Australian news, and some related international items

Isn’t it wonderful how the men in opposing political parties can unite in hate and belligerence?

It really is quite sweet to see,- in America, the Democrats and Republicans being friendly – “on the same page”. Same for Australia, where the Labor and Liberals are being lovely to each other

So good to see. It’s a bit of a pity that they fight each other so strongly about policies on health, education, welfare, environment – all those things that are crucial for the common good.

But now, and this really is very much a blokey thing, the opposing political parties are agreed hating China, and on the need to spend many, many billions of the taxpayers’ money on weapons, especially nuclear. (Australia’s nuclear submarines won’t have weapons, I hear your cry) Australia’s subs will be controlled by USA, secretly, like the Pine Gap facility – Australians won’t even know what’s on them.

Well, the blokes are good at business, too, and so are the bought females that are celebrated these days (think of Victoria Nuland, Jennifer Granholm, Penny Wong ). And, they are right. You couldn’t get a more reliable customer for your weapons business than the tax-payers, who have to just pay up, bindly. with no say in these $multibillion nuclear decisions made on their behslf.

March 16, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The case for AUKUS falls apart

Why now?

 Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong and Richard Marles could be forgiven today for feeling as if they had been sucker-punched by the mainstream mass media. After weeks of clamor for the most aggressive possible action against China, and cheers for the prospective AUKUS deal, we were suddenly treated to a string of stories that make the whole deal look like a disaster (which it is)
Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong and Richard Marles could be forgiven today for feeling as if they had been sucker-punched by the mainstream mass media. After weeks of clamor for the most aggressive possible action against China, and cheers for the prospective AUKUS deal, we were suddenly treated to a string of stories that make the whole deal look like a disaster (which it is)
First, there was the sudden discovery that submarines are going to become obsolete in the near future because their special power (effective invisibility) will be cancelled by underwater drones and improvements in satellite technology.Then, we had not one, but two, former Prime Ministers pointing out that the UK is not at all a reliable partner in the deal, given its own existential problems.

Finally, Peter Dutton helpfully offered bipartisan support on the cuts that will be needed to make room for this massive expenditure, nominating the NDIS as the prime target. Unsurprisingly, Bill Shorten wasn’t happy, but if PM Albanese and Treasurer Chalmers rejected the offer, I’ve missed the memo.

What’s striking is that all of these stories (apart from the direct quotes) could have been written at any time since the AUKUS deal was signed.

Here’s a story from 2020 on underwater drones, specifically contrasting them with the Virginia class submarines central to AUKUS. The RAN already has its own drones on order and is confident of their ability to make life very difficult for hostile submarines. This material isn’t hard to find – it was old news when I tweeted about it last year.

As for the UK, the fact that it is a declining force, irrelevant to our region, has been obvious for a long time, though apparently not to everyone. But if you read this response (ignore the headline and read the text) from Labour leader Keir Starmer, it’s obvious that AUKUS will be at the bottom of UK priorities once the Tories are out of office. Albanese was apparently more impressed by Rishi Sunak.

As for cutting NDIS, or some similarly important domestic program, it’s a matter of simple arithmetic. Labor came into office with a commitment to delivering a big tax cut to well-off households, while reducing a large deficit. Add in a gigantic weapons program and the implications are inescapable.

If the MSM had made some of these points a few months ago, we might have seen a more cautious approach from the Albanese government. As it is, they’ve made AUKUS their own, and will have to live with the consequences.

March 16, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Susanne Godden – submission to Senate – the principle of “First do no harm”means – don’t produce toxic nuclear waste.

I urge you to leave the ban in

First do no harm”.

There is no safe way to dispose of radioactive waste material as it remains radioactive for up to 100,000 years!

nuclear power is dangerous, expensive and will be too slow to make the
massive rapid changes necessary to deal with the heating climate emergenc

By Susanne Godden 12 December 2022
I am a concerned citizen from Western Australia, writing in defence of the existing ban on
nuclear power in Australia.
The reasons for my current view are:

“First do no harm”.
o There is no safe way to dispose of radioactive waste material as it remains radioactive for up to 100,000 years! The idea of barrels under the ocean, which must corrode after (at most) decades, is laughable. The only attempt at burial deep underground in America failed, with low-level radiationaffec ting people above ground.

o There is an unacceptable risk of accident on-site or during transfer from mine
to port.

o There is an assumption that Australia has lots of remote vacant land to mine uranium from, build nuclear plants on and dispose of unwanted waste, but this fails to consider indigenous people who live on country and retain deep spiritual ties to their ancestral homeland.

o We have limited ability to track nuclear materials. They could be used to make weapons in other countries that may not be our allies. Let’s aim for peace.

o Any nuclear facility could make Australia a military target.

o Please consider the legacies of Hiroshima & Nagasaki 1945, Three Mile Island
1979, Chernobyl 1986 and Fukushima 2011.

Renewable energy is faster and cheaper
o According to global scientists it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions urgently to prevent climate catastrophe.
o Nuclear power infrastructure would take decades to create.
o We have vast quantities of sun and wind to tap into, NOW.
o It does not make sense to start changing our laws to allow nuclear power,
then spend decades building infrastructure, when there is a cheaper and
faster alternative available. The small modular reactors that have been
suggested are not commercially available.

o Workers in the coal and gas industries can be transitioned to renewable
energy jobs for the future; they don’t need jobs in a nuclear industry which
would cause more problems overall.
 Unpopular
o Nuclear power is unpopular with most Australians.

In summary, nuclear power is dangerous, expensive and will be too slow to make the
massive rapid changes necessary to deal with the heating climate emergency.
I understand there is currently an energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine and increasing
energy prices, especially on the east coast of Australia, but I urge you to leave the ban in
place. Instead, we can reserve some energy supplies for locals once existing contracts end
and invest in renewable energy backed by battery technology.  energy

March 16, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear is the ‘most expensive form of electricity available to humans’: Plibersek

16 Mar 23,

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek says nuclear energy is the most expensive form of electricity “available to humans”.

“It would take years, potentially decades, to have a domestic nuclear energy arrangement,” Ms Plibersek told Sky News Australia.

“I don’t think anybody wants to live next door to a nuclear reactor.”

March 16, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Australia hasn’t figured out low-level nuclear waste storage yet – let alone high-level waste from submarines.

The Conversation, Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University, March 15, 2023 

.”……………. nuclear submarines mean nuclear waste. And for decades, Australia has failed to find a suitable place for the long-term storage of our small quantities of low and intermediate level nuclear waste from medical isotopes and the Lucas Heights research reactor.

With this deal, we have committed ourselves to managing highly radioactive reactor waste when these submarines are decommissioned – and guarding it, given the fuel for these submarines is weapons-grade uranium.

Where will it be stored? The government says it will be on defence land, making the most likely site Woomera in South Australia.

What nuclear waste will we have to deal with?

Under this deal, Australia will not manufacture nuclear reactors. The US and later the UK will give Australia “complete, welded power units” which do not require refuelling over the lifetime of the submarine.

In this, we’re following the US model, where each submarine is powered by a reactor with fuel built in. When nuclear subs are decommissioned, the reactor is pulled out as a complete unit and treated as waste.

An official fact sheet about this deal states Australia “has committed to managing all radioactive waste generated through its nuclear-powered submarine program, including spent nuclear fuel, in Australia”.

What does this waste look like? When Virginia-class submarines are decommissioned, you have to pull out the “small” reactor and dispose of it. Small, in this context, is relative. It’s small compared to nuclear power plants. But it weighs over 100 tonnes, and contains around 200 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, which is nuclear weapons-grade material.

So, when our first three subs are at the end of their lives – which, according to defence minister Richard Marles, will be in about 30 years time – we will have 600kg of so-called “spent fuel” and potentially tonnes of irradiated material from the reactor and its protective walls. Because the fuel is weapons-grade material, it will need military-scale security.

Australia has no long-term storage facility

There’s one line in the fact sheet which stands out. The UK and US “will assist Australia in developing this capability, leveraging Australia’s decades of safely and securely managing radioactive waste domestically”.

This statement glosses over the tense history of our efforts to manage our much less dangerous radioactive waste.

For decades, the Australian government has been trying to find a single site for disposal of low-level radioactive waste. …………………………………..

 The most recent plans to locate a dump at Kimba, on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is still bogged down in the legal system due to opposition by local communities and First Nations groups.

And we’re still dithering about what to do with the intermediate level waste produced by the OPAL research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney. At present, spent fuel is sent to France for reprocessing while nuclear waste is now being returned to Australia, where it is held in a temporary store near the reactor.

This waste needs to be permanently isolated from ecosystems and human society, given it will take tens of thousands of years for the radiation to decay to safe levels.

Our allies have not figured out long-term waste storage either

But while Sweden and Finland are building secure storage systems in stable rock layers 500 metres underground, neither the UK nor the US have moved beyond temporary storage.

UK efforts to manage waste from decommissioned nuclear submarines is still at the community consultation stage. At present, high-level waste from sub reactors is removed and taken to Sellafield, a long-established nuclear site near the border with Scotland. But each submarine still holds around one tonne of intermediate level waste, which, according to the UK government, has to be temporarily stored until a long-term underground storage facility is built some time after 2040.

In the US, spent fuel and intermediate waste from nuclear submarines is still in temporary storage. ………. nuclear waste from their military and civilian reactors is just piling up with no long-term solution in sight. Successive administrations have kicked the can down the road, assuring the public a permanent geological disposal site will be developed some time in the future.

This should be concerning. To manage the waste from our proposed nuclear submarines properly, we’ll have to develop systems and sites which do not currently exist in Australia.

In 2016, South Australia’s Royal Commission on nuclear fuel suggested Australia’s geological stability and large areas of unpopulated land would position us well to act as a permanent place to store the world’s nuclear waste.

This hasn’t come to pass in any form. An almost intractable problem is that any proposed site will be on the traditional land of a First Nations group. Every site suggested to date has been opposed by its Traditional Owners.

What if we send the high-level waste overseas for processing and bring it back as less dangerous intermediate waste? It’s possible, given it’s what we already do with waste from the OPAL reactor. But that still leaves us with the same problem: where do you permanently store this waste. That’s one we haven’t solved in the 70 years since Australia first entered the nuclear age with our original HIFAR reactor at Lucas Heights.

March 16, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes | Leave a comment

Are these wildly expensive nuclear-powered submarines really in Australia’s best interests?

The Monthly, By Rachel Withers 15 Mar 23, As is often the case in politics, the ABC comedy Utopia skewered the situation years ago. In an episode in which the government decided to spend a mind-boggling amount on defence, the gathered strategists would not specify why, and agreed only to nod along when Tony deduced that China was the target, our trade routes were what needed protecting, and that China was our largest trading partner.

“So under this scenario, we’re spending close to $30 billion a year to protect our trade with China… from China,” Tony surmised. In the case of the AUKUS deal, it’s quite clear that China is who we are looking to counter. But it’s still not entirely clear why we are sinking $368 billion into submarines that will, as The Betoota Advocate quips, “halt China’s invasion by 14 hours”. Is it really in Australia’s strategic interests to be poking the dragon, permanently aligning ourselves with the US against a power we could never actually defend ourselves against?  Is China really enough of a threat to us that we need to spend $368 billion? Are these wildly expensive nuclear subs necessary, or prudent? Shouldn’t we, I dunno, talk about this a little more before signing away our collective future?

Doubts are continuing to swirl around AUKUS, not least because, as the ABC’s Matt Bevan observes, Australia is “buying stuff to protect us from China, using essentially all the money we get from exporting stuff to China” (“to protect ourselves from missiles made from our raw materials,” added Alan Kohler)……………………………..

Turnbull wasn’t the only former PM refusing to be swept up in the excitement. Former Labor leader and major AUKUS critic Paul Keating did not hold back at the National Press Club today, labelling it the “worst international decision” by his party since Billy Hughes tried to introduce conscription, with several kicks at Penny Wong and Richard Marles, and some vicious comments about the UK and US leaders for good measure.

………………………….. Other experts, meanwhile, have blasted the fact that the AUKUS deal directly benefits the US and the UK governments while Australia takes the main strategic risk; others reckon that our massive subs outlay would be better spent closer to home. “A more sensible approach might be for the AUKUS partners to negotiate with China on an arms control agreement to cap the number of regional nuclear submarines and avoid a hugely expensive arms race for all concerned,” wrote Clive Williams, a former military intelligence officer in the army and a visiting fellow at the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. It’s not that far off The Shovel’s suggestion, which is that we “just pay China $300 billion not to invade”, saving $68 billion.

…………. the fact is, as Curran writes today, “the Morrison and Albanese governments have never fully explained the strategic assessments underpinning AUKUS”. There are serious questions to be asked of this $368 billion deal, including why Scott Morrison, the father of AUKUS, decided to embark on it, and whether it really is in our best interests to pursue. It’s not quite spending $30 billion a year to protect our trade with China from China, as Utopia put it. But we’re certainly going to be spending billions each year to send a message to China, and it remains unclear what exactly that message will be……………………

March 16, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment