Australian news, and some related international items

Push in US Congress to exempt Australia from International Traffic in Arms Regulations, so that it can import nuclear submarines.

Democrat push to grant Australia a waiver to import nuclear subs earlier than expected

SMH, ByFarrah Tomazin, January 21, 2023 —

Washington: A maze of US regulations and export control laws stand between Australia and the multibillion-dollar AUKUS submarine agreement, prompting a key ally of the pact in Congress to propose a blanket exemption to accelerate delivery of the nuclear-powered fleet.

Democratic congressman Joe Courtney, who recently spearheaded a bipartisan defence of the Australia-UK-US pact amid jitters from some of his Washington colleagues, wants Australia to be given a waiver from strict US export controls that could otherwise derail the agreement.

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations is one set of rules which could delay for years the transfer of crucial technologies at a time when Australia is racing to bolster its submarine capacity before the retirement of its Collins-class fleet.

Defence Minister Richard Marles has said the government will announce by March which type of submarine it will acquire, after receiving a recommendation from Jonathan Mead, the head of the Nuclear Powered Submarine Taskforce.

The announcement is expected to provide the first concrete insights into the cost, timing and procurement of the AUKUS deal. The modelling so far has suggested that if the submarines are produced in Australia, as the government has suggested, the earliest possible delivery date would be 2055.

While President Joe Biden supports AUKUS, he needs the backing of a divided Congress to make good on his promise to share American submarine secrets with Australia.

Courtney, who co-chairs the bipartisan “AUKUS caucus” and is regarded as one of Congress’ top navy experts, said a potential solution to the difficulties posed by US law would be to pass an exemption, with the support of the Pentagon, allowing Australia to bypass rules such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and related nuclear submarine laws, for the strict purpose of advancing AUKUS……………………………….

Australian officials have for years been pushing their US counterparts to reform their treatment under arms regulations, and the issue was front and centre of the December Australian-US Ministerial consultations between Marles and US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin…………

In response to questions from this masthead, a spokesman for the Australian Department of Defence said it was anticipating that export arrangements would need to change “to ensure technology and expertise could be transferred seamlessly and effectively among AUKUS partners, as well as their respective industrial bases, within a suitably designed protective framework”…………

At a seminar last week, Democratic congressman Adam Smith, a ranking member of the House of Representatives armed services committee, also warned that while AUKUS was “a great idea, with a lot of promise” it “could also go bloop” unless some regulatory restrictions were eased.

And Mark Watson, the director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Washington office, suggested that “an AUKUS express lane is what we need” to avoid delaying or derailing the project due to the maze of red tape and complex US laws surrounding it.

But the regulatory hurdles are not the only difficulty the alliance faces.

One of the concessions Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy made this month to secure the speakership of the House of Representatives was a vote on a framework that caps discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels. Some fear that this could result in the US defence budget being cut in real terms, which Courtney warned “could have a very negative effect on AUKUS”.

Helping Australia acquire nuclear submarines will also test America’s submarine manufacturing industry, which has already been strained by the COVID pandemic.

January 21, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a good step towards a nuclear-free world

More than 100 federal parliamentarians have called on Canberra to fulfil this promise, as have hundreds more from around Australia, including in local government.

On this second anniversary of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’ entry into force, Australia must again take up the message of the Canberra Commissioners. Indeed, while Australia’s high-risk nuclear propelled submarine proposal clearly creates global proliferation concerns, by signing the TPNW Australia can demonstrate its non-proliferation commitments. By Marianne Hanson, Margaret Beavis, January 21 2023

January 22 marks the two-year anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a landmark agreement that made nuclear weapons illegal on the basis of international humanitarian law.

Yet the potential for nuclear war remains as great as ever.

Fears that the unthinkable might happen were raised most clearly last year when President Vladimir Putin implied that Russia would consider using ‘all forces and means’ necessary in its fight against Ukraine.

It reminded us of the Cuban missile crisis 60 years earlier, once again bringing to the fore the prospect that nuclear war was in fact quite thinkable.

Thankfully, no nuclear weapons have been used in this war, but we cannot be complacent. Deterrence cannot be relied on forever. If Russia (or the United States) were to use even one small “tactical” nuclear weapon, a greater conflagration could easily follow.

It is not only Putin who has threatened to use nuclear weapons; nor is it the case that nuclear dangers vanished after the Cuban crisis or even after the end of the Cold War.

The leaders of every one of the nine states which possess these weapons of mass destruction – Russia, the US, France, China, Britain, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – regularly signal that they would indeed use these weapons.

Their nuclear doctrines, the ongoing modernisation of their nuclear arsenals, their war-fighting practices and nuclear targeting all threaten the use of weapons which have the potential to kill millions and devastate the planet.

The end of the Cold War did nothing to reduce these dangers. While there was a period when goodwill between the major powers prevailed, and the US and Russia embarked on a program of reduction via the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties, in truth a window of opportunity was lost when the nuclear-armed states refused to move seriously to eliminate their nuclear arsenals completely.

At the time, Australia was at the forefront of calls for the total elimination of nuclear weapons; the Labor government’s Canberra Commission in 1996 put forward a sober and considered assessment of the utility of nuclear weapons.

Nineteen commissioners from around the world, including several military leaders from the US, Britain and elsewhere, concluded that nuclear arsenals had very little military utility, that their existence continued to threaten the world – via deliberate or accidental use – and that as long as any one state possessed nuclear weapons, other states would want them too.

As predicted, three more states have acquired these WMDs since the Cold War ended.

The Canberra Commission set out a comprehensive program to encourage the phased, balanced, mutual, and verified elimination of nuclear weapons. It did not call for unilateral disarmament, nor did it insist that this should happen overnight. But it did warn that dangers would increase if the world did not act to eliminate these most destructive of all weapons.

Several other organisations and think tanks around the world added to the Canberra Commission’s message in subsequent decades and the nuclear states made clear promises to disarm. But they have stalled in the process of disarmament and are, instead, making their existing arsenals even more destructive than they were before.

Thoroughly fed-up with this intransigence, more than 120 states at the United Nations in 2017 voted to adopt a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. The TPNW entered into force two years ago, and now has 92 state signatures.

Formed in Melbourne, the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear weapons (ICAN) was awarded the Nobel peace prize for its work in raising awareness of nuclear dangers and its contribution towards the new treaty. This was the first and only time that an Australian-born group has been awarded the Nobel peace prize.

ICAN’s work was premised on the history of banning other weapons considered to be inhumane, unjust, and uncivilised. Landmines have been banned and are hardly used at all today, a far cry from a few decades ago. Chemical and biological weapons have been banned, and any state that attempts to use them is immediately stigmatised and reprimanded.

In the same way, the TPNW is designed to stigmatise, delegitimise, and in time lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons. ICAN, the 92 governments which have signed, and people around the world who support nuclear disarmament understand that a legal instrument banning nuclear weapons is a necessary step in the move to a nuclear weapons-free world.

It might surprise readers to know that several prominent politicians and military leaders also support this goal; Henry Kissinger and William Perry from the US are notable advocates of disarmament; so too were Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Here in Australia, Labor promised at its 2018 and 2021 National Conferences that it will sign the TPNW when in government.

More than 100 federal parliamentarians have called on Canberra to fulfil this promise, as have hundreds more from around Australia, including in local government.

The call to eliminate nuclear weapons also finds strong support at the grassroots level in Australia; doctors and other health practitioners, environmental groups, trade unions, faith-based leaders, lawyers and others are calling on the government to sign the TPNW.

This is because banning and abolishing nuclear weapons is seen as a public health and humanitarian imperative. Our planet is worth preserving and human life should be valued. The Australian Red Cross as well as prominent Rotarians around the world are calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons, in the same way that they are working to eliminate polio and malaria.

On this second anniversary of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’ entry into force, Australia must again take up the message of the Canberra Commissioners. Indeed, while Australia’s high-risk nuclear propelled submarine proposal clearly creates global proliferation concerns, by signing the TPNW Australia can demonstrate its non-proliferation commitments.

A nuclear-free world requires visionary and bold leadership. It is a global public good. Signing the TPNW, and playing an active role internationally for balanced, phased and verified disarmament will be an excellent start.

  • Associate Professor Marianne Hanson and Dr Margaret Beavis are co-chairs of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Nobel peace prize 2017) Australia.

January 21, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The ‘all-of-the-above’ story used to sneak nuclear power in as a climate-action technology along with renewables .

“These claims are almost entirely misleading as you start looking at the facts”

Nuclear power gets another look in ‘all-of-the-above’ energy approach as climate worries mount

But critics cite safety concerns, costs and say widespread use of reactors is decades away.

Utility Dive. Jan. 20, 2023, Nuclear energy is increasingly getting another look by federal and state officials seeking to cut greenhouse gas emissions and bolster energy security………

A federal zero-emission nuclear power production credit, state legislation ending bans on nuclear plant construction and state policies easing development of small modular reactors, defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency as advanced nuclear reactors with a capacity of up to 300 MW, are among the recent developments spurring renewed interest in the industry.   

Detractors cite safety risks, rising costs and other concerns. Critics also caution that a significant increase in nuclear generation in the U.S. is years, maybe even decades, away……….

In the U.S…..nuclear electricity generation declined for a second consecutive year in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Output from nuclear power plants totaled 778 million MWh, or 1.5% less than in 2020. Nuclear’s share of U.S. electricity generation across all sectors in 2021 was similar to its average share in the previous decade: 19%.

As of November, seven units with a net summer capacity of 5,505 MW had retired since 2018, according to the EIA. The agency listed four Entergy plants: Palisades in Michigan; Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 in New York; and Pilgrim in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Also retired were two Exelon plants: Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and Oyster Creek in New Jersey and NextEra Energy’s Duane Arnold facility in Iowa.

In addition, California’s Diablo Canyon, which is slated to retire a unit in 2024 and another in 2025, could remain open with funding conditionally approved by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Federal money, state policies induce nuclear investment

The Inflation Reduction Act, which commits $369 billion for climate efforts, includes a zero-emission nuclear power production credit. It provides up to $15 a MWh for electricity produced, assuming labor and wage requirements are met.

The credit will be available for plants in service in 2024 and would extend through 2032, according to the DOE.

However, the fiscal year 2023 omnibus spending measure enacted last month cut funding for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy by $182 million from fiscal year 2022, to $1.47 billion. The FY 2023 spending includes $85 million for the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, $322 million for fuel cycle research and development, $114 million for accident tolerant fuels and $259 million for reactor research and development. 

Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said the $1.7 trillion spending bill includes “robust funding” for public-private partnerships and support for nuclear energy education and research infrastructure. But she said it “fell short” of $2.1 billion needed to bolster the domestic nuclear fuel supply.

Federal spending to provide incentives for nuclear energy development began before Congress and President Joe Biden approved the omnibus spending bill last year.

The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Biden signed into law in November 2021 includes $62 billion for clean energy projects. Spending was directed at advanced nuclear projects, preventing the premature retirement of nuclear plants and considering how nuclear power may produce hydrogen for other energy applications. 

In addition, states are looking to bolster nuclear power. Christine Csizmadia, senior director of state government affairs and advocacy at the NEI, said several states are broadening policies that aim to advance nuclear energy. Legislation supports studies of small modular reactors, providing tax incentives for nuclear power plant construction and ending moratoriums on new plants…………………………………………………………………………………..

The U.S. is not a ‘great market’ for new nuclear plants

Policies giving nuclear energy a boost have their limits. 

Bret Kugelmass, CEO of Last Energy a manufacturer of what it calls micro modular reactors that generate about 20 MW, is active in European markets. It’s announced 10 projects in Poland, two in Romania and has “some activity” in the U.K. that has yet to be publicly detailed, he said in an interview……………………………………

Next nuclear technology is seen as a decade away

Avi Brenmiller, president and CEO of Brenmiller Energy, a thermal energy storage manufacturer, said the next nuclear technology is 10 years away “to be safe and clean, and I don’t see the move yet.”…………………………………………………………

Critics say nuclear power is potentially dangerous and that its promoters are overly optimistic about construction schedules. 

Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said during the forum that nuclear power has the potential for a “catastrophic accident that could lead to large scale radiological contamination of the environment, massive economic damages and the potential for significant human health impacts.”

The industry cannot easily estimate the risks associated with storms, earthquakes and tidal waves as climate change makes weather more unpredictable, he said.

Even if a reactor is safe against accidents, it’s vulnerable to terrorists or military attacks as in Ukraine at the hands of Russia, Lyman said.

He questioned whether SMRs are easier to cool and are less radioactive than light water reactors “and therefore we don’t have to worry about it as much.”

“These claims are almost entirely misleading as you start looking at the facts,” he said.

Developers looking to reduce capital expenses and operating costs are cutting “rigorous requirements” for sites in or near populated urban centers or towns, Lyman said.

David Schlissel, director of resource planning analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, cited cost overruns and schedule delays in the nuclear power industry.

“We don’t need a transition from coal to nuclear,” he said at the Dec. 15 forum. “We’re already pretty far along a transition from coal and natural gas to renewables.”………………………

January 21, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ukraine war boon/boondoggle for U.S. arms makers, Pentagon’s warfighting capabilities

Anti-Bellum  January 20, 2023 Author: Rick Rozoff

Stocking Ukraine could generate foreign military sales boom

Replacing the military equipment transferred to Ukraine by the United States’ NATO allies could lead to roughly $21.7 billion in foreign military sales or direct commercial sales for American industry, according to research by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Military and Political Power.

….It would also enhance the quality of the weapons U.S. warfighters wield and strengthen U.S. defense industrial base capacity.

In addition to the $24.2 billion worth of security assistance the United States has committed (as of Jan. 6) to Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, other NATO members have contributed billions of dollars’ worth of equipment. It is difficult to calculate precisely the cumulative value because many countries, unlike the United States, do not publish detailed lists.

NATO countries (not including the United States) have cumulatively increased their real defense spending each year since 2015, and those levels of defense spending are likely to increase further….Poland, for example, is raising its defense spending from 2.2% of its gross domestic product to 3%, which will help Warsaw purchase more military equipment…………..

January 21, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ukraine: Is the Hammer About to Fall?


The plan to engage Russia militarily is a tacit admission that the United States can no longer maintain its global dominance through economic or political means alone. After exhaustive analysis and debate, western elites have settled on a course of action aimed at dividing the world into warring blocs in order to prosecute a war on Russia and China. The ultimate strategic objective of the current policy, is to tighten the grip of western elites on the levers of global power and to prevent the dissolution of the “rules-based international order.”

But after 11 months of nonstop warfare in Ukraine, the US-backed western coalition finds itself in a worse position than when it began. Aside from the fact that the economic sanctions have severely impacted Washington’s closest European allies, the West’s control of Ukraine has plunged the economy into a protracted slump, destroyed much of the country’s critical infrastructure and annihilated a sizable portion of the Ukrainian Army.

More importantly, Ukrainian forces are now suffering unsustainable casualties on the battlefield which is laying the groundwork for the inevitable splintering of the state. Whatever the outcome of the conflict may be, one thing is certain: Ukraine will no longer exist as a viable, independent, contiguous state.……………………………………………………………….

 The level of incompetence in the planning of this war is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. It appears that all the preparation was focused on provoking a Russian invasion, not on the developments that would happen soon afterwards. What’s clear, is that the Pentagon never “gamed out” the actual war itself or the conflict as it is presently unfolding. Otherwise, how does one explain these glaring errors in judgement:

  1. They never thought the sanctions would backfire
  2. They never thought they’d run out of weapons and ammo
  3. They never thought Russia’s oil receipts would skyrocket
  4. They never thought that the majority of countries would maintain normal relations with Russia
  5. They never figured they’d actually need a coherent military strategy for fighting a ground war in eastern Europe.

Is there anything they got right?

Not that we can see…………………………………………………………………………………………

Let’s summarize:

  1. The media is “overestimating the (effect of) Ukrainians’ regionally limited offensives”. In short, the Ukrainians are losing the war.
  2. The Russians are winning the war. (“The Russians are clearly advancing. They will probably have completely conquered the Donbass before long.”)
  3. Weapons alone will not change the outcome of the war. (“the martens and leopards are not enough.”)
  4. There is no evidence that the west has clearly defined strategic objectives. (“Do you want to achieve a willingness to negotiate with the deliveries of the tanks? Do you want to reconquer Donbas or Crimea? Or do you want to defeat Russia completely? There is no realistic end state definition. And without an overall political and strategic concept, arms deliveries are pure militarism…Military operations must always be coupled with attempts to bring about political solutions.”)

This is not just an indictment of the way the war is being conducted, but of the strategic objectives which remain murky and poorly-defined. NATO is being led around by the nose by Washington, but Washington has no idea what it wants to achieve. “Weakening Russia” is not a coherent military strategy. It is, in fact, an aspirational phantasm nurtured by hawkish neocons playing armchair generals. But that is why we are in the predicament we are today, because the policy is in the hands of deranged fantasists. Does anyone seriously believe that the Ukrainian army will recover the territories in east Ukraine that have been annexed by Russia?

No, no serious person believes that. And, yet, the illusion that the “plucky Ukrainians are winning” persists, even while the casualties mount, the carnage increases and millions of Ukrainians flee the country. It’s beyond belief…………………………………………

Remember the Powell Doctrine? “The Powell Doctrine states that a list of questions all have to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

The former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell developed his Doctrine to avoid any future Vietnams. And while the Biden administration has not yet committed US combat troops to Ukraine, we think it’s only a matter of time. After all, the media is already beating the war drums while demonizing all-things Russia. That is traditionally how they prepare the public for war. (“Russophobia … is all about dehumanizing one’s opponents to make killing more acceptable (and destroying) all the mental restraints that keep men from barbarism.” Gilbert Doctorow)

Meanwhile, the US continues to pump Ukraine full of weapons while the Pentagon has begun training Ukrainian servicemen in Germany and Oklahoma. It looks like the decision has already been made to embroil the US in another conflict for which there is no vital national security interest and no clear path to victory. In other words, the Powell Doctrine has been shrugged off and replaced with another lunatic neocon plan aimed at dragging Russia into a bloody “Afghanistan-type” quagmire that will drain its resources and prevent it from blocking US expansion into Central Asia.

And how is the neocon plan working so far?

Here’s what Colonel Douglas MacGregor said in a recent interview:

“There are now 540,000 Russian troops stationed around the outskirts of Ukraine preparing to launch a major offensive that I think will probably end the war in Ukraine. 540,000 Russian troops, 1,000 rocket artillery systems, 5000 armored fighting vehicles including at least 1,5000 tanks, hundreds and hundreds of tactical ballistic missiles. Ukraine is now going to experience war on a scale we haven’t seen since 1945.”

And if that wasn’t bleak enough, here’s more from a recent video with Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforou:……………………………..more

January 21, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Government steps in to pave way for wind addition to solar and hydro hybrid — RenewEconomy

Queensland government steps in to give priority to the wind component of Kidston clean energy hub, which will be the first to combine wind, solar and pumped hydro. The post Government steps in to pave way for wind addition to solar and hydro hybrid appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Government steps in to pave way for wind addition to solar and hydro hybrid — RenewEconomy

January 21, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

EPA details its carbon crackdown on industry, and fossil fuel generators are not happy — RenewEconomy

EPA unveils its carbon crackdown. Coal generators say it is all too much, and environmentalists say it is not nearly enough. The post EPA details its carbon crackdown on industry, and fossil fuel generators are not happy appeared first on RenewEconomy.

EPA details its carbon crackdown on industry, and fossil fuel generators are not happy — RenewEconomy

January 21, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Italian energy giant gets approval for “very first” solar and battery hybrid in Australia — RenewEconomy

Italian energy group says it has secured the “very first” approval for a solar farm and battery storage project to be connected at the same point in Australia. The post Italian energy giant gets approval for “very first” solar and battery hybrid in Australia appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Italian energy giant gets approval for “very first” solar and battery hybrid in Australia — RenewEconomy

January 21, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

January 20 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “This Is An Era Of Plentiful, Cheap, Renewable Energy, But The Fossil Fuel Dinosaurs Can’t Admit It” • It remains a mystery how a reputation for well-meant inadequacy clings to renewable energy. It can’t all be the result of fossil fuel industry lobbying. It’s one triumph after another in green energy. We just […]

January 20 Energy News — geoharvey

January 21, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment