Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Regional security threat haunts nuclear power debate

we cannot ignore when weighing up these arguments that recent events at Zaporizhzhia help bolster the case against nuclear power. We would not want any future nuclear facilities to become hostage to the vagaries of war.

 https://www.theage.com.au/national/regional-security-threat-haunts-nuclear-power-debate-20220808-p5b82t.html Editorial, August 8, 2022, The alarm sounded by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, that fighting between Russian invaders and Ukrainian forces near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant carried “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster” is one with relevance far beyond the war raging within Ukraine’s borders.

The conflict has already served as a grim warning for powers such as Germany and the United States of the costs of relying on fossil fuel-producing nations with despotic leaders for energy supply. But Russia’s seizures of Zaporizhzhia and the defunct power plant at Chernobyl in the early days of the war – though Chernobyl later returned to Ukrainian control – have highlighted that a decision to increase reliance on nuclear power would carry risks even beyond the familiar ones.

As Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic pointed out during Grossi’s recent visit to this country, Australia has an exemplary record on nuclear safety. But one of the most important reasons for this is that we have a ban on using nuclear fission for power generation and have committed not to develop a nuclear arsenal under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In recent times both these bans have returned to the spotlight, as the Coalition in opposition has raised the possibility of domestic nuclear power plants to address our energy needs. This followed the Morrison government’s signing of the AUKUS deal with London and Washington last year. The deal envisions Royal Australian Navy submarines being fuelled with weapons-grade uranium.

Peter Hartcher reported for The Agethat the first question US President Joe Biden raised when the AUKUS proposal was put to him was whether it breached non-proliferation commitments. The key to addressing this question has been paragraph 14 of the IAEA’s safeguards agreement with Australia, which creates a loophole allowing weapons-grade material to be used without the usual safeguards in “non-proscribed military activity”. Concerns were raised earlier this month, at the latest meeting to review the treaty, that regardless of Australia’s good intentions, this would set a precedent for further transfers of highly enriched nuclear material to other nations.

Grossi has pointed out that Iran, which first informed the IAEA of its interest in naval nuclear propulsion in 2018, cited the AUKUS deal to argue for its own plans at meetings in 2021.

Some argue that this is a form of proliferation, and even our allies and neighbours, from New Zealand to Indonesia, have expressed strong reservations about the AUKUS arrangement. Australia has said that the nuclear material in its submarines will be handled only by existing nuclear states. Nevertheless, the deal could lead to a perception that nuclear “haves” will simply ignore “have-nots”.

The case for nuclear power more broadly – replacing coal and gas with another non-renewable resource in uranium – faces its own hurdles, from the cost, to the emissions involved in mining and waste management to the question of where highly radioactive waste might be stored.

As The Age has pointed out, nuclear power generation globally is declining. One major reason is the expense. A recent CSIRO report underlines that renewables are far cheaper, even after transmission and storage are taken into account.

All sides of politics agree that Australia faces an increasingly complex and challenging security environment, from talk of Chinese bases in Cambodia and Solomon Islands to cyberattacks by rogue international actors targeting key infrastructure, while general-turned-Coalition senator Jim Molan has outlined an even more apocalyptic scenario, a “second Pearl Harbour” aimed at establishing Chinese supremacy in the western Pacific.

The Age has agreed in the past that Australia should be prepared to have another look at the arguments for nuclear power. That remains our position. But we cannot ignore when weighing up these arguments that recent events at Zaporizhzhia help bolster the case against it. We would not want any future nuclear facilities to become hostage to the vagaries of war.

August 9, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, safety | Leave a comment

Australia’s nuclear submarines and nuclear proliferation obligations – how many angels can dance on a periscope?

Ensuring the right safeguards are in place for Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines The Strategist, 30 May 2022, Anastasia Kapetas ”……………………………….. can the submarines be safeguarded? And do they actually need to be under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)?

As AUKUS was being negotiated, the Biden administration reportedly had serious concerns about the non-proliferation impacts of the deal, given that this would be the first time that a nuclear-weapon state has undertaken to transfer highly enriched uranium (HEU) to a non-nuclear-weapon state.

But experts on the NPT assured the US administration that everyone would meet their obligations under the treaty if Australia were barred from accessing the reactors inside its submarines.

So, the naval reactors would have to be sealed by the US or UK inside the submarine hulls before they came to Australia, remain sealed throughout the 30-year life of the submarine and be removed by the US or UK at the end of that life. That means if the submarines are to be built here, a section of the hull and reactor would need to be built in the US or UK and then moved to Australia. Or, if that is not feasible, then a reactor could possibly be imported into Australia, but with no Australian personnel having access to it at any time, something which would presumably need to be verified by the IAEA in some way that would also not give inspectors access to the reactor.

This means that, in theory, Australia’s naval reactors would not have to be safeguarded because the HEU contained in them would never be accessed by any country that is not a nuclear-weapon state.

Under the NPT, the five accredited nuclear-weapon states, China, Russia, the US, the UK and France, do not have to put their nuclear-weapons-related material under IAEA safeguards, although they all have voluntary safeguards agreements with the IAEA covering their civil nuclear programs.

The NPT doesn’t cover naval reactors. But because the deal involves the transfer of HEU to a non-nuclear-weapon state, Australia is not off the safeguards hook. Not safeguarding this would create a precedent for HEU transfer through naval reactors. So Australia needs not an exemption, as has sometimes been reported, but a new type of safeguard.

John Carlson, former director general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), who currently advises non-proliferation bodies internationally, and has written extensively on the issue, says standard safeguards can’t apply here.

He gives two reasons. The first is that nuclear-weapon states like the US and UK don’t want to reveal secret information on fuel and rector design to IAEA inspectors.

The other issue is that under a standard IAEA safeguard, inspections must take place regularly. For the irradiated HEU in Australia’s submarines, that would require inspections every three months. But given the nature of submarine deployments, Australia wouldn’t be able to ensure that they would be in port to be inspected at the proper time.

But, says Carlson, ‘Australia has an obligation to demonstrate to the international community that we haven’t simply diverted the fuel, and used it to produce nuclear weapons. This is why we need to develop a verification arrangement with the supplier and the IAEA.’

While it wouldn’t be a standard safeguard, it must be ‘sufficient to demonstrate to the international community, in a credible way, that the fuel is still in the submarines at any point in time’.

But what might some kind of alternative verification mechanism look like?

Given that the naval rectors will be built into the hulls of Australia’s submarines, they could not be  accessed without cutting into the hull…………….

there’s one other scenario that an Australia-specific safeguard would have to cover. And that is in the event of an accident where Australia would need to gain access to the reactor.‘We could claim that that the reactor needed urgent attention, and this would actually be a way to get our hands on the fuel.’This would be a major undertaking. It would require Australia to be equipped with all the equipment necessary to handle the fuel safely, as well as help from the US or UK………………….

The final piece of the safeguard puzzle is the politics. The member states of the IAEA would need to be comfortable with creating a special safeguard for Australia……………..  Carlson thinks IAEA approval is likely, but it will need careful, steady diplomacy. https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/ensuring-the-right-safeguards-are-in-place-for-australias-nuclear-powered-submarines/

May 31, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, safety, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Huge cask of nuclear waste to be quietly transported to Sydney

Nuclear waste shipment bound for Sydney  https://www.aap.com.au/news/nuclear-waste-shipment-bound-for-sydney/, Tracey Ferrier March 11, 2022,

Police are preparing to escort a monolithic steel cask of nuclear waste to Sydney this weekend, reigniting debate about Australia’s plans for the toxic material.

The hulking capsule resembling something from NASA’s space program contains two tonnes of intermediate-level radioactive waste that will need to be isolated from the environment for thousands of years.

But for the time being it will be stored at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor compound in southern Sydney.

The waste is being returned under the international principle that countries must take back their nuclear leftovers after reprocessing. In Australia’s case that’s been done offshore.

Kimba will be a near-surface facility and a permanent solution for low-level waste only. The intermediate material will once more be in storage.

The federal government has committed to developing a separate end solution for the more toxic stuff. It will involve deep burial but so far there’s no firm plan, and no site has been identified to take it.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney says the nation’s most potent nuclear waste should not be moved to Kimba.

He says the problem is being kicked down the road, for some future government to sort out.

We believe there’s a very real risk that this material gets stranded in sub-optimal conditions at Kimba. Move it once, move it well, and move it permanently,” he says.

“Our position is that the Lucas Heights facility is the best place for Australia’s most serious waste. It has the highest security, the highest emergency monitoring and response capacity. It is staffed 24/7, and 95 per cent of the stuff is already there.”

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation operates the Lucas Heights reactor, which supports nuclear medicine and science.

Resources and Water Minister Keith Pitt said it was international best practice to consolidate radioactive waste at a single, safe, purpose-built facility.

“That is what the government is delivering,” he said, while noting it would take several decades to find an end solution for intermediate waste.

He said ANSTO had warned it would need to build three additional waste storage buildings at Lucas Heights if the national facility wasn’t built.

For security reasons, ANSTO won’t confirm when the cask will be moved from Port Kembla to Lucas Heights.

It said the cask is so well shielded that someone could stand next to it for 25 hours and get the same radiation dose as a nine-hour flight to Singapore.

Police have told AAP an operation is planned for Saturday to aid the transportation of cargo to ANSTO’s Lucas Heights campus. It said no further details would be provided.

March 12, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, safety, secrets and lies, wastes | Leave a comment

Jellyfish would inevitably force nuclear submarines into shutdown, if fleet based in Brisbane

Jellyfish would ‘inevitably’ force nuclear submarines into shutdown if fleet based in Brisbane, expert says  

Leading marine scientist says Moreton Bay, one of three sites shortlisted, is bad choice due to risk to reactors if jellyfish sucked in. Guardian,  Ben Smee in Brisbane, @BenSmee, Fri 11 Mar 2022 .

Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would “inevitably” be forced into an emergency reactor shutdown by swarms of jellyfish if the fleet was based in Brisbane, a leading marine scientist says.

The Australian government this week released a shortlist of three sites – Brisbane, Newcastle and Wollongong – as a potential east-coast home port for the nuclear submarine fleet, which will arrive in about 2036 under the Aukus partnership with the US and the UK.

The Queensland government has been cagey when asked whether it supports a base in Brisbane, a position described as “very strange” by the federal defence minister, Peter Dutton, whose electorate is in Brisbane…………

Jellyfish expert Lisa-ann Gershwin, a leading marine biologist, says Brisbane is “close to the absolute worst place” for a nuclear submarine base, due to the conditions in Moreton Bay and the frequent jellyfish blooms.

In 2006, the US nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan was forced into an emergency reactor shutdown in Brisbane after it sucked more than 800kg of jellyfish into its condensers, hindering coolant from reaching the main reactors.

Picture if you will America’s biggest, most expensive, most fearsome, awesome supercarrier is on its maiden voyage,” Gershwin said.

“It comes into the port of Brisbane and it sucks in thousands of jellyfish. It was a very embarrassing situation for the American navy. Luckily there was no major accident, nothing happened, nothing exploded.

“But when you’re dealing with nuclear anything, you’ve got to be [more cautious].”

The phenomenon of jellyfish shutdowns is surprisingly common in any power plant that sucks in water as a coolant

Gershwin says any base for a submarine with an in-built nuclear reactor could not be enclosed like Moreton Bay, which is sheltered by Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island.

“Jellyfish act like plastic,” Gershwin said.

“If you’ve ever seen a pool filter that’s got a plastic wrapper caught, it clogs up … and floods all over the place because it’s not going through the filter. The water gets stopped by this ‘plastic’ and then the water can’t pass by that. Emergency shutdowns of power plants happen all the time, very frequently.”

Gershwin said that if Brisbane was used to base nuclear submarines, a jellyfish shutdown would be “inevitable”………

You’ve got to be really careful about where you put these things. Anywhere that you’ve got warm water, you’re going to have jellyfish. Moreton Bay is just sucked in with jellyfish.”

Brisbane ranked eighth of the sites considered by Defence as a potential submarine base in 2011, with Sydney listed as the best choice.………….   https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/mar/11/jellyfish-nuclear-submarine-emergency-reactor-shutdown-brisbane-base-moreton-bay-australia

March 12, 2022 Posted by | Queensland, safety, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear medicine incidents

Report highlights learnings from nuclear medicine incidents,   Mirage News, 2 Feb 22, ARPANSA has finalised its annual report on radiation safety incidents using data collated from radiation regulators around the country…….The new Australian Radiation Incident Register (ARIR) report provides a summary and analysis of incidents that occurred during 2020. The report includes a focus on workflows in nuclear medicine. Nuclear medicine accounted for 157 of the 803 incidents reported for 2020…….

Findings of the report include:

a total of 803 incidents reported – demonstrating better awareness of reporting

529 of the reported incidents were in diagnostic radiology, with 157 in nuclear medicine, and 40 in radiotherapy

patients were exposed to less than 1 mSv of radiation in 47% of incidents

human error was identified as a factor in more than 65% of incidentsequipment failure or deficiencies accounted for 17% of incidents…….. https://www.miragenews.com/report-highlights-learnings-from-nuclear-716848/

February 3, 2022 Posted by | - incidents, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Flooding in South Australia includes Kimba- what about the nuclear dump sit? and what impact on uranium tailings dams?

This Channel 7 video report mentions Kimba as having had record rain. The ABC report mentions several towns with record rain, but does not mention Kimba

I wonder how this obviously flood-prone area could be selected a the nation’s nuclear waste dump site.

I also wonder how Olympic Dam’s huge dams of radioactive tailings are faring in this flood situation.

This Channel 7 video report mentions Kimba as having had record rain. The ABC report mentions several towns with record rain, but does not mention Kimba

I wonder how this obviously flood-prone area could be selected a the nation’s nuclear waste dump site.

Roads destroyed and homes flooded as rain cuts off towns in South Australia’s north | 7NEWS, 23 Jan 22,

Floodwaters submerge parts of outback SA as rain washes away highway and cars,  ABC 23 Jan 22, 

Key points:

  • Emergency crews have rescued people trapped by floodwaters
  • A section of the Olympic Dam Highway was washed away, blocking access between Roxby Downs and Woomera
  • The bureau said several spots had recorded “all-time” highest rainfall totals over 24 hours

Entire towns in the state’s Far North are cut off after record-breaking rain. The SES has been flat out responding to hundreds of calls for help, as the heavens opened, destroying roads and inundating homes.

Rescue crews have been kept busy by outback floodwaters and record-breaking rains, which have continued to cause havoc in South Australia’s north and west, washing away roads as well as cars.

The weather bureau said some locations had set “all-time records” in terms of rainfall, while social media is awash with photos and videos of inundated highways. 

Several people were rescued by the State Emergency Service (SES) after becoming trapped by floodwaters — including one who was swept 80 metres downstream and waited on top of his semi-submerged car for “at least four hours” as crews travelled to his remote location.

An entire section of the Olympic Dam Highway was also eroded between Pimba and Woomera, cutting off access from Roxby Downs………………………………………….  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-23/sa-rain-and-floods-wash-away-outback-roads/100776030

January 24, 2022 Posted by | climate change - global warming, safety, South Australia, uranium | Leave a comment

ARPANSA admits that no safety assessment exists, for nuclear submarines in Adelaide

Following a search from ARPANSA’s senior scientist, the agency determined that such a planning or safety document “does not exist”.

No safety assessment for nuclear subs in Adelaide  https://indaily.com.au/news/2021/10/22/no-safety-assessment-for-nuclear-subs-in-adelaide/

The federal government has not undertaken a safety assessment or planning study for the prospect of docking nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide, according to documents obtained by independent senator Rex Patrick.  Thomas Kelsall@Thomas_Kelsall


  The Port Adelaide and Outer Harbour docks are set to be the building spot for at least eight nuclear-powered submarines under the terms of the new “AUKUS” trilateral security pact, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in September.

But the controversial deal, which saw Australia scrap its $90 billion contract with France to build 12 diesel-powered boats, drew criticism from anti-nuclear activists and local residents concerned about the prospect of nuclear reactors in their suburbs.

No nuclear-powered warship has ever visited Port Adelaide or Outer Harbour.

Patrick, a former submariner and critic of the new subs deal, on September 21 filed a Freedom of Information request to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) for “any documents that go to the planning or prospects of a nuclear vessel visiting Port Adelaide or Outer Harbour”.

ARPANSA is responsible for providing safety assessment to the Visiting Ships Panel (Nuclear) – an interdepartmental committee overseeing arrangements for visiting nuclear ships and associated safety requirement.

Following a search from ARPANSA’s senior scientist, the agency determined that such a planning or safety document “does not exist”.

“The ARPANSA Senior Scientist, who holds the responsibility for searching ARPANSA records of documents that go to the planning or prospects of a nuclear vessel, … has instructed me that ARPANSA, at this point in time, does not have a document specifically relating to the terms of your request,” ARPANSA FOI Officer John Templeton wrote to Patrick on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the agency confirmed to InDaily it has not been asked by the Defence Department to undertake a safety assessment or planning study of the site.

Patrick said the revelation shows that the Morrison’s Government’s nuclear submarines program is “a huge exercise in filling in the blanks”.

“One might have thought that some work would have been undertaken to consider Adelaide’s suitability for at least nuclear powered warship visits before the Prime Minister’s big announcement last month,” Patrick said.

“That is a task that ARPANSA undertakes on a regular basis in relation to other locations including HMAS Stirling, Fremantle, Darwin and Brisbane.

“While the safety assessments required for nuclear submarine construction and long-term berthing facilities would be a very complex undertaking, a port visit safety assessment of Port Adelaide and Outer Harbour would have been minimum due diligence before the Prime Minister promised his nuclear subs would be built in Adelaide.”

Patrick said the lack of safety assessment means Adelaide’s docks “could not currently host even a single-day visit by any nuclear powered submarine”.

“As is so often the case, Scott Morrison’s Government hasn’t done the basic preliminaries. It’s big on announcements, but fails conspicuously on due diligence and competent project management,” he said.

ARPANSA CEO Carl-Magnus Larsson told a parliamentary last week that the agency was briefed on the plan to shift from diesel to nuclear submarines around the beginning of July.

A spokesperson for ARPANSA said the agency “has not been asked to undertake a safety assessment and/or planning study on docking nuclear submarines in Port Adelaide or Outer Harbour”.

“ARPANSA will only undertake a radiological port assessment if Defence (Navy) determines that a nuclear-powered vessel can visit a specified port,” the spokesperson said.

“Neither Adelaide nor Outer Harbor have been subject to a visit of a nuclear-powered vessel.”

InDaily contacted the Department of Defence for comment.

October 23, 2021 Posted by | safety, South Australia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

IAEA concerned that AUKUS coud weaken non-proliferation system

Nuclear inspection under AUKUS deal ‘very tricky’ – IAEA chief, Sky News, Jonathan Talbot, Deputy Editor, 430 Sep 21,

Nuclear inspections of Australia under the AUKUS deal will be “very tricky” and could lead to a weakened non-proliferation system, says the head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency.

 The AUKUS deal which sees Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarine technology will make nuclear inspections “very tricky”, according to the head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“It is a technically very tricky question and it will be the first time that a country that does not have nuclear weapons has a nuclear sub,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told BBC’s HARDtalk.

The IAEA keeps track of all nuclear material in countries – like Australia – that have ratified the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 

One of its primary tasks is to ensure nuclear materials are not being siphoned off for use in a nuclear bomb. 

Mr Grossi confirmed NPT signatories can exclude nuclear material from IAEA inspection while that material is fueling a submarine – a rare exception to the agency’s supervision of nuclear materials.

“A country… is taking highly enriched uranium away from inspection for a period of time, which could result in a weakening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” he said.

“What this means is that we, with Australia, with the United States and with the United Kingdom, we have to enter into a very complex, technical negotiation to see to it that as a result of this there is no weakening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.”

One challenge posed by Australia’s purchase of nuclear-powered submarines concerns the fact these vessels are designed to be undetectable and therefore beyond the reach of IAEA inspectors…

“China has taken note of the statements of Director General Grossi” and is “vigilant about AUKUS and the plan for nuclear submarine cooperation,” spokesperson of  the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, said during the ministry’s daily press conference.

The provision of nuclear materials to a non-nuclear-weapon state will exclude weapons-grade highly-enriched uranium from necessary supervision and pose huge nuclear proliferation risks.”

Ms Hua also said AUKUS displayed a “typical contempt of rules” by the “Anglo-Saxon clique” and will undercut the non-proliferation system and other efforts to create nuclear free zones.   “In brief, this is a malicious exploitation of loopholes in international rules for out-and-out proliferation activities.

“Supervisions on the Australian nuclear submarines will set a precedent, concerns the rights and obligations of all IAEA member states, especially signatories to the NPT, and will have far-reaching impact on the international non-proliferation system.”

China is not alone in its concerns about AUKUS.

Indonesia and Malaysia have come out strongly against Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines. 

Singapore – Australia’s most reliable ally among ASEAN member states – has also expressed worry.

Writing in The Conversation, James Chin, Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania, said this is because “many of them think there is no such thing as acquiring nuclear-powered submarines without the prospect of acquiring nuclear weapons in the future.”……. https://www.skynews.com.au/australia-news/defence-and-foreign-affairs/nuclear-inspection-under-aukus-deal-very-tricky-iaea-chief/news-story/1e5b391af8622cbc9450f181c1a28047

September 30, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, safety, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear-powered submarines a ‘terrible decision’ which will make Australia ‘less safe – Australian Greens

Nuclear-powered submarines a ‘terrible decision’ which will make Australia ‘less safe’

Greens leader Adam Bandt has raised concerns over Australia’s acquisition of technology for nuclear-powered submarines from the US and UK, calling it a “terrible decision” which will make “our country less safe”.

While there have been no serious incidences with the UK and US nuclear-powered submarines in their history, Mr Bandt pointed out New Zealand will not allow the nuclear vessels in their waters.

“Australia will be writing a blank cheque, we will be spending untold billions on a fleet of floating Chernobyls,” Mr Bandt told Sky News Australia.

Mr Bandt said Australia was buying “a nuclear reactor in a box” and noted if the US decides to change the technology or withhold support, “we are at their mercy”.

“It’s really concerning the Prime Minister is calling this ‘a forever partnership’, because it means if another Donald Trump comes back in the United States, we are now … a small arm of their nuclear capacity.”  https://www.skynews.com.au/australia-news/defence-and-foreign-affairs/nuclearpowered-submarines-a-terrible-decision-which-will-make-australia-less-safe/video/bc91f5690c3

September 18, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, safety, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Doubts about the nuclear submarines, do they make Australia less safe? Hugh White wonders.

What the submarine deal means for Morrison’s future, The Age, By David Crowe, SEPTEMBER 18, 2021  ”…………… Morrison has made sweeping decisions in the coronavirus pandemic, shutting borders and spending billions, but none is like the move to bolt Australia to the United States and the United Kingdom and build a new fleet of nuclear submarines……………

The toughest decisions are safely postponed until after the federal election due by May next year. Anxious about his prospects in the shipbuilding states of Western Australia and South Australia, Morrison promises more money for defence and more jobs for workers who lose from the cancellation of the French deal.

What he does not promise is that every submarine will be built in Australia. This is because the government’s immediate political objective is at odds with the country’s strategic imperative to replace today’s Collins-class submarines as soon as possible. Only after the election will voters know if the fastest way to deploy the new fleet is to have the first vessels built by the British or Americans.

So there is a tactical move embedded in the strategic shift.

…….. But there are real concerns the Prime Minister could lead the country into greater danger, or at least leave it exposed.

…… This will be a defining argument for the next 18 months. If this call is so fundamental to Australian security, why is Morrison so comfortable with such a long wait for delivery? The alternatives are to buy US submarines that are already in the water as the US deploys newer vessels over time, or place orders for new submarines built overseas.

…… Is this as significant as ANZUS, as Morrison claims? “It is not,” says John McCarthy, a senior adviser to Asialink at the University of Melbourne and a former ambassador to the US, Indonesia, Japan and India. “I simply cannot see that changing the type of submarine, albeit important, makes a hell of a lot of difference. I don’t buy the hype.”

McCarthy does not take issue with the shift to nuclear or the strengthening of the US and UK alliances, but he worries about the breach with France and the message to Asia. After decades of greater engagement in Asia, the government has chosen to tighten the knot with the Anglosphere, yet France is a greater power in the Pacific than Britain. Only months ago, Morrison sought support from French President Emmanuel Macron to counter China………..

“The easy thing is to assume that what’s worked for us in the past is going to work for us in the future,” says Hugh White, professor emeritus at the Australian National University.“The easy thing is not to recognise that Australia has to look after itself in the new order in Asia. It is to assume that we can rely on America and, God save us, the British to look after us and all we have to do is help them. That’s the way we’ve thought about our security for 150 years…….

White believes a bigger fleet of conventional submarines could be more effective and doubts the nuclear fleet can arrive before 2040, but he also questions whether this is significant for China. “If the Chinese go and push ahead anyway, and we end up in a war, I don’t think it is going to make a very big difference as to who is going to win or lose,……………….. https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/what-the-submarine-deal-means-for-morrison-s-future-20210917-p58sjo.html

September 18, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, safety, technology | Leave a comment

A Day in the Death of British Justice – the case of Julian Assange

 WikiLeaks has given us real news about those who govern us and take us to war, not the preordained, repetitive spin that fills newspapers and television screens. This is real journalism; and for the crime of real journalism, Assange has spent most of the past decade in one form of incarceration or another, including Belmarsh prison, a horrific place.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, he is a gentle, intellectual visionary driven by his belief that a democracy is not a democracy unless it is transparent, and accountable.

JOHN PILGER: A Day in the Death of British Justice, Consortium News, August 12, 2021 The reputation of British justice now rests on the shoulders of the High Court in the life or death case of Julian Assange.

I sat in Court 4 in the Royal Courts of Justice in London Wednesday with Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner. I have known Stella for as long as I have known Julian. She, too, is a voice of freedom, coming from a family that fought the fascism of Apartheid. Today, her name was uttered in court by a barrister and a judge, forgettable people were it not for the power of their endowed privilege.

The barrister, Clair Dobbin, is in the pay of the regime in Washington, first Trump’s then Biden’s. She is America’s hired gun, or “silk”, as she would prefer. Her target is Julian Assange, who has committed no crime and has performed an historic public service by exposing the criminal actions and secrets on which governments, especially those claiming to be democracies, base their authority. 

For those who may have forgotten, WikiLeaks, of which Assange is founder and publisher, exposed the secrets and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the murderous role of the Pentagon in dozens of countries, the blueprint for the 20-year catastrophe in Afghanistan, the attempts by Washington to overthrow elected governments, such as Venezuela’s, the collusion between nominal political opponents (Bush and Obama) to stifle a torture investigation and the CIA’s Vault 7 campaign that turned your mobile phone, even your TV set, into a spy in your midst.

WikiLeaks released almost a million documents from Russia which allowed Russian citizens to stand up for their rights. It revealed the Australian government had colluded with the U.S. against its own citizen, Assange. It named those Australian politicians who have “informed” for the U.S. It made the connection between the Clinton Foundation and the rise of jihadism in American-armed states in the Gulf.

Continue reading

August 14, 2021 Posted by | - incidents, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

Senator Rex Patrick challenges Scott Morrison’s special arrangement to protect his government from public scrutiny

Senator challenges cabinet secrecy,  The Saturday Paper 33 May 21,  Scott Morrison is using a special arrangement to keep the workings of his government secret, but independent senator Rex Patrick has launched a challenge to its legality. By Karen Middleton  Karen Middleton is The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent.

A special policy committee the prime minister uses to keep the workings of his government secret is being called into legal question as part of a challenge to the confidential status of national cabinet.

Independent senator Rex Patrick launched the challenge after the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet refused two freedom of information requests for access to national cabinet documents.

Appearing before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) this week, the Commonwealth argued that national cabinet’s workings must be secret because it is an offshoot of federal cabinet, which is governed by a confidentiality convention.

It argued that deciding how cabinet committees are formed and who joins them is in the prime minister’s “gift” alone.

The national cabinet arrangement relies on the controversial cabinet office policy committee that Morrison created upon becoming prime minister. He is its only permanent member. The one-man construct allows the prime minister to declare almost any gathering he attends to be a cabinet committee meeting, protecting it from public scrutiny.

When the tribunal’s Justice Richard White queried the mechanism purporting to give national cabinet confidential status, the government could provide no information.

“Is there anything else that tells me anything about the cabinet office policy committee?” Justice White asked counsel for the Commonwealth, Andrew Berger, QC, on Wednesday. “I’m not sure there is, Your Honour,” Berger replied.

Last year, Labor’s senate leader, Penny Wong, condemned the one-man committee as “an abuse” of process used to “cover up blatant political decision-making”.

Senator Patrick’s AAT challenge could also have implications for accessing information from other designated cabinet subcommittees and groups advising them.

The one-man construct allows the prime minister to declare almost any gathering he attends to be a cabinet committee meeting, protecting it from public scrutiny…………..

…………………………. After the hearing, Rex Patrick described national cabinet as “a last-minute idea dealt with at short notice, without its implementation or consequences being properly considered”.

“That’s apparent when looking back at the various media statements, the cobbling together of a new cabinet handbook and the evidence before the AAT,” he told The Saturday Paper.

Patrick said the legislated right to access information on intergovernmental communication had existed in Australia for almost 40 years, “subject only to a test of public harm”.

“Last year, Prime Minister Morrison took that right away,” he said. “He did not ask the parliament to change the law.”

Patrick said he was in a fight for transparency and responsible government. “And I’m in a fight to stop a prime minister unilaterally taking away a right that was given to me and all Australians, by the parliament.”

Whether Justice White agrees will be clear soon. He reserved his judgement and promised a quick decision.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 22, 2021 as “Cabinet of one”. https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2021/05/22/senator-challenges-cabinet-secrecy/162160560011709

May 22, 2021 Posted by | - incidents, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics | Leave a comment

BHP, Rio Tinto given carte blanche to export uranium to global hotspots 

March 17, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, safety, uranium | Leave a comment

Legislation banning nuclear power in Australia should be retained

Jim Green, Online Opinion, 27 Feb 2020https://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20758&page=0  

Nuclear power in Australia is prohibited under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. A review of the EPBC Act is underway and there is a strong push from the nuclear industry to remove the bans. However, federal and state laws banning nuclear power have served Australia well and should be retained.

Too cheap to meter or too expensive to matter? Laws banning nuclear power has saved Australia from the huge costs associated with failed and failing reactor projects in Europe and North America, such as the Westinghouse project in South Carolina that was abandoned after the expenditure of at least A$13.4 billion. The Westinghouse / South Carolina fiasco could so easily have been replicated in any of Australia’s states or territories if not for the legal bans.

There are many other examples of shocking nuclear costs and cost overruns, including:

* The cost of the two reactors under construction in the US state of Georgia has doubled and now stands at A$20.4‒22.6 billion per reactor.

* The cost of the only reactor under construction in France has nearly quadrupled and now stands at A$20.0 billion. It is 10 years behind schedule.

* The cost of the only reactor under construction in Finland has nearly quadrupled and now stands at A$17.7 billion. It is 10 years behind schedule.

* The cost of the four reactors under construction in the United Arab Emirates has increased from A$7.5 billion per reactor to A$10‒12 billion per reactor.

* In the UK, the estimated cost of the only two reactors under construction is A$25.9 billion per reactor. A decade ago, the estimated cost was almost seven times lower. The UK National Audit Office estimates that taxpayer subsidies for the project will amount to A$58 billion, despite earlier government promises that no taxpayer subsidies would be made available.

Nuclear power has clearly priced itself out of the market and will certainly decline over the coming decades. Indeed the nuclear industry is in crisis ‒ as industry insiders and lobbyists freely acknowledge. Westinghouse ‒ the most experienced reactor builder in the world ‒ filed for bankruptcy in 2017 as a result of catastrophic cost overruns on reactor projects. A growing number of countries are phasing out nuclear power, including Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Taiwan and South Korea.

Rising power bills: Laws banning nuclear power should be retained because nuclear power could not possibly pass any reasonable economic test. Nuclear power clearly fails the two economic tests set by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Firstly, nuclear power could not possibly be introduced or maintained without huge taxpayer subsidies. Secondly, nuclear power would undoubtedly result in higher electricity prices.

Nuclear waste streams: Laws banning nuclear power should be retained because no solution exists to for the safe, long-term management of streams of low-, intermediate- and high-level nuclear wastes. No country has an operating repository for high-level nuclear waste. The United States has a deep underground repository for long-lived intermediate-level waste ‒ the only operating deep underground repository worldwide ‒ but it was closed from 2014‒17 following a chemical explosion in an underground waste barrel. Safety standards and regulatory oversight fell away sharply within the first decade of operation of the U.S. repository ‒ a sobering reminder of the challenge of safely managing dangerous nuclear wastes for tens of thousands of years.

Too dangerous: The Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters results in the evacuation of over half a million people and economic costs in the hundreds of billions of dollars. In addition to the danger of nuclear reactor meltdowns and fires and chemical explosions, there are other dangers. Doubling nuclear output by the middle of the century would require the construction of 800−900 reactors. These reactors not only become military targets but they would produce over one million tonnes of high-level nuclear waste containing enough plutonium to build over one million nuclear weapons.

Pre-deployed terrorist targets: Nuclear power plants have been described as pre-deployed terrorist targets and pose a major security threat. This in turn would likely see an increase in policing and security operations and costs and a commensurate impact on civil liberties and public access to information. Other nations in our region may view Australian nuclear aspirations with suspicion and concern given that many aspects of the technology and knowledge-base are the same as those required for nuclear weapons.

Former US Vice President Al Gore summarised the proliferation 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.”

Too slow: 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 before 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 concluded that the energy payback time for nuclear reactors is 6.5‒7 years. 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).

Too thirsty: Nuclear power is extraordinarily thirsty. A single nuclear power reactor consumes 35‒65 million litres of water per day for cooling.

Water consumption of different energy sources (litres / kWh):

* Nuclear 2.5

* Coal 1.9

* Combined Cycle Gas 0.95

* Solar PV 0.11

* Wind 0.004

Climate change and nuclear hazards: 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. Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum states. “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.”

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”.

By contrast, the REN21 Renewables 2015: Global Status Report states that renewable energy systems “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.”

First Nations: Laws banning nuclear power should be retained because the pursuit of a nuclear power industry would almost certainly worsen patterns of disempowerment and dispossession that Australia’s First Nations have experienced ‒ and continue to experience ‒ as a result of nuclear and uranium projects.

To give one example (among many), the National Radioactive Waste Management Act dispossesses and disempowers Traditional Owners in many respects: 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 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; and the Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste dump.

No social license: Laws banning nuclear power should be retained because there is no social license to introduce nuclear power to Australia. Opinion polls find that Australians are overwhelmingly opposed to a nuclear power reactor being built in their local vicinity (10‒28% support, 55‒73% opposition); and opinion polls find that support for renewable energy sources far exceeds support for nuclear power (for example a 2015 IPSOS poll found 72‒87% support for solar and wind power but just 26% support for nuclear power). As the Clean Energy Council noted in its submission to the 2019 federal nuclear inquiry, it would require “a minor miracle” to win community support for nuclear power in Australia.

The pursuit of nuclear power would also require bipartisan political consensus at state and federal levels for several decades. Good luck with that. Currently, there is a bipartisan consensus at the federal level to retain the legal ban. The noisy, ultra-conservative rump of the Coalition is lobbying for nuclear power but their push has been rejected by, amongst others, the federal Liberal Party leadership, the Queensland Liberal-National Party, the SA Liberal government, the Tasmanian Liberal government, the NSW Liberal Premier and environment minister, and even ultra-conservatives such as Nationals Senator Matt Canavan.

The future is renewable, not radioactive: Laws banning nuclear power should be retained because the introduction of nuclear power would delay and undermine the development of effective, economic energy and climate policies based on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. A December 2019 report by CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator finds that construction costs for nuclear reactors are 2‒8 times higher than costs for wind or solar. Levelised costs for nuclear are 2‒3 times greater per unit of energy produced compared to wind or solar including either 2 hours of battery storage or 6 hours of pumped hydro energy storage.

Australia can do better than fuel higher carbon emissions and unnecessary radioactive risk. We need to embrace the fastest growing global energy sector and become a driver of clean energy thinking and technology and a world leader in renewable energy technology. We can grow the jobs of the future here today. This will provide a just transition for energy sector workers, their families and communities and the certainty to ensure vibrant regional economies and secure sustainable and skilled jobs into the future. Renewable energy is affordable, low risk, clean and popular. Nuclear is not. Our shared energy future is renewable, not radioactive.

More Information

* Don’t Nuke the Climate Australia, www.dont-nuke-the-climate.org.au

* Climate Council, 2019, ‘Nuclear Power Stations are Not Appropriate for Australia – and Probably Never Will Be’, https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/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’, https://www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/806/nuclear-power-no-solution-climate-change

Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia.

February 27, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, climate change - global warming, politics, safety, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Flooding events highlight the danger to proposed uranium mining sites Yeelirrie and Wiluna

K-A Garlick at Nuclear Free WA

6 Feb 20, In an area where two uranium mines are proposed ~ Yeelirrie and Wiluna, there have been massive rain influx, leading to widespread floods across the Goldfields country.

Toro Energy Wiluna uranium project expands over two lake systems and over 100 kms. The project includes four uranium deposits – Lake Way, Centipede, Millipede and Lake Maitland.

The project proposal includes a high risk inappropriate site to attempt disposal of up to 50 million tonnes of radioactive tailings that would be stored in mined out pits on the edge of Lake Way in a floodplain and in the drainage channel of a creek.

The company’s studies of hydrogeology, hydrology and geochemistry were all heavily criticised in Peer Reviews submitted as part of the environmental assessment.  With these floods today, the planned emplacement of 50 million tonnes of long-lived radioactive mine waste in a floodplain poses a very serious risk to the environment and public health.

February 6, 2020 Posted by | climate change - global warming, safety, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment