANSTO) decided it was safe for housing. In the following years, residents and others became concerned about the uranium tailings spread over 6 housing blocks, in Nelson’s Parade, with the risk to health. They were met with cover-ups and obfuscation from the government. Health tests were kept secret, radiation hotspots were found, and cancers and deaths were claimed to be linked to this, and legal cases ensued.

Government plans to solve the problem included dumping the wastes at sea. This was resisted by environmentalists. The next plan was to dump it in Western NSW. This was strongly opposed by Aborigines from the area’s Bakandii tribe. When several Nelson Parade residents fell ill in the 1970s, the NSW government purchased several houses and demolished them, but failed to remediate the site.

in 1981 The then NSW Premier, Mr Wran asked South Australia to take 5,000 tonnes of contaminated soil. A NSW Upper House Inquiry in 2008 led to the government attempting to plan for the clean-up of 2,000 tonnes of radioactive waste. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency said radioactive waste from Hunters Hill wasn’t permitted to be stored at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights interim waste storage facility.

In 2012, most of the contaminated earth was reclassified as ”restricted solid waste”. Two Sydney suburbs were mooted as destinations for the wastes – Kemps Creek and Lidcombe. This was resisted by the local residents. Then in 2019, the New South Wales government proposed to store the  contaminated soil on site in an ”encapsulated” form. This was vigorously rejected by the Hunters Hill residents.

Now, in 2021, beginning in July, New South Wales Property and Housing Minister Melinda Pavey announced that the radioactive material will beexcavated and  and be shipped to Idaho  ,USA. The contaminated soil is to be sealed in bags, loaded into shipping containers and taken to a secure facility in the Eastern Sydney suburb of Matraville before shipping them overseas in scheduled consignments. ANSTO would oversee the process with up to 1800 tonnes to be transported to Idaho in an18-month-long mission.

Barden Ridge.

The radioactive waste problem of formerly Lucas Heights has a more recent history, with the original HIFAR nuclear research reactor starting operations in 1958. Lucas Heights was then a remote bushland site well outside the suburban area of Sydney. Nuclear development was meshed in secrecy, and controlled by influential experts Philip Baxter, and Ernest Titterton., without much understanding by the parliament or the public. It was the time of British atomic weapons tests in Australia, and heightened fears about the cold war. Little attention was paid to the subject of radioactive wastes.

In later years, as Sydney grew, Lucas Heights did become more of a suburb. And the Three Mile Island 1979 and Chernobyl 1986 nuclear accidents aroused a general awareness of nuclear risks. Radioactive wastes from Fisherman’s Bend in Victoria was brought to Lucas Heights in 1990. By now, public concern was raised. When Lucas Heights agreed to take the waste from St Mary’s Defence Base NSW (1991) the Sutherland Shire Council won a court case against ANSTO to stop Lucas Heights taking waste from other entities.

In 1992, local residents voted to rename the suburb of Lucas Heights, and in 1996 it officially became Barden Ridge.  It is widely accepted that this was done to increase the real estate value of the area, as it would no longer be instantly associated with the HIFAR nuclear reactor.

Barden Ridge has a conservative community, historically voting Liberal, that accepts the reality of ANSTO and the now Opal nuclear reactor, with the jobs that come with it. Still, the presence of nuclear wastes is an issue. The Sutherland Shire Council in 2013 said that they liked having the nuclear reactor, but not the radioactive wastes. Local people and Council were relieved to learn, in 1997, of the federal government’s plan to set up a waste facility in another State. Sutherland Shire Council rejoiced in 2014, when the federal government announced plans for a nuclear waste facility in the Northern Territory.

Which brings us to the Australian Government’s Bill about radioactive waste, now before the Australian Senate, the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020.  This Bill specifies Napandee, a farm near Kimba, South Australia, as the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Resources Minister Keith Pitt has recently announced more grants to the local community .Yet there is significant local opposition to the plan, from Aborigines and farmers.  If this Bill is passed, there can be no judicial review of the decision. So, Barden Ridge residents will get their solution. Or maybe not.

The Hunters Hill solution is an unusual one, and quite a precedent. There could still be some opposition to the planned process. The Barden Ridge one is also fraught with problems, as nuclear waste will continue to be produced by the nearby nuclear reactor. The Senate might not pass this Bill, leaving the Resources Minister with the option of declaring the Napandee site, which would then open the matter up for court action.

It’s again ‘wait and see’ time for two worried communities.

May 31, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics, reference, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australian Robert Floyd to head the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation.

‘Never in my wildest dreams’: The Australian set to head UN body policing nuclear weapons has grand plans, SMH, By Anthony Galloway, May 30, 2021  When Australian Robert Floyd began his career as a biological scientist, he had no aspirations of heading a United Nations body charged with policing the world for any signs of nuclear tests. He did not foresee a life of negotiating with the world’s major powers to ban all testing of nuclear weapons.

But that is exactly what is in store for him after last week being elected as the first Australian executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation.

…………  He will take up his position in Vienna in August, after 10 years as the Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, which implements Australia’s treaty obligations on weapons of mass destruction……..

The CTBTO is the organisation charged with policing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996 and seeks to ban all nuclear tests.

But the treaty is not legally binding because eight countries have held off on ratifying it: the US, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran, Israel and Egypt.

Floyd concedes it is unlikely that he will convince all eight countries to ratify the treaty, but he is going to try to get some of them across the line before his four-year term is up.

……..  The CTBTO has an arsenal of more than 300 monitoring stations that can pick up seismic vibrations or radioactive particles in the air, ocean or atmosphere. Floyd says this allows it to detect a nuclear explosion “anywhere, anytime”.

“That network produces data that no country can have by themselves. So everyone sees value in the treaty,” he says.

………. Unlike other nuclear treaties, the CTBT is not about nuclear getting states to rid themselves of nuclear weapons; it is focused on convincing them not to test them. ………..

May 31, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Wind and solar help Australia slash emissions, but no credit to Coalition — RenewEconomy

Australia’s emissions fell in 2020, due to the pandemic and the ongoing decline of coal, but signs of a post-Covid bounce back are already starting to show. The post Wind and solar help Australia slash emissions, but no credit to Coalition appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Wind and solar help Australia slash emissions, but no credit to Coalition — RenewEconomy

May 31, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Despite the Small Nuclear Reactor push from Bill Gates and the rest of the nuclear lobby, we already have the technologies to decarbonise our global economy.

Dave Elliott: The International Energy Institute’s new Global Energy
Roadmap sets a pathway to net zero carbon by 2050, with, by 2040, the
global electricity sector reaching net-zero emissions. It wants no
investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final
investment decisions for new unabated coal plants. And by 2035, it calls
for no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars. Instead it
looks to ‘the immediate and massive deployment of all available clean and
efficient energy technologies, combined with a major global push to
accelerate innovation’.

For its part, on that issue, the IEA report
summary says ‘most of the global reductions in CO2 emissions between now
and 2030 in the net zero pathway come from technologies readily available
today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that
are currently only at the demonstration or prototype phase’. So it says
‘this demands that governments quickly increase and reprioritise their
spending on research and development – as well as on demonstrating and
deploying clean energy technologies – putting them at the core of energy
and climate policy.

. Progress in the areas of advanced batteries,
electrolysers for hydrogen, and direct air capture and storage can be
particularly impactful’. U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry had already
relayed the suggestion 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.’ And Bill Gates had claimed that that solar, wind and batteries
were not enough, so we need ‘miracle technologies’ to decarbonize our
global economy.

Commenting on this issue, Prof Mark Jacobson from Stanford
University said it all depends on what you mean by ‘new’. Yes, we need
to improve wind, solar, storage and transmission systems, but what was
really being hinted at in these statements was that we need other
completely new technologies- such as Small Modular Reactors, Carbon Capture
systems and such like. He says we don’t need them: ‘we have 95% of the
technologies we need today and the know-how to get the rest’:

Renew Extra 29th May 2021

May 31, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not only at the Poles, but also mountain glaciers, are melting faster than ever.

Scotsman 28th May 2021 Richard Dixon: The last few weeks have seen several new studies yielding
new insights into the role and future of ice sheets and glaciers. Last
month, the seasonal sea ice in the Arctic covered almost one million square
kilometres less than the long-term average, making it the sixth-lowest ice
cover ever recorded.

The poles are among the places feeling the heat of
climate change most rapidly. In March, the world was 0.88C above the
long-term average, but parts of the South Pole and all of the North Pole
were between 2 and 4C warmer. Recently, locations in Alaska were officially
reclassified from “sub-Arctic” to “warm summer continental”, based
on the upward trend of yearly average temperatures.

Last week, a studyconcluded that the Greenland ice sheet is already melting sufficiently to
raise global sea levels by one or two metres. If it all went, sea levels
would be seven metres higher.

Another study found that the massive Thwaites
Glacier in Antarctica is melting faster than previously thought. The
picture across the region is confusing because warmer seas mean the ice
sheets are melting, but they also mean there is more new snow falling,
replenishing the ice from the top. So, the ice sheets can be feeding tens
of billions of tonnes of water into the ocean a year, while at the same
time seeming to contain about the same amount of ice.

Despite promises to
keep the global temperature rise well below 2C and even to try for 1.5C,
the world is on track for a potential 3C rise by 2100. A new study suggests
that the tactic some governments are backing – to go over 2C but then
come back down again – would likely create irreversible ice loss in the
Antarctic, even if it worked. But ice is not only found at the poles,
another study finds that mountain glaciers are melting faster even than the
Antarctic ice, adding billions of tonnes of water to the oceans every year.


May 31, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment