Australian news, and some related international items

The vastly different way that bushfires are experienced by Aboriginal people

Strength from perpetual grief: how Aboriginal people experience the bushfire crisis, The Conversation, January 10, 2020 , Bhiamie Williamson, Research Associate & PhD Candidate, Australian National University, Jessica Weir, Senior Research Fellow, Western Sydney University, Vanessa Cavanagh, Associate Lecturer, School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of WollongongHow do you support people forever attached to a landscape after an inferno tears through their homelands: decimating native food sources, burning through ancient scarred trees and destroying ancestral and totemic plants and animals?

The fact is, the experience of Aboriginal peoples in the fire crisis engulfing much of Australia is vastly different to non-Indigenous peoples.

Colonial legacies of eradication, dispossession, assimilation and racism continue to impact the lived realities of Aboriginal peoples. Added to this is the widespread exclusion of our peoples from accessing and managing traditional homelands. These factors compound the trauma of these unprecedented fires.

As Australia picks up the pieces from these fires, it’s more important than ever to understand the unique grief Aboriginal peoples experience. Only through this understanding can effective strategies be put in place to support our communities to recover.

Perpetual grief

Aboriginal peoples live with a sense of perpetual grief. It stems from the as-yet-unresolved matter of the invasion and subsequent colonisation of our homelands…….

Aboriginal people have watched on and been ignored as homelands have been mismanaged and neglected.

Oliver Costello is chief executive of Firesticks Alliance, an Indigenous-led network that aims to re-invigorate cultural burning. As he puts it:

Since colonisation, many Indigenous people have been removed from their land, and their cultural fire management practices have been constrained by authorities, informed by Western views of fire and land management……

Aboriginal peoples’ cultural identity comes from the land.

As such, Aboriginal cultural lives and livelihoods continue to be tied to the land, including landscape features such as waterholes, valleys and mountains, as well as native animals and plants.

The decimation caused by the fires deeply impacts the existence of Aboriginal peoples and in the most severe hit areas, threatens Aboriginal groups as distinct cultural beings attached to the land. As The Guardian’s Indigenous affairs editor Lorena Allam recently wrote:

Like you, I’ve watched in anguish and horror as fire lays waste to precious Yuin land, taking everything with it – lives, homes, animals, trees – but for First Nations people it is also burning up our memories, our sacred places, all the things which make us who we are………

Resilience in the face of ongoing trauma

The long-term effects of colonisation has meant Aboriginal communities are (for better or worse) accustomed to living with catastrophic changes to their societies and lands, adjusting and adapting to keep functioning.

Experts consider these resilience traits as integral for communities to survive and recover from natural disasters……..

If agencies and non-government organisations responsible for leading the recovery from these fires aren’t well-prepared, they risk inflicting new trauma on Aboriginal communities.

The National Disability Insurance Agency offers an example of how to engage with Aboriginal people in culturally sensitive ways. This includes thinking about Country, culture and community, and working with each community’s values and customs to establish respectful, trusting relationships.

The new bushfire recovery agency must use a similar strategy. This would acknowledge both the historical experiences of Aboriginal peoples and our inherent strengths as communities that have not only survived, but remain connected to our homelands.

In this way, perhaps the bushfire crisis might have some positive longer-term outcomes, opening new doors to collaboration with Aboriginal people, drawing on our strengths and values and prioritising our unique interests.

January 11, 2020 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

Uncle Kevin warns that the people, and the lizard are fighting back against BHP and its uranium mine

The Lizard’s Revenge  Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste In The Flinders Ranges. 30 Dec 19,

Uncle Kevin “The lizard has had enough and so have the people. And the old country has been ruined, devastated by BHP.
In 2020, we’ll be having serious meetings on the Borefield road, somewhere near Canegrass swamp.
BHP is one of the biggest miners in the world and Olympic dam at Roxby is the biggest uranium mine in the world. They are fully supported by the federal and state governments.
At Canegrass swamp people were tricked by WMC who started this development. We could not do anything about it back then in the 70s and 80s.
Olympic dam development is taking 42m litres of sacred artesian water from the Lake Eyre basin each day. This is going to be expanded to 50m litres per day for the next 25 years. We must stop this now.
Native title and ILUAS have made it harder for us. Our people are being tricked and this has been devastating for the Arabunna people who don’t want their land destroyed.
I am calling out for all people land and water protectors concerned about global warming and environmental destruction to come and help.
The lizard has had enough, come and help us close Roxby down. Dates will be announced, we’re thinking of June/July 2020.

BHP at Roxby are sucking the blood out of the land – the water of the great Lake Eyre basin.
And BHP wants more.
They are killing us.
Turning our mob against each other as they fight over the crumbs of the destruction.
Greed is poison. Their lust for the poison will kill us all unless we take a stand.
Lake Eyre is talking. Be aware.
Are u listening?

December 30, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia | Leave a comment

Traditional Aboriginal owners will not give up fight against planned WA uranium mine, despite legal loss

December 5, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, legal, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Determined Aboriginal opposition to plan for Federal Nuclear Waste dump in rural South Australia

National waste dump: Aboriginal groups share support as ballot closure approaches,, Amy Green, 21 Nov 19,

November 21, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment

Aboriginal group votes against nuclear dump, but government department warns that they cannot veto it

Barngarla ballot shows “no support” for facility, Rachel McDonald 20 Nov 19,

The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) have announced the result of a separate ballot on the two proposed Kimba sites for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF).

The BDAC recently conducted a confidential postal ballot of its members through independent ballot agent Australian Election Company, asking voters the same question posed to residents of the Kimba District Council area in a ballot which concluded earlier this month.

The Kimba district ballot returned a 61.58 per cent ‘yes’ vote and 38.42% ‘no’ vote.

Of 209 eligible voters in the BDAC ballot, all Barngarla native title holders, 83 valid ‘no’ votes were counted, with zero yes votes returned.

The BDAC board said the result showed native title holders were not supportive of the facility.

“This unanimous “No” vote demonstrates that there is absolutely no support at all within the Barngarla community for the NRWMF,” the board said in a statement.

The BDAC has written to resources minister Matt Canavan advising him of the result.

“BDAC has requested that given the first people for the area unanimously have voted against the proposed facility that the minister should immediately determine that there is not broad community support for the project,” the board said.

“In light of this total rejection of the NRWMF by the Barngarla people, it is BDAC’s responsibility to continue to give voice to the profound concerns Barngarla traditional owners have regarding the NRWMF, and to take whatever steps are necessary to oppose the NRWMF being located on Barngarla Country.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said the ballot would be considered alongside other consultation.

“We will consider the results of the Barngarla’s own ballot alongside the ballot of people who live in Kimba, as well as submissions received, neighbour and business surveys, and direct feedback including at our drop-in offices over several years.

“The department has said on numerous occasions that the facility will only be delivered alongside a community that broadly supports it, that no single metric or number will determine the level of support, and that no one group or individual will have a right to veto the facility.

The spokesperson said the minister and the department had been working closely with relevant Indigenous representative groups throughout the consultation process and had previously offered to finance a ballot.

“Those conversations are in some instances ongoing.

“With respect to heritage, while native title on both of the Kimba sites has been extinguished, expert heritage consultants were engaged by the department to conduct an independent desktop assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage, and confirmed no registered heritage sites in or surrounding them.”

Community submissions on the proposed facility will remain open until December 12.

November 21, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment


NUCLEAR WASTE DEBATE DIVIDING COMMUNITIES Fight To Stop Nuclear Waste Dump In Flinders Ranges SA  The Transcontinental November 06, 2019, My name is Ken McKenzie. The Flinders Ranges and Port Augusta have always been my home. I now reside in Flinders House in Quorn.

I wish to say that the radioactive waste dump being proposed for our region is going to be very dangerous for all of us and for generations to come if it is allowed to go ahead.

This is something for all South Australians both black and white to be involved in as it will have an effect one way or another on every one of us.

The area where they want to put this dump is on my tribal land. My ancestors are buried here.

The area also holds a huge connection to our women as this is their land overall. The government do not listen when we say we don’t want it.

The earthquakes and flooding stories told to me in our language goes back into time itself.

This is not the place for a radioactive waste dump. If the Lord doesn’t come down in the next few years, this is going to be a threat to all of us and our future generations to come.

I am also very concerned for people over at Kimba who are going thru the same grief that’s happening to us and my family over here.

The money the government are throwing at us, trying to get us to forfeit our land is insulting and disrespectful to us all.

They have divided my family and our communities, and now we hear that without the much more dangerous intermediate radioactive waste being dumped here as well, that there is hardly any value to the community for putting it here.

Why didn’t they tell the communities all this in the first place. We didn’t want it four years ago and we certainly don’t want it now.

This whole process needs to be scrapped and the government needs to look at a new way to get people to ever trust them again.


November 11, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, personal stories | Leave a comment

Maralinga nuclear test site used to house thousands of people, now there’s just three

Maralinga nuclear test site used to house thousands of people, now there’s just three, ABC North and West SA , By Gary-Jon Lysaght and Samantha Jonscher

Between 1956 and 1963, when the British government tested nuclear weapons in outback South Australia, Maralinga was home to thousands of soldiers and scientists.

The land was taken from its traditional owners, the Maralinga Tjarutja, before an official hand back in 2009.

Now, Oak Valley to the north is the largest Aboriginal community on the Maralinga Tjarutja lands.

But the former military test site itself is home to three people — two caretakers and a tour guide…….

October 21, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia | Leave a comment

Barkindji people have title to Darling River area – but their river is dying, killed by drought, and whiteys’mismanagement

Indigenous community say they’ve lost their culture to water mismanagement, SBSThis is the final part in a series of reports from communities along NSW’s Darling River that have been impacted by water mismanagement and drought. BY ANEETA BHOLE 18 Oct 19,  An Aboriginal community in rural NSW fears their culture may be lost, as dry conditions and low river flows threaten the future of the Darling River.

The Barkindji people have lived, hunted and passed down their oral history on the banks of the Darling for more than 40,000 years.

Now the river is drying up due to over-extraction by irrigation upstream and drought.

The community’s fears surfaced at a recent corroboree in the small town of Wilcannia, which was once a thriving Murray-Darling River port.

The Yaama Ngunna Barka corroboree had been travelling to towns along the river from Walgett to Menindee. The corroboree have been travelling to towns in outback New South Wales in a bid to raise awareness about the plight of the Darling river.

‘Dead water’

Lilliana Bennett can still recall her grandmother talking about taking the family down the riverbank to fish and hunt for goanna. The river was a place of safety and community for her family.

“It’s a place they go to relax, to tell stories,” she told SBS News.

“For me, it’s been really devastating, I mean we went down and camped by the river where there’s still a bit of water around and it just doesn’t have the same feeling, it’s dead water.”…….

With water levels at an all-time low and the drought continuing to ravage the region, native animals have also started to disappear from the river banks. Many with spiritual significance. …….

The Barkindji community fought for Native Title of the land – covering 128,000 square kilometres — from Wentworth at the Victorian border to near Wanaaring in the state’s north-west, including Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Menindee, Pooncarie and Dareton.

They started the claim in 1997 and won two decades later, but many have said without water flowing in the river they feel robbed. …….

Case for change

Last month, the National Resources Commission (NRC) released an independent report looking into the water-sharing plan of the Barwon-Darling River system.

The system takes in the the Barwon River, from upstream of Mungindi at the confluence of the Macintyre and Weir rivers, to where the Barwon meets the Culgoa River.

At this point the river channel becomes the Darling River and the Barwon–Darling system extends downstream to the Menindee Lakes.

It found that provisions that allow increased access to low flows resulted in poor ecological and social outcomes downstream of Bourke, including the town of Wilcannia where part of the Barkindji community live.

The NRC has made 17 recommendations, including one which has called for stricter regulation of when irrigators, including cotton farmers, can pump water from the river……….  HTTPS://WWW.SBS.COM.AU/NEWS/INDIGENOUS-COMMUNITY-SAY-THEY-VE-LOST-THEIR-CULTURE-TO-WATER-MISMANAGEMENT

October 19, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

‘Up to $12,000 owing to Adnyamathanha girl’: Grandmother

‘Up to $12,000 owing to Adnyamathanha girl’: Grandmother, Transcontinental, Greg Mayfield 4 Sep 19

September 6, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

Queensland extinguishes native title over Indigenous land to make way for Adani coalmine

Queensland extinguishes native title over Indigenous land to make way for Adani coalmine

Palaszczuk government did not announce decision Wangan and Jagalingou people say makes them trespassers on their own land,  Guardian,  Ben Doherty @bendohertycorro, Sat 31 Aug 2019  The Queensland government has extinguished native title over 1,385 hectares of Wangan and Jagalingou country for the proposed Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – without any public announcement of the decision.

The decision could see Wangan and Jagalingou protesters forcibly removed by police from their traditional lands, including lands used for ceremonies.

W&J Council leader Adrian Burragubba, and a group of Wangan and Jagalingou representatives, had been calling on the government to rule out transferring their land, arguing they had never given their consent for Adani to occupy their country.

In a meeting with government officials Friday, seeking a halt on leases being issued for mine infrastructure, they learned the state government had instead granted Adani exclusive possession freehold title over large swathes of their lands on Thursday, including the area currently occupied for ceremonial purposes.

“We have been made trespassers on our own country,” Burragubba said. “Our ceremonial grounds, in place for a time of mourning for our lands as Adani begins its destructive processes, are now controlled by billionaire miner Adani.

“With insider knowledge that the deal was already done, Adani had engaged Queensland police and threatened us with trespass.”

To mine any land under a native title claim, a miner needs an Indigenous land use agreement, essentially a contract that allows the state to extinguish native title.

Adani has a ILUA over the land: five of the 12 native claimants have opposed it, but have lost successive legal challenges in court to prevent it. Seven, a majority, of the native title claimants support the Adani mine.

Burragubba and a group of supporters set up camp on the land ahead of its legal transfer to Adani. He said they will refuse to leave.

He said a notice received by the council said their country “is to be handed over to Adani on 3 August 2019”. The notice also says “Adani will request the assistance of police to remove Mr Burragubba and his supporters from the camp”.

Burragubba, whom Adani has bankrupted over costs from legal challenges, said his group would not abandon their protest nor quit their lands.

“We will never consent to these decisions and will maintain our defence of country,” he said. “We will be on our homelands to care for our lands and waters, hold ceremonies and uphold the ancient, abiding law of the land.” ……..

Australian governments will give $4.4bn in effective subsidies to Adani’s Carmichael coal project, which would otherwise be “unbankable and unviable”, new analysis reported this week has found.

The Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis concluded that the project would benefit from several Australian taxpayer-funded arrangements – including subsidies, favourable deals and tax concessions – over its 30-year project life.

It said the project would be further supported by public handouts, tax breaks and special treatment provided to Adani Power, the proposed end-user of the thermal coal in India.

“If these subsidies were not being provided, Adani’s Carmichael thermal coalmine would be unbankable and unviable,” the IEEFA report said……..

September 1, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Queensland | 1 Comment

Indigenous landowner challenges Sussan Ley’s decision for coal mine

Legal challenge over Sussan Ley’s decision to put potential mining jobs at Shenhua Mine before cultural heritage, ABC News, By Indigenous affairs correspondent Isabella Higgins and Sarah Collard  25 Aug 19, A family fighting to defend their traditional country from mining are suing Environment Minister Sussan Ley after she rejected their heritage protection bid in favour of a controversial Chinese coal project.

Key points 

  • Environment Minister is being sued for rejecting heritage protection in favour of a proposed coal mine
  • Lawyers say it could be an important test case if the decision is found to be unlawful
  • Traditional owners fear important sacred sites will be destroyed if the mine goes ahead

Last month, the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians failed in a bid to have sacred sites in north-west New South Wales preserved and protected from development due to cultural importance.

The land near Gunnedah had already been earmarked for the $1.2 billion Shenhua Watermark Coal Mine, which gained conditional federal approval in 2015 and has state development consents.

Ms Ley rejected their application on the grounds that the potential jobs generated from the mine were more important than cultural preservation.

She acknowledged the project could cause “mental health impacts … a sense of dislocation, displacement and dispossession,” among Indigenous people, but determined the social and economic value of the project took priority.

On behalf of the Gomeroi people, traditional owner Dolly Talbott has launched legal action against Ms Ley, with the case due before court for the first time on Wednesday.

She is being represented by the NSW Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) which will argue that the minister’s decision was “unlawful” and contravenes the constitutional basis of the heritage protection act.

“If we don’t try to save these sites, then we are not fulfilling our obligations to our elders and our ancestors … and our children and grandchildren,” Ms Talbott said.

“[The national Indigenous heritage laws] are supposed to be there for the protection of Aboriginal culture and it doesn’t seem to be working.”……

Benefits of mine outweigh destruction of heritage: Minister

When deciding on the intervention request, Ms Ley acknowledged the mine would result in the “likely destruction of parts of their Indigenous cultural heritage”.

“I considered that the expected social and economic benefits of the Shenhua Watermark Coal Mine outweighed the impacts on the applicants [Gomeroi people]” she said in the rejection document seen by the ABC…….

The Minister has the final say on which applications receive protection status, under the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act. …….

Shenhua development courts controversy

This legal battle is the latest saga, in a long-running series of controversies involving the mine.

It sparked vehement protests in recent years, with farmers, environmentalists and Indigenous groups all fiercely opposed to the development.

They have raised concerns about how the mine will impact groundwater and wildlife and whether it’s economically viable.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce previously labelled the project “ridiculous” after his own government approved the mine, which falls in his New England electorate.

The NSW Government bought back half of the company’s mining exploration license in 2017, at a cost of $262 million, which at the time it said was to protect prime farming land.

Winning this case would mean Gomeroi people can continue to teach their children culture on country, Ms Talbott said.

“The stories of the land that we continue to tell our children today, and hopefully these sites are still there so they can tell their children.

August 27, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, legal, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Bankrupted traditional owner vows to keep opposing Adani

Bankrupted traditional owner vows to keep opposing Adani,  SBS, 16 Aug 19, A Queensland traditional owner forced into bankruptcy by Adani after failed legal actions says it means nothing to him.  A traditional owner forced into bankruptcy by Adani after numerous failed legal actions against them has vowed to continue to speak out against its Queensland coal mine.

Wangan and Jagalingou man Adrian Burragubba was formally bankrupted in the Federal Court in Brisbane on Thursday.

Mr Burragubba’s property will be held until $600,000 in legal costs are paid to the miner following unsuccessful legal attempts to stop the Galilee Basin project……

August 17, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Queensland | Leave a comment


Friends of the Earth Australia Statement August 2019 

  1. Introduction 2. Nuclear Power Would Inhibit the Development of More Effective Solutions 3. The Nuclear Power Industry is in Crisis 4. Small Modular Reactors 5. Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Nuclear Winter 6. A Slow Response to an Urgent Problem 7. Climate Change & Nuclear Hazards: ‘You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.’ 8. Nuclear Racism 9. Nuclear Waste 10. More Information 
  2. Introduction 

Support for nuclear power in Australia has nothing to do with energy policy – it is instead an aspect of the ‘culture wars‘ driven by conservative ideologues (examples include current and former politicians Clive Palmer, Tony Abbott, Cory Bernardi, Barnaby Joyce, Mark Latham, Jim Molan, Craig Kelly, Eric Abetz, and David Leyonhjelm; and media shock-jocks such as Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin). With few exceptions, those promoting nuclear power in Australia also support coal, they oppose renewables, they attack environmentalists, they deny climate change science, and they have little knowledge of energy issues and options. The Minerals Council of Australia – which has close connections with the Coalition parties – is another prominent supporter of both coal and nuclear power. 

In January 2019, the Climate Council, comprising Australia’s leading climate scientists and other policy experts, issued a policy statement concluding that nuclear power plants “are not appropriate for Australia – and probably never will be”. The statement continued: “Nuclear power stations are highly controversial, can’t be built under existing law in any Australian state or territory, are a more expensive source of power than renewable energy, and present significant challenges in terms of the storage and transport of nuclear waste, and use of water”. 

Friends of the Earth Australia agrees with the Climate Council. Proposals to introduce nuclear power to Australia are misguided and should be rejected for the reasons discussed below (and others not discussed here, including the risk of catastrophic accidents). 

  1. Nuclear Power Would Inhibit the Development of More Effective Solutions 

Renewable power generation is far cheaper than nuclear power. Lazard’s November 2018 report on levelised costs of electricity found that wind power (US$29‒56 per megawatt-hour) and utility-scale solar (US$36‒46 / MWh) are approximately four times cheaper than nuclear power (US$112‒189 / MWh). 

A December 2018 report by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator concluded that “solar and wind generation technologies are currently the lowest-cost ways to generate electricity for Australia, compared to any other new-build technology.” 

Thus the pursuit of nuclear power would inhibit the necessary rapid development of solutions that are cheaper, safer, more environmentally benign, and enjoy far greater public support. A 2015 IPSOS poll found 

that support among Australians for solar power (78‒87%) and wind power (72%) is far higher than support for coal (23%) and nuclear (26%). 

Renewables and storage technology can provide a far greater contribution to power supply and to  climate change abatement compared to an equivalent investment in nuclear power. Peter Farley, a fellow of the Australian Institution of Engineers, wrote in January 2019: “As for nuclear the 2,200 MW Plant Vogtle [in the US] is costing US$25 billion plus financing costs, insurance and long term waste storage. For the full cost of US$30 billion, we could build 7,000 MW of wind, 7,000 MW of tracking solar, 10,000 MW of rooftop solar, 5,000MW of pumped hydro and 5,000 MW of batteries. That is why nuclear is irrelevant in Australia.” 

Dr. Ziggy Switkowski ‒ who led the Howard government’s review of nuclear power in 2006 ‒ noted in 2018 that “the window for gigawatt-scale nuclear has closed”, that nuclear power is no longer cheaper than renewables and that costs are continuing to shift in favour of renewables

Globally, renewable electricity generation has doubled over the past decade and costs have declined sharply. Renewables account for 26.5% of global electricity generation. Conversely, nuclear costs have increased four- fold since 2006 and nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation has fallen from its 1996 peak of 17.6% to its current share of 10%. 

As with renewables, energy efficiency and conservation measures are far cheaper and less problematic than nuclear power. A University of Cambridge study concluded that 73% of global energy use could be saved by energy efficiency and conservation measures. Yet Australia’s energy efficiency policies and performance are among the worst in the developed world. 

  1. The Nuclear Power Industry is in Crisis 

The nuclear industry is in crisis with lobbyists repeatedly acknowledging nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis”, a “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West” and “the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries”, while noting that “the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies” and engaging each other in heated arguments about what if anything can be salvaged from the “ashes of today’s dying industry”. 

It makes no sense for Australia to be introducing nuclear power at a time when the industry is in crisis and when a growing number of countries are phasing out nuclear power (including Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Taiwan and South Korea). 

The 2006 Switkowski report estimated the cost of electricity from new reactors at A$40–65 / MWh. Current estimates are four times greater at A$165‒278 / MWh. In 2009, Dr. Switkowski said that a 1,000 MW power reactor in Australia would cost A$4‒6 billion. Again, that is about one-quarter of all the real-world experience over the past decade in western Europe and north America, with cost estimates of reactors under construction ranging from A$17‒24 billion (while a reactor project in South Carolina  was abandoned after the expenditure of at least A$13.3 billion). 

Thanks to legislation banning nuclear power, Australia has avoided the catastrophic cost overruns and crises that have plagued every recent reactor project in western Europe and north America. Cheaper Chinese or Russian nuclear reactors would not be accepted in Australia for a multitude of reasons (cybersecurity, corruption, repression, safety, etc.). South Korea has been suggested as a potential supplier, but South Korea is slowly phasing out nuclear power, it has little experience with its APR1400 reactor design, and South Korea’s ‘nuclear mafia‘ is as corrupt and dangerous as the ‘nuclear village‘ in Japan which was responsible for the Fukushima disaster. 

  1. Small Modular Reactors 

The Minerals Council of Australia claims that small modular reactors (SMRs) are “leading the way in cost”. In fact, power from SMRs will almost certainly be more expensive than power from large reactors because of diseconomies of scale. The cost of the small number of SMRs under construction is exorbitant. Both the private sector and governments have been unwilling to invest in SMRs because of their poor prospects. The December 2018 report by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator found that even if the cost of power from SMRs halved, it would still be more expensive than wind or solar power with storage costs included (two hours of battery storage or six hours of pumped hydro storage). 

The prevailing scepticism is evident in a 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on the insights of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers. They predict that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”. 

No SMRs are operating and about half of the small number under construction have nothing to do with climate change abatement – on the contrary, they are designed to facilitate access to fossil fuel resources in the Arctic, the South China Sea and elsewhere. Worse still, there are disturbing connections between SMRs, nuclear weapons proliferation and militarism more generally. 

  1. Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Nuclear Winter 

“On top of the perennial challenges of global poverty and injustice, the two biggest threats facing human civilisation in the 21st century are climate change and nuclear war. It would be absurd to respond to one by increasing the risks of the other. Yet that is what nuclear power does.” ‒ Australian

Nuclear power programs have provided cover for numerous covert weapons programs and an expansion of nuclear power would exacerbate the problem. After decades of deceit and denial, a growing number of nuclear industry bodies and lobbyists now openly acknowledge and even celebrate the connections between nuclear power and weapons. They argue that troubled nuclear power programs should be further subsidised such that they can continue to underpin and support weapons programs. 

For example, US nuclear lobbyist Michael Shellenberger previously denied power–weapons connections but now argues that “having a weapons option is often the most important factor in a state pursuing peaceful nuclear energy”, that “at least 20 nations sought nuclear power at least in part to give themselves the option of creating a nuclear weapon”, and that “in seeking to deny the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, the nuclear community today finds itself in the increasingly untenable position of having to deny these real world connections.” 

Former US Vice President Al Gore has neatly summarised the problem: “For eight years in the White House, every weapons-proliferation problem we dealt with was connected to a civilian reactor program. And if we ever got to the point where we wanted to use nuclear reactors to back out a lot of coal … then we’d have to put them in so many places we’d run that proliferation risk right off the reasonability scale.” 

Running the proliferation risk off the reasonability scale brings the debate back to climate change. Nuclear warfare − even a limited, regional nuclear war involving a tiny fraction of the global arsenal − has the potential to cause catastrophic climate change. The problem is explained by Alan Robock in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “[W]e now understand that the atmospheric effects of a nuclear war would last for at least a decade − more than proving the nuclear winter theory of the 1980s correct. By our calculations, a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan using less than 0.3% of the current global arsenal would produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history and global ozone depletion equal in size to the current hole in the ozone, only spread out globally.” 

Nuclear plants are also vulnerable to security threats such as conventional military attacks (and cyber-attacks such as Israel’s Stuxnet attack on Iran’s enrichment plant), and the theft and smuggling of nuclear materials. Examples of military strikes on nuclear plants include the destruction of research reactors in Iraq by Israel and the US; Iran’s attempts to strike nuclear facilities in Iraq during the 1980−88 war (and vice versa); Iraq’s attempted strikes on Israel’s nuclear facilities; and Israel’s bombing of a suspected nuclear reactor site in Syria in 2007. 

6. A Slow Response to an Urgent Problem 

Expanding nuclear power is impractical as a short-term response to climate change. An analysis by Australian economist Prof. John Quiggin concludes that it would be “virtually impossible” to get a nuclear power reactor operating in Australia by 2040. 

More time would elapse before nuclear power has generated as much as energy as was expended in the construction of the reactor. A University of Sydney report states: “The energy payback time of nuclear energy is around 6.5 years for light water reactors, and 7 years for heavy water reactors, ranging within 5.6–14.1 years, and 6.4–12.4 years, respectively.” 

Taking into account planning and approvals, construction, and the energy payback time, it would be a quarter of a century or more before nuclear power could even begin to reduce greenhouse emissions in Australia … and then only assuming that nuclear power displaced fossil fuels.

  1. Climate Change & Nuclear Hazards: ‘You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.’ 

“I’ve heard many nuclear proponents say that nuclear power is part of the solution to global warming. It needs to be reversed: You need to solve global warming for nuclear plants to survive.” ‒ Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum

Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to threats which are being exacerbated by climate change. These include dwindling and warming water sources, sea-level rise, storm damage, drought, and jelly-fish swarms. 

At the lower end of the risk spectrum, there are countless examples of nuclear plants operating at reduced power or being temporarily shut down due to water shortages or increased water temperature during heatwaves (which can adversely affect reactor cooling and/or cause fish deaths and other problems associated with the dumping of waste heat in water sources). In the US, for example, unusually hot temperatures in 2018 forced nuclear plant operators to reduce reactor power output more than 30 times

At the upper end of the risk spectrum, climate-related threats pose serious risks such as storms cutting off grid power, leaving nuclear plants reliant on generators for reactor cooling. 

‘Water wars’ will become increasingly common with climate change − disputes over the allocation of increasingly scarce water resources between power generation, agriculture and other uses. Nuclear power reactors consume massive amounts of cooling water − typically 36.3 to 65.4 million litres per reactor per day. The World Resources Institute noted last year that 47% of the world’s thermal power plant capacity ‒ mostly coal, natural gas and nuclear ‒ are located in highly water-stressed areas. 

By contrast, the REN21 Renewables 2015: Global Status Report states: “Although renewable energy systems are also vulnerable to climate change, they have unique qualities that make them suitable both for reinforcing the resilience of the wider energy infrastructure and for ensuring the provision of energy services under changing climatic conditions. System modularity, distributed deployment, and local availability and diversity of fuel sources − central components of energy system resilience − are key characteristics of most renewable energy systems.” 

  1. Nuclear RacismTo give one example (among many), the National Radioactive Waste Management Act dispossesses and disempowers Traditional Owners in every way imaginable: 
    • The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste dump is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent. 
    • The Act has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect archaeological or heritage values, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions. 

The nuclear industry has a shameful history of dispossessing and disempowering Aboriginal people and communities, and polluting their land and water, dating from the British bomb tests in the 1950s. The same attitudes prevail today in relation to the uranium industry and planned nuclear waste dumps and the problems would be magnified if Australia developed nuclear power. 

The Act curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage. 

  • The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste dump.

9. Nuclear Waste

Decades-long efforts to establish a repository and store for Australia’s low-and intermediate-level nuclear waste continue to flounder and are currently subject to legal and Human Rights Commission complaints and challenges, initiated by Traditional Owners of two targeted sites in South Australia. Establishing a repository for high-level nuclear waste from a nuclear power program would be far more challenging as Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has noted

Globally, countries operating nuclear power plants are struggling to manage nuclear waste and no country has a repository for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste. The United States has a deep underground repository for long-lived intermediate-level waste, called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). However the repository was closed from 2014‒17 following a chemical explosion in an underground waste barrel. Costs associated with the accident are estimated at over A$2.9 billion

Safety standards fell away sharply within the first decade of operation of the WIPP repository ‒ a sobering reminder of the challenge of safely managing nuclear waste for millennia.

  1. More Information 
  • Climate Council, 2019, ‘Nuclear Power Stations are Not Appropriate for Australia – and Probably Never Will Be‘ 
  • WISE Nuclear Monitor, 25 June 2016, ‘Nuclear power: No solution to climate change‘ 
  • Friends of the Earth Australia nuclear power online resources 

August 15, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, technology, wastes | Leave a comment

Mirrarr people to lead the Kakadu region’s transition from uranium mining

Kirsten Blair, Community and International Liaison, 15 Aug 19,   Gundjeihmi Aboriginal CorporationToday GAC chairwoman, Toby’s Gangale’s daughter: Valerie Balmoore signed an MOU with the Federal and NT Governments as well as mining company ERA committing all parties to a Mirarr-led post-mining future for Jabiru.

There is still much work to be done on Mirarr country including cleaning up the immense Ranger uranium mine. GAC and others will continue our diligent work in this area – and there are no guarantees the cleanup will be wholly successful – but restoration of country remains the absolute objective.

Mirarr continue to assert their rights as Traditional Owners and lead the way for people and country, this Jabiru story is evidence of a massive shift. The power in these images speaks for itself. Today is deeply hopeful for the Kakadu region and offers an incredible message for all communities resisting unwanted mining projects.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste dump: Barngarla group says indigenous ballots won’t fix its worries over vote discrimination

Nuclear waste dump: Barngarla group says indigenous ballots won’t fix its worries over vote discrimination The Advertiser, 14 Aug 19

An Aboriginal organisation at the centre of a legal battle over a radioactive waste dump site says a ballot for its own community would do little to dampen its discrimination concerns.

An Aboriginal organisation at the centre of a legal battle over the site for a nuclear waste dump says a separate consultation process for indigenous people will do little to dampen its discrimination concerns.

The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation took Kimba Council to court over its plan to host a community vote to gauge support for a waste storage facility near the Eyre Peninsula town.

The organisation argued the poll was discriminatory because it excluded native title holders who did not live in the area.

After losing the Federal Court challenge in July, the Barngarla has lodged an appeal in the Full Court.

Resources Minister Matthew Canavan has since written to Kimba and Flinders Ranges councils saying he will approach indigenous organisations reaffirming his department’s offer to pay for a poll of their members, providing them with a voice.

But the Barngarla board told The Advertiser such a poll was “designed to exclude our people from having a say on equal footing to the rest of the community”.

“It is very simple to solve this problem – all which needs to happen is to allow our people the right to vote with the rest of the Kimba community rather that segregate us,” the board said.

The organisation said Mr Canavan had not provided a template ballot paper and associated material so the ballot could be run on equal terms. The council and Federal Government had also not agreed to consolidate all the results into one process.

The Barngarla board has written to Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt asking him to intervene.

Three SA sites are being considered for the radioactive waste dump – two near Kimba and one at Wallerberdina Station, near Hawker in the Flinders Ranges. It would hold low and intermediate-level waste, primarily from the production of nuclear medicines.

Polls in the Hawker and Kimba communities were due to happen in August 2018 but were stalled after the Barngarla court appeal was flagged.

The Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA) has also lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, Government staff on Tuesday confirmed at a Flinders Ranges-based consultative committee meeting the minimum size of the nuclear site and its surrounding buffer zone would increase from 100ha to 160ha – as claimed by a source close to the project in The Advertiser last month.

The Government says the extra space will allow for features such as a water treatment plant, power infrastructure and road access, depending on the selected site.

Mr Canavan said the Government had “listened carefully” to communities when shaping ballot boundaries.

“At Kimba it extended to the entire local council area, while at Wallerberdina Station it is the local government area plus an approximate 50km radius,” he said.

“Wherever a boundary is defined there will be a number of groups outside that line, but the process gives those people the ability to fully participate by making a submission that will be taken into account in the decision-making process.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Canavan said details of polls among indigenous organisations would be worked out alongside any groups who wanted to participate.

Maurice Blackburn lawyer Nicki Lees, representing ATLA, said the organisation had made it clear it opposed a nuclear waste dump on its traditional land.

“If the Government is considering further consultation on this project, we would consider this in due course,” she said.

“However, it is important that this is a meaningful process, which hasn’t occurred to date.”

Adnyamathanha woman Regina McKenzie has previously told The Advertiser the long-running debate had disrupted her community.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment