Australian news, and some related international items

The importance of strengthening the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC)

On April 2, environmentalists across Australia met online, in a webinar focussed on the EPBC Act.   The federal government is holding a Review of the  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act , with Submissions due by 9th April.

The Conservation Council of Western Australia, and Nuclear Free WA hosted the webinar.  The case of the Yeelirrie uranium project was discussed, as a case especially relevant to the EPBC Act.  As it turns out, the EPBC is weak, in relation to having power over this project. It relies on the Western Australian EPA for the relevant decision.  Extraordinarily, in this case, the EPA advised against the project. However, the Environment Minister at the time, overrode this advice, and approved the project anyway.

Piers Verstagen, of CCWA, outlined the history of CCWA’s work in holding the Wester Australian EPA’s assessments to account. The  Yeelirrie uranium project would threaten the extinction of up to 11 stygofauna, which are tiny groundwater species. The EPA therefore did not recommend the project. However, in approving the project , the Minister also inserted a clause into the legislation, which now will allow the extinction of any species.  CCWA has challenged that approval. The project has not proceeded.

But – this Yeelirrie case is a fine example of the reasons why the EPBC Act needs to be strengthened, not weakened. Weakening the Act is the goal of the Mining Council and others, who seek unfettered development of mining and other polluting projects.

Ruby Hamilton pointed out the need for Australia’s Environmental Protection Act to relate to international treaties on environment.

Annica Schoo  described ways in which the Act should be strengthened, emphasising that:

  • We need to keep  the right for 3rd parties to challenge bad decisions.
  • We need an independent authority to administer the EPBC Act.
  • WE need way more transparency in the way that the Act is used


April 4, 2020 Posted by | environment, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Outlandish claims made by Byron Shire Councillors, (Greens!!) promoting mobile Small Nuclear Reactors

What a strange article!   The claims made about these “mobile small nuclear reactors” are completely fanciful. These reactors do not exist, are just in the planning stage for use by U.S. military.  Even more fanciful , the article’s claim – “the pilot scheme, which will attract multi-million dollar grants.”.   Just where are these grants to come from?   The cash-strapped Australian government?  The Russians? The Americans? The Chinese?  This entire magical unicorn the Small Nuclear Reactor business is quite unable to attract investors. It’s only hope is to be funded by the tax-payer.  I note these unnamed Green proponents talk about “spreading the risk fairly among the population” – and still think it’s just fine.  So they understand that there’s a risk of dangerous radiation – a very strange attitude for a supposedly environmental group. 

What could go wrong?    April 1, 2020 | by Echonetdaily, Mobile 100MW nuclear power plants have been proposed by the NSW National Party.

The latest miniaturisation technology that has seen electronic circuitry reduced from physical nodes to nanoscale impulses in quantum space has had astounding impacts on the relatively macroscale equipment needed to generate nuclear power. Such equipment has become so small it is now possible to build bus-sized nuclear reactors that can be deployed, as needed, to address gaps in the power grid.

Byron’s Greens councillors have indicated support for the proposal, and hope to involve the Shire in the early stages of the pilot scheme, which will attract multi-million dollar grants. A spokesperson for the local Greens said nuclear plants are not only less polluting than coal fired power stations, but being mobile means they spread the risk fairly among the population.

State and federal Greens later issued a statement disassociating themselves, ‘as always’, from Byron Shire councillors.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | New South Wales, politics, technology | Leave a comment

Climate threat underlies the pandemic emergency

April 2, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Big swings to the Greens in Brisbane wards elections

Greens celebrate record swings in Brisbane wards, Brisbane Times by Lucy Stone March 30, 2020  While the final results for Brisbane City Council’s election are still days away, the Greens are already celebrating a powerful swing towards them in several LNP-held wards, as well as a strong boost in incumbent Jonathan Sri’s ward, The Gabba.As the Electoral Commission of Queensland continued the vote count on Monday, after a website glitch saw few early numbers uploaded on Saturday night, Cr Sri said he had seen a swing of about 17 per cent to the Greens in his ward……

Cr Sri said the shutdown of ordinary life due to the coronavirus pandemic meant the Greens could no longer doorknock, their most effective campaign strategy, and had to rely on telephoning prospective voters instead. ….

March 31, 2020 Posted by | politics, Queensland | Leave a comment

Nuclear front group Energy Policy Institute joins with NuScam to promote Small Nuclear Reactors to Australia

US urges Australia to consider nuclear , THE AUSTRALIAN,   ADAM CREIGHTON, ECONOMICS EDITOR, 30 Mar 20

A top Trump administration ­official has urged Australia to join the US in researching and building small “modular” nuclear reactors.Suzanne Jaworowski, chief of staff and senior adviser at the US Department of Energy, said about 45 companies in the US were working on small modular reactors and one could be built in Australia by the mid-2020s

“You could have up to 12 reactor modules each producing 60MW, even more reliably than coal and gas,” she told The Weekend Australian, recommending business and government work with NuScale Power, which is building an SMR in Idaho.

“They are at a point where they could work with a country like Australia,” she said.

Australia’s prohibition on ­nuclear energy, in force since the late 1990s, was “unfortunate”, she said. The growing push for zero emissions by mid-century could only be achieved with nuclear power, on current technology……

A federal inquiry into nuclear power suggested a partial reversal of the 1998 legislative ban on ­nuclear energy late last year. In NSW, state One Nation leader Mark Latham and state Nationals leader John Barilaro are pushing to dump a similar state ban.

Ms Jaworowski, who had to cancel a planned trip to Australia this year because of the corona­virus, said nuclear energy faced a “perception problem”. …… Ms Jaworowski said nuclear energy in the US could be supplied from small modular reactors at about $55 a MwH, “which is very competitive with other forms of energy”.

Liddell coal power station in NSW, with 2000MW capacity, is scheduled to close in 2023. The federal government, which has said lifting the nuclear ban would require bipartisan support, is putting together a “technology road map” to ensure large cuts in carbon emissions by 2050.

Ms Jaworowski said nuclear energy in the US could be supplied from small modular reactors at about $55 a MwH, “which is very competitive with other forms of energy”.

The Energy Policy Institute said the US, Russia and China were in a three-way contest to dominate the global nuclear generation market with SMRs. “The nuclear competition will be good for Australia because we need greater energy security than we’ve got at present,” institute executive director Robert Pritchard said.

March 30, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

A major scorecard gives the health of Australia’s environment less than 1 out of 10

March 30, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

With the pandemic, and the bushfires, we now must strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC)

in the immediate term we need to advocate for vital improvements to the EPBC. It is extraordinary that the Howard legacy of deliberately excluding a project’s climate impacts from the triggers to require assessment still hasn’t been remedied. That must now be fixed, as must the fact that there is no mechanism for assessing the cumulative ecological impacts of various proposals. After this summer’s destruction of huge areas of remaining healthy ecosystems, we need to institute, in both legislation and the practice of assessment, a presumption of protection instead of a culture of managed destruction.

March 28, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Submission re National Waste Dump Bill: Flawed process: the pretense that this National issue is just a Local issue

March 26, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Tax-payers funded Matt Canavan’s expensive trip to attend coalmine opening

Matt Canavan billed taxpayers $5,390 for charter flight to attend coalmine opening

The former resources minister used the occasion to give a speech attacking ‘self-indulgent’ environmentalists,  Guardian, Christopher Knaus, Wed 25 Mar 2020 

The former resources minister Matt Canavan billed taxpayers for a $5,390 charter flight to travel 150km to attend the opening of a coalmine, where he gave a speech attacking “self-indulgent” environmental activists.

Canavan took the private charter flight from Mackay to Colinsville, a three-hour drive, so he could get to the opening of the $1.76bn Byerwen mine in north Queensland.

At the opening, Canavan gave a speech attacking what he described as “hypocritical, self-indulgent activists” holding back the dreamers of the mining industry…….

The most recent parliamentary expense reports, released last week, show Canavan later billed taxpayers for the $5,390 charter flight ….. The expense was listed as “unscheduled travel” by the independent parliamentary expenses authority and the finance department…….

The expense is roughly the same as that incurred by the former Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop, who chartered a $5,227 helicopter for a return trip from Melbourne to a golf course near Geelong for a Liberal party function.

Canavan quit as minister last month to support Barnaby Joyce’s bid to return to the leadership position. He has described himself as running on an “unashamedly pro-coal” platform.

The Guardian previously reported that Canavan had omitted two properties worth more than $1m from his current declaration of interests to parliament. He declared “nil” interests in real estate despite owning two houses in Yeppoon, Queensland and Macquarie in Canberra.

Canavan said he was not required to declare the interests to the 46th parliament because they’d been declared to the previous parliament, an argument that conflicts with official advice.


March 26, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

The lingering horror of the nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga

March 24, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Morrison govt’s emergency measures are a massive subsidy to Australia’s largest corporations.

March 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics | Leave a comment

Coronavirus: How deadly and contagious is this COVID-19 pandemic? 

March 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

A nuclear power station is inappropriate for the Central Coast


March 23, 2020 Posted by | New South Wales, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

National Radioactive Waste Management must come clean. Kimba is the start of continued high level nuclear waste dumping

Eyre Peninsula Tribune, March 4th 2020 , GARY CRUSHWAY
I write in response to a recent letter (Happy to answer questions raised, Letters to the Editor, February 20) from Sam Chard of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.
In this letter some claims are made in regards to intermediate and high level radioactive waste that I would like to address.
The National Radioactive Waste Management Facility will be accepting radioactive waste from the UK and from France.
The waste from the UK is material processed at the Sellafield (formerly Windscale) facility in Cumbria.
In a statement recorded in UK Parliament hansard (Written Question 10476) it is stated “The vitrified residue (sealing of radioactive waste in molten glass poured in engineered stainless steel containers) comes from Sellafield” – Sellafield processes only high level radioactive waste.
What this means is that High Level Waste, waste material from UK power generation, is put into containers and reclassified due to being in this container – If you wrap an apple in plastic and put it into a box, it is still an apple.
This means that it is reasonable to say that the NRWMF is being utilised as a part of the disposal process for high level radioactive waste generated in the UK, a situation recently voted against during an extensive public consultation on international radioactive waste in South Australia.
It is also a clever use of words to argue that “Australia produces no high level radioactive waste”.
The material produced at Lucas Heights and sent overseas for “processing” to remove useable Plutonium and Uranium is not classified by Australia as “waste” despite it being a byproduct that Australia can not utilise, and it being very certainly highly radioactive.
If a future government in France decides to end the stream of radioactive waste received from Australia, Australia will then be generating this material without a facility to either process or dispose of it.
It does not take a stretch of the imagination to guess where the likely destination of this material would be in these circumstances, even if “temporarily” while the decades-long process of finding a high level waste facility is begun.
The NRWMF process is based around short term thinking and misleading terminology.
Australia needs to be honest about the consequences of heading down the road of becoming a radioactive waste producing nation, and we need a full review of the entire process, rather than a piecemeal solution to the relatively minor issue of low level waste management, that sidesteps and misleads the public about the full scale of the issues we face now and the possibilities of an unknown future.

March 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a silly scheme

The carbon capture con, Online Opinion, By Viv Forbes  19 March 2020

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) tops the list of silly schemes to reduce man-made global warming. The idea is to capture carbon dioxide from power stations and cement plants, separate it, compress it, pump it long distances and force it underground, hoping it will never escape………

The quantities of gases that CCS would need to handle are enormous and capital and operating costs will be horrendous. For every tonne of coal burnt in a power station, about 11 tonnes of gases are exhausted – 7.5 tonnes of nitrogen from the air used to burn the coal, plus 2.5 tonnes of CO2 and one tonne of water vapour from the coal combustion process….., CCS also requires energy to produce and fabricate steel and erect gas storages, pumps and pipelines and to drill disposal wells. This will chew up more coal resources and produce yet more carbon dioxide, for zero benefit.

But the real problems are at the burial site – how to create secure space for the CO2 gas.

There is no vacuum occurring naturally anywhere on earth – every bit of space is occupied by solids, liquids or gases. Underground disposal of CO2 requires it to be pumped AGAINST the pressure of whatever fills the pore space of the rock formation now – either natural gases or liquids. These pressures can be substantial, especially after more gas is pumped in.

The natural gases in rock formations are commonly air, CO2, CH4 (methane) or rarely, H2S (rotten egg gas). The liquids are commonly salty water, sometimes fresh water or very rarely, liquid hydrocarbons.

Pumping out air is costly; pumping natural CO2 out to make room for man-made CO2 is pointless; and releasing rotten egg gas or salty water on the surface would create a real problem, ……

Then there is the dangerous risk of a surface outburst or leakage from a pressurised reservoir of CO2. The atmosphere contains 0.04% CO2 which is beneficial for all life. But a CCS reservoir would contain +90% of this heavier-than-air gas – a lethal, suffocating concentration for nearby animal life if it escaped. ….


March 21, 2020 Posted by | climate change - global warming | Leave a comment