Australian news, and some related international items

Global warming influence on extreme weather events has been frequently underestimated

March 23, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Coronavirus posing a safety threat to Britain’s nuclear facilities

NFLA 20th March 2020, The unprecedented public health crisis that is associated with the global outbreak and spread of coronavirus is affecting all communities across the UK and Ireland. NFLA has specific concerns around its impact on the sensitive nuclear sector. In the past few days, the Sellafield site has announced that its Magnox reprocessing site operations will be suspended after workers on the facility tested positive for coronavirus.

A Daily Mail report has also suggested there could be as many as 20 positive cases of
coronavirus on the HM Nuclear Base Clyde, where Trident submarines hosting the UK’s nuclear weapons programme are stationed. The Daily Mail report suggests as well that a quarantining facility is to be built on the Faslane site. As independent nuclear policy consultant David Lowry has commented:

“This raises the question of how well protected are our critical national nuclear installations – including nuclear submarine bases, nuclear weapons manufacturing plants such as AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield near Reading in Berkshire and civil nuclear power plants and associate nuclear fuel chain facilities such as Sellafield in Cumbria and Capenhurst in
Cheshire – from being overwhelmed by a rapid spread of a virus without any known antidote vaccine?”

March 23, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Meet the Climate Science Deniers Who Downplayed COVID-19 Risks


March 23, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

6 Ways Trump’s Denial of Science Has Delayed the Response to COVID-19 (and Climate Change)

6 Ways Trump’s Denial of Science Has Delayed the Response to COVID-19 (and Climate Change)  Misinformation, blame, wishful thinking and making up facts are favorite techniques.  Katelyn Weisbrod,  20 Mar 20

 The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for rigorous science, demonstrating—in realtime—what the consequences can be when world leaders pay inadequate attention to what that science says. In his response to COVID-19, Presdient Donald Trump has made statements that ignore, question or distort mainstream science. But long before the virus arrived—even before he became president—he was using similar techniques to deny climate change. Here are some examples:

Wishing Away the Science. 

Coronavirus Feb. 28, 2020     “[Coronavirus is] going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.” 

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview on CNN that the virus was likely here to stay, possibly for months.

Climate Change   September 2015“I’m not a believer in global warming, I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. It could be warming and it’s gonna start to cool at some point.”

 The scientific consensus is clear that global warming is happening and is a threat to the planet; The New York Times illustrates the basics of global warming and climate change here.

Misusing Scientific Data  

Coronavirus  Feb. 10, 2020  “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do—you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat—as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though.”

Some coronaviruses are seasonal. But scientists still don’t know whether the virus that causes COVID-19 will be. Findings of a recent study suggest that the virus is spreading most readily in cooler temperature zones, The Washington Post reports; however, the study does not conclude from that evidence that the virus will be significantly reduced in the summer. 

Climate Change   Nov. 11, 2019  “You know, I actually heard the other day, some pretty good politician. I’ve seen him around for a long time. Nice white hair. Everything is like central casting. You could put the guy in a movie. He was talking. I don’t know if he believes this—but he was a Democrat—he said, ‘We have 11 years.’ It’s the first time I’ve heard it; I heard 12. But now, see, it’s been a year, so now they think we have 11 years to live. I don’t know, folks. I think these people have gone totally loco.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report in 2018 that said global carbon emissions would need  to be cut by 45 percent by 2030 to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This does not mean we have 11 years to live, as Trump asserted, but rather 11 years to shift energy production away from fossil fuels to keep warming within the goals of the Paris accord. 

Making Stuff Up

Coronavirus  March 6, 2020  “Anybody that needs a test can have a test. They are all set. They have them out there. In addition to that they are making millions more as we speak but as of right now and yesterday anybody that needs a test that is the important thing…”

Contrary to Trump’s assertion, patients and health care workers were complaining that they could not get access to coronavirus tests. A few days later, testifying to a House committee, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged tests were not yet widely available. “The idea of anybody getting it

easily the way people in other countries are doing it—we’re not set up for that,” he said.

Climate Change  Sept. 4, 2019 In September, 2019, Trump showed the press an image of Dorian’s projected trajectory that had apparently been altered using a Sharpie to include Alabama in the path of the storm.

Earlier, Trump had tweeted that Alabama would probably be hit by Hurricane Dorian. The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, then contradicted the president with a tweet saying Alabama was not at risk. Trump used the altered image a few days later. 

Blaming China  

Coronavirus  March 18, 2020 on Twitter  “I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China—against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!” 

Trump has been urged to stop calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus,” a term he has used repeatedly and that some have called racist and dangerous. And many public health experts have criticized the administration’s lack of preparation and failure to act quickly when the virus was first recognized.

Climate Change  Nov. 6, 2012 on Twitter

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

There is a widespread scientific consensus about the reality of human-driven global warming. 

Blaming the Democrats  

Coronavirus  Feb. 28, 2020 “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it … And this is their new hoax.”

By this time, the U.S. had confirmed 60 cases of coronavirus. The CDC had already warned the public to prepare for the virus to spread, assuring them that this was not a hoax.

Climate Change  Sept. 11, 2019   “Over 100 Democrats have signed up to support the $100 trillion Green New Deal. That’s a beauty. No more cows. No more planes. I guess, no more people, right?”

Washington Post fact check shows that the Green New Deal resolution supported by most Democrats did not include mention of halting air travel or doing away with cows.

Ignoring Expert Advice  

Climate Change  Nov. 26, 2018, Commenting to reporters on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report saying climate change would hurt the economy.

“I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, it’s fine. Yeah, I don’t believe it.”

The report, produced by climate experts and Trump’s own administration, said climate change would damage the economy.

Coronavirus  March 13, 2020 during a press conference on the coronavirus. Trump is seen shaking hands with Walgreens president Richard Ashworth, despite CDC warnings that shaking hands can spread the virus and recommending elbow bumps instead.

March 23, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Coronavirus is scary. Secret, silent, radioactive pollution is also scary

Regina McKenzie Fight To Stop A Nuclear Waste Dump In South Australia, 20 Mar 20, 

Please take note, people are in a panic over the corona virus, yes it is scary, yes it may kill you, but the silence of putting radioactive waste dump in a farming community is ignored? They can find a cure for the virus, but the radioactive poisoning is a true death sentence, no coming back from that, and the surrounding environment is at risk to, so people really think on that, do you really want to dance with the risk of radioactive poisoning, a incurable disease? A disease that can be genetically passed on, once it affects the your genetic make up your descendants will definitely inherit it, so is it worth it?

March 21, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Paul R. Ehrlich: A pandemic, planetary reckoning, and a path forward

The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing environmental destruction and the deterioration of social and cultural systems into sharp focus. But we can learn from this.

In addition to great concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m also disappointed.

For more than half a century, scientists have been expressing concern over the deterioration of what I like to call the “epidemiological environment.” That environment consists of the constellation of circumstances that influence patterns of disease and factors related to health.

It includes such things as population sizes and densities, diets, speed and type of transportation systems, toxics, climate disruption, frequency of human-animal contacts, availability of medical isolation facilities, stockpiles of medicines, vaccines, and medical equipment.

The epidemiological environment also includes cultural norms: levels of education, equity in societies, competence of leadership. Few aspects of the human predicament do not impinge on our epidemiological environment…….

Climate disruption is the best recognized of contemporary health threats, but the decay of biodiversity, and “updating” the American nuclear triad as part of the Russian-United States’ “mutually assured imbecility” are among the most critical.

Those, at least, are not obvious to the average citizen or decision-maker, but what about others such as increased flows of plastics and toxics (especially synthetic hormone mimicking compounds) into the global environment?

Everyone knows about volumes of plastics in waste streams and oceans and has personal experience with the thermal paper receipts coated with bisphenol-A (BPA), yet little to no remedies have been undertaken.

Indeed, why are there so few effective responses to the epidemics and the maladies of industrial civilization?…….

Educational systems have given up any pretense of supplying leadership to society or informing people about what is coming down the track. Faculty members discuss “sustainability” in major universities that will not even divest from fossil fuel stocks.

Can the absence of a draft alone explain the difference between the ferment in universities during the Vietnam War and the quiet today with the situation a million times worse?

Once again, population size and growth are major factors in this human dilemma – maybe Homo sapiens shouldn’t have tried to organize itself into groups exceeding the Dunbar number, which anthropologist Robin Dunbar showed was about 150 people, the size of hunter-gatherer groups. He also showed that’s roughly the size of groups in which human beings are comfortable today.

Rethinking resources

Where could all the money come from to make the changes to preserve civilization? That’s one of the challenges for the economists who today are operating in a perpetual-growth fairyland.

Much depends on the course of events and whether the debt pyramid collapses. One obvious step, however, is repurposing the military. When Anne and I were working with them on nuclear winter issues, we were greatly impressed by the intelligence and ethics of some of the field-grade officers with whom we were involved.

The military is already way ahead of the present civilian government in addressing existential threats like climate disruption. Various military units have already been deployed to deal with emergencies ranging from pandemics to hurricanes, and there is no reason why they cannot be used to help in tasks ranging from building medical isolation facilities to small-scale affordable housing for the homeless.

Allocation of resources is part of the epidemiological environment. The gigantic amounts of money wasted on such nearly useless toys as nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, main battle tanks, and air superiority jet fighters could be redirected toward rebuilding infrastructure such as sewage systems, modernized electric grids and water-handling networks, and on and on.

The same can be said for the other funds and activities used for decades to support (often clandestinely) U.S. state terrorism that has cumulatively killed millions since the second World War.

Is all this impractical, pie-in-the-sky, never-happen stuff? Sure.

But nothing is more impractical than civilization trying to continue business as usual as it circles the drain.

The current pandemic disaster may end up damping down consumerism and improving the environment – there are reports of the lethal smog usually blanketing some Chinese cities clearing during pandemic lockdowns.

Maybe there’s some chance that people are learning lessons.

We can always hope.

Paul Ehrlich is the Bing Professor of Population Studies, Emeritus and President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford.

March 21, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Coronavirus Stimulus Plans Are An Opportunity for Bold Climate Action

Coronavirus Stimulus Plans Are An Opportunity for Bold Climate Action, Expert Says, 19 Mar 20 Governments and financial institutions should incorporate climate change action into their COVID-19 economic recovery plans, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, told Climate Home News. Stimulus packages, he argues, should focus on large-scale investments in things like clean energy, battery storage, and carbon capture-and-storage technologies.

“I am talking with several governments and international financial institution leaders because they are all busy designing stimulus programs for the economy,” Birol said in an interview. “We can use the current situation to step up our ambition to tackle climate change… This is a huge opportunity we cannot miss. Here the issue is not only the level of [stimulus] money, but the direction of the money.

Birol’s argument comes amid news that the coronavirus has forced the cancellation or postponement of several major climate, scientific, and environmental meetings. Policy experts warn that many countries, particularly developing nations, may not have enough time to produce tougher climate targets ahead of international climate talks in Glasgow in November. In addition, the Trump administration is considering bailout packages for the fossil fuel and aviation industries, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“This is a historic opportunity for the world to, on one hand, create packages to recover the economy, but on the other hand, to reduce dirty investments and accelerate the energy transition,” Birol said

March 21, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Pandemics may come, with loss of biodiversity, loss of wild habitat

March 19, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

“Peaceful” and military nuclear reactors always inextricably linked

Anne McMenamin Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch Australia, 19 Mar 20,   . I’m referring to the structural links between the commercial and military uses of nuclear reactors, and, to some extent, the way THEY see it – which doesn’t always line up with the technical realities. History shows that the 2 industries have been inextricably linked from the beginning.

“Great efforts have been and still are made to disguise the close connection between nuclear energy for war and for power stations. Two reasons are suggested for this: political convenience in avoiding additional informed protests against nuclear weapon production and industrial convenience in carrying on without public protest what has become a very profitable industry.”
Sir Kelvin Spencer CBE FCGI LLD (HON)
First issue of Medicine and War, in 1985

Similarly, a document from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in August, 1981, states:
“There is no technical demarcation between the military and civilian reactor and there never was one. What has persisted over the decades is just the misconception that such a linkage does not exist.”
“Some Political Issues Related to Future Special Nuclear Fuels Production,”
LA- 8969-MS, UC-16

In 2013, historian Dr David Palmer said,
“The issue is processing uranium for nuclear power that then can be used for defence. You have to understand this in terms of Adelaide; it’s a military, industrial and intelligence complex.”
Palmer was commenting on the notable push for nuclear energy and nuclear submarines coming from numerous academics and business people in Adelaide. He considered the real motive behind the nuclear push is security in energy supply for the military, and hence the need to solve the problem of waste disposal, which is currently discouraging investment in nuclear power. Major military/weapons corporations such as Raytheon, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root, Lockheed Martin, Babcock and General Atomics are now a noticeable presence in the SA economy.
Links can be clearly seen, e.g. Heathgate, which owns the Beverley mine, is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Atomics, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturer/servicer.

March 19, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

The Hazards of Tritium

tests for statistical significance have been misused in epidemiological studies on cancers near nuclear facilities. These in the past have often concluded that such effects do not occur or they downplayed any effects which did occur. In fact, copious evidence exists throughout the world – over 60 studies – of raised cancer levels near NPPs.

Most (>75%) of these studies found cancer increases but because they were small, their findings were often dismissed as not statistically significant. In other words, they were chucked in the bin marked “not significant” without further consideration.

Just as people were misled about tobacco smoking in previous decades, perhaps we are being misled about raised cancers near NPPs nowadays.

The Hazards of Tritium, Dr Ian Fairlie, March 13, 2020


Nuclear facilities emit very large amounts of tritium, 3H, the radioactive isotope of hydrogen.  Much evidence from cell/animal studies and radiation biology theory indicates that tritium is more hazardous than gamma rays and most X-rays. However the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) continues to underestimate tritium’s hazard by recommending  a radiation weighting factor (wR) of unity for tritium’s beta particle emissions.  Tritium’s exceptionally high molecular exchange rate with hydrogen atoms on adjacent molecules makes it extremely mobile in the environment. This plus the fact that the most common form of tritium is water, ie radioactive water, means that, when tritium is emitted from nuclear facilities, it rapidly contaminates all biota in adjacent areas. Tritium binds with organic matter to form organically bound tritium (OBT) with long residence times in tissues and organs making it more radiotoxic than tritiated water (HTO). Epidemiology studies indicate increases in cancers and congenital malformations near nuclear facilities. It is recommended that nuclear operators and scientists should be properly informed about tritium’s hazards; that tritium’s safety factors should be strengthened; and that a hazard scheme for common radionuclides be established. Continue reading

March 19, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

USA Small Nuclear Reactors clearly meant for military use, and Australia is involved

If the testing goes well, a commercially developed, Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed reactor will be demonstrated on a “permanent domestic military installation.
“We always talk with our partners and allies about collaboration… particularly with [National Technology and Industrial Base] countries — U.K., Canada, Australia. “
Pentagon awards contracts to design mobile nuclear reactor Defense News 

By: Aaron Mehta    March 9  WASHINGTON— The Pentagon on Monday issued three contracts to start design work on mobile, small nuclear reactors, as part of a two-step plan towards achieving nuclear power for American forces at home and abroad.

The department awarded contracts to BWX Technologies, Inc. of Virginia, for $13.5 million; Westinghouse Government Services of Washington, D.C. for $11.9 million; and X-energy, LLC of Maryland, for $14.3 million, to begin a two-year engineering design competition for a small nuclear microreactor designed to potentially be forward deployed with forces outside the continental United States. Continue reading

March 19, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Dr Ian Fairlea on Epidemiological Evidence of Cancer Risks

The Hazards of Tritium, , Dr Ian Fairlie, March 13, 2020   “……….Epidemiological Evidence of Risks Because of methodological limitations, epidemiology studies are a blunt tool for discovering whether adverse effects result from radiation exposures. These limitations include:

  • under-ascertainment, …
  • strict data requirements….
  • confounding factors: the true causes of morbidity or mortality can be uncertain due to confounding factors such as socio-economic status and competing causes of death.
  • bias: ……
  • poor signal to noise…..
  • uncertain doses:……
  • wide confidence intervals……
Many epidemiology studies are ecologic studies, that is, quick inexpensive studies which look at health statistics in tables and notate individual data. Their findings are usually regarded as indicative, but not conclusive. If their findings suggest an adverse effect then these should be investigated further by more detailed cohort or case-control studies. The latter match “cases” (i.e. those with an adverse health effect) with randomly-selected similar individuals without an adverse effect, in order to minimise under-ascertainment. However few of these are actually carried out because of their expense and long time-spans. Sometimes they are not carried out for political reasons because findings of increased cancers are not welcome.
A disconcerting finding is that a substantial number of epi studies near NPPs conclude there are no findings of ill health even though positive increases were in fact observed. That is, the researchers were unable to accept the evidence of their own work. It is difficult to comment on this cognitive dissonance (few studies seem to exist on this phenomenon) but it is apparently often due to unacknowledged biases or to group-think re the impossibility for ill-health effects to exist near nuclear facilities. In their conclusions, such authors have discounted their findings using a variety of reasons ………
However there is a serious problem here. If similarly increased health effects had been observed near, say, a lead smelting factory or an asbestos mine, would they be dismissed by referring to these rationales? I rather doubt it. In other words, what is occurring here is that hidden biases in favour of nuclear power are in play. In my view, such conflicts of bias should be declared at the outset just as conflicts of interest are nowadays.

The Abuse of Statistical Significance Tests

Many epi studies of cancer near NPPs have found increased risks but dismissed them as not “statistically significant”. This wording often misleads lay readers into thinking that a reported increase is unimportant or irrelevant. But, in statistics, the adjective “significant” is a specialist word used to convey a narrow meaning, ie that the likelihood of an observation being a fluke is less than 5% (assuming a p = 5% test were used). It does not mean important or relevant.
Also this phrase is usually employed without explaining that the chosen significance level is quite arbitrary. There is no scientific justification for using a 5% level or any other test level: it is merely a matter of convenience. In other words, it is quite possible for results which are “not significant” when a 5% test is applied, could become “significant” when a 10% or other test level were used.
The existence of this practice has historical parallels. In the 1950s, dozens of health studies financed by tobacco companies acted to sow seeds of doubt about the health effects of cigarette smoking for many years. Continue reading

March 19, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet  

How a small nuclear war would transform the entire planet  

As geopolitical tensions rise in nuclear-armed states, scientists are modelling the global impact of nuclear war., Nature,     Alexandra Witze,  18 Mar, 20, 

It all starts in 2025, as tensions between India and Pakistan escalate over the contested region of Kashmir. When a terrorist attacks a site in India, that country sends tanks rolling across the border with Pakistan. As a show of force against the invading army, Pakistan decides to detonate several small nuclear bombs.

The next day, India sets off its own atomic explosions and within days, the nations begin bombing dozens of military targets and then hundreds of cities. Tens of millions of people die in the blasts.

That horrifying scenario is just the beginning. Smoke from the incinerated cities rises high into the atmosphere, wrapping the planet in a blanket of soot that blocks the Sun’s rays. The planet plunges into a deep chill. For years, crops wither from California to China. Famine sets in around the globe.

This grim vision of a possible future comes from the latest studies about how nuclear war could alter world climate. They build on long-standing work about a ‘nuclear winter’ — severe global cooling that researchers predict would follow a major nuclear war, such as thousands of bombs flying between the United States and Russia. But much smaller nuclear conflicts, which are more likely to occur, could also have devastating effects around the world. Continue reading

March 19, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Nuclear-powered submarines – fraught with legal and political problems

The article below is not about Australia, but it is about small nuclear reactors. Everybody knows, (just quietly) that Australia won’t be getting small nuclear reactors for providing electricity. The real aim is for nuclear-powered submarines.  So this article, about the legal and political problems of nuclear reactors for Defence is applicable to Australia, too


March 17, 2020 Posted by | General News | 2 Comments

The “reconstruction Olympics” will not hide the radioactive and social mess that is Fukushima

Forgetting Fukushima, Jim Green, Online Opinion, 17 March 2020,

Last Wednesday marked the ninth anniversary of the meltdowns, fires and explosions that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011.

Two years after the disaster, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee that “the situation is under control” in and around the stricken plant. Now, with the 2020 Summer Olympics approaching, and some events scheduled to be held in Fukushima prefecture, all sorts of irresponsible and cruel tactics are being used to bury a myriad of social and environmental problems associated with the nuclear disaster.

Most evacuation orders have been lifted around the Fukushima plant, but 337-371 sq kms remain classified as restricted entry zones or ‘difficult to return’ zones. There are hopes that all remaining evacuation orders could be lifted within a few years.

Lifting an evacuation order is one thing, returning the area to something resembling normality is quite another. Only 23% of those living in nine areas that were declared off-limits after the Fukushima disaster had returned as of March 2019, according to government figures. Most people aged under 50 who used to live in the towns of Futaba, Namie and Tomioka have no plans to return, an official survey found in early 2019.

The partial lifting of evacuation orders in the town of Okuma in April 2019 illustrates how the rhetoric of progress masks inconvenient truths. Even after the lifting of the order, about 60% of the town’s land area – covering 96.5% of the pre-Fukushima population – remains off-limits. A 2018 survey found that only 10% of respondents expressed a desire to return to Okuma, while 60% had no plans to return. Few people have returned since the evacuation order was lifted.

About 17 million cubic metres of contaminated waste material has accumulated during decontamination work according to the Japanese Ministry of the Environment. A new occupant in Okuma is a ‘temporary storage facility‘ for some of the contaminated waste.

Contamination Continue reading

March 17, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment