Australian news, and some related international items

Brian Toohey -on Australia’s new arms race

At the same time as the Australian government is trying to improve relations with China, it is greatly increasing spending on offensive weapons for a potential war with China – without adhering to any published treaty explaining the ground rules.

The Saturday Paper, 14 Jan 23

Australia has now joined the United States in refusing to discuss the ANZUS Treaty, let alone claim it is the foundation of Australia’s security. What was once seen as a virtue is now considered a drawback.

The perceived trouble is that the treaty bans the aggressive use of military force – something the US and Australia both use. Consequently, statements released during the Australia–US ministerial meetings on defence and foreign policy in early December did not mention ANZUS or its constraints. Instead, they refer favourably to the “rules-based international order” in which the US, not the United Nations, makes the rules.

In his subsequent comments on the need to build Australia’s military forces and welcome more American forces, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made no reference to ANZUS. This is part of a trend in which Australian leaders cannot bring themselves to criticise recent harmful US breaches of the international rules on trade and investment.

Article 1 of the 1951 ANZUS Treaty requires the parties to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or the use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”. Aggression is clearly inconsistent with the Charter of the UN, which states, “All members shall refrain from the threat or use of force.”

Labor’s then External Affairs minister, Bert “Doc” Evatt, played a significant role in establishing the UN in 1945 and served as its president from 1948-49. Initially, Labor gave enthusiastic support to ANZUS’s prohibition on aggression. No longer. The preferred “rules-based international order” doesn’t ban aggression, except presumably for countries such as Russia and China. Unlike with the ANZUS Treaty, no text of the new rules or the AUKUS pact is available.

Albanese won’t explain why he wants a large and hugely expensive arms build-up. In a media interview published on December 19, all he said was that we need to spend a lot more on defence because the need for new capabilities is so great. He did not explain why. He refuses to nominate a potential enemy. He merely says we need to spend more on our military to “promote peace and security in the region”.

Participating in an arms race is not necessarily the same as promoting peace. Yet Albanese refuses to invest in arms control measures – unlike the Hawke–Keating governments……………….

Albanese takes for granted that there’s no need to explain where the threat comes from – although the implication is, of course, China……………………

Perhaps China will start a major war within a few years. No one knows. Alternatively, it may put renewed stress on its policy of living in “Confucian harmony” with its neighbours.

Albanese lacks an informed grip on defence issues.

In the interview quoted above, he stated Australia must become more self-reliant in its defence, apparently unaware this is not possible because the US won’t give Australia the computer codes needed to operate American weapons systems and sensors. Nor will it show Australian technicians how to repair or modify any classified components.

This will get worse because of Albanese’s determination to buy eight American attack nuclear submarines for the Australian Navy. Because of the submarines’ extreme complexity, Australia won’t be able to operate them on its own. It may even have to let the US borrow them under the new “interchangeability” policy announced by Defence Minister Richard Marles………………………

Unlike noisy nuclear subs, the latest conventional ones are much cheaper and can operate silently for three or more weeks. ……………

There is no indication Albanese has warned the Americans not to use their forces in Australia for military aggression, in breach of the ANZUS Treaty and UN bans. Similar considerations apply to electronic intelligence facilities in Australia, which play a crucial role in war fighting…………………………

………successive governments have integrated Australian forces so tightly with their American allies – in the planning, training, doctrine, logistics and communications process – that the nation may find itself plunged into a devastating war between the US and China without parliament having the ultimate say after full consideration of the issues…………………..

At the same time as the Australian government is trying to improve relations with China, it is greatly increasing spending on offensive weapons for a potential war with China – without adhering to any published treaty explaining the ground rules.

…………………… Australia wants to deploy nuclear submarines close to China, so they can fire missiles into the Chinese mainland. Little thought appears to have been given to how fiercely China could retaliate…………………………….more

January 14, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Minister Madeleine King visits Australia’s proposed nuclear waste dump site – methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Peter Remta. 14 Jan 23 Minister visits Kimba to discuss Nationa Radioactive Waste Management Facility, 13 January 2023

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, the Hon Madeleine King MP, has visited Kimba to meet with local community members and view the planned site for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.

It is going to be a long wait for another 10 years

The town of Kimba, on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, has been involved in more than seven years of consultation on the location of Australia’s National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.

Still have not provided a safety case or even details of the radionuclide inventories and activity of the intermediate level waste.

Will the high-level light waste processed in France be included in the storage?

“It was a pleasure to visit Kimba for the first time as Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and meet with community members to understand their views firsthand,” Minister King said.

“I was also able to meet with representatives from the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) Board in Kimba and other Traditional Owners.”

Minister King said she was strongly committed to protecting the cultural heritage of the site.

If she is so committed why does she continue opposing the Barngarla peoples’ review litigation?

The National Radioactive Waste Management Facility will consolidate Australia’s low level radioactive waste permanently and intermediate level waste temporarily, which is currently stored in more than one hundred locations across the country.

Please correct this total lie as many of the more than one hundred locations handle their own low-level waste and in the federal government’s own previous statements it will be lucky to get 10% of that waste for disposal at the national facility.

Most of this waste comes from nuclear medicine production, which is an essential part of an advanced healthcare system like ours and one that most Australians will benefit from over their lifetimes.

Again please don’t be cute as the waste you are speaking about is the intermediate level waste generated at Lucas Heights in the course of producing nuclear medicine and that should soon be dramatically reduced as the medical profession worldwide is turning away from reactor generated medicine

“As part of my visit, I engaged with a number of local community groups and stakeholders to discuss how the social and economic benefits of the project could be maximised for the local community,” Minister King said.

None of this will in any way improve or safeguard the community from all the potential problems of the aboveground facility and the destruction of its agricultural industry.

“I understand there is a wide range of views about the project in this community and I wanted to listen to those views firsthand.”

Minister King also met members of the community at a sundowner event at the upgraded Kimba Medical Centre, which was funded under the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Community Benefit Program.

“The upgrades to the Kimba Medical Centre will drive health and social improvements in a community that sorely needs it,” Minister King said.

[Ed note: I understood that Kimba was a thriving, healthy community, a State leader in agriculture.

Are we to understand that instead, it is a sickly pathetic situation, and indeed, the radioactive waste dump’s purpose is to be the saviour of this sad place?]

The only benefit of upgrading the so-called medical centre will be hopefully to provide better care for the people who are affected by radiation – and there will be quite a few believe me with the above ground facility.

Other projects funded in previous rounds include the upgrades to the Kimba Medical Centre, resurfacing Kimba District sporting fields, as well as various mental health initiatives.

[Ed. note. I wonder how much mental health and community cohesion have been damaged by this whole nuclear waste fiasco?]

January 14, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Federal minister visits South Australian site for nuclear waste as legal challenge continues

ABC North and West SA / By Nicholas Ward

Works to establish Australia’s first national nuclear waste facility near Kimba on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula are continuing apace, despite ongoing legal disputes surrounding the project.

Key points:

  • Site preparation works for the nation’s nuclear waste storage are well underway
  • More federal money for the host town of Kimba is reliant on the facility’s construction
  • The federal resources minister says there are currently no plans to store high-level nuclear waste at the site

Federal Minister for Resources Madeleine King, who is responsible for the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA), made her first visit to the town this week to inspect the chosen site at Napandee.

Federal Minister for Resources Madeleine King, who is responsible for the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA), made her first visit to the town this week to inspect the chosen site at Napandee.

“The studies being taken out at the site at the moment are site-characterisation studies,” she said.

They are entirely remedial. They are what I would call small-scale.

“There is a cultural heritage management plan that is informed by the research of the Barngarla people.

“There are strict protocols around the work that is going on right now to make sure there is no disturbance of cultural heritage.”

‘Reversible’ preparation underway

ARWA Safety and Technical general manager David Osborne said concurrent works at the site included tests of its seismology, hydrology and background radiation.

“We have to do all of this work before we can even think about construction,” he said.

“This is about gathering information and all of the work is reversible. We’re simply collecting information that any organisation would do before a construction project.”

Mr Osborne said the work was anticipated to take between 18 months to two years to complete.

Meeting to address concerns

Local grain farmer Peter Woolfood met with the minister to express concerns about the facility’s threat to the region’s “clean, green, agricultural image”.

“We just can’t understand why you would expose this great agricultural industry we have here in grain production to any potential risk at all by having a nuclear waste dump here,” he said.

“Australia’s a big place, so there are plenty of areas this could go without impacting people or industries, simple as that.”

Ms King said those concerns had been taken on board and made assurances that the facility would only be used to store low and intermediate-level nuclear waste.

“There is no high-level waste produced in Australia and there will not be high-level waste stored at the facility so far as planned,” she said.

More money tied to construction

Kimba District Council has benefited from a $6 million federal grants program, currently in its final round, for waste site candidates.

Another $20 million is in the pipeline for the community, but the minister says several hurdles need to be cleared before the money can flow.

“The facility has to get its operational licence. That does require construction and construction is a long way off,” Ms King said.

“There is a judicial review [involving the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation] going on right now and it depends on the outcome of that case.”

Kimba District Council Mayor Dean Johnson gave the minister a tour of the town’s new $1 million medical centre, funded by federal grants.

He said that despite legal challenges, there was a growing expectation that the town’s future was fixed.

“Ultimately, Napandee [the waste site] is earmarked as the final site for the national radioactive waste facility and we believe that will happen,” he said.

January 14, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Australia’s nuclear submarine plan – a source of disagreement in US Congress

Who is going to build our nuclear submarines? Financial Review 13 Jan23.……………………………………………………………. At the heart of the problem is this simple fact: according to current projections, the US needs to turn out two submarines a year, but only around 1.3 per year are coming out of its naval shipyards.

The deficit in shipyard capacity is a problem that affects maintenance and refits as well as new boat construction. Last year, Rear Admiral Doug Perry, director of undersea warfare requirements in the US Navy, admitted that of America’s 50 attack submarines, “18 were either in maintenance or waiting to go in maintenance”. That figure should be closer to 10.

‘Zero-sum game’

In the words of senators Reed and Inhofe, “what was initially touted as a ‘do no harm’ opportunity to support Australia and the United Kingdom and build long-term competitive advantages for the US and its Pacific allies, may be turning into a zero-sum game for scarce, highly advanced US SSNs”.

Reed and Inhofe will have been briefed in detail by US officials, and presumably those classified briefings led them to conclude that the projected additional demand from the AUKUS program would come at the expense of America’s own military preparedness.

…………………………….. the back-and-forth [in the USA regarding Austrsalian submarines] shows that wider congressional commitment could be put under strain if the program comes to be seen as improving Australian capability while stretching the US to breaking point.

January 14, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear disaster: Japan to release radioactive water into sea this year

By Grace Tsoi BBC News 13 Jan 23,

Japan says it will release more than a million tonnes of water into the sea from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant this year.

After treatment the levels of most radioactive particles meet the national standard, the operator said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the proposal is safe, but neighbouring countries have voiced concern.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Decommissioning has already started but could take four decades.

“We expect the timing of the release would be sometime during this spring or summer,” said chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Friday, adding that the government will wait for a “comprehensive report” from IAEA before the release.

Every day, the plant produces 100 cubic metres of contaminated water, which is a mixture of groundwater, seawater and water used to keep the reactors cool. It is then filtered and stored in tanks.

With more than 1.3 million cubic metres on site, space is running out.

The water is filtered for most radioactive isotopes, but the level of tritium is above the national standard, operator Tepco said. Experts say tritium is very difficult to remove from water and is only harmful to humans in large doses.

However, neighbouring countries and local fishermen oppose the proposal, which was approved by the Japanese government in 2021.

The Pacific Islands Forum has criticised Japan for the lack of transparency.

“Pacific peoples are coastal peoples, and the ocean continues to be an integral part of their subsistence living,” Forum Secretary General Henry Puna told news website Stuff.

“Japan is breaking the commitment that their leaders have arrived at when we held our high level summit in 2021.

“It was agreed that we would have access to all independent scientific and verifiable scientific evidence before this discharge takes place. Unfortunately, Japan has not been co-operating.”……. more

January 14, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

IAEA plans “continuous presence” at all Ukraine nuclear power plants “to help prevent a nuclear accident” amid Russia’s war


United Nations – The head of the United Nations atomic energy agency, the IAEA, is scheduled to visit Ukraine next week as a follow-up to his commitment last month to enlarge the watchdog agency’s oversight of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, which have been shelled during Russia’s nearly 11-month war on the country.

The planned trip, confirmed by the IAEA on Friday, follows discussions by Director General Rafael Grossi, who with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal “agreed that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will establish a continuous presence of nuclear safety and security experts at all of the country’s nuclear power plants as part of stepped-up efforts to help prevent a nuclear accident during the current armed conflict.”……………………………….

Last week, the IAEA said it “continues to prepare to deploy soon IAEA teams on a continual basis to the four other Ukrainian nuclear facilities, the Khmelnitsky, Rivne and South Ukraine NPPs [nuclear power plants], as well as the Chornobyl site, as agreed in Paris in December by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and IAEA Director General Grossi.”

…………………………….. Grossi was “continuing consultations with Ukraine and Russia aimed at agreeing and implementing a nuclear safety and security protection zone around the ZNPP as soon as possible.”

Embedding a team permanently at the Zaporizhzhia plant may be the most difficult part of the IAEA’s plan to implement. Russian forces have occupied the sprawling facility since March, and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the plant within Russian territory in October…………………… more

January 14, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment