Australian news, and some related international items

Anthony Albanese has the power to save Julian Assange. But will he?

We’re all enormously relieved that the corrupt #ScottyFRomMarketing has gone.

And we like Albanese, I think.

But – will he have the guts to help our Australian hero, Julian Assange?

Albanese had the perfect opportunity in Tokyo on Tuesday, meeting the U.S. president. He could have raised the matter with Biden.. But he didn’t.

When will he? Will he speak up for Assange at all?

Now is the time for Australia to intervene, and to demand the repatriation of Julian and an end to his persecution. It’s about time our mealy-mouthed and pathetic media and politicians broke their silence and cringing subservience to the USA.

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

Months of more rain likely as BOM report links global warming to flood disasters

Months of more rain likely as BOM report links global warming to flood disasters

The Bureau of Meteorology reports a perfect storm of factors led to devastating flooding across Queensland and NSW and climate change may have made them worse. And it warns key indicators are pointing to more heavy rain this winter and spring.

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

They’re Just Outright Telling Us That Peace In Ukraine Is Not An Option

Caitlin Johnstone, 25 May 22, US Senator Joe Manchin said at the World Economic Forum on Monday that he opposes any kind of peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia.

Manchin, who at the moment is one of the most powerful elected officials in Washington, added that only the complete forcible ejection of Russia from all of Ukraine is acceptable, that the war should ideally be used to remove Putin from power, and that he and the strategists he talks to see this war as an “opportunity”.

…………………………… Manchin’s comments fit in perfectly with what we know about the US-centralized empire’s real agendas in Ukraine. 

Earlier this month Ukrainian media reported that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on behalf of NATO powers that “even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they are not.”

Last month US Secretary of “Defense” Lloyd Austin acknowledged that the goal in this war is not peace in Ukraine or the mere military defeat of Russia but to actually weaken Russia as a nation…………

Last week The New York Times reported that the Biden administration is developing plans to “further choke Russia’s oil revenues with the long-term goal of destroying the country’s central role in the global energy economy.”

………… Two months ago Biden himself acknowledged what the real game is here with an open call for regime change, saying of Putin, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

Statements from the Biden administration in fact indicate that they expect this war to drag on for a long time, making it abundantly clear that a swift end to minimize the death and destruction is not just uninteresting but undesirable for the US empire.

This is not a proxy war with peace as an option anywhere within sight. It’s not about saving Ukrainian lives. It’s not even about beating Russia in Ukraine. It’s about achieving regime change in Moscow, no matter how many lives need to be destroyed in the process.

Peace is not on the menu.

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

USA Energy Department nuclear waste backlog goes as far back as WWII

Federal News Network, Tom Temin@tteminWFED, May 25, 2022 The Energy Department has a backlog of nuclear waste clean up responsibilities, with material dating back to World War II. But continuing turnover in program leadership means things just aren’t happening. For more, Government Accountability Office natural resources and environmental team Director Nathan Anderson spoke with the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: So what is going on here, the Energy Department says it needs something like a half a trillion dollars to do the cleanup of nuclear waste. Give us the scope of what it is they’re trying to do here in the first place?

Nathan Anderson: Well, you’ve got the dollar figure, right, in terms of the best estimates that we can give to this point. It is looking like almost a half a trillion dollar future financial responsibility of the federal government. I want to take it back a little bit to how we got here. You know, for decades, we were in the Cold War. And we were producing nuclear weapons. And we had sites across the country that were engaged in the Manhattan Project, and ultimately in the arms race that we were involved in until the late 1980s. And then around that time, the switch was flipped, if you will. And all of a sudden, we had to embrace the cleanup responsibilities that came with the end of the Cold War and kind of embracing both environmental and moral responsibilities of cleaning up the waste. And that’s where we’re at now, you know, we’ve been at this for a little more than 30 years, in a way trying to figure out the best way forward in terms of addressing the environmental and human health risks. And also, you know, the financial risks.

Tom Temin: And what is the scope of the issue geographically is there material that needs to be dealt with all over the place?

Nathan Anderson: There are 15 active cleanup sites that the Department of Energy is responsible for addressing. The biggest site in terms of financial risk and scope of waste is probably the Hanford Site out in southwestern Washington. There’s also a massive cleanup operation at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, there’s a nuclear repository down in New Mexico at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. DOE recently kind of completed some of their activities at the Brookhaven Lab in New York. But as I’m kind of going through this list, you can see it really is all across the country, where we have these sites and have these cleanup responsibilities.

Tom Temin: And what does cleanup actually entail? It has to be removed and put somewhere else and buried in concrete or what?

Nathan Anderson: Well, I think one of the best ways to describe this is you’ve got nuclear waste, and radioactive waste that is in a tank, a couple sites around the country. There are 177 underground tanks at the Hanford Site, these tanks are massive, I’ve stood in a mock up of one. They hold, you know, up to a million gallons of waste. You’ve also got contaminated soil and groundwater. Decades ago during the nuclear weapons production mission, not as much as understood about the risks that some of these liquids and some of these contaminants contained, and so some of it was dumped directly into the ground. And that has permeated into the groundwater at certain sites. And then you’ve also got contaminated facilities that need to be demolished and that contamination needs to be dealt with appropriately. So I would say the three big cleanup activities are addressing the waste that’s in the tank. That’s the really nasty stuff, the soil and groundwater that needs to be remediated. And then also the excess facilities that need to be demolished, and that contamination needs to be remediated.

Tom Temin: And does that put the Energy Department in the position of being a buyer of contracted services to actually do this? Are there companies that handle this type of thing?

Nathan Anderson: Yes, it does. DOE is one of the largest contracting departments out there, probably right behind DoD (Department of Defense) in terms of the percentage of money that is put out the contracts. And now you’ve got companies around the country that are technically equipped to do this. And what DOE needs to do is ensure that for the taxpayer, you get the benefits of competition at each one of these sites. And then you also have the kind of like the accountability frameworks that are embedded within the contracts themselves, to make sure that cleanup is happening in a risk informed way. I like to say that contractors can do anything we ask them to do in this country. It’s up to the Department of Energy, and specifically the Office of Environmental Management to make sure that what they are asking the contractors to do is aligned with the risks that some of this waste poses. You recently commented about cement. That’s a perfect example. There are opportunities to take some of this tank waste like out of Hanford and put it in cement rather than glass because it’s very low levels of risk and cement, or grout as a term in the industry is significantly cheaper than the alternatives.

Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Nathan Anderson, a director in the Natural Resources and Environmental Team at the GAO. And the thesis of your report this time around is not really though how big the task is. But the fact that a revolving door of leadership at the Environmental Management Office of DOE is one of the hindrances to steady progress here. Tell us more about what you found.

Nathan Anderson: You’re hitting the nail on the head in terms of what this most recent report does touch on. We’ve just spoken about kind of the size and complexity of the issues. And what you’ll see across government oftentimes when you have a set of issues that are technically challenging and huge in scope, and long lasting and enduring is you have a leader of those federal responsibilities who has either a fixed term appointment, and in many cases, also an elevated level within the department. And that’s what we are leaning towards in this new report is that Congress should take those two actions to address the frequent turnover by having like a fixed term appointment of four to five years, to make sure that you’ve got a strong signal inside and outside government that this is a position that requires stability, and then also, that there should be an undersecretary position within the Department of Energy to again, provide that signal that there needs to be a high level of organizational clout that these are issues that are long lasting, and require stability and commitment from the senior leader within the department.

………………………. Nathan Anderson: We do have a very dedicated cadre of technicians and public servants that serve in the Office of Environmental Management, you know, there have been tremendously capable senior leaders, assistant secretaries at the Department of Energy that are responsible for this mission. But at the end of the day, resources are scarce. At the end of the day, priorities need to be set. Not everything can be done. And what we’re seeing is an increase in cost, substantially increasing costs for the long term mission of environmental cleanup within the Department of Energy. And I think it’s over the last seven or eight years, it’s almost doubled in terms of what we call the environmental liability, that total cost to the government for the cleanup mission. And that is a kind of a strong prompt or a catalyst to say, OK, is the status quo working? I would argue that the status quo needs to change.

………………………. I would say that GAO has identified a handful of options that could really fly down that half a trillion dollar cost estimate that you kind of lead with, there are opportunities and I would submit that while those opportunities are tens of billions of dollars or more, it will require like elevated leadership attention to be able to get there. And yet another reason why a fixed term appointment and an undersecretary position could really help here.

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Twenty-Two House Republicans Demand Accountability on Biden’s $40b War Spending

The aid package approved by Congress provides unprecedented funding for a foreign conflict in which the United States is not fighting, while there have been no significant hearings or substantive briefings on the use of the money and weapons being provided at taxpayer expense.” The lawmakers raised the prospect of sophisticated weaponry falling into the hands of terrorist organizations, citing a documented history of illicit arms-trafficking within Ukraine, a market which is one of the largest in Europe: 

A cohort of Republicans, part of the dissenting vote on Biden’s Ukraine war package, seeks oversight and specifics about the destination of U.S. money and weapons.

Glenn Greenwald and Anthony Tobin, May 25

The House of Representatives, on May 10, approved President Biden’s $33 billion package for the war in Ukraine, and then, on its own initiative, added $7 billion on top of it. That brought the new war spending authorization to $40 billion, on top of the $14 billion already spent just 10 weeks into this war, which U.S. officials predict will last years, not months. The House vote in favor was 368-57. All 57 NO votes were from GOP House members. All House Democrats, including the Squad, voted YES.

A similar scene occurred when the Senate, “moving quickly and with little debate,” overwhelmingly approved the same war package. All eleven NO votes were from Senate Republicans. All Senate Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), voted in favor, seemingly in direct contradiction to Sanders’ February 8 op-ed in The Guardian warning of the severe dangers of bipartisan escalation of the war. Efforts by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to delay passage of the bill so that some safeguards and accountability measures could be included regarding where the money was going and for what purposes it would be used were met with scorn, particularly from Paul’s fellow Kentucky GOP Senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who condemned Paul as an “isolationist.” Following the Senate vote, a jet was used to fly the bill across the world to President Biden in South Korea, where he signed it into law.

But the lack of any safeguards over the destination of the money and weapons prompted close to two dozen House Republicans, led by Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM), to send a letter to the Biden White House on Monday demanding greater specificity and assurances about legal requirements on how weapons are used. The letter urges a public reckoning on the dangers of the U.S.’s bankrolling of the war in Ukraine: “We write today to express grave concern about the lack of oversight and accountability for the money and weapons recently approved by Congress for Ukraine,” it began.

“The aid package approved by Congress provides unprecedented funding for a foreign conflict in which the United States is not fighting, while there have been no significant hearings or substantive briefings on the use of the money and weapons being provided at taxpayer expense.” The lawmakers raised the prospect of sophisticated weaponry falling into the hands of terrorist organizations, citing a documented history of illicit arms-trafficking within Ukraine, a market which is one of the largest in Europe: 

“According to a 2017 Small Arms Survey briefing on arms trafficking, over 300,000 small arms disappeared from Ukraine between 2013 and 2015 and only 13 percent were recovered. Criminal networks, corrupt officials, and underpaid military personnel can make a profitable business from the sale of arms from Ukrainian military stockpiles. For example, in 2019, the Ukrainian Security Service uncovered a plot by Ukrainian soldiers to sell 40 RGD-5 grenades, 15 grenade launchers, 30 grenade detonators, and 2,454 rounds of ammunition for 75,000 Ukrainian hryvnia or around $2,900.”

Indeed, the relentlessly war-supporting CNN last month acknowledged that “the US has few ways to track the substantial supply of anti-tank, anti-aircraft and other weaponry it has sent across the border into Ukraine.” Biden officials admitted the “risk that some of the shipments may ultimately end up in unexpected places.” ……………………… more

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear is already well past its sell-by date

As construction costs and delays ramp up, it is clear that renewables will do the heavy lifting of our energy transition.
By Paul Dorfman, 25 May 22,

Boris Johnson hopes his dream of “a new nuclear plant every year” will be aided and abetted by the recent publication of the government’s Energy Security Strategy. But with little interest from the investment market, and the fact that utility-scale solar and onshore wind cost less than a quarter of new nuclear, perhaps the Treasury’s concerns should be taken more seriously.

Here’s why. Hinkley Point C, the only new nuclear construction in town, where energy giant EDF is building two nuclear reactors, is overdue and over budget. Costs have ramped up from an original estimate of £18bn to £26bn, and the Somerset project is not due to open until at least June 2027, and more than likely quite a few years later.

Next in line is Sizewell C in Suffolk, which is supposed to be paid for via the “fiscally dextrous” Regulated Asset Base mechanism, a new funding model that transfers risk from developers to consumers to bring in more investors. This places great financial liability unfairly and squarely on the shoulders of UK taxpayers and electricity consumers, who will be paying for huge upfront costs, inevitable delays and further cost hikes.

And there’s more. The EDF European pressurised water reactor (EPR) design, currently being built at Hinkley C and planned for Sizewell C, may have a generic fault with its most important safety feature: the reactor pressure vessel. As a result, a Chinese EPR has now been shuttered for ten months.

This is not forgetting the horrible mess across the channel, with half of EDF’s nuclear reactor fleet offline, many due to progressive corrosion. The French nuclear regulator is warning a “large-scale plan” lasting “several years” is needed.

Nuclear’s climate-friendly unique selling point (USP) is also up for grabs. Sea-level rise will increase coastal flooding, storm surges and erosion, making current coastal nuclear infrastructure increasingly obsolete. This means even more expense for any nuclear construction, operation, waste management and decommissioning – and, according to the UK Institute of Mechanical Engineers, even relocation or abandonment.

Happily, help is on the way – 256 gigawatts (GW) of non-hydro renewables were added to the world’s power grids in 2020 (nuclear added only 0.4GW). Last year, solar and wind made up three-quarters of all new generation – and with other renewables, the total figure is 84 per cent.

Even the UK investment minister recently concluded that wind farms in the North Sea will be more valuable to the UK than the oil and gas industry. There is no one left to dispute the fact that the heavy lifting of the net zero transition will be done by renewable energy.

Nuclear isn’t just slow and expensive – it’s far too inflexible to ramp up and down with the swings of demand. When the wind fails to blow and the sun doesn’t shine, that’s when grid upgrades, interconnection (which enables power to be shared between neighbouring countries), energy efficiency management, and rapidly evolving storage technology steps in to make up the difference. Nuclear’s contribution has, can and will only ever be very marginal. The reality is, it’s already well past its sell-by date.

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear tragedy in the Marshall Islands

The Bulletin, By Sally Clark | May 25, 2022, We were innocent 21-year-olds entering an organization called the Peace Corps in 1969………..  Young, naive Americans, we knew little about the area, other than, perhaps, fleeting thoughts that we might find the remains of Amelia Earhart or artifacts from her plane there……….

Our naivete began to diminish when we were told the Atomic Energy Commission was coming to check out the health of the children and adults and of course to give out candy and show a dated movie. We asked questions and learned about the nuclear test over Bikini and the fallout coming down over a neighboring island, whose residents thought it was snow. We were told that the Marshallese ran outside, allowing the fallout to land on their skin, with some children putting it to their eyes. Luckily many residents sensed danger and ran to the ocean, saving themselves from a future road of at least some fallout ailments.

As we spent more time in the islands, little by little more detailed stories emerged—of still births, high cancer rates, and other radiation-related health issues. Islanders had been moved from Bikini before nuclear tests were conducted; some of the explosions were so great that one of the small islands simply vaporized, leaving a deep cavern. Many Marshallese had to endure being relocated from their blessed atoll to Kili, an island in the middle of the ocean with no lagoon.

Over the years, more and more people spoke out about such atrocities and such disregard for the Marshallese, who were actually called “savages” by a US paper in the 50’s. My heart wept as I learned more information about the scope of nuclear testing in the Marshalls.

Between 1946 and 1958, the Marshall Islands region was the site of the testing of nuclear weapons equivalent to the explosive power of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for 12 years—67 in all at the Bikini and Enewetak atolls—a fact that is impossible for me to comprehend.

A resolution is now in front of the Congress asking the United States to prioritize nuclear justice in its negotiations with the Marshall Islands on an extended Compact of Free Association between the countries. The resolution recognizes that the United States nuclear testing program and radioactive waste disposal, including not just contaminated debris from the Marshalls but also material transported from the Nevada Test Site, caused irreparable material and intangible harm to the people of the Marshall Islands.

 We believe this harm continues to this day. Within this resolution is a call for an apology for what the United States did to the Marshallese and to raise awareness about the need for more action to undo this harm. US Rep. Katie Porter of California and senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Edward Markey of Massachusetts are spearheading this effort, which would formally apologize for the US nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands and raise public awareness of the issue. Please write or call your representatives and senators, asking them to support House Joint Resolution 73 and Senate Joint Resolution 40.

What happened in the islands is simply incomprehensible to me. The toll on the Marshallese and the environment is impossible for me to grasp. And I have another nagging thought: Why as Peace Corps volunteers were we not warned about the radioactive fallout and the social issues we were being dropped into? Of course, there’s the implication that we were being used as pawns to smooth the relationship between the Marshall Islands and the United States and to continue to have the islanders as our friends for strategic reasons.

Who makes these decisions to drop bombs on such beautiful, pristine islands? Who sends 20-year-olds into a potentially radioactive area without warning them? When can we as a human race honor peoples around the world and get out of building weapons and gaining lands for strategic reasons? Please stop. I’m sad and weep and write letters asking for an apology. So sad. Where is our soul?

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Household power bills jump as Coalition hands energy market mess to Labor — RenewEconomy

First rise in household bills announced, conveniently delayed until after election as Coalition hands its energy mess to Labor and the cross bench. The post Household power bills jump as Coalition hands energy market mess to Labor appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Household power bills jump as Coalition hands energy market mess to Labor — RenewEconomy

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Big Banana: CS Energy signs up for French nuclear giant’s first Australian wind farm — RenewEconomy

Queensland state owned utility gives go-ahead to the first wind farm to be built in Australia by the renewables offshoot of French nuclear energy giant EdF. The post Big Banana: CS Energy signs up for French nuclear giant’s first Australian wind farm appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Big Banana: CS Energy signs up for French nuclear giant’s first Australian wind farm — RenewEconomy

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Neighbourhood Batteries: To bring power to the people, you need to listen to what they want — RenewEconomy

Does the value of neighbourhood batteries stack up? And do they cut emissions? Local communities will want to know. The post Neighbourhood Batteries: To bring power to the people, you need to listen to what they want appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Neighbourhood Batteries: To bring power to the people, you need to listen to what they want — RenewEconomy

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

May 25 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion:  ¶ “Australians Voted For Stronger Action On Climate Change. Will They Get It?” • Australia’s new prime minister mentioned the words “climate change” four times within two minutes of his maiden international speech. But experts say it won’t be easy to turn around a coal-powered ship that has been chugging in the wrong direction […]

May 25 Energy News — geoharvey

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Global heating is affecting France’s nuclear reactors, as water temperatures rise in the rivers

Warming French rivers could take more nuclear supply offline, 26 may 22,   PARIS, May 25 (Reuters) – An unseasonably warm May has led to high water temperatures in several rivers throughout France, putting some nuclear plants’ output at risk during a period of historically high unavailability, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Wednesday.

Reporting by Forrest Crellin Editing by David Goodman  River water is often used for cooling reactors before being returned to the the river at a higher temperature.

Regulations are in place that limit reactor production during times of high heat to prevent the process from damaging local wildlife.

The exposed nuclear plants are the 1.8 gigawatt (GW) Bugey plant, the 2.6 GW Saint-Alban plant and the 3.6 GW Tricastin plant on the Rhone river in the south east, as well as the 3.6 GW Blayais plant on the Gironde river in the south west.

Because river temperature is closely correlated to air temperature, the recent heatwave in France would need to abate to reduce the risk of environmental outages.

Most rivers with power plants have an upper limit between 26 and 30 degrees Celsius for cooling, so critical supply losses would only take place if daily average temperatures are above the river’s maximum for at least a couple of weeks, the Refinitiv analysts said.

However, even with a spell of cooler weather, the situation is unlikely to simply disappear as we head into a warmer season, they added.

“The latest forecasts indicates that temperatures at Bugey and Tricastin will be below warning levels later this week, while Blayais will stay above warning levels and risk needing to down-regulate, if at nominal power,” said Refinitiv analyst Stefan Soderberg.

The current warning levels at the Blayais plant indicate that it is still lower than the maximum allowed temperature but above the level where supply reduction is needed to comply with regulations, he added.

The Blayais plant is operating at limited capacity, data from nuclear provider EDF (EDF.PA) showed.

French nuclear supply stood at a much reduced 50% of available capacity on Wednesday, with a slew of reactors having gone offline in recent months owing to issues with corrosion found in the welding of reactor safety circuits. 

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Korea to keep import ban on Japan seafood due to Fukushima concern.

South Korea to keep import ban on Japan seafood due to Fukushima concern

 KYODO NEWS   26 May 22, South Korea will maintain an import ban on Japanese seafood from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, a minister said Wednesday, denying any plan to lift it in a bid to secure Tokyo’s support to join a regional free trade accord.

“We’ve taken a resolute stance on the issue. We aren’t considering allowing imports of Japan’s Fukushima seafood as a tactic to get backing for our bid to join” the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord, Oceans Minister Cho Seung Hwan said during a meeting with reporters, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Japan is one of the leading members of the 11-nation TPP, which also includes Australia, Singapore and Mexico. Consent of all members is required for new membership.

South Korea has been working on domestic procedures to submit an application, Yonhap said.

China and Taiwan are also seeking to join the TPP.

Taiwan in February lifted an import ban on food products from Fukushima and some other Japanese prefectures imposed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Amid radiation concerns, South Korea has banned Japanese seafood imports from eight prefectures, including Fukushima.

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Experts call on governments to start including animal welfare in sustainable development governance

 Experts call on governments to start including animal welfare in sustainable development governance

 Scientists and other experts are calling on governments to start including animal welfare in sustainable development governance now in order to work towards a healthier, more resilient, and more sustainable world for all.

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Curbing other climate pollutants, not just CO2, gives Earth a chance

Curbing other climate pollutants, not just CO2, gives Earth a chance

Slashing emissions of carbon dioxide by itself isn’t enough to prevent catastrophic global warming, a new study by scientists at Duke and four other universities shows. But if we simultaneously also reduce emissions of methane and other often overlooked climate pollutants, we could cut the rate of global warming in half by 2050 and give the world a fighting chance.

May 26, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment